Tag Archives: Derek Rivers

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.

An Early Projection for the Patriots Starting Lineup, Better, Stronger, Faster

Steve Balestrieri
May 8, 2017 at 9:08 am ET

The NFL Draft is in the books, free agency has been fruitful, and the Patriots have made a flurry of initial UDFA moves. Barring any late moves or last minute trades, the initial roster of the 2017 Patriots should now be set.

As it stands now on paper, the roster for this season’s team looks better than the one that just won the Super Bowl. But as Bill Belichick has frequently said, you never really know what each season’s team will be like until Thanksgiving. Lots of things can and will change, injuries occur, and some players’ production will either rise or fall inside the system. Tweaks to the roster always occur during the season.

But what we see now should constitute the bulk of this year’s team. Confidence is high as always in New England. And for a team that has won 10 or more games for 14 straight seasons, why should there be any other feeling?

So here is a quick projection for the starting lineup for the 2017 Patriots

Offense:
Quarterback:

Tom Brady: Well duh? No change from last year or the 15 years prior. While the talk remains that eventually, his play is going to fall off a cliff due to his age, at this point, it is a lot of wishful thinking for a lot of non-Patriots supporters. His play, especially in the 2nd half of Super Bowl LI shows he’s still at the top of the heap in regard to NFL QBs.

His backups remain Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. The rumor mill for Jimmy G. had him being traded this offseason but he’s still here, at least for 2017 and should any injury occur, he’ll be ready to step in.


James White is among a crowded Patriots backfield this season.

Running Back:

James White: After a Super Bowl where he could have easily been named the MVP, White has been given a nice raise and contract extension. And with the Patriots being a passing team first, White has proven to be a trusted, capable weapon in the offense.

But the Patriots are a matchup team that uses a rotation of running backs so their roster of backs doesn’t really have a starter per se, it will depend on how they match up against an opponent. Mike Gillislee will have a big role, taking over the big back i.e. LeGarrette Blount role. Something to consider, New England runs the ball on third down much more so than most fans would believe, so Gillislee will have a big role.

Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis, who should be completely healthy now round out the RB options. James Develin remains the fullback. Brandon Bolden, D.J. Foster, and LeShun Daniels are longshots for the roster at this point.

Wide Receiver:

Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks: The Patriots brought in the speedster Cooks who was very productive in New Orleans this offseason. He’ll move around from outside to the slot depending on the matchups. A look at the top three with Edelman, Hogan, and Cooks shows that all of them can do the same. That makes for a very difficult group to cover. The versatility factor makes this group even more dangerous.

Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola are the primary backups and they’ve shown that they’ve earned Brady’s circle of trust. Mitchell came on in the second half of his rookie season and should be ready for more production in Year 2.

Devin Lucien, Devin Street, and Cody Hollister are longshots for the roster.


Rob Gronkowski is once again the Patriots top TE Option heading into 2017.

Tight End:

Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen: Gronkowski returns healthy for 2017 and Allen was brought over in a rare trade with the Colts, replacing Martellus Bennett who left in free agency. Gronk, when healthy remains the gold standard for NFL tight ends. Allen is an excellent blocker that can be very productive in the passing game who can attack the seams of the defense.

There is now plenty of depth behind them with James O’Shaughnessy, Matt Lengel, Rob Housler and Jacob Hollister fighting it out for a roster slot and repetitions. Training camp competition will be interesting to watch here.

Tackle:

Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon: No changes here from 2016. Solder returned from IR and played very solid in 2016. He’s in the last year of his contract and the Patriots must decide this year if they want him to return in 2018. Cannon was the biggest pleasant surprise of 2016. He parlayed a contract extension into a very solid campaign under the able tutelage of Dante Scarnecchia.

The team drafted a potential replacement for Solder in 2018 or beyond with Antonio Garcia. They added another tackle in the late rounds of the draft with Conor McDermott. He’ll be fighting backups Michael Williams, Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle for reps and a roster slot.

