Tag Archives: Dion Lewis

New England Patriots News 7-22, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
July 22, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, Here is your Sunday’s Patriots news 7-22, & AFC East Notes. This is our last Sunday before football is back among us until 2019. It seems like a long time has passed since the Super Bowl. Three days and a wake up until football returns.

Quick Hitters:
Tom Brady has made it clear that he’ll not only be on time but report early for training camp. Brady is expected to arrive at Foxboro today for the beginning of the 2018 season. Brady missed all of the voluntary spring workouts but did attend minicamp.

Darrelle Revis has now voted himself off the island. The veteran cornerback has decided to call it a career and retire. The future Hall of Famer was on another plane for many years with the Jets and came to the Patriots for the Super Bowl season of 2014. He returned to the Jets before ending up with the Chiefs last year. He was one of the very best to ever play cornerback. And his countdown to Canton has already begun.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft was among those who went to pay respects to the family of fallen Weymouth police officer Michael Chesna at his wake this week. Chesna was killed in the line of duty by a man who then killed an old woman. He leaves behind a wife and two young children.

Smart move. Julian Edelman announced that he will not take his appeal of his PED suspension to Federal Court. As we all saw in the Tom Brady case, the league and the commissioner have the ability to hand out punishment as they see fit.

Andrew Jelks is stepping away from football and announced his retirement on Friday. He hasn’t played since his sophomore year at college and has had ACL injuries. The Patriots took a flyer on him in 2017 and it appears that his knees will not allow him to play again. Sadly we’ll never get to see what they valued so highly.

Things you just shake your head at… just a few hours after the Miami Dolphins announced that they would take discipline on players protesting the national anthem, the NFL and NFLPA issue a joint statement regarding the new rules. Sadly, they’ll never get it.

You know it is summer time when Jimmy Garoppolo’s date with a porn star is top news.  

Veterans Who Will Be Fighting For Their Jobs in Camp:

Every summer, we always take stock of the 90-man roster and try to make sense of the comings and goings without the benefit of sitting in the coach’s offices. We report on what we see on the field, but what they see may differ radically.

But, the one constant in the Patriots roster thru the Belichick years is change, the roster is always changing and evolving and this summer will be no different. Several veterans are looking at fighting for their jobs this summer. They include:

Dwayne Allen: Allen was hoped to replace the blocking and production in the passing game of Martellus Bennett. And he only was successful in the former, not the latter. Allen was a complete afterthought in the passing game, something the Patriots really needed considering Rob Gronkowski has had injury problems in his career.

Allen this summer will have to show much more in the passing game. With the seeming emergence of Jacob Hollister in the passing game this summer, the 2nd year TE seems poised for a much bigger role and if he shows he’s better in the blocking game this year, Allen’s days in a Patriots uniform may be numbered, despite Belichick being in his corner.

His salary for 2018 is $5 million dollars which is very steep for a blocking tight end. Consider this, the Patriots balked at paying Danny Amendola $6 million and think about all of the clutch plays he produced in his time in New England.

If Gronkowski gets a new deal during training camp, Allen’s salary cap situation will bear even closer watching. The Patriots brought in blocking tight ends Troy Niklas from the Cardinals, Ryan Izzo in the NFL Draft (7th Round) and small school Shane Wimann as a UDFA. Those three will bear close watching as well.

Elandon Roberts: Roberts, the undersized but downhill thumper at linebacker was thrust into a starting role for much of 2017. And a lot of it didn’t go well. Several times Roberts burst into the wrong hole in the running game or was caught up in the wash at the second level.

While he’s showed effectiveness as a blitzer up the A-gaps, he’s also a liability in coverage. The Patriots drafted two linebackers this spring, one of them, Ja’Whaun Bentley is a bigger more physical presence on the inside. His drafting doesn’t show great confidence in Roberts’ ability to get the job done.

The battle in the middle will also include Harvey Langi and Dont’a Hightower as well and bear close watching this summer.

Mike Gillislee: Gillislee was signed last year and promptly scored three TDs against KC in the blowout loss in the opener. But his star quickly lost its shine as he was a healthy scratch more often than not down the later stretches of the season.

Gillislee ran fairly well when he was in the game, however, his lack of production in the passing game became an issue. Because when he was in the game, the Patriots offense became what they hated to be: predictable.

Dion Lewis took over Gillislee’s role and the offense took off. This year, with Lewis gone, the team used a 1st round draft pick for Sony Michel and he has the versatility in the running and passing games to easily become a threat like Lewis was.

Gillislee and Jeremy Hill, who is looking to resurrect his career in New England are probably fighting for one roster spot. Hill, in the past, has been more productive in the passing game while with the Bengals. This battle will bear watching, as another player in the backfield.

Brandon Bolden: Every summer it seems Brandon Bolden is put on the list of those to get cut…even here. But then every fall, he’s on the roster, giving very valuable reps as a Special Teams standout, a core member of all four units.

That’s because Bolden has a hard-nosed, goes all out when he’s on the field, is an outstanding teammate who is very popular in the locker and has the versatility to do many things.

As a runner and pass receiver, he’s a .260 hitter, not bad, not great but will fill in as the fourth option when his number is called. He has Tom Brady’s trust as a blocker, runner, and receiver.

So yes, he’s in a roster battle to keep his job. It is nothing new for him. He’ll approach this as he does every summer. And with the new rules on special teams, guys like Bolden, Matthew Slater, and Cordarrelle Patterson may be even more valuable. Don’t be surprised if he’s around for one more season. And we’ll revisit it again next summer.

Jordan Richards: Everyone’s favorite whipping boy, Richards finds himself annually on this list as well. Like Bolden, he’s a standout special teams player, but unlike the running back when he’s asked to play defense, he’s a disaster.

Every summer in preseason we watch him take poor angles in the secondary and turn small plays into big ones. That carries over into the regular season. Replay the end of the Pittsburgh game and Richards takes a brutal angle which turned a 3-yard Roethlisberger slant into nearly a 79-yard touchdown (tackled at the 10). That carried over into the Super Bowl where when he was on the field, Nick Foles and the Eagles went right after him.

So, will this summer be any different? I liked what I saw from David Jones last year but he was cut, brought back to the practice squad for the entire season. He was the Patriots practice player of the week six times in 2017, so perhaps the bigger and more athletic (also a punt returner) will push Richards.

Cyrus Jones: Jones is in a make or break season for the Patriots. After a disastrous rookie campaign in 2016 after being the team’s top draft pick, he was lost to a torn ACL and meniscus in the preseason of 2017.

He looked better (after forgetting how to cleanly field a punt in 2016) before his injury last summer and in the secondary as well. We’ll see how that transpires this summer. With Julian Edelman’s looming suspension, the punt returner slot is an instant roster spot ripe for the taking. There may be several punt returners vying for the position this summer and should be a lot of fun to watch.

