Tag Archives: E.J. Biggers

Patriots Roster Coming Into Focus, Team Releases Three Veterans

Steve Balestrieri
August 23, 2016 at 9:43 am ET

The Patriots have released three more veterans today as they cut ties to CB E.J. Biggers, RB Donald Brown and DE Frank Kearse according to sources. Bill Belichick has always favored cutting loose veterans as early as possible if they don’t fit into the team’s plans, to give them a better chance of latching on with other teams. This seems to be the case here as none of the three appeared close to landing a roster spot.

Brown seemed to have a good shot at making a roster spot. LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis were coming off of serious injuries, Tyler Gaffney is unproven and Brandon Bolden is mainly a ST’s player. That left James White and a bunch of question marks.

Brown takes a breather after running some drills

Brown takes a breather after running some drills

But Brown, got hurt early and camp and struggled to get back on the field. Both Gaffney and Blount had solid preseason outings in back-to-back weeks so the team will probably roll with them, White and Bolden to at least initially start the season.

Kearse was a DE in Washington and projected to be an interior player here. He didn’t stand out much during training camp and with others playing at a higher standard, he wasn’t projected to make the team.

Biggers came from Philadelphia as a free agent and signed a 1-year, $840,000 contract with a modest $25,000 signing bonus. With a lack of depth from 2015 in the Patriots secondary, he was thought to be at least in the mix for a veteran presence at cornerback.

Hogan,-Biggers

But undrafted rookies Jonathan Jones, Cre’Von LeBlanc as well as 2nd-year player Darryl Roberts have all outplayed him this summer. Not that Biggers play was poor, but the younger, faster and more athletic players were standing out daily. That forced the team to release V’Angelo Bentley and now Biggers.

With his release, the corner position now has Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Justin Coleman, Cyrus Jones, LeBlanc and Roberts as their six top players. They may only opt to keep five so the competition will heat up in the final two weeks.

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

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

Patriots Training Camp Primer – Cornerbacks

Steve Balestrieri
July 25, 2016 at 6:00 am ET

Talented but young group looks to take next step

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

Bill Belichick likes to say that the spring’s OTAs and Minicamp is a learning exercise and that the real competition begins in training camp. While that is true to an extent, with 88 players on the current roster, a minimum of 35 of these will be cut. That doesn’t take into consideration the tweaking that goes on during the season after the initial 53-man roster is completed.

So the next position to break down are the corners. Given the epidemic of injuries suffered by the Patriots last season, they were fortunate that both starters Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan remained healthy. Entering last season, there were nothing but questions about the corner position after jettisoning all three starters from the Super Bowl winning team.

Rather than being a weakness, corner became a position of strength in 2015. Butler parlayed his SB heroics into a very solid first season of starting. Ryan came on strong in his third season and played solid. Justin Coleman surprised some people and played well as the slot corner. But depth was an issue. The team brought in veteran Tarell Brown to add that veteran presence and he played very well in small glimpses until he went on IR.

CB Malcolm Butler

CB Malcolm Butler -photo by SBalestrieri/PatsFans.com

This season the team brought in Cyrus Jones with their top draft pick and a trio of smaller, but very athletic corners in Jonathan Jones, Cre’Von LeBlanc and V’Angelo Bentley as UDFAs. They’ll be competing with veteran E.J. Biggers and 2nd-year player Darryl Roberts who turned some heads in training camp before suffering a wrist injury and landing on IR in preseason a year ago.

If there is an issue with the corners this season other than overall experience it is size. Only Biggers and Roberts are 6’0 tall and neither are locks to make the roster. In a league dominated by the big men at WR, this could be an issue but the team made a concerted effort to get more athletic and all of the new corners have Special Teams capability as well.

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

Roster Locks: Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Cyrus Jones
No big shocks here, and there is a big difference from a year ago. Butler was able to go from a walk-on, tryout basis to Super Bowl hero and now is a Pro Bowl cornerback. The funny thing is, he’d be the first to say that he still has a long way to go. So if he can continue to progress, he should be an extremely valuable piece for years to come.

Right now he is a bargain at his current cap hit. The Patriots can either decide to pay him with an extension quickly or hit him with a franchise tag to buy them more time with Hightower, Collins, and Sheard also on deck.

Ryan rebounded very well from an awful 2014 to play very solidly a year ago. His consistency could still stand to be better but it is safe to say that he far outperformed expectations in 2015. Ryan may get pushed this season by Jones who will at the very least compete for the slot corner duties. But I wouldn’t be shocked to see the rookie from Alabama in the starting lineup sooner rather than later.

Patriots top draft pick Cyrus Jones has gotten plenty of reps

Patriots top draft pick Cyrus Jones -photo by SBalestrieri/PatsFans.com

Jones has some of those qualities that teams covet in their corners. He’s physical and tough, and can play press man. He’s very confident and feisty and is an outstanding returner in the kicking game, returning four kicks for touchdowns in 2015.