Guard:

Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason: No changes here from 2016. Thuney came in and started from Day 1 at left guard. As can be expected, he struggled a bit as a rookie and needs to come back stronger for his second season. Mason is a tough, road grader in the running game and will be looking to improve as well in 2017.

Primary backups should be Jamil Douglas who was brought over in midseason from Miami who was a 4th round draft pick in 2015 and Chris Barker.

Center:

David Andrews: No change here from 2016. Andrews is a bit undersized for the position but is smart and tough. He won over Tom Brady during training camp last year because of his ability to make the line calls and seeing the field much like Brady did.

His backup remains Ted Karras, the tough but less mobile version of Andrews. Karras can also play guard as well, the versatility that the coaching staff loves.


Flowers had a strong showing in 2016.

Defense:
Defensive End:

Trey Flowers, Kony Ealy: Lots of changes here. Gone are last season’s Week 1 starters Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard via free agency. But Flowers, who came on strong in the 2nd half of the season was the team’s best defensive lineman down the stretch and should be primed for a very solid 2017. Ealy was brought over from the Panthers as well as a 3rd round pick for the Patriots 2nd rounder.

Lots of good depth here now, Rob Ninkovich will play both DE and OLB and fill in where he’s needed and may still lobby for starting duties. Top draft choice Derek Rivers gives the team the speed and athleticism from the edge. Deatrich Wise is a bigger, edge setting end who can kick inside as an interior pass rusher. Lawrence Guy is another big man who can play inside as an interior tackle or on the edge. Geneo Grissom is on the outside looking in this year.

Tackle:

Malcom Brown, Alan Branch: No changes to the starting lineup. Brown played solidly in Year 2 but could stand to improve his pocket push in 2017. Branch was excellent against the run in 2016, eating up a ton of space. He returns with a new deal and has played the best football of his career since coming to New England.

Backups include Vincent Valentine, Woodrow Hamilton, Guy, Darius Kilgo, and UDFA Josh Augusta who is one of the players to watch in training camp. He’s a huge space eater who could be one of the surprise players to stick on the roster.

Linebacker:

Dont’a Hightower, Jonathan Freeny: Wait, what? People forget Freeny, a Bill Belichick favorite was a starter for the defense a year ago until landing on IR. Hightower got a new deal after testing free agency and not finding the market he envisioned out there. He’s the glue that holds the defense together for the Pats. He calls the defense and is the guy they need in the middle. He can do it all, stuff the run, cover in the flat and blitz up the A-gaps. Hightower’s starting slot is secure, Freeny will have to re-earn his spot this summer. But for now, he’s in.

Backups include sub-package third down players Shea McClellin and Kyle Van Noy, run-stuffer Elandon Roberts, Ninkovich, Trevor Bates and UDFA Harvey Langi. Langi is one of my players to watch this summer.

Since the Patriots spend so much time in sub-packages, we only include two starting linebackers, therefore…


Butler’s potential return solidifies a terrific secondary.

Cornerback:

Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe: The team gave Gilmore a big money contract this spring during free agency. And after a contentious period with Butler, he signed his free-agent tender and has been in for off-season workouts. Rowe is a big matchup corner and gives the Patriots a very solid starting three. Each has the versatility to be shifted around and play outside or in the slot depending on how Belichick and Matt Patricia choose to use them.

Backups include Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Coleman, Jonathan Jones, and intriguing UDFA D.J. Killings who for now, is a long shot for the roster.

Safety:

Devin McCourty, Pat Chung: No changes here from 2016. McCourty is the QB for the secondary and always ensures that the players in are in the right position. He plays the centerfield position in the base defense and can slide up to play in the slot in the “big nickel”. Chung is the guy in the box, he plays physical against the run and he’ll cover tight ends in the short to intermediate range.

Duron Harmon was brought back with a nice deal in free agency. He plays a lot of snaps and replaces McCourty as the center fielder in big nickel coverage. Jordan Richards has been disappointing thus far. Nate Ebner and Brandon King are special teamers.