But he wasn’t all the way back this spring, and that may force him to begin camp on the PUP. This will bear watching.

James Harrison Talks Belichick/Tomlin and Tom Brady:

Harrison who spent just a brief amount of time in New England after being released by Pittsburgh before Week 17, got the Western Pennsylvania population riled up this week when asked about the differences between Bill Belichick and Mike Tomlin on the Fox show “Undisputed”.

Asked if Belichick is a better coach “by far”, he answered, “to me, yes.” He stressed Belichick’s discipline and the coaching staff which takes a page out of his book.

“The big thing with Belichick is he’s very regimented,” Harrison said. “He’s disciplined, everyone is going to be on the same page, there’s not going to be anything as far as someone doing their own thing. And I think over there [in New England] their whole coaching staff is like that.”

Harrison then added the kicker, “Man, I’ve seen Tom Brady run into a meeting scared to be late. I don’t even know what happens if you’re late to a meeting over there.”

On the subject of Brady, Harrison told the hosts, he at first wanted to hate him but added that he was “the ultimate teammate and person.”

“Tom is a great QB — the best ever. I’ve never seen anyone with his study habits, his preparation. He’s filling up a whole notebook of notes with each game.”

Patriots Preseason Broadcast Team Changes:

The radio duo of Bob Socci and Scott Zolak who do the Patriots’ games on the flagship radio station of 98.5 are moving to the television broadcast booth for the four preseason games. Joining the popular duo as always is Steve Burton who does the sidelines reporting and interviews while Andy Hart and Paul Perillo will provide commentary again from in the studio. Former Patriot Rob Ninkovich joins the broadcast team as the veteran sideline reporter.

The radio duties will fall to Dan Roche who called the games for the past several years on television and former SB champion Matt Chatham who moves from the sidelines to the color position for the preseason.  

Training Camp 2018, Dates and Times:

The Patriots training camp sessions begin this coming week and as a reminder:

Practices are free of charge and will be open to the public. Entrances will open about one hour before practice begins.

The schedule as of right now (and subject to change) is as follows:

Thursday, July 26: Practice Time – 9:15 a.m.

Friday, July 27: Practice Time – 9:15 a.m.

Saturday, July 28: Practice Time – 9:15 a.m.

Sunday, July 29: Practice Time – 9:15 a.m.

Check in periodically on the Patriots website for any changes on the scheduling of practices and fan events.

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes: No AFC East Notes this week, we’ll be back with those next Sunday.

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.

New England Patriots News 7-1, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
July 1, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, Here is your Sunday’s Patriots news 7-1, & AFC East Notes … We’d like to wish all of our readers a happy and safe 4th of July holiday this week. And Happy Birthday America! We may have our issues, but there is still no better place to live in the world.

Quick Hitters:
Training Camp is now just a few weeks away. The Patriots have announced the following days and times for the first few practices, which will be open to the public. ***Please Note that all times are subject to change***. From the Patriots website:

July 26 | Practice Time – 9:15 AM

July 27 | Practice Time – 9:15 AM

July 28 | Practice Time – 9:15 AM

July 29 | Practice Time – 9:15 AM

*Gates will open at 8 AM each morning and the fan activities will remain open one (1) hour after practice ends.

No Joint Practices? For the first time in about a decade (there were none in 2011 during the lockout), it seems the Patriots will not be conducting joint practices with an opponent. Typically Bill Belichick lines up the opponent for the first or second preseason game (both last year) and works out a joint practice schedule. It doesn’t seem like that will happen this year barring any last minute changes.

Dwayne Allen’s status remains a hot topic for many fans as well as media members to discuss. Much like safety Jordan Richards, Allen remains a target for criticism considering his very small production in the passing game despite having a $5 million dollar cap hit in 2018, none of which is guaranteed.

But Bill Belichick likes Allen and was pleased with his blocking ability. They brought in competition this spring. Although tight ends Jacob Hollister, Will Tye and UDFA Shane Wimann are more in the mode of “move” tight ends, both Troy Niklas and Ryan Izzo are considered more of the blocking type of tight ends and could provide a younger, cheaper alternative. Of course, the team could always opt for re-doing Allen’s deal, which many predicted they’d do in the spring and didn’t.

Julian Edelman should be hearing back from the NFL regarding his appeal on his four-game suspension early in the week. If the suspension stands, the team will be without him for the first four games of the season. With that in mind…

Who Will Take the Slot Snaps in Case of #11 Suspension?

If indeed Julian Edelman is suspended for the first four games of the season, who will the Patriots go to in the slot for the majority of their snaps and production?  Well first off, they won’t (they learned that a year ago when he went on IR), be able to plug one player in that position, it is going to take multiple players to step up.

  • Malcolm Mitchell: In a perfect world that primary player would be Mitchell. He looked at the end of the 2016 season to be primed for big things down the road. But his knee woes are well-chronicled and with him missing most of the spring workouts just makes him a player with too many questions health-wise for the team to rely on him. At least for the first month of 2018.
  • Chris Hogan: The team looked like they were going to use Hogan in that type of role early in the 2017 season, but he ran into some injury issues of his own. However with Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola and Dion Lewis gone, they may opt to go with an experienced, trusted player here.
  • Phillip Dorsett: The former 1st round pick was underwhelming in his first season as a member of the Patriots as he had to learn on the fly. However, he looked better and more comfortable in the offense this spring. But Dorsett doesn’t have the skill set to play an Edelman role. Where could he fit better? In the Cooks role as the outside burner. And he has the quickness to work the underneath routes that Cooks struggled with. We’ll see how that works out in camp.
  • Braxton Berrios/Riley McCarron: The young slot players resemble former Patriot slot receiver Wes Welker and are quick and productive when they’ve had their numbers called in college. But would the Patriots entrust such a vital part of the offense to such untested players in the first month of the season? Doubtful.
  • Jordan Matthews: The former Eagle and Bill seems like he’d be an excellent fit for the slot role, although he is a much different player. Matthews is 6’3, 212 pounds and excelled in the slot role with Philly averaging about 70 catches a year before an injury-plagued campaign with the non-throwing Bills. But Matthews bet on himself, opting for a one-year, $1.0 million-dollar contract with New England this spring. He is the guy we’ll be watching if the Pats get some bad news on the Edelman front.

Flowers Contract Extension Going to be Difficult:

Trey Flowers is in the final year of his rookie contract and a new contract with him may be a much more difficult undertaking than it appears on the surface. Flowers has led the team in sacks the past two years, despite not having a big presence opposite him on the other side in 2017.

