Tag Archives: Geneo Grissom

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.

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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.

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Mummy Mayos

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Best Of Social Media: Preseason Week 1 Redskins vs Patriots

Robert Alvarez
August 12, 2018 at 4:18 pm ET

Thursday night marked the New England Patriots first preseason game of 2018.

Checkout some of the best sights and sounds over social media from the teams come from behind victory over the Washington Redskins.

It’s Game day #LETSGOOO @tombrady #Gameday

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It was an ugly first quarter for the Patriots offense as they failed to get much going.

The Redskins took a 10-0 lead after a quarter of play.

In the second, Redskins quarterback Colt McCoy continued his hot start, and Washington added to their lead. 17-0 midway through the quarter.

With the clock winding down on the first half, backup quarterback Brian Hoyer finally found rhythm and the Patriots got on the board heading into the half following a 52 yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal. 17-3 Washington.

Heading into the locker room at halftime, head coach Bill Belichick was in regular season form when he was asked about his teams first half performance.

https://twitter.com/JoeGiza/status/1027726811776659456

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The Patriots came out firing to open the second as running back Jeremy Hill tallied the teams first touchdown of the new year and cut the deficit to 7 at 17-10.

In the fourth quarter the Patriots still found themselves trailing by seven, but newly signed wideout Cordarrelle Patterson hauled in his highlight catch to put the patriot in position to tie the game.

2018 Undrafted free agent Ralph Webb found the end zone to get the Patriots back in the game, however they weren’t looking to tie.

Hoyer again found Webb for a successful two–point conversion attempt and their first lead of the night. 18-17 Patriots.

With under four minutes to go in the game, the defense stepped up as Geneo Grissom scooped up a loose football and nearly scored.

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Ralph Webb again found the end zone to seal the comeback victory for the Patriots.

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Starting off the preseason with a W.

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Dear Lord I thank you felt good to be back out there again

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Turning what I love into a career, now that’s a dream come true

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Patriots 2018 Training Camp Primer – Special Teams

Steve Balestrieri
July 25, 2018 at 8:00 am ET

The wait is nearly over as the Patriots head into training camp tomorrow. NFL Football is back among us until February, and not a moment too soon.

The Patriots offseason has been mired in innuendo, speculation, with an almost soap opera-like aura that seems more like “keeping up with the Kardashians” than the Patriot Way. So now we can fill the airwaves of football talk again.

There should be no shortage of competition at a number of spots. But for our final position there shouldn’t be a lot of movement at the key spots.  We’re on to the Special Teams.

So, with that in mind who is locked in and who is on the bubble?

Roster Locks- Stephen Gostkowski, Joe Cardona,

The team brought in no competition for their kicker and long snapper which speaks volumes in the confidence they have in both.

Gostkowski had a nice comeback season in 2017 in the kicking game. He was good on 92.5 percent of his field goals, hitting on 37 of 40 attempts including going 4 – 4 on attempts over 50 yards including career-long 62-yarder against the Raiders.

Gostkowski continues to be outstanding with his kickoffs. The Patriots were very good at pinning opponents back inside their 25-yard line or better during the season with the changes to the touchback rule. And Gostkowski had that developed into an art form, angling his kicks on one side of the field near the corner of the end zone. Opponents drives average start was their 24 yard line, the best in the NFL.

Cardona has been a solid accurate long-snapper since entering the league. A testament to his prowess is that you very, very rarely hear his name called in a game. Which means his snaps on field goals, extra points and punts are usually spot on. He’s done a terrific job of balancing his job with the Patriots and his duties as a Naval Officer which isn’t an easy task as well.

Facing no camp competition again this year, Gostkowski and Cardona need only worrying themselves to be ready to go for the season opener.

On the Bubble: Ryan Allen, Corey Bojorquez

Allen is facing competition for the first time in his tenure since besting Zoltan Mesko in the 2013. And while his punting average has gone down each year for the past three years, he has actually become more effective at pinning opponents inside the 20-yard line.

Rewind to the 2nd half of the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Allen pinned the Jags offense inside the 10-yard line three times in the second half, flipping field position for the Patriots and having a big role in the comeback victory to send the team on to the Super Bowl.

But he’s in the last year of his contract, and this is something we’ve seen before with the Patriots, Bill Belichick will change things up every few years with his punters. We’ve seen Ken Walter, Josh Miller, Chris Hanson and Mesko, who lost his job to Allen. He’s been here five years but faces serious competition for the first time.

