Tag Archives: Derek Rivers

Postcards From the Edge – Patriots Front Seven Primed For 2019

Steve Balestrieri
August 17, 2019 at 7:30 am ET

What a difference a year makes. Last season at this time, there were major questions about the depth of their linebacking corps and who…besides Trey Flowers could rush the passer. Now, they enter their second preseason game and the front seven has depth galore and an entirely new outlook on things. 

Flowers was tough to see leave, he did so much and a lot of it under the radar for the Patriots. But the team addressed it in several ways this year. The big men in the middle Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Adam Butler, and Danny Shelton look better than they were a year ago inside. Rookie Byron Cowart is still a long shot for the roster but has come on after missing time early with an injury. He had a half-sack and a QB pressure last week in Detroit. 

Although Michael Bennett is 33 years old, as of today, he shows no sign of slowing down and has been dominant in our limited look at him so far. And Bennett is flashing some of the same versatility, lining up inside, outside and even over the nose.

He’s embracing his role and the defensive scheme and seems to have a healthy respect for the coaching staff. Deatrich Wise hasn’t been 100 percent yet but should now see some action. Consistency is the key for him in 2019.

Chase Winovich was picked up this spring in the third round of the draft and he’s been “exactly who we thought he was.” He has an incredible motor that goes non-stop, excellent hands [which will only get better with pass-rush consultant Joe Kim]. Winovich has looked terrific in his opportunities which included a 1.5 sack performance against the Lions last week. 

Derek Rivers keeps trending up. He too had a big game against Detroit [2 sacks], and put constant pressure on the QBs last week, both in practice and in the game. After being a total non-factor for his first two years, is he a shoo-in? No, but the way he’s playing has to be a huge confidence boost for not only him but the coaches. 

Shalique Calhoun is quickly becoming a steal. The veteran that came over from the Raiders this spring barely registered on the radar [here as well….], however, it seems like he’s another guy that wasn’t considered a nice pickup and who can pay big dividends for the team. His play was such that he was given reps with the starters. He responded in Detroit with a sack and a tackle for loss. 

And we haven’t even got to the linebackers. John Simon was the under the radar pickup last year.  He does a terrific job of setting the edge and had an interception last week. Jamie Collins was dynamic last week and has been a beast throughout training camp. He has the athleticism to be a movable chess piece anywhere they sense a mismatch to their advantage. He had a sack last week…. Are we sensing a pattern here?

Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy are the linchpins for the front seven. They can rush off the edge or up in the A-gaps.  Hightower dropped weight this offseason and looks faster and a bit more athletic. He looked good back in his home state this week.

Van Noy was another Belichick highway robbery when they snatched him away from the Lions. He can do everything that Belichick and Mayo will ask of him. Elandon Roberts and Ja’Whaun Bentley hold down the middle. Two guys outside looking in are Calvin Munson and Christian Sam.  Munson has put back-to-back solid weeks together.

Last week, the Patriots had 17 QB pressures and nine sacks against the woefully unprepared Lions. This week against a better team, the front seven hounded Titans’ QBs in the joint practices. Can they do it again in the game on Saturday night? 

We shall see. But things are trending up for this defense in 2019. In about three weeks will be the first real test when they take on the Steelers in the season opener. Pittsburgh has one of the better offensive lines in the league. And this time around, there is growing confidence in the front seven.  

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

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

Patriots Rookies, Defense Shine in Preseason Win Over Detroit

Steve Balestrieri
August 9, 2019 at 6:51 am ET

The New England Patriots looked much more prepared for the first week of preseason football than the Detroit Lions did. They were sharper, looked in better shape and appeared to be farther along in their installation than their opponents did. 

While most of the starters on either team sat this one out, the final score is pretty much immaterial in these matchups. However, it was difficult not to be impressed with the production the Patriots players displayed in the Motor City as they whipped the Lions 31-3. 

We wrote in our pregame piece we wanted to see the rookies in the passing game show what they can do in live game action. Jarrett Stidham, N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, along with 2nd-year player Braxton Berrios, as well as newcomers Maurice Harris and Matt LaCosse are all going to be counted on at some point to produce when the games matter. 

And with a deep and loaded defensive unit, we wanted to see how the edge rushers and secondary men held up. It is safe to say that they passed their first test quite well.

Here are some of our observations from the Patriots first game action of 2019.

Hoyer/Stidham Both Look Very Sharp:

Pats QBs Brian Hoyer and rookie Jarrett Stidham played extremely well in their first game action of the year. Hoyer looked very much in control of the offense, and afforded excellent protection, he was able to go thru his progressions and deliver the ball with good accuracy in the first half. 

Hoyer finished 12 of 14 for 147 yards with 2 TD passes. He was very much in command of the offense and it seemed like they could move the ball at will over the Lions’ second-team defense.

Stidham, the rookie 4th round draft pick from Auburn had a very impressive first outing. As we’ve reported from Foxboro since the spring, he throws a very nice football and really puts some spin on it. But learning a new offense for a rookie QB is a daunting task. And he went thru the typical rookie growing pains early in camp.

In Detroit, Stidham looked like a player that already has a firm grasp of the offense. He looked extremely poised and in control, went thru his progressions really well and delivered the ball on-target. While he had a couple of hiccups where he double-clutched the ball, trying not to make a mistake, it was a very impressive debut for the rookie. He completed 14-24 for 174 yards with a TD. arguably, his two best passes, deep balls to Maurice Harris were dropped but could have been flagged for pass interference. But Stidham was justifiably pleased to get his first NFL action under his belt.

“I had a great time,” said Stidham. “This is my first NFL experience, getting to play. There are a lot of things to improve on, but overall it was a lot of fun. It was a great experience.”

Meyers, WRs Answers the Bell in First Game Action:

Jakobi Meyers has been the story of the Patriots training camp thus far, learning the offense and quickly gaining the trust of all of the quarterbacks on the roster. But we live in New England… where regardless of what has transpired, fans have been force-fed to accentuate the negative, “Well can he do it in a game?” has been a common refrain the past two weeks.  Well, his first game action was a success.

Meyers isn’t a burner, he isn’t going to wow anyone by blowing the top of the defense. His slow 40 time at the NFL Combine was the reason he went undrafted after a 92-catch season at NC State. But he has a knack for getting open and finding the seams of opponents’ defenses. And he has sticky hands and makes the difficult catches.

He had six catches for 69 yards [Gronkowski approves] and two TDs in a very impressive first effort on Thursday night in Detroit. He mentioned going against a very stout Patriots defense in practice as a positive.

“Even before this week of practice with the Lions, practicing with ourselves for two weeks — I mean, that’s a tough group of guys,” Meyers said. “You see what they did today, the show that they put on today. Going against them, I feel like I got better. I kept trying to take one step forward every day, and I feel like it prepared me for this week and today.”

N’Keal Harry had two very impressive catches before suffering a minor injury but one that kept him out for the rest of the game. Braxton Berrios and Gunner Olszewski both looked impressive in the return game, something that may win them roster spots. Maurice Harris continued his solid camp with three catches including a touchdown from Brian Hoyer.

Yes, the schemes were vanilla and the starters weren’t in there, but all you can ask for your players in this situation to do is produce….and they did. Moving on to Tennessee.

Defense Smothers Lions All Night:

The Patriots defense was very impressive all night long holding Detroit to under 100 total yards of offense, [94], just 21 passing and allowing just a late field goal after going up by 31. Good stout run defense, excellent play in the secondary and a fearsome pass rush defanged the Lions all night long.

Derek Rivers led the way with 2 sacks, Chase Winovich, playing in front of many hometown fans chipped in with 1.5 and looked very impressive. Danny Shelton, Jamie Collins, Shalique Calhoun, Terez Hall, Ja’Whaun Bentley each had one sack while Byron Cowart chipped in with a half-sack.