With the Minnesota Vikings signing DE Danielle Hunter to a 5-year, $72 million-dollar extension last week, with a $15 million signing bonus and $40 million guaranteed.  That will be the starting point for negotiations. The two players have had similar production with Hunter logging 8 sacks and Flowers 6.5. However, Hunter plays in a much more aggressive defense and has played with Everson Griffen on the opposite end.

Flowers isn’t flashy but does everything well, setting the edge, getting after the quarterback and kicking inside at times as an interior pass rusher. And with Adrian Clayborn on the team, signed in free agency, Derek Rivers back and Deatrich Wise looking to improve on a good rookie season, the chances for Flowers to cash in by producing in a contract year are very good.

Former Cowboys GM Gil Brandt predicts Flowers will make the Pro-Bowl this year. That would be great news for Flowers. For the Patriots? It will mean, he’ll be just that much harder to re-sign.

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Need Stability, High Play at QB in 2018:
The Buffalo Bills opted for a possible future franchise QB with the #7 pick in the draft with the selection of Josh Allen. There is a lot to like, he has an absolute cannon for an arm and can deliver the ball in a manner that very few QBs can. However, as a rookie, the Bills are taking their time with him, very smartly and allowing him to learn the offense, work on his mechanics and find his way in the NFL before putting the pressure of being the franchise QB for the franchise.

They brought in A.J. McCarron from the Bengals and he appears to have the inside track over Nathan Peterman for the starting job out of the gate. While many in the Bills fan base are clamoring to sign a WR, they need to take a page out of New England’s book and not worry so much about WRs, but get solid QB play.

Wide receivers are successful because of QB play and not the other way around. Our friend Kerry Byrne of CHFF has labeled WRs, “shiny hood ornaments” and we tend to agree with that sentiment. Tom Brady won three Super Bowls with a pretty much no-name group of receivers.

With fans clamoring for a Dez Bryant signing, it is just another case of which we’re ultimately familiar with in New England of “gotta get the NAME” player. Head coach Sean McDermott is installing a passing game that stretches the field horizontally. That isn’t a Bryant specialty.

Dolphins Announce Training Camp Dates:
The Miami Dolphins will open their 2018 training camp on the same day as New England and several others and have published the dates and times for the first week of camp. According to their website, the Fins first few practice sessions are:

▪ Thursday, July 26: 8:30 a.m.

▪ Friday, July 27: 8:30 a.m.

▪ Saturday, July 28: 8:30 a.m.

▪ Sunday, July 29: 8:30 a.m.

▪ Monday, July 30: 8:30 a.m.

The caveat is that the Dolphins training facility at the Nova Southeastern University campus holds on 2000 people and fans must get tickets (which are free) by contacting the Dolphins website.

If there are any Dolphins fans here in New England or you’re just interested in keeping up with what Miami is up to, I recommend you follow our old friend Antwan Staley who is a Dolphins beat writer for the USA Today and his stuff can be found on the “Dolphins Wire” website. Twan is a great guy and a die-hard Red Sox fan.

Details Emerge on Jets’ TE DWI Arrest:
New York Jets rookie tight end Chris Herndon from the University of Miami was arrested for DWI on June 2 after getting into an accident at 4:45 a.m. on I-80 westbound in Rockaway Township, NJ.

His Nissan Altima crashed into a 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser driven by Albert Elliott of Manalapan, 76, who was towing a trailer and hauling a yellow rail car. Herndon initially claimed that Manalapan hit him which caused his vehicle, to flip over. Herndon claimed to be driving only 58 miles per hour but a witness at the scene told NJ State Police that Herndon passed him going over 100 miles per hour. After the crash, Herndon’s SUV slid on its roof for over 700 feet.

Officers detected a strong odor of alcohol on Herndon’s breath and he failed field sobriety tests. Once arrested and taken to the police station, he blew a 0.14 percent BAC on a breathalyzer. In NJ a person is guilty of DWI with a Blood Alcohol Concentration level of 0.08 percent or greater.

Besides any court costs, fines or court-imposed penalties, Herndon now faces possible NFL-imposed discipline, which could include a suspension. Luckily, no one was seriously injured.

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.

New England Patriots Training Camp Primer – Running Backs

Steve Balestrieri
June 25, 2018 at 8:30 am ET

 

Different Look, Better Production?

The Patriots head into training camp in just a few weeks and there should no shortage of competition at several spots, especially at the back end of the roster. 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 are the running backs.

The running back position will look very different in 2018. Dion Lewis is gone, He got a nice deal in free agency and will be in Tennessee this year. The team got back Rex Burkhead, James White returns but the big news is that the team invested a first-round draft pick to select Sony Michel (31st Overall) in the 2018 NFL Draft.

The team is deep, talented and have four good players battling for two roster spots.

So… who’s locked in and who’s on the bubble?

Roster Locks: Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel, James Develin

The Patriots did the very unPatriot-like decision to draft a running back in the first round under Bill Belichick.  But the selection of Sony Michel proves to be a very intriguing choice. He split the carries at Georgia with Nick Chubb, so playing in a New England backfield by committee won’t be a big exercise in adapting to the way the Patriots play.

But what stands out about Michel is that he’s a big-time playmaker and should be able to step in and contribute in both the running and passing games right away. He’s a different type of player than Lewis but the chiseled 5’11, 215-pound back has a boatload of potential.

Sony Michel after practice. (SBalestrieri photo)

Burkhead had a very good season in 2017 but appeared in only 10 games due to injuries. He’s back and can contribute in the running game, the passing game and on special teams. He’s a guy who will get about 500-600 combined yards rushing and receiving while being a solid contributor.

James Develin was just resigned to a two-year extension worth about $3.8 million with a $600,000 signing bonus. Develin played in about 30 percent of the Patriots offensive snaps a year ago and his value lies in his blocking. Rewatch the AFC Championship Game and look at the hole Develin blew open for Dion Lewis in the 4th quarter. That kind of smash-mouth football is invaluable in the running game.  

Near Roster Locks: James White

White remains the Patriots go-to third-down running back, especially in the passing game. In 2017, White only had 43 carries but caught 56 passes for 429 yards with 3 touchdowns. His Super Bowl performance against the Falcons shows how hot he can get when getting the favored matchups (6 carries 29 yards 2 TDs, 14 catches 110 yards 1 TD and a 2PT conversion).

 

James White hauls in a pass during practice. (SBalestrieri photo)

On the Bubble: Jeremy Hill, Mike Gillislee, Brandon Bolden

The Patriots invested in Gillislee last year and he ran okay but his lack of production in the passing game made him predictable while on the field and he was a healthy scratch in seven games.

Jeremy Hill was brought in because a change of scenery seemed like was needed for the veteran. He was an extremely productive running back in his first three seasons in the league, tallying up 27 TDs and 2700 yards rushing. But he fell out of favor in Cincinnati and is trying to restart his career here.