Bojorquez is another left-footed punter from New Mexico. Last season for the Lobos, he punted 67 times with an average of 47.3 yards, so he has a tremendously strong leg. He had 12 of those turn into touchbacks, which will need to be remedied. But despite his average, 25 of his punts were fair caught by the opposition which speaks highly of the amount of hang time.

We were witnesses to that during June’s minicamp. Bojorquez was absolutely booming the ball with incredible hang time. One punt which went well over 50 yards, hung up so long, punt returner Riley McCarron would have been forced to fair catch the ball during a game.

This should be a fantastic competition, while Bojorquez has the edge on leg strength and distance, Allen’s directional punting and consistency gives him the nod there. This should be fun to watch.

The Patriots place a premium on players who excel on Special Teams among them Matthew Slater, Brandon Bolden, Nate Ebner, Brandon King, Geneo Grissom, Nicholas Grigsby among others. Those players were listed elsewhere as positional players but are truly more special team’s aces than offensive or defensive players.

Ebner in particular was missed for his expertise as the personal protector on punts after he went on IR last year.  

Some of the new players or ones returning from injury are also special teams mavens such as Cordarrelle Patterson, who besides being the NFL’s best kick returner, is a very good gunner. Marquis Flowers was brought over last season for his STs experience but parlayed that into a role on defense as well.

What it means is that these players will be fighting for their roster spots every day as well as the positional players. Keep an eye on the kickoff and punt coverage units during training camp. Because those positions will ultimately tell the tale for some of the bottom of the roster players who will either make the team or be released. Bill Belichick and ST’s coach Joe Judge will have some interesting decisions to make.

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 Edge Rushers in 2018, Biggest Need is Health

Steve Balestrieri
February 26, 2018 at 8:00 am ET

If there was an area more snakebit than the edge for the Patriots in 2017, then please share. The team lost both Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long during free agency. But with Rob Ninkovich, Trey Flowers, Dont’a Hightower, Shea McClellin, and Kyle Van Noy returning, they weren’t in terrible shape. Then they addressed it with two draft picks, Derek Rivers, and Deatrich Wise. Kony Ealy was brought in with a trade and Harvey Langi was added as an undrafted free agent. So things didn’t seem bad at all, …and then the wheels came off.

Ninkovich retired abruptly during training camp. Rivers and McClellin were hurt in training camp and lost for the season. McClellin may be gone for good as he’s suffered numerous concussions and this one may be it for him. Wise missed time during camp but came on strong afterward. Things weren’t helped when Ealy flamed out and the player they brought in from the Seahawks Cassius Marsh wasn’t a fit. Langi was shelved for the year after he and his wife were rear-ended at a traffic light and both got seriously injured.

Derek Rivers, here against the Jaguars, was just beginning to flash in TC when he got hurt. (SBalestrieri photo)

The team moved Hightower to the edge before he too was injured and ended up on IR. Keionta Davis never took the field as he had a bulging disk in his neck that didn’t hurt him in college but it made it where no one drafted him. It remains to be seen if he’ll be able to contribute down the road.

The team brought in Eric Lee who displayed a decent ability to rush the passer but struggled to set the edge. And very late they brought in James Harrison who at 39 still set the edge very well and had some juice left to get after the passer. Harrison, as well as ST/Edge player Geneo Grissom, are both free agents.  Now entering 2018, the team is back to square one. Obviously, edge rusher is a big need, but good health is paramount.

Getting Hightower, Rivers, and Langi back is big. Hightower is a known commodity and he’s the Patriots best defender in the front seven…when healthy. Which is becoming an issue. We still don’t what they have in Rivers and Langi. But both flashed potential last season. Although they both got to sit in the meeting rooms last season, they’re still essentially rookies on the field. So while question marks on one side, they’re both like a free draft pick on the other.  McClellin will bear watching, it may be in his best interest to call it a career after multiple concussions and missing the entire season due to others.

Harvey Langi in coverage against Tommy Bohanon, was injured in a car wreck. (SBalestrieri photo)

Free Agency Options: So what is out there in Free Agency? Top tier pass rushers Demarcus Lawrence and Ziggy Ansah are going to command much more cash than the Patriots can afford. Second tier players that may interest New England are Adrian Clayborn from the Falcons, who had 9.5 sacks in 2017. Trent Murphy from the Redskins had a nice 2016 but then missed all of 2017 with an injury.