The depth of the defense, something we’ve been harping on all spring and summer was on full display Thursday night.

“You saw me make the play maybe on a couple of occasions today, but really, we have so many guys up front,” Winovich said. “Sacks are very contagious. It’s a great thing anytime you can make a play and get the fans, even though we are in an opposing stadium I guess, and get your team into it. You really get into a groove feeling the game out. We are just playing great team defense I think”

Again, it is just a first step, but this was a very impressive one. 

Hate to Be a Debbie Downer….But:

It wasn’t all roses on Thursday night. FIrst, on the injury front. Harry left with what appears to be a minor injury, but that will bear watching. Matt LaCosse went down in bad pain grasping his lower leg/ankle and didn’t return. Keion Crossen left with what appeared to be a concussion.

Rivers played well after he made a bad mistake in getting past the QB and allowing him to scramble for big yardage. He got an earful from Bill Belichick on the sideline after that one. But his play after that was a huge positive. 

Joejuan Williams was really solid in the secondary and outstanding in the running game but then took a very stupid penalty by throwing a runner to the ground well out of bounds…he’ll hear about that in the film session tomorrow.

________________

Overall, this performance on Thursday night capped off a productive week of joint practices and their first preseason game. It gave them plenty to build off of…we’re on to Tennessee next week. 

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

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

What to Watch For At Patriots Training Camp

Steve Balestrieri
July 25, 2019 at 7:00 am ET

The 2019 Patriots training camp sessions begin this morning and football is finally back. Well maybe not the games that count yet, but we’ll have the Patriots and the NFL with us until Super Bowl LIV plays out in February. Hopefully, we’ll be looking at another Patriots appearance in the big game. 

But… as Bill Belichick likes to say, “we have a long way to go.” The spring is a teaching camp and in actuality, the first two days of training camp will be a continuation of that. No pads, no hitting and there is really no way to gauge the play of the interior linemen or the running game yet.  

We won’t be able to really gauge any of that stuff until Saturday when the pads come on for the first time. However, there are some things we are excited about watching this summer at training camp. 

Isaiah Wynn and the LT Position: Wynn was the Patriots top draft pick a year ago and before we really got a sense of knowing how he could handle himself as a left tackle in the NFL, he was hurt. Trent Brown had taken over the position, pretty much from Day 1 and there was never that feeling that they were competing for the top spot. 

Now Brown is gone, after signing a big-money deal with the Raiders. Wynn is coming off of that Achilles injury and missed all of the spring. Third-round pick Yodny Cajuste, someone we’re really high on here, is beginning camp on PUP after offseason quad surgery. Cole Croston is also on PUP, so I would expect to see more of Joe Thuney at left tackle this summer. 

But make no mistake about it, this is Wynn’s position to win or lose. It is going to be a must-watch area when he takes part in the one-on-one battles with the edge players. Unfortunately, those are always as far away from the crowd as humanly possible. 

With Sony Michel Out, Watch Damien Harris: I thought getting Harris in the third round of the draft was an absolute steal. At the time, I chalked it up to the Patriots just recognizing a good player who was too good to pass up. Now, that move looks brilliant.

Michel had a knee scope in the spring and it was supposed to be a minor thing. He missed all of minicamp and is now starting on PUP. Harris got a lot of reps in the spring and looked as good as advertised. 

Harris is a good runner between the tackles, gets yards after contact, is an outstanding pass blocker and is an underrated pass receiver with very soft hands. Even with a healthy Michel, I expect Harris to see a lot of action this season. With Michel out, at least for now, look for him to accelerate that learning curve. 

No Julian Edelman is Good News For the Other WRs: Edelman is Tom Brady’s best friend and most trusted receiver on the team. That brace on his thumb looks to be a minor issue and not something that should linger long. But him not being there just elevates everyone behind him on the depth chart to get reps with #12. And you know what? That is a good thing. 

N’Keal Harry had a good spring, some solid moments mixed in with typical rookie moments. That is expected…from anyone. Harry has a reputation as a very hard worker and since the minicamp ended, I wouldn’t be surprised if he looks like a different guy this week. I would go all-in that he spent that off time getting deep into the playbook. 

Braxton Berrios is another guy who could really benefit from Edelman’s absence. Berrios has never caught a pass from Brady in team drills, one can expect that dubious distinction to end very soon. Berrios has to stay healthy and on the field this summer. He had a pretty impressive spring and everything is falling in place for him to carve out a nice niche for himself in the offense. He could fit in the Danny Amendola role in 2019. 

Jakobi Meyers is my dark-horse to make the 53-man roster at wide receiver. With Josh Gordon suspended for who knows how long and Demaryius Thomas on PUP, Meyers may be able to carve out a role in the offense. He’s a former QB and a big (6’2, 204) slot receiver. One thing that stood out during minicamp was that Meyers was invited to the side session with Brady, Hoyer, Josh McDaniels, and Harry. While it may not mean much, we believe that anything that goes down in Foxboro has a motive. It’ll be up to him to show us right or wrong. 

Front Seven Play and How the Reps are Divided: The Patriots run defense was awful early in the season. It was especially bad along the defensive line. Eventually, the Patriots tightened that up and the run defense was a strength in the postseason. The Patriots lost former 1st round pick Malcom Brown in free agency. But they brought in Mike Pennel, someone we were lobbying for when free agency started. He and Lawrence Guy should be a very stout early run-stuffing pair. 

But the players on the edge are an intriguing bunch. Michael Bennett still has gas left in the tank …and plays with arguably the smallest shoulder pads on the team. Deatrich Wise starts on PUP which opens the door for more reps for John Simon, rookie Chase Winovich and some guys who are on the bubble. Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis, Trent Harris are all guys who are looking to carve out a roster spot. Another guy to watch is Shalique Calhoun. 

At linebacker, the Patriots have plenty of depth and a slimmed-down Dont’a Hightower, the return of Jamie Collins and the playmaking ability of Kyle Van Noy lends itself to the idea that the defense will continue to postseason trend of being very aggressive. 

J.C. Jackson and Duke Dawson Have Big Year 2 Expectations: Jackson had a meteoric rise in 2018. But Bill Belichick tried to possibly send a message to him by giving most of the first-team reps to Jason McCourty this spring. Many people expect Jackson to be an even better player than Stephon Gilmore somewhere down the line. So, a lot of people will be watching him closely. 

Dawson didn’t play at all in 2018 after coming off IR late in the year. Jonathan Jones cemented the slot role down and he and Dawson will be vying for that starting slot corner role. Rookie Joejuan Williams is a big corner in the Brandon Browner mold and is hoped to be a matchup piece in a ridiculously deep cornerback grouping. 

Training camp is always chalked full of action with 90 players competing all over the field. One area we neglected to mention was the punting battle between Ryan Allen and Jake Bailey. This promises to be another intriguing positional battle.

Don’t expect too much in those first two days which are like minicamp with the lack of hitting and pads, But come Saturday morning, the fun should really 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 Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

New England Patriots News, 7-21, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
July 21, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 07-21 and AFC East notes this week. 

Just 4 more days until the hard work begins for “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door.”

 Quick Hitters:

Tony Romo- was effusive in his praise of Bill Belichick this week while doing an interview on 105.3 the Fan in Dallas. Romo called the Patriots Super Bowl LIII game plan as “one of the greatest defensive performances I have ever seen in football.”

“He genuinely is not scared to go outside the box,” Romo said. “And I find in the NFL very few teams vary from what they do. So what he does then, is he drafts people that he believes can adapt from week-to-week.”