Special Teams:

Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Matthew Slater: The team’s specialists remain the same. Gostkowski will have training camp competition for the first time in a while from Josh Gable, known more for his trick shots. Punter Ryan Allen and LS Joe Cardona face no competition. Slater is a perennial Pro-Bowl gunner.

So, with the additions made in the draft and free agency, the Patriots look …on paper in a prime position to compete for another Super Bowl bid. Of course, injuries and other factors always weigh in but there are no holes on the roster as it currently stands. They’ve addressed their needs across the board and look even better than the team that won 14 games in the regular season and three more in the playoffs in 2016.

Is it time for mini-camp yet?

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.

Patscap Podcast: Recap Of The Patriots Draft

Russ Goldman
May 3, 2017 at 1:13 pm ET

In this episode Miguel shares his thoughts on the Patriots draft.

Patriots’ Defense on the Edge Will Have a Different Look in 2017

Steve Balestrieri
at 10:50 am ET

 The Patriots didn’t have to make too many changes for a roster that had just won Super Bowl LI but one of the areas that underwent pretty dramatic change was at defensive end on the edge. With Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long leaving via free agency, it was considered the Patriots biggest area of need.

And the Patriots have addressed it, bringing in Kony Ealy in a trade with the Carolina Panthers and then drafting a pair of edge players Derek Rivers from Youngstown State and Deatrich Wise from Arkansas. Those three players will join Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich for the Patriots this season. The team signed UDFA linebacker Harvey Langi as well and he played the edge for BYU somewhat last year, but his best fit is at outside linebacker.

Flowers was arguably the best Patriots defensive lineman down the stretch last season. He’s guaranteed to be starting at RDE when the season starts. Ninkovich and Ealy will compete for the LDE spot. With Rivers and Wise providing rotational depth.

But this year’s unit has a much different feel to it because they have more versatility. Ealy is a bigger guy at 6’4, 275 pounds. He can set the edge in the running game, has the athleticism to get after the passer and is big and physical enough to kick inside as an interior pass rusher on third down. Flowers already does that frequently.

The Patriots brought in another free agent, Lawrence Guy who can be a sub-package interior pass rusher. That’s what they’ll get in Wise as well. He’s a big kid, at 6’5, 275 pounds with insanely long arms that he needs to learn to use better. When he extends his arms, with his upper body strength, he can push through tackles and get to the quarterback. He’s frequently been compared to Chandler Jones but isn’t nearly as athletic. He’s more of a big edge setter. But Wise can also kick inside and provide interior pass rush…Seeing a trend here?

Which brings us to the team’s first draft pick Derek Rivers. If there was one element the Patriots front seven lacked on the edge last season was speed. Rivers will bring that speed to the pass rush with an athleticism that should serve the team very well.

Rivers isn’t as big at 6’4, 250 pounds at the defensive end position but ran a 4:61 in the 40-Yard Dash, with a 1:61 10-Yard Split. His time in the 3-Cone Drill was third best at the position with 6:94. That shows he has the quick twitch athleticism, loose hips and the ability to change direction as well as bend off the edge to get to the QB. He showed his strength with 30 reps at the Bench Press.

He may need some time to find his feet in the NFL, similar to how Flowers progressed in his first campaign, but he has the potential to be a very good player in the league. The good part is, with the depth of the team, he won’t be pushed too hard too soon. They can let him develop and learn the nuances of the position at the NFL level.

With the added depth, the Patriots can move Ninkovich around and possibly let him take some snaps at OLB with Shea McClellin, Kyle Van Noy, and Langhi.

However, the edge will look quite different in 2017. How effective will it be? No one knows right now but I’d bet on Belichick having it figured out as the season winds along.

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.

Daily Notebook: Tuesday Patriots News and Notes 5/2

Ian Logue
May 2, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

We’re on to Tuesday, and here’s a quick look at today’s top stories.