The Patriots could use a big physical back to churn up short yardage and be the closer in games. Could he be that guy? Possibly, but he’ll have to have a good summer and show that he still has some tread left on the tires.

Every year it seems, everyone has Brandon Bolden getting cut and every year, he’s back on the team and contributes a tremendous amount on Special Teams where he is a force out there. As a running back, he is a .260 hitter, he can run a bit and catch the odd pass here or there but is an excellent pass blocker. He will be either the 53rd player on the roster or the last guy cut.

Outside Looking in…. Longshots: Ralph Webb

The Patriots signed undrafted free agent Ralph Webb out of Vanderbilt. Webb is a straight-ahead power back with a lack of speed but with excellent vision to see where openings are. Webb is a lunch pail guy who is extremely durable, tough and consistent.

He’s not the biggest guy or the fastest but won’t be outworked. He was productive with 23 touchdowns the past two seasons. With a good summer, Webb could be looking at a practice squad slot and a chance to carve out a role for himself in the case of an injury in 2018 or in 2019.  

He reminds one of a slightly smaller BenJarvus Green-Ellis. He won’t make a lot of people miss but his feet never stop and you’ll get 100 percent on every snap.

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

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

New England Patriots News 6-24, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
June 24, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, Here is your Sunday’s Patriots news 6-24, & AFC East Notes …

Quick Hitters:
Isaiah Wynn was signed to a contract by the Patriots, it was announced on Friday. Wynn was one of two Patriots 1st round draft picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, #23 overall. He and Sony Michel were taken by the team in the first round.

Wynn is a 6-foot-2, 302-pounder who played both guard and tackle during at Georgia. As a senior in 2017, he was named a team captain and started all 15 games that he played at left tackle. He was named to the 2017 Associated Press All-America Second Team.

2018 Training Camp will begin on Thursday, July 26, the Patriots have announced. The team will give further details once the dates get closer but expect large crowds and if you want to get a good vantage point, plan to arrive early.

In accordance with the NFL’s rules, here are some of the training camp ones to remember for the beginning of camp:

Day 1: Physicals, meetings, classroom work, running/conditioning

Day 2/3: On-field practices allowed without pads and without contact

Day 4 – UTC: Two-a-day practices authorized

  • No more than 4 hours per day
  • No more than 1 practice with pads per day; no more than 3 hours per day;
  • Padded practice defined as any practice with helmets and shoulder pads worn
  • Minimum 3 hours between practices if the team elects for two-a-day; second practice limited to “walk-through”
  • Quarterbacks, punters, kickers, and long snappers may elect to wear a helmet and/or shoulder pads during non-padded practices
  • Players with head injuries may be directed to wear a helmet by team medical staff as a precaution during non-padded practices
  • Quarterbacks and defensive player who receives signals from coaching staff may wear helmets to receive communications from sidelines
  • Teams are required to video all activities and retain film for at least 30 days after the start of the regular season; the NFLPA will be allowed to view the films of practice if a complaint is made about the team’s workouts

Players aren’t paid during training camp. Instead, receiving room and board from the team and are paid per diem for their time spent at camp.

Tom Brady and his wife Gisele attended the U2 concert recently and like everyone else, Brady sang along with the song (just like all of us do while driving). However, when it comes to singing along with Bono, Brady isn’t the GOAT, he is just as bad as the rest of us in the singing department. But hey, it never stopped me from singing….loudly in traffic or at concerts. Looks like fun was had by all… OOPS! There’s that pesky fun word again.

The video can be seen here:

Eric Decker, the free agent WR said on Sirius XM Radio that he’d be open to going to New England and reuniting with Josh McDaniels who drafted him in Denver in 2010.

“At this point in my career I want to go somewhere where I have a chance to compete for a Super Bowl, be in a good system, be with a quarterback that my skill set would be an addition to the team,” Decker said.

“I talked with New England actually last year when I was going through the free agency process, late there in June,” Decker said. “We’ll see once GMs and coaches have kind of regrouped after minicamp and we’ll see what the needs are going into training camp.”

Brandon Browner, who won back-to-back Super Bowls with the Patriots and Seahawks was sentenced to 60 days in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic battery case. He was released after just two days due to jail overcrowding.

Browner spent three years with the Seahawks and one with the Saints. In 2014, he played in nine regular-season games with the Patriots but played in a key role in their Super Bowl win over his former team the Seahawks.

Jameis Winston is looking at a three-game suspension and once again the league has leaked out the punishment before the player was even notified. And the case, much like the Edelman case, feels like the league has to delve much deeper before issuing a suspension on him.

So is the suspension for failure to report an incident, in which the player’s take is, that the incident in question never happened?

Bentley an Early Down Run Stuffer:
We post our early summer 53-Man Roster Projection 1.0 earlier this week and one of the early winners we projected which got some questions was with the rookie linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley over the incumbent, inside linebacker Elandon Roberts.

Roberts is a favorite of Bill Belichick and his game is built similar to that of Bentley, as an early-down run stuffer. However, Bentley has got a distinct size advantage being 6’2, 260 pounds while Roberts is listed at 6’0, 235 by the Patriots.

Both players’ strengths are playing downhill in the running game, neither is particular adept in coverage or running laterally. But Bentley also brings with him that coveted leadership mantle that he earned at Purdue.

The Patriots run defense was pretty leaky when defending the run last season allowing 4.7 yards per rush, tied with the Rams for the 2nd worst in the entire league. Although that was a combination of things, one of the things which must improve was the play of the linebackers, which included Roberts.

The feeling here is that the Patriots drafted Bentley is a bit of a statement saying they expected more from Roberts.

Two other selections that got a lot of comments were the keeping of RB Jeremy Hill over Brandon Bolden and the UDFA rookie punter Corey Bojorquez. One thing is for certain, it is still very early and nothing is written in stone. But competition is always a good thing and training camp should prove to be interesting.

Patriots Wide Receivers Will Be Fighting For Reps In Camp:
One of the key areas to watch during training camp will be the Pats wide receivers. After losing both Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks from the 2017 team, the team gets back Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell and has added Jordan Matthews, Cordarrelle Patterson as well as Braxton Berrios during the 2018 NFL Draft.

Edelman’s looming suspension and the health of Mitchell, Berrios who are coming off injuries and Kenny Britt who was dinged up in minicamp are the key things to watch for at the position this summer once camp begins. If Edelman’s suspension does not get reduced or removed during his appeal, it will at least give the team another four weeks to get a look at the WRs vying for a roster spot.