He was also a good teammate who was highly thought of inside the locker room. The team is in very good shape with their top three corners. The only thing lacking is once again the size aspect.

On the Bubble: Justin Coleman, Darryl Roberts, E.J. Biggers, Jonathan Jones
Here is where the competition really begins to get interesting. The remaining six players are essentially fighting for two, possibly three roster spots. And the race is essentially wide open.

Coleman bounced around between Minnesota, Seattle, and the Patriots before winning a job a year ago. He appeared in 10 games and had six starts in 2015, playing solidly in the slot. Now he’s looking to take the next step in his second season with New England.

Roberts was a very athletic late 7th round draft pick a year ago. He ran a 4.38 time in the 40-yard dash, a 6.66 time in the 3-Cone Drill, a 39-inch Vertical Jump, an 11’1” leap in the Broad Jump and benched pressed 225 pounds 23 times. He impressed in the early going at training camp and earned the start in the 1st preseason game. He injured his wrist in that game and was lost for the season on IR.

Biggers is the elder statesman in terms of age at just 29. He’s spent time with the Redskins, Bucs and Eagles where he was a serviceable corner in 2015. He also can be a gunner on the STs. The Pats wanted to see what he could do early this spring and he saw lots of reps during OTAs and minicamp.

Jonathan Jones is an intriguing case because, although he’s listed at 5’10, that is being generous. He lacks the size that teams are looking for but he more than makes up for with his tenacity. Another exceptional athlete, Jones was once the National Hurdles champion. Of the undrafted corners, he looked very solid this spring and was arguably the best on the field. But once the pads come on, can he continue his solid play? He will bear close watching this summer. He’s a dark horse to make the roster but don’t write him off just yet.

Outside Looking in…. Longshots: Cre’Von LeBlanc, V’Angelo Bentley
LeBlanc and Bentley played well in the spring but are facing a numbers crunch more than anything else. They face an uphill battle to make the roster but will probably find their way onto the practice squad if they falter.

CB Cre'Von LeBlanc

CB Cre’Von LeBlanc- photo by SBalestrieri/PatsFans.com

LeBlanc impressed in the limited window that I watched him during minicamp. A smaller (5’9) corner but with an impressive build, he showed some nice footwork as he was able to mirror the larger WRs he was matched up against. He’s aggressive and physical and plays with an air of a young player who isn’t intimidated by the stage. He has kick return ability and was known as an effective blitzer in college.

Bentley comes from a military background, his mother served in Afghanistan which will resonate well with Bill Belichick. Something else that will reverberate is the Illinois grad is another STs return man, scoring on a kickoff, punt return, interception and fumble in college.

Check out our earlier primers on the running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line, defensive line, and the linebackers  And be sure to keep tuned into PatsFans.com during training camp as we’ll post daily updates from down in Gillette.

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.

Don’t Go to Sleep This Spring on Patriots CB Darryl Roberts

Steve Balestrieri
May 10, 2016 at 8:53 am ET

Still an Unproven Quantity at CB, 2nd Year Player Has Plenty of Upside

The Patriots drafted Alabama cornerback Cyrus Jones with their first pick in the 2016 NFL Draft with the 60th overall pick. Jones is expected to immediately contend for slot corner duties immediately with a chance at moving outside later. Another player who can possibly vie for starting reps outside in 2016 is 2nd-year corner Darryl Roberts.

Roberts was drafted by the Patriots with a 7th round draft pick (247th overall), out of Marshall last season. An incredibly gifted athlete, he had a big performance at Marshall’s Pro Day running a 4.38-second 40-yard dash with a 6.66-second time in the 3-Cone Drill, a 4.06-second short shuttle, a 39-inch vertical leap, and an 11’1”-inch broad jump. He also benched 225 pounds 23 times.

He’s the tallest of the Patriots corners currently on the roster, just topping out at 6’0 and 190 pounds. Roberts is a tough, physical corner with long arms that he uses aggressively in press coverage. He has outstanding change of direction skills and has the speed to mirror receivers downfield as well as recover when the ball is in the air.

With the huge turnover at the position last season, the competition was essentially wide open entering training camp. Roberts was tossed right into the mix, getting essentially first team reps against Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola early in training camp. The results were about what one would expect.

Coming from a small school, Roberts wasn’t prepared for the quickness off the line of the Patriots shifty receivers. He was playing too high in his backpedal and wasn’t able to get a good jam at the line. As a result, for the first couple of days, he was getting beat regularly.
Roberts-Edelman
Roberts-Amendola

But the light quickly came on and Roberts began to improve markedly as camp wound along.  His coverage got tighter, his physicality improved and he began making more and more plays as the days passed. Was he rising ala Malcolm Butler in 2014? No, not quite. But his level of play had increased to the point of being noticeably better.