Rivers Has Local Ties – Much was made of the fact the Patriots took Derek Rivers out of a small school like Youngstown (Ohio) State University in the third-round this past weekend, but looking closer, the defensive end also is a native New Englander with local ties.

He was actually born in Augusta, Maine, although he was raised in North Carolina.  But this weekend his mom, Mary Leinonen, sat with her son and their family, many of whom still live in New England, while they held a draft party in South Carolina.  According to the Kennebec Sentinal, as Rivers finished without having been drafted in the second round, he apparently began getting nervous.

However, it wasn’t long before the phone eventually rang and when his mom found out where he was headed, she was excited.

“He whispered to me, ‘Patriots,’ and I did a little jig,” she told the newspaper.

But for the next few minutes, they reportedly managed to hold it together in front of their family, who was unaware of the call and got to experience the jubilation of his selection as his name came across the television.

“I didn’t really care what team he went to. He didn’t care, either, he just wanted the chance,” Leinonen said. “The Patriots was a nice surprise. I went to a (Patriots) game when I was 7 and Steve Grogan was the quarterback.”

Now that Rivers has realized his dream, hopefully the next trip to Foxboro will be even more memorable for Leinonen.

For now, Rivers will take his next step this weekend when mini-camp begins.

Belichick Got Right to the Point With Wise Jr. – Watching the video on Patriots.com of what went on when the Patriots made the selection of Deatrich Wise Jr. in round four over the weekend showed that Bill Belichick doesn’t mince words and gets right to the point when it comes to telling a player they’re about to become a Patriot.

When it came to selecting Wise Jr., it was Berj Najarian, who is listed as director of football/head coach administration on his Linkedin page, who was the one who made the initial call to get Wise Jr. on the phone.  From there it was Belichick, looking relaxed while dressed in khaki shorts and a blue buttoned down short-sleeved shirt, who stood up and walked across the room with a focused look on his face to take the phone from Najarian to speak to the rookie.

There was a quick greeting by Belichick after Najarian handed him the phone, and from there, the Patriots head coach delivered the news.

“We’re about ready to make you a Patriot here,” said Belichick.  “Houston, they’re going to pick, then we’re going to select you.  So, congratulations.”

Done.

On the other end, Wise Jr. said the whole experience was definitely one he won’t forget.

“It was exciting,” said Wise Jr.  “Once I got that phone call it got real quiet, and then once my name went across the screen my family, my girlfriend, my friends around me just jumped for joy. It was a very joyful moment.”

Should Wise Jr. go on to have a terrific career in the NFL, it’s funny how that moment was the opening line in what the Arkansas standout is likely hoping will be a book with many chapters.  With rookie mini camp looming and OTAs not far behind, he’ll be getting started with that next step soon enough.


Wise Jr. seems to have the right attitude and should fit in well.

Wise Jr. Fit the Mold in Arkansas – Another note on Wise Jr. that was pretty interesting.  According to SECCountry.com, it’s worth noting that Wise joined Jeremy Sprinkle as a player who was just a 3-star recruit, which left them with limited options since neither player was highly-touted.

But after ending up in Arkansas, despite the doubters, it was the hard work and dedication that really impressed his coaches, including head coach Bret Bielema, who said that having guys who are hard workers far eclipses having four or five star recruits.

“I believe in development,” Bielema said last spring via SECCountry.com. “We’re never going to have a sexy roster of 5-stars or 4-star (recruits). We’ve got a bunch of guys that like to go to work every day and want to develop.”

It’s a trait that, as we know, Bill Belichick looks for as well, which will also hopefully make Wise Jr. a good fit here in New England.


Fans haven’t even gotten to see Cooks in action in New England yet.

King Calls Cooks Deal the “Trade of the Draft” – While the Patriots only came away with four draft picks this weekend, it’s hard not to remember that one of the deals they made could become one of the biggest of the offseason, especially when the time comes for fans to get a glimpse of what the pairing of Tom Brady and former Saints receiver Brandin Cooks will look like.