There are 11 WRs vying for about 6 spots on the roster. That makes for great competition especially when considering that only a few (Edelman and Hogan) are locks to make the roster. There will have to be some tough decisions made. Guys like Berrios and Mitchell, who are expected to make strong pushes for the roster both missed most of the spring workouts. July 26th can’t get here fast enough.

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Legend Kelly Undergoes Another Cancer Surgery:
The Buffalo Bills’ former QB Jim Kelly and his wife Jill were in New York City for a follow up procedure from his recent cancer surgery. This one was planned far in advance for the former Bills’ great.

“The plan at this point is that he will have surgery in mid-June to lessen the “skin flap” bulk in his mouth, as well as put implants into his upper jaw,” wrote Jill Kelly. “And then there will be more healing and waiting and then another surgery and possibly upper teeth sometime in September.”

Jill Kelly jumped on Instagram to keep Bills’ fans appraised of the situation. “Out of surgery and in recovery,” she wrote. “Still in a lot of pain, but everything went well. Thank GOD! No teeth yet, but 5 implants were inserted into the new bone in Jim’s upper jaw. More technical than I can explain…”

Kelly will receive the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the 2018 ESPYs.

Dolphins Announce Training Camp Start Date:
The Miami Dolphins veterans will report to training camp on July 25. Under the NFL’s rules teams cannot have veterans report to training camp earlier than either July 15 or 15 days prior to their first preseason game, whichever is later.

With their first preseason game slated for August 9, Miami will have all 15 days to prepare for their first action of the 2018 season. Miami rookies will report on July 18.

The Dolphins are expecting big things out of Kenyan Drake in 2018, the 3rd year RB will be the featured back in the Dolphins offense. He started six of 16 games a year ago and really found a rhythm once he got into his groove. Patriots fans will remember his big night in the Fins win over NE where he ran for 114 yards and caught passes out of the backfield for 79 more.

I’d expect Adam Gase to use him a lot like the Patriots used Dion Lewis last year and with the ageless Frank Gore in the backfield, it should keep Drake fresh for the crunch time in games.

Jets Could Dangle Teddy Bridgewater For an Edge Rusher:
The New York Jets need an edge rusher and ESPN’s Rich Cimini laid out a couple of interesting options for Gang-Green to possibly pursue.

The two names he was writing about was the Broncos’ Shane Ray and the Jaguars Dante Fowler. While Ray is coming off of wrist surgery which may delay his start of the 2018 regular season, Fowler was a very impressive young player on a team that is stacked on defense.

Cimini states that Fowler may be in the position where the Jaguars won’t be able to pay him in 2019 and is coming off a very solid 2017 year where he notched eight sacks. He was originally picked by Jacksonville 3rd overall in the 2015 NFL Draft and won’t come cheap. He’s just 24 years old and while the Jags front office won’t be able to get what he’s worth, they won’t be giving him away either.

Cimini writes: “Teddy Bridgewater could be trade bait, but I don’t see that happening unless Darnold wins the starting job during the preseason. There’s also the matter of his surgically repaired knee. He looked fine in OTAs and minicamp, but there’s still skepticism around the league about his knee. He’d have to quiet the doubters in the preseason to get teams interested. He probably wouldn’t interest the Jaguars unless something happens to Blake Bortles. If there’s a quarterback-needy team out there willing to part with a pass rusher … now you’re talking.”

The Jets have made it clear, that Sam Darnold will be given every opportunity to win and become the starting QB by Week 1 of the 2018 season. The feeling here is that the Jets are making a mistake. The team has a solid veteran in Josh McCown who played very well in 2017 as well as Bridgewater who was playing very well before getting hurt.

Don’t risk damaging Darnold’s confidence, if he indeed is your QB of the future by throwing him to the wolves too soon.  The Jets fans and front office have been waiting for their franchise QB since Joe Namath left. We’ll see how it all works out once training camps and preseason games begin this summer.

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.

2018 Patriots Training Camp Primer – Quarterbacks

Steve Balestrieri
June 21, 2018 at 1:44 pm ET

The Patriots head into training camp in just a few weeks, the OTAs and minicamp are over and the team has a 90-man roster ready to go. They’ll tweak this a bit as we go on but this group should remain pretty intact to start thru the beginning of training camp. 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. So first up are the quarterbacks

Sorry to say, this column is strictly football, so if you’re looking for analysis of body language, the subliminal messages by Gisele or TB12 that may have been sent on social media or the butterfly effect that the Dalai Lama breaking wind in Tibet and the effect it will have on the Patriots this season, you can save yourself the time now.

So… who is locked in and who is on the bubble?

Roster Locks: Tom Brady
The Patriots are so fortunate that every year since early in the 2001 season, they know who their starting QB is and have the luxury of knowing that he is more than capable enough to take them to the promised land.

In 2017, the 40-year old quarterback had an MVP season, completing 385 of 581 passes, (66.3 %), for 32 TDs and just 8 INTs. He led the Patriots offense to 394.2 yards per game, #1 in the NFL and to 28.6 points per game, #2 in the league.

In the playoffs, Brady went 89 of 139 (64%) for 1132 yards with 8 TDs and 0 INTs. He brought the Patriots back in another big 4th quarter comeback in the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars leading to a third Super Bowl appearance in four years. Against the Eagles, Brady went 28-48 (58.3%) for a Super Bowl record 505 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs.

However, every season we deal with the inevitable question of “when will Brady begin to show his age and slow down? Answer: It doesn’t look like it anytime soon. Which is why I have zero issues with Brady taking the OTAs off this season.

Consequently, lost in the all the “Hatfield – McCoy Feud” storyline is the fact that perhaps Brady feels at his age that he wants to limit the wear and tear on his arm and may have been feeling fatigued at the end of last season. That very possible scenario got little to no play this spring.  

If that is the case, I have zero problems with it and neither should anyone else. He’s more than earned that right. But for the record, would I rather see #12 QBing the team during the spring workouts? Of course, especially with the new faces here on the roster. So, we’ll see how all of this works out, but if you’re expecting (hoping) to see a significant drop off in Brady’s production, you may be disappointed.  

However, there are some legitimate questions to ask this year. How will Brady deal with the loss of

  • his top two wide receiver targets from last season, (Cooks, Amendola)
  • New England’s top running back option from last season (Dion Lewis), and finally
  • his starting left tackle of the past six years, (Nate Solder)

Unlike nearly every other quarterback in league history, Brady has shown an ability to adapt to change. 2018 will likely not be any different. On a positive side, the Patriots get back Julian Edelman (albeit after a possible 4-game suspension), picked by Jordan Matthews this spring and drafted the dynamic Sony Michel who should be a big factor in both the running and passing games. And the best tight end in the game Rob Gronkowski is healthy and ready to go.