Patriots Cheerleaders – were doing their annual calendar shoot in St. Lucia this week, catch up on that on Patriots.com

Tom Brady – was cliff diving with his daughter in Costa Rica, then went horseback riding with his wife Gisele in his last family getaway before training camp starts next week. But his shot at Max Kellerman was the stuff of gold…

Mike Lombardi – Former Patriots front office person and friend of Bill Belichick was a guest on VSIN’s “A Number’s Game” and said he believes the Patriots defense will be better than the 2018 version.

“I think they are better on defense,” Lombardi said. “I think New England is better on defense this year. I think Jamie Collins wanted to come back to New England. He wanted to play. I think he will make them a better team and allow (Dont’a) Hightower to play more on the edge, which is what he’s more suited for than playing in the base. Then, there’s Kyle Van Noy. I think Michael Bennett still has some gas left in the tank, so I do think they will be better on defense. I think the guy that is coaching the defense is a Hall of Fame defensive coach — forget the fact that he’s a Hall of Fame head coach. I do think they will be better.”

Gordon Not In Patriots Plans, But Would Be Welcomed Back:

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network and NFL.com was on WEEI this week and addressed the Josh Gordon situation with the Patriots. He stated that the team would most certainly welcome the troubled but very talented wide receiver back, but that they were not counting on him in 2019 and have no idea when or if he’ll even be reinstated. 

“Josh Gordon, I don’t know,” Rapoport said. “It’s not a guy who’s in their plans right now. I think that they would certainly welcome him back if he showed that he’s going to be a better version — as a person, I’m talking about — a better version of the one they got last year. I just don’t know that he’s actually going to get reinstated, prove to the Patriots that he has turned the corner, that he’s a different person, show that he’s in the right frame of mind.”

“As always with Josh Gordon, the talent is incredible. We’ve seen probably one-tenth of it, honestly,” Rapoport added. “But there’s always so much that goes into it. I think the Patriots know better than to say this is a guy we’re counting on for next season.”

Hill Situation Highlights Lack of Consistency with NFL:

The NFL decided that Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill will not be disciplined under the league’s personal conduct policy. Whenever an NFL player is accused of off-field wrongdoing, the conduct policy is detailed in Article 46 of the league’s collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the National Football League Players’ Association is brought into play. 

Back in March Hill’s son who is just three years old suffered a broken arm and was removed from the home of Hill and fiancee Crystal Espinal by the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF). 

The District Attorney declined to press charges against either which prompted Hill’s attorneys to write the NFL that it was an accident and that he played no role in his son’s injuries.

After doing an investigation, Park Avenue decided not to punish Hill saying it “cannot conclude” that Hill, whom the Chiefs ordered to stay away from the team pending the NFL’s investigation, violated the personal conduct policy. 

This is the same Hill who still proclaims his innocence of beating Espinal while she was pregnant four years ago. He pleaded guilty to domestic assault and battery charges that he hit Espinal in the face and stomach while she was eight weeks pregnant. He also strangled her. Despite his repeated claims of innocence of those charges, he admitted to them in court. 

Then there is the taped phone conversation. In it, Espinal says their son is terrified of his father, Hill responds with a threat.

“A 3-year-old is not going to lie about what happened to his arm,” Crystal Espinal tells Hill in the recording, adding, “He is terrified of you.”

Hill responds, “You need to be terrified of me, too, dumb bitch.”

So while the NFL says that the child’s safety is their priority, it rings with insincerity. 

It cannot conclude Hill caused the child’s injuries…Really? The same man who punched his pregnant girlfriend in the face and stomach, strangled her and threatens her on the phone. Someone broke the child’s arm. So, they have to consider that Espinal is guilty?

The utter lack of consistency is plain to see. Less than a year ago, the NFL suspended Ravens CB Jimmy Smith for threatening and abusive behavior. 

New England fans began to harp on this latest fiasco from Park Ave. Of course, this entailed some people stating it doesn’t apply. to this case. To that, we reply… respectfully, “Bull excrement”. 

The NFL in the Wells report, (Pg 228) it stated that the league couldn’t conclude with certainty that anyone did or did not tamper with a football, but their analysis is “dependent on assumptions and information that is not certain.”  There was a total lack of evidence that anyone even attempted to deflate a football, when in fact a reasonable scientific explanation was right at hand.

But in this case, a player with a history of abuse suddenly has a child with a broken arm and threatens his fiancee openly. And … nada. “There isn’t evidence?” It never stopped them before. One has to conclude that the child’s safety takes a backseat to the fantasy points that will be generated by Hill in the highest-scoring offense in the league. 

“You do not have to be convicted or even charged of a crime to be able to demonstrate that you’ve violated a personal conduct policy, and reflect poorly not only on themselves, but all of their teammates, every NFL player in the league, and everyone associated with the NFL.” Roger Goodell

Joe Thuney Enters Pivotal Contract Year:

Joe Thuney 62) during minicamp a few summers ago SBalestrieri photo

With training camp set to begin later this week, one player who will be garnering a lot of attention this season will be guard Joe Thuney. Thuney is entering a contract year and is part of arguably the best guard tandem in the league with Shaq Mason. 

He is slotted to make about $2 million dollars in 2019 in the final year of his rookie contract and is in line to make much more in 2020. Will it be with the Patriots? Time will tell, but if he plays it out until free agency, the chances of him making significantly more cash will be available to him. The Patriots locked up center David Andrews this spring with a three-year $9 million dollar deal. Last summer, Mason signed a five-year contract worth a total of $50 million with $23.5 million of it guaranteed. Will the Patriots make Thuney as big an offer as he’ll get on the open market? Doubtful. 

Thuney’s versatility, he can play anywhere along the offensive line was apparent this spring. With both Isaiah Wynn and Yodny Cajuste out of minicamp due to offseason surgery, Thuney was taking all of the first-team reps at left tackle. If for any reason Wynn and Cajuste aren’t ready for training camp, look for Thuney to continue to fill in. That will further drive up his already considerable …and growing value. 

He has been remarkably durable, not only playing in all 48 games of his NFL career but in every one of the Patriots 1119 offensive snaps in 2018. Since entering the league, he’s been constantly improving under the tutelage of Dante Scarnecchia. Last year he was the NFL’s 7th rated guard by Pro Football Focus (PFF). 

If you make it down to training camp this week, be sure to check out big #63. It may just be his last season in a Patriots uniform. And he’s been one of their better performers. 

Patriots Players Needing to Rebound in 2019:

Training camp is the time for the young players to show what they can do to earn a roster spot. It is also time for some of the veterans to show that they can still perform at a high level. Here are a couple of players who will be looking to ignite their production in 2019 on the eve of training camp.

Demaryius Thomas – The former Broncos and Texans wide receiver was once one of the most productive WRs in the game but his game has been in steady decline for several years. He’s gone from 1619, 1304,1083, 949 to 677 in the past five years. Then he tore his Achilles with the Texans late last season. 

Thomas may not even be ready for training camp, having not taken part in any activities this spring. He may begin camp (and we suspect he will) on the PUP list. While no one expects him to return to his glory years with Denver, there is some hope that he can still be a viable target in the Patriots offense…time will tell. 

Derek Rivers – We already identified 2019 as a make or break season for the Patriots top draft pick in 2017. He tore his ACL in preseason of his rookie season but was still not looking 100 percent last year. While he did make the team in 2018, he played very sparingly in six games and registered just two tackles and one sack. That isn’t the kind of production the team was looking for out of him. 

He’ll get the opportunity to show what he’s got this summer and he’ll have to shine. With a much more crowded front seven this year, we currently have Rivers on the outside looking in. He’ll have to leapfrog some players and show he can produce at the NFL level. 