In his Monday Morning Quarterback piece, MMQB writer Peter King touched on the topic and called the acquisition of Cooks from New Orleans for the 32 overall pick the “Trade of the Draft”.

“Cooks is 23, has averaged 72 catches a year in his first three NFL seasons, plays tougher than he looks, and will play for the next two years for a total of $10 million. What’s not to like?” wrote King.  “And if you’re the Saints, you feel you’ve gotten in Ryan Ramczyk a guy who’s likely going to be a starting tackle for you soon—maybe this year—and it’s unlikely they’d have signed Cooks long-term after 2018. So from each team’s perspective, it’s a good deal.”

As for the Patriots, the first media sessions will be coming soon when the team opens up sessions on a limited basis.

First-round talent tends to sometimes be a gamble and the move for Cooks is certainly less risky than taking a chance on an unknown player.  It remains as a great move by a Patriots team that is now that much deeper with him on the roster and hopefully if all goes well, he’ll also make their offense that much better.

Three Games to Glory V is Now Available! – One of the best parts about when New England wins a championship is the fact that the team releases a video with plenty of behind the scenes footage, along with unique film from NFL Films documenting what was certainly an incredible playoff run.

Now that it’s finally May 2nd, today happens to be the day that the fifth edition of Three Games to Glory is released, commemorating New England’s Super Bowl championship run and documenting the journey through the playoffs through their historic come-from-behind win over the Falcons.

It’s finally available, and the team has been teasing the video for a while now and if you’ve seen any of the footage, it definitely brings back chills experiencing some of the terrific moments from the 2016 postseason all over again.

Coming off of Draft Weekend, the timing is certainly perfect as most of us are already fired up for the upcoming season. has it on sale on both DVD and BluRay and you can also support our own Miguel Benzan’s charity by selecting “Bread of Life” through Amazon.com’s smile program when you order.

Daily Notebook: Monday Patriots News and Notes 5/1

Ian Logue
May 1, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

After a busy weekend, here’s a look at this morning’s top stories:

Quality over Quantity In the 2017 Draft For the Patriots – The NFL Draft is typically one of the biggest weekends of the year for most Patriots fans who follow it intently, but given how few picks New England finished with in terms of selections (4), it will certainly go down as one of the most memorable due to how few they walked away with.

As Mike Reiss of ESPN pointed out on Sunday the four selections tied the 1995 San Francisco 49ers for the fewest draft picks by a defending Super Bowl champion, but New England seemingly made the most of the players they came away with.

They grabbed two offensive linemen and two defensive ends this weekend, infusing youth into two important positions for this team.

In Antonio Garcia and Conor McDermott the Patriots have two young players they can begin grooming for the tackle position on the offensive line, whether it’s for an eventual replacement for Nate Solder or simply to add quality depth in case of injury to either Solder or Marcus Cannon.  Protecting Brady is obviously a priority as the quarterback turns 40 and after losing right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who seems appears poised to retire, it’s a wise move for a team that is lacking depth behind their two starters.

In Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise Jr. the Patriots have two young defensive ends to help boost their pass rush, which is certainly good news for a team that has had their share of trouble getting to the quarterback.  Rob Ninkovich has played a lot of snaps over his career and at 33 may not have many seasons left, so developing players behind him is a good move.  Should either player emerge into a role player in 2017, it will only be that much better.

Overall, it’s not a bad draft for a team that was already in good shape thanks to what has been a pretty strong offseason. Thanks to this weekend, they’ve grabbed some terrific young pieces for the future, which if they pan out, will be another reminder of the quality of work that continues to be done by Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio and New England’s scouting department.


Conor McDermott brings versatility to New England.

McDermott Has Versatility, NFL Pedigree Working For Him – While we spotlighted Wise Jr. on Sunday and the fact his father is a former NFL player, recently drafted tackle Conor McDermott also falls into that category.