I watched Brady at minicamp and saw no drop off in his game, nor any indications that he was “mailing it in”, (a familiar question this spring). He looked like the Tom Brady we’ve all come to expect and to see and he looked like Tom Brady….meaning excellent.

Near Roster Locks: Brian Hoyer, Danny Etling

Hoyer came back to New England in the fallout from the Jimmy Garoppolo trade with the 49ers last fall. He was released to make room for Jimmy G. and then quickly signed back with New England as Brady’s backup.

Hoyer is who he is at this point in his career. He’s not a great QB and is limited in the things that he can do. But he knows the offense very well and he has the confidence of the coaches that he can get the job done if the situation arises where he has to step in. .

Etling is a rookie who is still trying to learn the Patriots offense and find his rhythm with it. He has a long way to go. With his limited snap load in training camp, do we expect him to push Hoyer for the backup spot on the roster? Very doubtful.

But the Patriots made an investment in him this spring, albeit a 7th rounder (219th overall). His job this summer is to show enough progress to justify keeping him around this season and to learn the offense enough to push Hoyer out next summer as the backup. I think he’s already shown enough to justify that. He’ll probably get very acquainted with the clipboard this fall, but I think he’ll stick.

With Brady sitting out the majority of the spring workouts, Hoyer was getting a ton of reps and looked a bit arm fatigued by minicamp. With both he and Brady getting up there in age, having Etling around will help him learn the system and keep their workloads down to an acceptable amount.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast 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.

Sunday New England Patriots News 6-10, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
June 10, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, Here is your Sunday’s Patriots news 6-10, & AFC East Notes … No AFC East notes this week, they’ll be back next Sunday as this week we’ll focus on the Patriots minicamp

Quick Hitters:
It was good to see some of the injured players from last year, back on the field, in varying amounts of work. But one player, Harvey Langi, who was injured in a car wreck while stopped at a light in Foxboro along with his wife in October. Langi was thankful to just survive and spoke about how blessed he was to just to see her okay. The two were sent to different hospitals in Rhode Island and Massachusetts on the night of the accident where the fire department had to use the “Jaws of Life” to cut them out. He’s never had a surgery in regards to football but ended up on IR after being rear-ended.

Langi after minicamp practice. (SBalestrieri photo)

The media asked all the players about the “fun” angle and most laughed it off. Running back Rex Burkhead, said he wasn’t even going there but having great fun at minicamp, as everyone in attendance laughed with him.

Chris Hogan is fully healthy after lingering shoulder issues cut back on his production last season. He spoke about the intensity ramping up a bit in minicamp and spoke about the team energy taking a step up with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski being back.

RIP to the 49ers Dwight Clark who passed away this week after a long battle with ALS. Clark was famous for “The Catch” from Joe Montana in the NFC Championship Game against Dallas. By all accounts was as classy off the field as he was on it. We still remember that catch like it was yesterday and recall watching the game in a crowded dayroom on Ft. Bragg long ago.

For the third time since 2010, the Ravens and coach John Harbaugh have been fined by the league for excessive contact during OTAs/Minicamp. Harbaugh claimed that the league singled out Baltimore for what other teams all do. Baltimore had to forfeit their last two OTAs, while Harbaugh was fined $50,000 and the team assessed a $100,000 fine for the latest infraction.

Terrell Owens Snubs HOF Ceremony: Owens has decided to skip his own induction ceremony into the NFL Hall of Fame. Owens, the uber-talented and even more disruptive influence during his time in the NFL gives the NFL the petulant brush for not inducting him earlier. In a statement he wrote:

“I am so grateful for all of the support my family, friends, and certainly my fans, have shown me throughout my entire career in the National Football League. When it was announced that I was going to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the response received from my fans was overwhelming, and I am truly humbled. I am honored to be included among this group of fellow inducted individuals.

“While I am incredibly appreciative of this opportunity, I have made the decision to publicly decline my invitation to attend the induction ceremony in Canton. I have already shared this information with the Hall. After visiting Canton earlier this year, I came to the realization that I wish to celebrate what will be one of the most memorable days of my life, elsewhere. At a later date, I will announce where and when I will celebrate my induction.

“I would also like to thank the San Francisco 49ers, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Dallas Cowboys, the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals for the time I was granted with each organization. I am thankful for the relationships forged and the lessons learned while part of each team.

“I wish to congratulate all past, current and future inductees. It is quite an honor to be part of such elite company. This honor is something that I will cherish forever.”

This is unchartered territory, no living Hall of Fame member has ever declined his invitation for enshrinement. “We are disappointed by will respect Terrell’s decision not to participate in the Enshrinement,” Pro Football Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker said in a statement.

“As we do not want to detract from this great honor being enjoyed by the seven other members of the Class of 2018 (Bobby Beathard, Robert Brazile, Brian Dawkins, Jerry Kramer, Ray Lewis, Randy Moss and Brian Urlacher), their family, friends, and fans; the Pro Football Hall of Fame will have no further comment on the decision made by Terrell Owens.”

Something tells me he’ll change his mind, being in the limelight is too big an opportunity to pass up.

Gronkowski Rumors Fuel Wild Friday:
How times have we said, the Patriots are many things but never boring. Rumors were swirling around the Patriots on Friday. Barstool Sports posted that Pats TE Rob Gronkowski was rumored to be on the trading block and they were writing a “pre-emptive blog post or what might be, if true, the most stunning move of the Bradichick Dynasty. Stay tuned” Which sent many fans overboard.

Several of the regular beat writers chimed in trying to read the tea leaves and glean any indication that the rumors could be true. Tom E. Curran posted about an hour later that the Patriots weren’t trading Gronkowski and fans could resume their weekend fun.

But about 5 p.m. former Herald Pats beat writer Adam Kurkjian posted that he had multiple sources that there were deals on the table but Robert Kraft nixed them.

That set off a firestorm of activity on social media, and Patriots Media VP Stacey James, normally one to stay off social media quickly tweeted out that “I would say with the utmost confidence that none of that is true. None of it.”

Others in the media quickly squashed it as well. Former Patriots QB and now the team color man on the radio broadcast Scott Zolak posted that someone high up in the organization was ashamed of the buzz on what was a false story.

Edelman Suspension A Big Blow to the NE Offense:
Julian Edelman is facing a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. In appealing the decision, Edelman released the following statement on his Instagram account.

“I am very sorry — I don’t know what happened,” Edelman posted on his Instagram page. “I’ve taken many, many tests obviously over the course of my career, and nothing like this has ever happened. I apologize to the Kraft family, my coaches, teammates, and fans. As this matter is being appealed, I can’t say anymore but no matter what, I will be ready to play and pursue another championship with our team and for Patriots fans around the world.”