Ryan Allen – If it seems strange to you for a player who could’ve been named the MVP of the Super Bowl to need “to rebound” in 2019, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, it is true. The 2018 season wasn’t the most consistent of Allen’s career. But he did turn it on for the playoffs and in the Super Bowl, he was outstanding, out-punting the Rams Johnny Hekker who is among the best in the game.

But for the second year in a row, the Patriots have brought in competition for Allen. This year they moved up in the draft to take Jake Bailey from Stanford. The reports about the strength of Bailey’s leg are well-founded. After watching him at minicamp he puts an absolute charge into the ball. Plus he’s more versatile and can kickoff as well as fill in as a field goal kicker in an emergency. His issue has been consistency as well. 

But with the Patriots possibly relying more on the running game this year, especially early in the year, they may be looking for a punter with more range and hang time in the event they’re punting more from their own side of the field and deeper than in year’s past. Allen will be on watch this summer. 

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Cole Beasley Looks to Be the Top Target in Bills Passing Game: 

When the Buffalo Bills throw the ball this season, they will have a new and revamped passing attack. When we wrote about the changes forthcoming here a while back, we mentioned that Brian Daboll who used to be on the Patriots staff could be looking to replicate a lot of what the Patriots do with Julian Edelman. And that player on Buffalo would be Cole Beasley.

Beasley left Dallas and complained that he wasn’t getting enough looks in the passing game. And he’d have a point. In 2016, he led the Cowboys with 75 catches, 833 yards, and 5 TDs. The Cowboys went 13-3. In 2017, Dallas’ offense went away from Beasley, in 15 games he had just 36 catches for 314 yards and 4TDs. Dallas went 9-7. Last year, he was second on the team with 65 catches for 672 yards and 3 TDs, with Dallas going 10-6. But once Amari Cooper came onboard, Beasley’s numbers and targets went down. In the playoff loss to the Rams in the Divisional Round, he was targeted just twice.

With Buffalo and Daboll as the Offensive Coordinator, he has a chance to be the safety blanket, the chains mover and 2nd-year QB Josh Allen’s favorite target. Like Edelman, he excels in the short-area quickness part of the field. Buffalo threw the ball down the field too often in 2018. Look for them to utilize the short areas of the field more this year. And with the sure-handed Beasley in the mix, he should be the boon of his QB’s throws, especially on a team that had more than their share of drops.

Rosen or Fitzpatrick? The Dolphins TC Will Answer That:

The Miami Dolphins have (finally) moved away from QB Ryan Tannehill, who got more than a fair shake as their team’s QB. Now with a new coach and staff, new QBs and a fresh attitude, they’re going to attempt to turn things around.

With a full rebuild going on, no one is expecting Miami to be very competitive this season for a playoff spot. But with new coach Brian Flores and new signal callers under center, the Fins will be intriguing to watch. 

After signing Ryan Fitzpatrick as their bridge QB, Miami swooped after the Arizona Cardinals simply had to have QB Kyler Murray after drafting Josh Rosen with a Top 10 pick just a year ago. This could prove to be highway robbery. 

While no one knows how this will play out, Flores is going to let the players decide on who starts and who sits. But at some point, he’ll have to let Rosen show what he can do so that they can either stick with him as a potential franchise quarterback or that they have to address the situation next year in the NFL Draft. 

Our money here is on Rosen; he was awful last year, but he was a rookie saddled with an even more awful team. It was a total lose-lose situation. The games in the AFC East this year within the division are much more compelling with all of the new quarterbacks in place. 

Jets Williams Still Unsigned, May Miss the Beginning of Training Camp:

The New York Jets rookie players were scheduled to report for training camp on Friday. Quinnen Williams was not to be one of them. Williams still hasn’t signed his contract, making it the second year in a row that the team has had its top draft pick not show up on time for training camp. Last year, Sam Darnold missed the first three days of training camp while getting his deal finalized. 

Williams took part in all of the Jets’ spring workouts and the hold on his contract isn’t about his salary, which is mandated by the league. The Jets took Williams with the #3 pick in the NFL Draft this spring. What the holdup is, probably centers around offsets and cash flow. 

Is it a big worry? No, but the team never likes having their top draft pick miss any time during his first training camp. This is something that should be worked out fairly quickly and then Williams, who is considered one of the top picks in the draft, should be ready to go. 

________________

“I no longer listen to what people say, I just watch what they do. Behavior never lies” Winston Churchill

“So, how was your week?”

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

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

Patriots 2019 Training Camp Guide – Defensive Line

Steve Balestrieri
July 19, 2019 at 8:30 am ET

Less Than a Week Before the Patriots are “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door” 

The Patriots lost a couple of their key starters on the defensive line from last year’s Super Bowl team. Trey Flowers was their biggest loss, he was versatile, and could play on the edge as well as kick inside as an interior pass rusher. The team also lost former 1st round pick Malcom Brown who signed with the Saints in free agency. Adrian Clayborn left in free agency as well.

But the team didn’t stand pat and signed former Jets DL Mike Pennel, the big nose tackle is a space-eater and can two-gap over the ball and take on double teams. Pennel’s signing is one of the most under-the-radar and underrated signings of the spring. The team also re-signed Danny Shelton for the interior of the line. David Parry and rookie Byron Cowart will be fighting for a roster spot. 

Pennel after minicamp session. SBalestrieri photo

Bill Belichick also swung a trade with Philadelphia, just a few hours after Flowers signed with Detroit. The Patriots gave up a 5th round draft pick for Michael Bennett and a 7th. While Bennett’s best days are behind him, he’s still a very viable pass rusher. He notched nine sacks for the Eagles last year, which would have led the Patriots. They also addressed the pass rush by drafting Michigan’s Chase Winovich in the third round. 

The very good and underrated Lawrence Guy returns as does Deatrich Wise, and Adam Butler on the interior line. This is a big year for former top draft pick Derek Rivers. He’ll be fighting for a roster spot with Keionta Davis, Trent Harris, Ufomba Kamalu, and Nick Thurman on the edge. 

With the breakdown of personnel that the team has this year, we could see more multiple looks and the team switching between a 4-3 and 3-4 defensive fronts. We’ll get more to that below. 

Check back with PatsFans.com as we’ll go thru the entire roster as our primers for training camp continue before the heavy lifting starts on July 25. And be sure to keep up with our coverage from training camp. 

Current roster – 

Interior DL – Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler, David Parry, Byron Cowart

Locks – Guy, Pennel, Butler

Near Locks –  none

Bubble – Shelton, Parry, Cowart

Long Shot – none

Edge Players – Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise, Chase Winovich, John Simon, Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis, Trent Harris, Ufomba Kamalu, Nick Thurman

Locks – Bennett, Wise, Winovich, Simon

Near Locks –  none

Bubble – Rivers, Davis, Harris, Kamalu, Thurman

Long Shot – none

Discussion – We’ll start with the interior big men. Pennel, Guy, and Butler are all locks for the roster. Pennel is a perfect fit with what the Patriots ask for their big men over the nose. Standing at 6’4, 332 pounds, Pennel is a very thick, powerful man with a huge lower body that is built for eating up two gaps. Guy has been a very nice addition to the Patriots since he arrived from Baltimore. Butler is a 300-pound penetrator who provides the team a nice interior pass rush on passing downs. 

Vying for the fourth spot on the interior DL is Danny Shelton, the former 1st round pick who the Patriots brought over from Cleveland last year. He suffered thru a lapse of poor play where he sat and was a healthy scratch a few times. But he elevated his game down the stretch and played better in the playoffs. David Parry is a four-year veteran who played for the Colts, Saints, and Vikings. Byron Cowart is a rookie out of Maryland who flashed a bit in his senior season and is a dark horse to make the roster. However, some analysts believe that he’s just coming into his own and could make some noise this summer. 