His brother, Kevin, is a long-snapper for the Vikings, which is a skill that McDermott claims is also in his arsenal, as well as the fact he’s had plenty of experience as a tight end.

“I used to long snap in high school,” said McDermott during his conference call on Saturday.  “And I did some back up during my college career.”

He also said that he was a tight end for his entire life prior to moving over to tackle in college.

“I was a tight end my whole life and then when I got to UCLA they moved me right to tackle, and then I did some tackle-tight end formations and some goal line and short-yardage for my first two years before I became a full-time left-tackle starter,” he said.

McDermott went on to say that he’s familiar with Nate Solder after having studied him in college, and he admitted he’s “been a fan of his for a while”.  He also went on to say he’s looking forward to meeting him.

The rookie also said that there’s some good chemistry between he and fellow draft pick Antonio Garcia, with the two having spent time working together at the Senior Bowl.

“We spent a good amount of time together,” said McDermott. “We were on the same team and practiced together every day, watched film together in meetings. He’s just a great guy. I’m happy for him and excited to work together.”

Needless to say, he sounds like a great fit and another great addition to the defending champs.

Patriots Add 17 Undrafted Free Agents – One part of the offseason that has become more of a focus in recent years has been keeping an eye on undrafted free agents, which has been fun to watch thanks to the players who have emerged from those ranks over the years for the Patriots.

New England loaded up with 17 undrafted players, although there may be changes still yet to come prior to when camp opens in a couple of months due to the roster shuffling that will likely take place between now and then.

One interesting story is the fact New England added a pair of twin brothers to the mix in Cody Hollister (WR, Arkansas) and Jacob Hollister (TE, Wyoming), which will likely be a fun story to follow later this summer as the two were recently profiled by FoxSports.com.

I was such a cute baby (on the right haha)

A post shared by Cody Hollister (@codyhollister) on

According to published reports, here is a list of the other additions from this weekend:

  1. LeShun Daniels Jr. (RB, Iowa)
  2. Jason King (OL, Perdue)
  3. Harvey Langi (LB, Brigham Young)
  4. Josh Augusta (OT, Missouri)
  5. Corey Vereen (DE, Tennessee)
  6. Austin Carr (WR, Northwestern)
  7. Dwayne Thomas (CB, LSU)
  8. Kenny Moore (CB, Valdosta State)
  9. Max Rich (OT, Harvard)
  10. David Jones (S, Richmond)
  11. Damarius Travis (S, Minnesota)
  12. Adam Butler (DL, Vanderbilt)
  13. D.J. Killings (CB, Central Florida)
  14. Cole Croston (OT, Iowa)
  15. Jason Thompson (S, Utah)

As for who will be the next Malcolm Butler (2014), David Andrews (2015) or Ryan Allen (2013), among plenty of other past standouts, that remains to be seen.  But if history is any indication, it will certainly be an area to keep an eye on during training camp to see if any one of these players ends up being this year’s surprise heading into this season.


Kirk Minihane of WEEI called Edelman “Essentially Brain Dead” Friday.

WEEI’s Minihane: Edelman a “Dummy” and “Essentially Brain Dead”, Brady’s Charity “Shady” – If you listened to WEEI on Friday, Kirk Minihane of “Kirk and Callahan” dropped some disturbing comments about Julian Edelman along with questionable remarks toward quarterback Tom Brady.

The topic of discussion came about surrounding the fact Brady and Edelman are taking part in an upcoming “Wealth and Success Summit” on June 8th in Boston with motivational speaker Tony Robbins.

While Minihane and Callahan disagreed with the two players being part of the event, Minihane went over the top with his criticism and had choice words in particular for Edelman.

“What I would say is, again, it gives you an insight into how empty Brady is,” said Minihane of the fact the quarterback is appearing at the event.

“He’s not empty, just because he has different priorities than you…” responded Callahan.

“If you think Tony Robbins, that crap he’s peddling is real, you are as dumb as the day is long,” said Minihane to Callahan.  “That’s what I would say.”