Apparently, Edelman and the Patriots as they exited the practice fields for the final day of minicamp on Thursday, they were unaware of the ruling coming down from the league, where someone leaked it to Field Yates and Adam Schefter of ESPN. While no one knows on what grounds Edelman will base his appeal, those normally do not as a rule fare well.

Edelman would miss the first four games against the Texans at home, on the road at Jacksonville and Detroit and home against the Dolphins. He’d also forfeit over $400,000 in base salary alone during his suspension.

While many point out, and correctly so, that the Patriots went to the Super Bowl without  Edelman a year ago, they’re also dealing with the losses of Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola, Brandin Cooks as well as Nate Solder at left tackle from last year’s team.

While this season’s offense looks even better on paper than 2017,  with so many new faces on the team this season, it may take them some time to find their comfort level and their roles in the offense. And having no Edelman there for the first quarter of the season is definitely a big blow. Especially without Amendola there to take up his slack.

On the flip side, it will give one wide receiver an extra four weeks to make an impression and possibly carve out a role for himself. We shall see.

Punter Competition at Camp is a Good Thing:
Ryan Allen is most definitely facing some competition at punter this year during training camp and if Wednesday’s minicamp practice session is any indication, it should be quite a good one to watch. Solid camp competition is always a good thing for the team.

We were in attendance for minicamp and the first thing that jumped out to us was that UDFA rookie punter Corey Bojorquez from New Mexico has a tremendous leg. He was booming punts with tremendous height and hang time and had a distinct advantage over the veteran incumbent…for now. But it is all about consistency and whether he can do it all the time.

Allen is in the last year of his contract and beat out incumbent Zoltan Mesko who coincidentally was in the last year of his contract in 2013. Bojorquez, the left-footed punter not only have to continue his hot start punting but do the holding for Stephen Gostkowski’s extra points and field goals, something Allen has been very solid at.

Patterson Turns Heads Early in Camp:
Minicamp was also the first time we’ve gotten to see Cordarrelle Patterson up close and his speed is something that just leaps out. He showcased that during the return part of the session as he eats up yardage…fast.

With the new kickoff rules in effect, the Patriots ST coaches Joe Judge and Bret Bielema are working on new packages to get Patterson free to get to that next level. He already has averaged over 30 yards per return with 5 TDs in his career and he smiled when asked about the new rules.

Cordarrelle Patterson after minicamp practice on knowing his role. (SBalestrieri photo)

“If they kick it to me, we might get more yards,” Patterson said. “That’s the game. Every year, they stop trying to kick it to me. It doesn’t matter.”

One area where he’s struggled is finding a consistent role on offense. He’s known as a gadget-type of player, running reverses, screens and such. But thus far the Patriots seem intent on trying a number of different things with him and he’s open to whatever the coaches decide.

“It’s challenging, but you have to know your role and embrace it” Patterson said. “Every offense. New England, Oakland, Minnesota, no matter where you are, it’s going to be a challenging offense. … There’s always something you can learn.”

“I mean, my film don’t lie,” Patterson said. “I can do whatever I put my mind to. That’s something I’ve been blessed with from the man above since I was born.”

Asked about the difficulties in learning the Patriots playbook he said,“I feel like I know the playbook more than I did yesterday,” Patterson said. “Each day, I’m trying to improve to get better. Let all three quarterbacks out there trust me so I am in the right place where I need to be every time.”

Many had Patterson as a bubble player or as a cut going into the season. Forget that. He’s a lock, for his STs ability alone, and if he can work his way into the Patriots offense for just 10-15 snaps a game? That is a win-win for the Patriots.

Three Up and Three Down For the Pats Minicamp:
With the Patriots finished up until training camp begins in late July, we compiled a quick list of who helped themselves during the spring and who didn’t. After three pretty intense days (albeit without pads) of practice, the team looks in pretty good shape. Besides the usual stars (Brady, Gronkowski, Edelman, Stephon Gilmore) who all looked very good to outstanding during minicamp, we’ll focus on some of the lesser-known players for this segment.

Three Up:

Jacob Hollister: The second-year tight end added some muscle and still looks like he can threaten the seams against just about anyone on the field. He was already a pretty athletic tight end, but now he seems even more so.

Hollister was not only giving the second team guys fits but consistently got open against the likes of Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, and Pat Chung. That was most impressive. If his newfound muscle translates into improved play in the blocking game, then he’s way ahead of the pack to be the #2 tight end on the depth chart.

Training camp and preseason will be interesting to watch. Once the pads come on, if Hollister can still get open from the jams at the line, then he’ll be a key player to watch in the offense. He had an outstanding spring…now he needs to have a better summer.

J.C. Jackson:
The UDFA rookie out of Maryland had the potential to be a top-tier CB and prospect but had off-field issues in college that had him dropped from Florida. But he’s turned his life around and he certainly turned some heads this week.

The Patriots liked what they’ve seen with the rookie and gave him plenty of reps with the first team unit. While Bill Belichick pooh-poohs first or second team designations at this time of year, Jackson was out there often times facing the top WRs in the Patriots offense. And didn’t look at lost out there.

We wrote about him six weeks ago and it seems that he’s in a good spot to secure a roster spot heading into training camp. He’ll have to beat out CBs Keion Crossen and Cyrus Jones for a CB slot. He had a very good head start on things while the other two were relegated to the lower practice fields working back from injuries.

J.C. Jackson was impressive in his first minicamp. (SBalestrieri photo)

Sony Michel:
The Patriots have very high expectations from the first round draft pick and it is easy to see what they like. Michel has good size, is quick to the hole in the running game and is a smooth runner who looks really good in the passing game with very good hands.

The coaches are working on him with his route-running and ensuring he’s precise in that manner and they’re ensuring his work on STs is up to par, he drew the ire of the coaches when he whiffed on a block during a kickoff return by Patterson.

With an albeit limited look this spring, he looks dynamic in the Patriots offense. He and Rex Burkhead have the inside edge as being the two starters …right now.

Sony Michel looks to be a nice weapon in the Patriots offense. (SBalestrieri photo)

Honorable Mentions: P Corey Bojorquez, WR Riley McCarron, LB Dont’a Hightower

Three Down:
Malcolm Mitchell:
After missing all of 2017 with lingering knee issues, those appear to be chronic. Expectations were also high for Mitchell who had a very solid 2016 rookie season.

Mitchell missed all of the minicamp and most of the earlier OTAs although during Thursday’s minicamp session he was spotted on the lower field working out with the training staff with some of the other hurt players.

With a very crowded field at WR, it isn’t going to be easy for Mitchell to make the team unless he’s a healthy go for nearly all of the training camp this summer. Ditto for 6th round WR Braxton Berrios. He suffered an injury at the NFL Combine and is slowly working his way back.