Essentially, the trio of Shelton, Parry, and Cowart may very well be vying for one roster spot unless they decide to keep five interior players, which is doubtful. Cowart has practice squad eligibility, which could come into play. 

On the edge, the Patriots have Bennett, Wise, Winovich (by virtue of his draft stock), and Simon as locks. Bennett is still a very good pass rusher and should continue to be very productive in the Patriots system. Wise is coming off a decent if a slightly inconsistent year with 4.5 sacks. Simon was cut loose by the Colts last year and the Patriots wasted little time in signing him. His role increased down the stretch and showed he could get after the QB, set the edge and drop into coverage a bit. The Patriots gave him a two-year deal worth $4 million with $1.65 million guaranteed. 

Winovich is a wild card here this season. The Patriots drafted him with a third-round pick and he’s a guy who plays with his hair on fire, going all out on every snap. His non-stop motor and excellent hands should see him logging some significant snaps. 

With possibly two more roster spots remaining,  the competition gets fierce here. Derek Rivers is in a make-or-break season. He’ll be competing with Keionta Davis, Ufomba Kamalu, Nick Thurman, and Trent Harris for the remaining edge roster spots. Another guy who could factor into the edge is a fourth-year linebacker, Shilique Calhoun.

Looking at this defensive line and the way it is constructed, it would lend itself to being more of a 3-4 unit than a 4-3. Pennel and Shelton are prototypical nose tackles. Lawrence Guy was a 3-4 DE with Baltimore and guys like Deatrich Wise, Kamalu, and Thurman are best suited for a 5-technique role. 

Bennett, Winovich, and Simon would then revert to edge-rushing OLBs. We know Bill Belichick hates to categorize it one way or the other. And they’ll stay multiple and mix and match their personnel depending upon the opponent. Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Jamie Collins could all see some work along the edge as well, depending on the opponent and the front in which they line up. 

With a lot of the talk this spring and early summer being that the defensive line will be weaker this season, I wouldn’t be so sure about that. While losing Flowers will definitely be a blow, gaining Bennett and Winovich is a nice way to address it. Pennel, in my opinion, will more than makeup for the loss of Brown. But we’ll have to see. That’s what makes the watching of training camp and preseason so intriguing.

With training camp starting next week, the competition among the defensive linemen should be extremely fun to watch. 

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

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

Patriots Players on the Bubble Prior to 2019 Training Camp

Steve Balestrieri
July 9, 2019 at 8:49 am ET

When you win a Super Bowl, there generally isn’t a lot of available roster spots to go around. The 2019 New England Patriots currently sit at 90 players and they are no exception. There promises to be a ton of competition this summer for the back end of the team’s 53-man roster. 

The Patriots were picked earlier this summer for having the deepest roster in the NFL. Whether or not you subscribe to that is immaterial.  A look at the roster and there really isn’t a lot of wiggle room for players to come in and carve out a role for themselves.

So, that brings us to the purpose of this piece, several well-known players will be firmly on the bubble when training camp begins. Others, due to injury or subpar play could be added as camp practices progress and some of these players could cement themselves with solid play. Here are some but not all of the players on the bubble. There is a long way to go. 

Danny Etling – Some people are surprised that Etling is still on the roster. During minicamp, the 2nd year QB was clearly displaced as the #3 signal caller by Jarrett Stidham. Etling was playing STs as the personal punt protector. The Patriots just used a 4th round pick on Stidham, while that isn’t in itself a guarantee, they clearly were giving him plenty of opportunities, to the detriment of Etling this spring. 

The team isn’t going to keep 4 QBs, so Etling is the odd man out. Could he push Hoyer for a slot? Doubtful. And it is also doubtful that the Patriots cut their ties to Hoyer with Stidham so green…at least for 2019.

Braxton Berrios – The 2nd year WR was injured and missed the entire 2018 season and appeared in just one preseason game last summer. Now healthy, Berrios has turned some heads during OTAs and was arguably the best player on the field during Day 1 of the mandatory minicamp. 

He hasn’t locked down anything yet however. Once training camp hits, he’ll need to continue that solid play catching passes, returning kicks and more importantly, stay on the field. This will be a big camp for him as he could either carve out a decent role for himself or fall completely off the radar. 

Dontrelle Inman – Inman was signed by the Patriots in May after the Colts decided to let him walk in free agency. Inman was picked up by the Colts in midstream of the 2018 season and worked himself into a key role. Indy moved him around as a big (6’3, 205) slot receiver and occasionally as the “X”. He had good production down the stretch and in the playoffs. 

But a very subpar minicamp dropped Inman far down the depth chart. He didn’t catch a single pass in team drills in all three days of the mandatory sessions. That doesn’t mean he’s out yet… but it does put him in a precarious position to begin camp, far down the depth chart. 

Ted Karras – The tough, versatile Karras was picked up by the Patriots in 2016 and has been a valuable depth piece on the offensive line ever since. He can play anywhere on the interior offensive line. But the team invested a 4th rounder on Hjalte Froholdt. And the Arkansas alum can do the same things that Karras can do. 

The feeling is that with Joe Thuney a free agent after this season, the team is grooming Froholdt to be the starter. He and Karras will be battling for the backup position this summer and it should be a great battle. 

Derek Rivers after TC practice. SBalestrieri photo

Derek Rivers – The Patriots top pick from two seasons ago is facing a huge training camp this summer. He lost his rookie season to a torn ACL during the preseason and never stepped on the field. He returned, albeit not 100 percent physically last summer and played sparingly. In his two seasons, he’s logged 78 snaps, two tackles, and one sack. 

The Patriots know his potential and his NFL Combine performance and his production in college were the things that attracted them. But this summer is the beginning of Year 3 and projections are no longer in the cards. It is make or break time for Rivers this summer.

Keion Crossen/Duke Dawson – The Patriots are loaded at cornerback. It is arguably their deepest position. With Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, Crossen, and Duke Dawson who missed all of his rookie season, the team added more. They drafted Joejuan Williams in the 2nd round and Ken Webster in the 7th. They also added D’Angelo Ross later.  They can’t keep all of them. 

Gilmore, Jackson, and Williams (by reason of his draft position) are locks for the roster. McCourty and Jones are near locks themselves. That makes the competition between Crossen and Dawson for the sixth spot one to watch. The feeling here is that they’ll keep six but could opt for more, at least initially.  

Crossen is a special teams standout with the athleticism to play cover corner, much like Jones, who began the same way. The team invested a second rounder in Dawson last year, but he was lost to injury. With the players they added this spring, Dawson is far from safe. He and Crossen may be fighting it out for the final corner slot.

Nate Ebner/Obi Melifonwu – The Patriots are also very deep but aging at safety. While they have ostensibly three starters in Devin McCourty, Pat Chung and Duron Harmon, the first two are on the wrong side of 30 and McCourty hinted at retirement this spring. 

The team normally keeps five safeties/STs but this spring they signed former Jets S/ST ace Terrence Brooks. Brooks got a two-year, $4 million dollar deal with a $500,000 signing bonus and $1.3 million of that guaranteed. That puts him in the lock category. 

Brooks is known primarily as a STs ace who can fill in and play some safety when needed. Nate Ebner is another STs standout and a Belichick favorite. However, he rarely if ever plays on defense. Obi Melifonwu was brought in at midstream last season and now has a full offseason under his belt. The team’s idea was for the uber-athletic and big Obi to cover big WRs and TEs in the slot. But with the addition of Williams in Round 2, that makes him potentially expendable. 