From there they played a clip from one of Robbins’ appearances, and that only infuriated Minhane further, which sparked one of his usual rants.

“I mean, really, and Brady will be sitting there with his notebook taking notes while this idiot [referring to Robbins] talks and slings his crap,” said Minihane.

“Julian Edelman, who is essentially brain-dead,” Minihane continued, “really is going to sit there and … ”

“Julian Edelman?” responded Callahan.  “You’re going to pay $6000 to hear Julian Edelman? …”

“Talk?” barked Minihane.  “I don’t want to listen to him talk here at the station for free every week.”

If you listen to Minihane with any regularity, you’ll notice a pattern of ripping someone, and then coming back with “I like that person … “.  He took same approach with Brady as the segment continued.

“So Brady has only so much time, according to Gerry [Callahan], for Best Buddies but he can take a day with Anthony Robbins, a full day, right?  O.K., just want to get that straight,” said Minihane.

“This is frightening, this seriously creeps me out.  I like Brady, he’s a nice guy, our interactions with him, he’s always been a good guy with us.  I know he does a lot of charity work.  I like the guy.  I’m actually worried about him.  I want to go there, I’ll pay the $6000, I’m going to throw a net over Brady and bring him somewhere and try and bring him back to reality because his mind has snapped.  It’s snapped, he’s snapped.”

“This is so below Brady.  This is so minor league.  This is Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback ever, the greatest football player who ever lived, a king in this town, he’s married to Gisele [Bundchen], the two of them are worth about $600 million and he’s going to schlepp to some hotel with Anthony Robbins and that dummy, Edelman?  For this talk?  Am I the only one who thinks this is utter madness?  Evidently.”

Speaking about Minihane’s praise for Brady’s charity work, he was singing a different tune earlier in the week.  Minihane went after the quarterback following the Globe (a newspaper he’s openly admitted he can’t stand and has a strong dislike for editor Joe Sullivan) releasing the piece about Brady’s charity, Best Buddies, last weekend, questioning where the money was being allocated.  Minihane surprisingly took the newspaper’s side and claimed Brady and the charity weren’t being transparent.


Minihane accused Brady of not being transparent with his charity last week using the word “shady.”

“So a charity that never disclosed it, gives $500,000 a year for his charity and what Brady does with it is things like, $250,000, if you donate to Best Buddies, there’s a chance that money is going to his high school in San Mateo, they get $250,000,” said Minihane.  “If you give Best Buddies $100, if you’re a guy making $35,000 a year, you give Best Buddies $100 because you love Brady, just know, there’s a chance it’s going to Santa Monica Catholic Community, or the TB12 Foundation, a charity formed by Brady in 2015 to support clients of his Foxboro-based TB12 Fitness and Nutrition company.  That’s in the world of shady to me right there.  I’ll say it.”

“Ohio State University, $50,000, in honor of Ed Razek, that’s where your money may be going, a former Victoria Secret executive who is said to have helped launch Brady’s romance with Gisele, in 2006.  $50,000 Michigan, obviously Dana Farber, Mission of Hope Haiti, Navy Seal Foundation, a charity for Tom Martinez, Brady’s coach who died five years ago. $30,000 went to a nursing facility in Minnesota that cared for Brady’s grandfather before he died in 2016.”

He then argued with Mut Mutnanski about if giving to the nursing facility was a good cause (again, Brady’s grandfather was cared for there which obviously holds a special place in the heart of the quarterback) and proceeded to argue with Mutnanski about whether or not Brady’s own foundation was also good cause.

“You think the TB12 Foundation is a good cause?” barked Minihane.  “Based on what?”

From there, Minihane claimed Brady and Best Buddies weren’t being transparent about where the money was going, which Mutnanski tried in vain to explain to him that the information is there if Minihane just “does the work” and looks for it, which it is.  Co-host Gerry Callahan also tried to reason with him, but failed as well.