Eric Rowe:
Rowe wasn’t sharp at any of the sessions this week and was beaten on occasion by every WR on the roster as the week wore on. During the Wednesday session, we watched Edelman get separation on him for a long gain, but he regularly does that to everyone he goes against.

But as the week wore on, Rowe was losing reps to the rookie Jackson with the starting unit. Hardly the spring Rowe was looking forward to. We’ll see once the pads come on if that helps his coverage as he can jam more at the line.

Jason McCourty:
The McCourty twins didn’t see the field much this week, in one of the more puzzling moves. Jason was barely on the field during team activities. He spent most of it as a spectator just watching from the sidelines.

We don’t believe it to be injury related as he didn’t go down to the lower fields to work with the training staff but stayed with the team on the upper field but as an observer. This will be an area to watch once camp begins.

It is really hard to judge any of the linemen, offensive or defensive during minicamp since the players don’t wear pads. Those big guys plus the big running backs, (Mike Gillislee, Jeremy Hill, and Ralph Webb) plus blocking tight ends Dwayne Allen and Troy Niklas will get closer looks then.

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 Announce 2018 Jersey Numbers

Robert Alvarez
May 8, 2018 at 5:35 pm ET

On Twitter Tuesday, the New England Patriots shared an updated list of assigned numbers for all newly acquired players via trade or free agency along with some changes for longer tenured Patriots.

Some key notes include safety Duron Harmon giving his number 30 to old Rutgers teammate and cornerback Jason McCourty. He has held that number his whole career in Tennessee and Cleveland. Harmon will take Malcolm Butler’s old 21 in 2018.

Wide receiver numbers have Jordan Matthews taking Danny Amendola’s number 80 and Kenny Britt switching from 85 to 88.

Cordarrelle Patterson nabs his usual number 84 that he held his whole career previously with the Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders.

Running back Jeremy Hill will sport Dion Lewis’ old 33.

The full list is as followed:

All 2018 draft picks and undrafted free agents will be assigned numbers when they arrive for rookie camp.

Podcast: Offensive Draft Preview For The Patriots

Russ Goldman
April 11, 2018 at 12:16 pm ET

In this episode, we discussed the recent signings for the Patriots. After that, we did our Offensive Draft Preview, as we shared our top three propsects at several offensive positions for the Patriots. Later on, we did our Patriots Mock Draft.

New England Patriots Draft Profile, Jaylen Samuels, NC State

Steve Balestrieri
April 9, 2018 at 8:30 am ET

Hard to Pigeon Hole Samuels Into One Position

As the 2018 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar or that we feel would be a great fit.

The Patriots and specifically Bill Belichick likes versatile football players. Guys who can do more than one thing are valuable role players and will find their way onto the roster. Some guys who were multifaceted had the good fortune to be called a “Swiss Army knife” as they had some valuable and varied skills

Jaylen Samuels from North Carolina State is a prime example of that. Samuels played tight end for the most part for the Wolfpack but in reality was much more. He is a true jack-of-all-trades as he lined up as a running back, H-Back, Fullback, wide receiver, slot receiver, and took some direct snaps.

He’s not a Swiss Army Knife but more of a chameleon. His skill set is such that some NFL coaches will have a hard time actually deciding what position it is that he will be used at. He played every position on the offense for the Wolfpack except the offensive line. He was NC State’s leading receiver with 76 receptions for 597 yards with 4 touchdowns. He also rushed for 404 yards for another 12 touchdowns.

He is a good route runner with good short area quickness where he can separate from man coverage. He possesses sure hands and will extend with a nice catch radius on throws wide of the mark and haul them in. Samuels was good in short-yardage, showing a nice ability to see the cracks in the defense and find the sticks or the goalline.

Samuels is competitive to the nth degree and will sometimes go over the top and lose his cool, but is a tough competitor and will go all out for his coaches.

With the right coach and the right system, Samuels can line up anywhere and be a factor on offense. As a running back out in the flat, as an H-Back, or in the slot. He will probably become a core special teamer immediately.

Pros:

– Outstanding versatility

– Excellent hands

– Good at both coming out of the backfield and as a WR

– High Football I.Q.

Cons

– Slightly underpowered

– Average speed

– Blocking skills need work

What his Role Will Be:

That is the $64,000 question. He’s probably just best used as a varied weapon where ever the team senses a mismatch.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?

It is possible that after a year in the system with the coaches and players that they will find a niche for him, but he may stay a jack of all trades in the offense where the defense can never know what is coming.

How Many Downs Can He Play?

Four

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?

Take your pick, this guy fills so many shoes he could become a valuable player that he could make a bunch of special teams’ players expendable.  

What is his ST Value?

He’d immediately become a core special teams guy with his athleticism and physicality.

Conclusion:
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein in his profile wrote that “Some may see Samuels as a valuable hybrid talent, while others may see a player who offers roster flexibility but lacks a position where he can win consistently. Samuels isn’t a tight end and has to prove he can handle blocking duties well enough to be a fullback. He will, however, appeal to teams looking to disguise their attacks with more diversified personnel groupings. Samuels best fit may be with a zone-scheme team as an RB/FB with the ability to play slot receiver and become a core special teamer.”

Samuels is a guy that you can’t help but root for. His varied skill set will have to be paired with a team that must be creative with his use. He averaged 6.1 yards per carry at NC State. The fact that he can do just about anything on offense could be seen by some as a detriment as some teams won’t be happy unless they can plug him into a specific hole.

What position is Samuels? I think I know how Bill Belichick will answer that. He’s a football player, he’d say and we’ll see how he’ll work out. But with the Patriots, I can see him as a third down running back that they can put in motion out to the slot. An H-Back or even as a flex or “move” tight end. In other words everywhere… and why not?

The kid can play a multitude of roles. After losing playmakers Danny Amendola, and Dion Lewis this spring in free agency, Samuels can help in replacing both in the running as well as the passing game.

Does he fit a specific area of need? Not particularly. But his overall value will outweigh his specific value in any one area. Some team will draft themselves a football player on Day 3 and if they are creative, he will give them mismatches all over the field. Samuels will be a fit in New England because Belichick and McDaniels could definitely find a variety of roles for him to excel in.

Right now the team does not have a fourth or a fifth-round draft pick. I’m sure that will change once the draft begins. That will change. And if they would select him, Samuels would give them a reason every day to keep him around. The man with no true position will end up with several.

Leonard’s highlight reel tape from the ACC Digital Network can be seen here: 

His official highlight tape also by the ACC Digital Network can be seen here: 

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.

Podcast: The Recent Subtractions And Additions To The Patriots Roster

Russ Goldman
March 20, 2018 at 12:25 pm ET

In this episode, we talked about the Patriots players who have recently left, and the addtitions to the 2018 Patriots roster so far.