Darryl Roberts came on strong during 2015’s training camp before landing on IR. (SBalestrieri/PatsFans.com image)

One day during the dog days of August, he broke up four passes in the training session, one of which was intercepted. He earned the start in the Patriots first preseason game of the year against the Green Bay Packers and it was in this game that his season came to a halt.

In trying to tackle the Packers Eddie Lacy, Roberts badly dislocated his wrist. The recovery time for that injury is about 8 weeks but the Patriots made the decision to place him on season-ending IR. He was fully healed by the time the season ended.

Now with a clean bill of health, Roberts should have no issues with once again competing for a spot on the roster and possibly for some starting reps. Unlike Jones who can play inside or out, Roberts is ideally a fit for the perimeter. There, his length, athleticism, and physicality can impact the play, giving the Patriots another option at covering opponents’ wide receivers.

He joins a crowded group of ten corners this spring including, Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Cyrus Jones, Justin Coleman, E.J. Biggers, Brock Vereen, Cre’Von LeBlanc, V’Angelo Bentley, Jonathan Jones.

But with Logan Ryan being an unrestricted free agent in 2017, the Patriots will be looking within to see if there is a player currently on the roster that can step up and play on the outside. Jones is one of those guys but for now, he’ll compete with Justin Coleman for reps in the slot. Roberts should vie with Biggers initially for reps backing up the starters outside in Butler and Ryan.

If last season is any indication, he may indeed by ready for a bigger slice of the pie. He also has special teams’ capability with his speed and athleticism, something that the Patriots always covet in their players.

While all eyes will be focused on Jones this summer and rightfully so, don’t be surprised if Roberts, the 7th round pick from last season starts to turn heads again once the players hit the field.

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.

Possible Patriots Draft Target, CB Cyrus Jones

Steve Balestrieri
April 7, 2016 at 6:44 am ET

Cyrus Jones, A Versatile Playmaker for Winning Program

As the 2016 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar that we feel would be a great fit.

The Patriots are closing to the 2016 NFL Draft and still needing more depth at the cornerback position. Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan, Justin Coleman, Darryl Roberts and recently signed E.J. Biggers.

Roberts, who we think will push for starting snaps this season and Coleman are still unproven and the feeling here is that the Patriots will probably add a veteran closer to training camp (Tarell Brown?), and look to the draft to add one or two more possible prospects for the 2016 roster.

We’ve been highlighting some names that could be on the Patriots radar. While we all know the top guys like Vernon Hargreaves or Eli Apple will be long gone by the time the Pats pick at #60, we’ll focus on some of the guys who still at least have a chance of being around by then.

Cyrus Jones from Alabama is a player that would seem to be very much a Patriots target in the draft. He’s a versatile, productive player from a prestigious, successful program that has improved each year. The fact that Jones plays for Nick Saban who is a Bill Belichick close friend is another added bonus.

Jones is a slightly undersized corner at 5’10, 197 pounds but has long arms and a good physical build. Jones switched from WR to CB in 2013 and has been steadily improving his game. He hasn’t reached his ceiling yet.

In his final season he registered two INTs, and seven passes defensed after returning from hip labrum surgery in January 2015. He’s a dynamic punt returner, taking four back for touchdowns last season.

He’s physical and feisty and always looking towards perceived slights to elevate his game. He’s very good as a press corner and is outstanding in run support. Good but not great speed with a 4.49 in the 40 but ran an impressive 6.71 in the 3-Cone Drill.

Cyrus Jones2

Pros:

– Excellent in press man coverage

– Is able to re-route WRs and mirror them downfield

– Excellent in run support

– Versatile, is a punt returner with 4 PR touchdowns in 2015

Cons

– Lack of height will make matchups with tall WRs difficult

– Sometimes loses track of the ball in zone coverage

– Can lose sight of the run game when matched up in press coverage

What his Role Will Be:
His role will be competing for the third or slot cornerback position initially. He can play the slot where his run support would be a plus and his lack of height on the outside wouldn’t be used against him

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, with some experience he could easily transition to a starting caliber cornerback.

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
His roster slot would be in direct competition with Coleman, Roberts, Biggers and Melvin.

What is his ST Value?
Excellent, he’s a dynamic punt returner and would be given a shot to shine there immediately.

Conclusion:
Jones is a solid press corner who will be a good NFL player on defense. He has the confidence and physicality to overcome a lack of length and should be a nice fit for the Patriots defense.

The Patriots would probably put him in the slot at first but he has the potential to move on the outside. His run support and toughness will make him an instant favorite with both fans and his teammates.

His special teams’ prowess as a punt returner will bear immediate dividends for the team as he can take some of the pressure of Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola in the return game. Coming from the Nick Saban, Alabama pipeline, his experience and leadership with a winning program is always something the Patriots covet.