Minihane, who joined the show a few years ago and has injected some life back into WEEI’s morning show, has played an important part in the station taking back the lead in the ratings over 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher and Rich.  But some of his bizarre rants seemingly are said (one can only hope) without him really thinking them through and certainly must test the incredible patience shown by his co-host, along with the two terrific producers WEEI has for that show in Chris Curtis and Ken Laird.

Brady and Edelman both appear weekly on the radio station during the regular season, with Brady being the only one of the two who conducts a weekly interview with Kirk & Callahan’s show every Monday during the season.  Edelman usually appears in the afternoon with Ordway, Merloni and Fauria and since WEEI owns the rights to Patriots Monday, that’s the primary reason why those two players appear on there each week.

Needless to say it would be great if Minihane could tone it down and stick to the things he does really well, like interviews like these, instead of these rants that likely wouldn’t be received positively with either player if they were made aware of them.

It’s been a rough road for Minihane, who has faced multiple suspensions over the years and last season cost the station weekly interviews with Mike Lombardi and has alienated others.  One would believe that costing the station a weekly interview with a player like Brady – or Edelman for that matter – likely wouldn’t be something that would go over too well with the station.

Brady’s said in the past he’s a very positive person and tries to avoid negative situations.  Despite that, it’s safe to say the veteran quarterback wouldn’t be feeling overly positive about Minihane’s comments.  Knowing Minihane, who already predicted Brady’s impending demise two seasons ago, there will most likely be more to come.

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.

 

Patriots Make Trades, Select DE and OT Friday Night

Ian Logue
April 28, 2017 at 11:34 pm ET

It was quite a wait for anyone watching Friday night’s coverage of Rounds Two and Three of the 2017 NFL Draft, with fans in New England forced to wait a little longer after Bill Belichick did Belicick-like things on draft night.

The Patriots didn’t have a second round pick and just as it seemed the they were poised to make their first selection of the night, Belichick traded out of the 72nd overall spot with Tennessee, shipping off a 6th-round pick along with their selection while picking up a 4th-round pick.  They essentially moved back 11 spots with the trade with the Titans, who selected Western Kentucky receiver Tawaun Taylor with New England’s #72 pick.

When the Patriots did finally get back on the clock at 10:25pm ET Friday night, former Patriot Andre Tippett came out and announced the selection, with New England going with Youngstown State defensive end Derek Rivers with their first pick of 2017.  Prior to the selection, Mike Reiss predicted a “line of scrimmage” pick, and Rivers certainly looks like one who will make some noise up front.

Here’s a look at Tippet announcing Rivers’ selection:

Rivers finished with 16 sacks in 2016, which was second most in the nation for the 6’4″, 248-pound player.

Overall, Rivers is a solid addition and another young player who should hopefully develop well along with fellow Patriot, Trey Flowers.  He was also just named 2017 Youngstown Scholar-Athletes of the Year Thursday Night along with track and field standout Jaynee Corbett.

The Patriots then traded up with the Lions from the #96 overall spot to #85 and grabbed offensive tackle Antonio Garcia out of Troy.


Garcia adds talent to New England’s offensive line.

In Garcia, New England added a key player to their offensive line, filling a need at the tackle position after the team released Sebastian Vollmer last month following an incredible tenure by Vollmer with the club. The 6’6″, 302 pound tackle finished his career having played in 44 games over his collegiate career, including 13 in his final season in 2016.

His former school Tweeted out the fact that the rookie is the highest pick ever drafted out of his university.

His school also pointed out that after 900 snaps, he never gave up a sack.

It appears to be a great move by the Patriots who obviously wanted him, giving up their 96th and 124th overall selection in the move.

Garcia said back in March that he was looking forward to the draft, and he was excited for the next step.

“You hear some of everything from everybody,” Garcia said of the whispers of potential teams via USA TODAY. “Anything can happen on draft day, so I’m just taking it one day at a time and just making sure I’m in shape.”

And now he’s a Patriot.