Melifonwu offers much more upside than Ebner defensively and got some first-team reps this spring with Chung missing but he doesn’t have the ST’s acumen of the latter. These two may be battling it out for the 53rd and final roster spot on the 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 Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

New England Patriots News 06-30, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
June 30, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 06-30 and AFC East notes this week. 

 Quick Hitters:

Jared Veldheer – retired shortly after signing with the Patriots on May 13. He recently came out and stated why in an interview he did earlier last week with MLive.

“It was easy (decision) because of knowing what my body was telling me, but it was hard because I was leaving a very good situation being with the Patriots,” Veldheer said. “(Belichick) understood, and everyone in the NFL building understands that the sport can do a number on your body and different guys have different timelines on how long they can make it through.”

Veldheer said that his hips, “Particularly my left one, was in pretty bad shape (after the season).”

DeAngelo Hall – former NFL DB was a guest on Good Morning Football and stated that Tom Brady was the best QB he ever faced and added that he didn’t have many regrets in his NFL career but one was not signing with the Patriots when they offered him a good deal but less money than he eventually signed for. The Patriots offered him 3 years and $27 million and the Redskins offered 3 years and $30 million. Hall said he now regrets not taking a little less and having a chance at a Super Bowl.

Isaiah Wynn – Is running at full speed and should be ready for training camp according to Jeff Howe of the Athletic. He reported that Wynn should be a full go at training camp which is a very good sign for the 23rd player selected in 2018 NFL Draft. And the Pats offensive line. 

Patriots Charitable Foundation – Patriot Place and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care are teaming up to build an adaptive home for an American veteran. Chelsea resident Brandon Korona lost a leg to an IED in Afghanistan. On Friday morning, the Patriots invited Korona and his family to Patriot Place to break the news that the three organizations will donate $50,000 to adapt his home for his needs. WCVB Channel 5 was the first to break the news.

Rob Gronkowski – has really trimmed down since announcing his retirement from the NFL. After seeing pictures of him recently, anyone harboring hopes of a comeback from the big guy and not being realistic. And any thoughts of him joining the WWE seem far-fetched as well.

Jonah Williams – Tough to see arguably, the best OL in this year’s draft go down with an injury before training camp starts and be lost for the season. Williams tore the labrum in his shoulder and required surgery which will sideline him for the entire 2019 season. The Bengals drafted Williams in the 1st round, 11th overall in the recent draft.

Julian Edelman’s Story Goes to Showtime:

The documentary “100% Julian Edelman” went live on Showtime on Friday night and was mostly filmed during the 2017-2018 timeframe when the Patriots WR was rehabbing from his ACL surgery.

There is a lot of humor in the hour-plus long video but some serious items as well. Edelman grew up terrified of his dad, who was a demanding taskmaster of a coach and demanded the best out of his son every day. The story goes over some of the drills that his father made him perform and they weren’t easy and were designed to make him tougher mentally. 

There is also a bit where Edelman talked about only being five feet tall until his senior year of high school, where he went thru a growth spurt where he grew eight inches and his football career, thanks to the hard work with his father paid off.

It delves into some interesting subjects like his PED suspension where he and his Dad didn’t speak for 81 days. Edelman says the pair speak every day and the two disagreed over how it was handled. 

Edelman – Welker, Is it Really Necessary to Compare?:

We realize that it is the summer doldrums where there isn’t much shaking…news-wise for the Patriots and these things are just exercises for discussion. We get it but there comes a time when it really doesn’t do either player justice when comparing players and their production to the team. 

Which brings us to the Julian Edelman – Wes Welker debate that is all over social media.  Edelman, is an icon in New England now, after playing a huge roll in the last three Super Bowl wins, including Super Bowl MVP honors for SB LIII. He’s Tom Brady’s best friend and most trusted receiver. 

Welker is now, unfairly remembered mostly for the one that got away. The SB XLVI catch that could have closed out the Giants. And the fact that the Patriots didn’t re-sign him in 2013 and he bolted for Denver to play for the Broncos and Peyton Manning while wearing that ginormous “Dark Helmet” piece of headgear. 

But in his six years in New England, Welker was beyond productive catching 112, 111, 123, 86, 122, and 118 passes. The only season he didn’t catch over 100 passes was the 2010 season, where after tearing his ACL in January in a game against the Texans, he returned in September and still put up very good numbers; 86 passes, 848 yards with seven touchdowns. 

If there was a knock on Welker, it is that his post-season numbers didn’t quite match up to his regular season excellence. But make no mistake, the numbers were still very good. But if one cares to recall, the Patriots were perhaps, too reliant on Welker, something Bill Belichick himself was recorded as saying on the sidelines. Welker in reality, despite the one pass in Super Bowl XLVI, had better hands than Edelman.

Edelman has upped his game in the post-season, especially in the Super Bowl. His three games, 9-109 and the game-winning touchdown against Seattle, in addition to that mammoth hit he took from Kam Chancellor down the middle, was the stuff of legend. 

Against the Falcons, he had five catches for 87 yards, including that incredible catch in traffic at crunch time where he snagged the ball just before it hit the turf. It is one of the more iconic Super Bowl catches ever, up there with the Lynn Swann catch of the 70s.

And of course, the SB MVP game against the Rams (10 catches, 141 yards) where he was basically uncoverable the entire game. The Rams tried everyone to slow him down and no one could. For a guy who doesn’t fit the poster image as a dominant wide receiver, it was one of the most dominant wide receiver performances in the history of the Super Bowl. 

Welker should receive his red jacket and his rightful place in the Hall soon. If you don’t remember how good he was, play back his very first game in a Patriots uniform. Belichick was called out by the bobos on talk radio for giving up multiple draft picks for a guy who couldn’t hack it with the Dolphins and Bolts. That first game against the Jets answered all of those questions. You could see it happening right before your eyes. 

Do we really have to go thru these mental gymnastics that are all the rage over, “Is so-and-so the best ever?” Be thankful we had both, and a seamless transition between when Welker left and Edelman truly took over. The offense was different then, it evolved and has become even better than it was then. In a big game, give me either in his prime and I’m confident that I’ll win.

Attention Belichick GM Haters…PFF Has the Patriots With the Best Roster in the NFL:

The site Pro Football Focus (PFF) is bound to be taking heat amongst the Bill Belichick haters, especially among the ones that are always beating the drum that “GM Bill is hurting, Coach Bill” and that “Belichick can’t draft.” Sound familiar?

PFF put together a piece for ESPN where they compared every roster in the NFL and despite losing Trey Flowers, Trent Brown, and Adrian Clayborn in free agency and Rob Gronkowski to retirement, the Patriots still have the best roster in the league. 

PFF cited the Pats strength down the middle and it begins with QB Tom Brady. Brady, according to PFF had his fourth “elite” season in a row, (oopsie to the Simms, Kellerman trolls).

Despite always picking at the bottom of every round in the NFL Draft, Belichick has put together the top roster of the league. The Rams, Saints, and Eagles round out the Top 4. PFF listed, not tight end but the pass rush as a potential weak spot…more below.

Is the Patriots Pass Rush a Worrisome Spot? Not Presently: 

In the ESPN piece that was referenced above, as we said the Patriots pass rush was listed as a potential problem spot. After losing Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn during free agency, the Patriots who finished 31st in sacks in 2018 could be conceivably on the short end of the pass rush totals again this season. 

Trey Flowers had 7.5 sacks but was very versatile, fulfilling a variety of roles for the defense. Clayborn had just 2.5 sacks during the regular season but upped his play in the post-season. 

The post-season was a different story. The Patriots were much more aggressive and after logging just 30 sacks in 16 regular season games, they logged 10 in just three playoff tilts. And it wasn’t from one player, they got contributions from everyone. Kyle Van Noy led the team with three, while Dont’a Hightower and Flowers each had two apiece. 