He projects in the Patriots system to be a Potential Starter on Day 1. He should fit in very well into the NE defense. He’s projected to be available in Rounds 3-4 of the draft. If he’s there, then the team could have some interest in picking him up and his value is best served there.

 

Jones’s highlight film can be found here, courtesy of izallgood37:

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.

 

Patriots Fourth And Two Podcast: Latest In Patriots Free Agency

Russ Goldman
April 6, 2016 at 2:51 pm ET

In this episode, we discussed the additions of Terrance Knighton, Clay Harbor, E.J. Biggers, and Nate Washington to the Patriots. We also discussed the contract extension for Patrick Chung. Lastly, we discussed some players to look for in the NFL Draft at offensive tackle and running back.

Patriots Possible Draft Target, CB Zach Sanchez

Steve Balestrieri
March 30, 2016 at 8:23 am ET

 Sanchez Brings Production, Aggressiveness to the Table

As the 2016 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar that we feel would be a great fit.

The Patriots are faced with the 2016 season and still needing more depth at the cornerback position. Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan return as does Justin Coleman and last season’s injured rookie Darryl Roberts. Don’t go to sleep on Roberts who turned some heads in training camp and started the first preseason game but was injured in that and ended up on IR.

He and Coleman are still unproven at this point and with Tarell Brown now a free agent, the team needs to add some new blood. The team brought in free agent E.J. Biggers from the Eagles on Tuesday and he provides depth and versatility as he can play outside or in the slot. He has experience and very good speed. He’s far from a roster lock however so expect the Patriots to look in the draft for more depth.

In the upcoming days we’ll highlight some names that could be on the Patriots radar. While we all know the top guys like Vernon Hargreaves or Eli Apple will be long gone by the time the Pats pick at #60, we’ll focus on some of the guys who still at least have a chance of being around by then.

Zach Sanchez from Oklahoma is an undersized but very productive cornerback that would fit in with the Patriots man coverage scheme. A three-year starter for the Sooners since his red-shirt freshman season in 2013, he decided to forego his final season in Norman to enter the NFL Draft. He started 37 games in his college career.

Extremely productive, Sanchez displays very good ball-hawking skills and had 15 interceptions as well as 28 passes defensed in his time with the Sooners. In 2015, despite missing two games with a leg injury he posted 45 tackles, 3.5 for a loss, seven interceptions and seven more passes defensed. Garnered 2nd team All-America kudos from several media outlets.

He’s very good at reading the quarterback’s eyes and breaking on the ball to either pick off or break up the play. He has good footwork and a football I.Q. where he can recognize routes and adjust accordingly. He has experience in press man coverage, off-man and zone. Has good long speed (4.48 in the 40 at his Pro Day), and can run with receivers on deep routes.

Sanchez is slightly built, at 5’11, 185 pounds and may not hold up against the run in the NFL and may be best suited for the slot. His aggressiveness, which is a big reason for his production, also can be used against him. He’s been susceptible to double moves and SLUGGO (Slant and go) routes.

Pros:

– Extremely productive (15 INTs in three seasons)

– Excellent ball skills

–  Able to play press man or zone coverage

– Excellent body control, can adjust to the ball in the air and make plays

Cons

– Slight frame may make it difficult to hold up outside, looks to be a slot guy

– Aggressive style of play can be used against him

– Needs to add some bulk at the NFL level

What his Role Will Be:
His role will be competing for the third or slot cornerback position. His frame is too slight to hold up in the running game at the NFL level and bigger more physical wide receivers may be able to overpower him.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Possibly, if he bulks up a bit and reacts well to coaching, they can temper his at times, over-aggressiveness and he could challenge for starting reps.

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
His roster slot would be in direct competition with Coleman, Roberts, Biggers and Melvin.

What is his ST Value?
Good, he’ll play on coverage units

Conclusion:
Sanchez is an undersized by very productive cornerback. Like many smaller players, he’s scrappy and aggressive with a nose for the football and making plays at critical times in the game.

Although he did play some press coverage, much of Oklahoma’s schemes were in either Cover 2 or Cover 3 where he played more off the line. This is where he showed his vision on the field where he made it a habit of reading the QB’s eyes and making plays on the ball.

He can be over-aggressive, something coaching will have to work on, but playmakers make plays and he’s shown that he’s quite capable of doing that. He’s best served in the slot if the Patriots draft him where his aggressiveness would be best served.

He projects in the Patriots system to be a Potential Starter on Day 1. He should fit in very well into the NE defense. He’s projected to be available in Rounds 3-4 of the draft. If he’s there, then the team could have some interest in picking him up and his value is best served there.

 

Sanchez’s highlight film can be found here, courtesy of Ben Brave:

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.