In the Super Bowl, quite a difference from the year before, the pass rush hounded Jared Goff all game long. The defense had 13 QB hurries, eight QB hits, and four sacks. One of the pressures on Goff resulted in Stephon Gillmore’s interception at the end of the game.

But the team didn’t stand pat and signed free agent Michael Bennett from the Eagles and then drafted Chase Winovich in the 3rd round. And if the spring workouts with the unpadded workouts and no contact are any indication, LB Jamie Collins should be in-line for some quality playing time.  

Bennett, despite being 33 is still a quality pass rusher and like Flowers, has the ability to move inside and bring pressure up the middle. Winovich was somewhat of a steal, with the Patriots snagging him with the 77th overall pick. While neither has played a snap with pads on yet, this isn’t to suggest that either is a cure-all but the cupboard isn’t bare either. 

Deatrich Wise can kick inside and will have to up his play this season, while John Simon, Hightower, and Van Noy all have shown the ability to rush the QB on occasion. Collins is the wild card, having had a very good spring. Will the Patriots ever reap any reward out of Derek Rivers? He lost his rookie year to a torn ACL. Last year, he didn’t show much and will be under the microscope in Year 3. 

So, this will be an area to watch for sure during training camp, especially when the one-on-one battles take place between the OL and the DL. But the scheme will play a huge role as well. Will the defense continue their aggressive ways after a very successful playoff run in 2018-19? 

We aren’t predicting a Top 5 sack season, but we aren’t looking for them being near the bottom either. As always, the defense will no doubt start off slowly.  Bill Belichick, as always, adds elements to it as the year progresses. A weakness? Not right now it isn’t. But like every year, we’ll have to watch for injuries and players to step up first. Our view here is that the 2019 version of the defense should be much better in the pass rush department….we’ll see.

AFC East Notes will return soon….

________________

Julian Edelman’s motto for 2019? “Just got to keep it going.” That is a good motto for the team as they try to keep “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door.”

“So, how was your week?”

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

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

PHOTOS: Patriots To Wear Special Cleats For NFL “My Cause My Cleats” Campaign

Robert Alvarez
November 30, 2018 at 10:39 am ET

During Week 13 of the 2018 NFL season, players and coaches around the league will be participating in the “My Cause My Cleats” campaign.

According to the NFL, “My Cause My Cleats gives NFL players the opportunity to personalize their cleats and raise awareness for the charities and foundations they passionately support. The initiative also gives players a platform to share their stories and why the causes are important to them.”

On Sunday afternoon against the Minnesota Vikings, more than a dozen players and coaches on the Patiots will wear their customized cleats and sneakers.

In total 19 Patriots players and head coach Bill Belichick will participate in the campaign.

Here is the full list of players and their foundation/cause of choice.

[Courtesy CBS Boston and PatsPulpit]

David Andrews (Warrior Dog Foundation)
Tom Brady (Best Buddies & The Ellie Fund)
Rex Burkhead (Team Jack Foundation)
Adrian Clayborn Brachial plexus injury awareness
Phillip Dorsett Depression and anti-bullying
Nate Ebner (Fuel Up To Play 60)
Stephon Gilmore Depression and anti-bullying
Lawrence Guy (My Life My Choice & Show Your Soft Side)
Duron Harmon (Autism Speaks)
Brian Hoyer (MSPCA-Angell)
Dont’a Hightower (One Family Inc.)
Chris Hogan (Headstrong)
Jacob Hollister (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)
Devin McCourty (Players Coalition)
Jason McCourty (Embrace Kids Foundation)
Sony Michel (Earthquake In Haiti Relief)
Derek Rivers (Jar Of Hope)
Matthew Slater (International Justice Mission)
Kyle Van Noy (Van Noy Valor Foundation)

A few Patriots shared photos and video on their social media accounts but you can also check out the Patriots website for a full photo slideshow of all the cleats.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BqsqgC7H9yk/

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bqx6_6aBscG/?utm_source=ig_twitter_share&igshid=koqp2gt2jqzy

For more information, check out nfl.com/mycausemycleats

Best Of Social Media: The New England Patriots Celebrate Halloween

Robert Alvarez
November 1, 2018 at 9:52 pm ET

Coming off a week eight victory over the Buffalo Bills, the New England Patriots got in the Halloween spirit on Wednesday.

On Instagram, Tom Brady may have won for scariest costume, lurking in the background of a family photo as Pennywise the clown.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BpnYVsThpA1/?taken-by=tombrady

Chris Hogan shared a cute photo of his twin sons dressed as a mouse and cheese.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bpm-EWpAWZ9/?hl=en&taken-by=chrishogan_15

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bpnjs4xhc1p/?taken-by=dharm21

Lastly, multiple Patriots dressed up in costumes as part of the team’s annual Halloween party for pediatric cancer patients.

Devin McCourty, Jason McCourty, David Andrews, Danny Shelton, Derek Rivers, Geneo Grissom and Eric Smith dressed up as Disney characters.

A few former Patriots also shared their Wednesday fun.

View this post on Instagram

Mummy Mayos

A post shared by Jerod Mayo (@jerod_mayo51) on

https://twitter.com/chatham58/status/1057812247098126336

New England Patriots News 9-23, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
September 23, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, Here is your Sunday Patriots news 9-23, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning… just a quick reminder that you can check out our key matchups to the game here and our players to watch for tonight’s game can also be found here:  

Jacob Hollister was a late addition to the injury report on Friday and has been ruled out of tonight’s game. He was one of the players we had in our pregame matchups to watch. He may miss a game or two according to reports.

Cyrus Jones is back in the fold and will probably be returning punts tonight. He was part of the last cuts by New England and landed on the Ravens practice squad. But the Pats signed him back to the active roster this week and look for a hungry and motivated Jones this week. An interesting tidbit was that Jones was practicing with the safeties this week.

Resilience:  The Patriots success under Bill Belichick is always enhanced by the fact that they don’t lose many games back to back. As we pointed out earlier this week, the Patriots are 45-6 since 2003 following a loss. And for those conspiracy theorists that lament the Patriots playing in the AFC “Least”? Since realignment in 2002, the Patriots are 51-16 against the NFC, the best interconference record in the NFL. 

Tom Brady reportedly was testy and irritable all week in practice. Mike Giardi from NFL Network reported that Brady was quite unhappy with the level of execution that the Patriots showed in Jacksonville and wants to ensure that it doesn’t happen again this week against the Lions.

Corey Coleman the former 1st Round draft pick of the Browns in the 2016 NFL Draft was released by the Patriots to make room for Josh Gordon. But the next day after clearing waivers, the Patriots signed him to the team’s practice squad.

Coleman had only spent a week in New England and was inactive for the Jacksonville game but Bill Belichick was highly complimentary of the former Baylor wide receiver.

“He’s a player we want to work with,” Belichick said. “We’ll see how it goes. We haven’t had him a long time but he’s done a good job with the opportunities that he’s had. We want to keep working with him. We’ll see how it goes.”

Malcolm Mitchell filed a grievance against the Patriots, as first reported by our old buddy Miguel Benzan, commonly known as @Patscap the salary cap guru. The former the receiver has filed an injury grievance against the team and was seeking his entire 2018 salary of $630,000.

Mitchell was released by the Patriots back on August 6. That release was not coupled with an injury designation, so the receiver could not recoup any money from his deal. Mitchell cleared waivers, however, late Friday night there were reports that the two sides had settled the dispute.

Pat Chung/Trey Flowers didn’t practice this week and are doubtful for tonight’s game. Their loss will be a big blow to the Patriots defense. Flowers is their best player on the defensive side of the ball and Chung is an excellent tackler and his presence will be missed in the running game and the covering of tight ends.

No One Wants to See Gordon Fail:

In the hoopla of the Josh Gordon trade this week, reactions were mixed but by far, most were exceedingly positive and the prevailing theme was, “Brady hasn’t had a target like this since Randy Moss.”

Others, including here in this column were against the trade. And my TL and DMs quickly jumped my mentions by explaining that it was a “low-risk, high reward” scenario. Other mentions accused me of wanting Gordon to fail, which is ridiculous.

But this move isn’t low risk, because Gordon isn’t being just brought in to be a complementary piece. All of the mentions states, the Patriots need a player who can stretch the field and take pressure off of the intermediate receivers. So, yes he will be expected to play a valuable role.

While the compensation is basically a wash, which is basically a no-risk scenario, the big risk here, as I pointed out in the Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on Tuesday is time. This wasn’t a trade you make in March and have six months to figure out if the player fits your offense, your locker room and has put his problems on the back burner enough for you to secure him a roster spot.

This scenario is after Week 2 of the NFL regular season. And the team doesn’t have the time to try to prepare for an upcoming opponent while trying to incorporate a new Wide Receiver into the fold while treading very lightly around said, player. And he is a player with serious addiction issues. It isn’t as some point out, “just weed” and is much deeper.

Saying all this can be easily fixed by just dropping him in the Patriots locker room is overly simplistic and doesn’t lend itself the seriousness of Gordon’s situation. What about when he goes home at night? That’s where his problems lie, not in the building.

Everyone here wants to see him be successful…at life, football is a far second to that. Addiction and drug use are big problems facing our nation as a whole. But his physical talents have never been in question.  Would we love to see him light it up and be a part of bringing Lombardi #6 home? Of course.

But it isn’t as simple or as easy as many will have you believe. Hopefully, Robert Kraft will put some quality off-field support mechanisms around Gordon to help him.

Derek Rivers Set To Make His NFL Debut?

The bad news of Trey Flowers having a concussion and having missed all of this week’s practice could be an opportunity for last year’s top draft pick Derek Rivers. Rivers has been a healthy scratch for both of the first two games of the season after falling behind Flowers, Adrian Clayborn, Deatrich Wise and Keionta Davis on the depth chart.

Rivers missed all of the 2017 season after tearing his ACL during joint practices with the Jaguars last August. He started slowly in training camp this year but came on and started to round into form.

It will be interesting to see how he can produce in a regular season game, which will be his first NFL action if Flowers is a scratch for tonight’s game. Rivers told NESN’s Doug Kyed this week that he hasn’t been frustrated by his lack of playing time yet but he’s just working hard and waiting for his chance.

“I’d be excited,” he said.  “But this is what we’ve been doing since camp. I got to play in the preseason, and every game is similar. I know everybody puts a lot of pressure on preseason and regular season, but a football game is a football game. It’s a blessing to play in each and every one of them. It will be exciting times, and god-willing, if this is the week, then I’ll be excited.”

Who You Have This Week, NFL Week 2 Predictions:

Last week: 9-6-1 Season 18-12-2

Thursday night’s pick Cleveland over the Jets 1-0

New Orleans at Atlanta: Falcons
Green Bay at Washington: Packers
Indy at Philadelphia: Eagles
Buffalo at Minnesota: Vikings
Oakland at Miami: Dolphins
Denver at Baltimore:  Ravens
Cincinnati at Carolina: Panthers
Giants at Houston: Texans
Tennessee at Jacksonville: Titans
San Francisco at Kansas City: Chiefs
LA Rams at LA Chargers: Rams
Dallas at Seattle: Dallas
Chicago at Arizona: Cardinals
New England at Detroit: Patriots
Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay: Bucs

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Have a Tough Matchup on the Road in Minnesota:

Buffalo is 0-2 and heading to Minnesota to take on the 1-0-1 Vikings. Since opening their new stadium in 2016, the Vikes are 14-4 at home, third best in the NFL behind New England and Philadelphia.

Josh Allen has the unenviable task of going with a shaky offensive line and a dearth of playmakers against one of the best defenses in the NFL. The Vikings have seven sacks as a team, while the Bills have already allowed 11.

After being hammered in the first half and allowing 28 points, Head Coach Sean McDermott took over the defensive play calling in the second half and the unit responded, allowing just three points in the second half. That will bear watching today.

While we were adamant that Allen should have been sitting and learning in his rookie year, McDermott hit the panic button after just one half of the first game. Allen was sacked five times last week and has been put in a nearly impossible position to succeed. Buffalo will have to tread carefully here, these type of situations have ruined other young QB’s confidence. And the Vikes will be bringing the heat.

Dolphins Have Big Game At Home Against the 0-2 Raiders:

Miami is 2-0 and has played very well against both the Titans and Jets and sit alone atop the AFC East after just two weeks. So why is this game against the winless Raiders such a big one? Because these are the types of games the Dolphins have consistently dropped when having a chance to get momentum going.

Today’s home game will put the Dolphins at 3-0 and guarantee them of no worse than a tie with New England with a road trip heading up to Foxboro next weekend. And a win will put the Dolphins of a chance of going undefeated thru the quarter pole of the season  That will boost a lot of confidence in the team as they move forward.

With kickoff time temps of about 88 degrees with high humidity, it is a built-in advantage. Also, factor in the Raiders are making an East Coast swing for a 1 p.m. game, something that West Coast teams don’t normally play well in, it is something to watch for.

Miami has a prime opportunity for them to pounce on a team that hasn’t played well yet in 2018. And look for their defense today to make a couple of big plays. That will set up some good drama for Week 4, which will pit them against the Pats for the first time this year.

Darnold Takes Blame For Loss, But the Fault Was With Jets Coaches:

The New York Jets lost on Thursday Night Football 21-17 to the Cleveland Browns, the Jets third game in 11 days and may have run out of gas at the end. And of course, the popular narrative was that Baker Mayfield outplayed Sam Darnold on the big stage.

While you can certainly point to the numbers to make that case, it was hardly that simple. When Mayfield came in, the Jets were rolling 14-0. But rather than put restrictions on him, the Cleveland coaches cut him loose and allowed him to throw the ball all over the field, in other words opening the playbook completely to him. And Mayfield looked very much the part of the 1st overall pick in the draft against what is a pretty darn good Jets defense.

Darnold, in contrast, was just 15-31 for 169 yards and two interceptions, both thrown with under a minute and a half left in the game on desperation throws.

“From my point of view, I just have to play better, simple as that,” Darnold said after the game. “It’s not acceptable, the way I played. I know that, and I have to take it like a man. I feel like I’m responsible for some of the stagnant offense we had. I just have to play better, that’s it.”

While standing up and taking responsibility is laudable, the coaches deserve as much if not more of the blame for the stagnant offense. They have saddled the rookie with a very limited playbook. Worried about the Browns blitzing, they gave him a steady diet of screen passes and other very conservative options. They never allowed him to test the field the way the Browns did.

Even Jets WR Quincy Enunwa hit on the issue, although he worded it carefully, there is no doubt what he said here. “He did as well as he could with the plays that were given to him,” Enunwa said. “They had a lot of pressure, and that kind of messed us up.”

The Jets aren’t helping his progression by limiting what he can do on the field. Making things simpler is one thing, hamstringing a QB’s options are another. It is like being thrown the keys to a muscle car and then being told, not to shift it out of second.

NFL fans lost out on what would have been an interesting matchup between two QBs of the future. Darnold didn’t regress in his third start, the coaching staff blinked. Let him play the way he’s capable of.

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