Of course, they could bring back Harrison but one name to keep an eye on, could be Julius Peppers. The ageless, 38-year old pass rush specialist for the Panthers had 11 sacks last year in Carolina and could be one of those veteran players the Patriots and Belichick have brought in to bring some heat on the QB.

While we have been beating the drum that they need to get younger and more athletic on the edge, why bring in Peppers? Great question, while we’ll continue to believe that, there is nothing like solid production. Peppers hasn’t had less than seven sacks since 2007. He could be a nice fit with Belichick and the Patriots in a limited snap count role.

Names in the Draft: Now we’ll be the first to say, don’t even bother with draft scenarios until free agency is about played out. That will ultimately decide how the team decides to approach the draft and not the other way around. However, we always get a ton of questions about talented edge guys coming out in the draft.

Some guys to watch during the NFL Combine are Bradley Chubb, NC State, who will go far before the Pats select, and in no particular order (yet) are some edge rushers that could be of interest to New England:
Arden Key, LSU 6’6, 265
Marcus Davenport, UTSA, 6’6, 250
Harold Landry, BC, 6’3, 250
Sam Hubbard, Ohio State, 6’5, 266
Marcell Frazier, Mizzou, 6’5, 260
Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest, 6’3, 275

This list will grow as we get past the combine and get deeper into our NFL Draft coverage as we’ll look at some players whose skill sets may be of interest to the Patriots. If they opt for a guy like Peppers in free agency for instance, then they’ll likely look for an edge player closer to the middle rounds.

But regardless, the biggest thing the team needs now is health. Getting a healthy Hightower, Rivers, and Langi all on the field will do wonders for what ailed the team in 2017. Be intriguing to see if Davis, who was a productive college player can get a clean bill of health, ditto for McClellin.

We’ll be watching as free agency unfolds like everyone else, but with a limited amount of cash this spring, the Patriots will probably not be big players in free agency this season. They’ll have to do some creative work with the cap to make that happen and most of their big decisions will come down to whether or not to sign their own players. And while it won’t be the kind of moves that Patriots fans want to see, their biggest moves this spring may be just getting their own injured players back in the fold.

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

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

Final New England Patriots 53-Man Roster Projection 4.0

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

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

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

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

First up is the offense…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next up in the defense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With Ninkovich Retired, Who Steps Up on the Edge?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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 Draft Profile: Washington Edge Player Joe Matthis

Steve Balestrieri
April 20, 2017 at 6:19 am ET

As the 2017 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 are certainly going to be looking at players on the edge with the picks that they have left in the NFL Draft.  Trey Flowers, Kony Ealy, and Rob Ninkovich are the guys we look to at providing the edge pressure but they still have DL Lawrence Guy who can play on the edge as well as kick inside as an interior pass rusher. Geneo Grissom is a STs player.

As we’ve repeated here many times, edge rushers are like cornerbacks, you can never have too many good ones. Many experts are looking for the Patriots to double dip in the draft next week, taking a DE and an OLB that can provide pressure as well. And this next guy maybe a bit of a sleeper.

I was watching a few games of Washington looking for tape on Sidney Jones and this next player began to jump off the screen in the early games of the season. So much so, that we grabbed him in our Mock Draft a week ago.

Joe Matthis from Washington is a 6’2, 266-pound defensive end/outside linebacker who is a well-rounded edge player. He shows good leverage in the running game and an ability to get to the passer despite not being a “quick twitch” athlete. He’s a guy that is versatile and can play with his hand in the dirt or stand up as an outside linebacker. That is always a plus in the Bill Belichick book with the Patriots.

He has good, heavy hands and uses them well to shed blockers at the line of scrimmage. Matthis is a very physical player who goes non-stop and all out on every down. He’s a sleeper because he was injured after just six games in 2016 and there was very limited tape on him.

At the time of his injury, he led the team with five sacks thru six games. A look at how their defense faded after his injury may provide a good look at how valuable he was to the team.

Pros:

– Good frame and strength on the edge

– Excellent, heavy hands with a violent punch

– Good football I.Q., very good against the run

– Shows good bend around the edge, non-stop motor

Cons

– Only average athletically

– Needs to refine pass rush moves

– Injury history, limited body of production on tape

What his Role Will Be:
Matthis’ role would be to initially be a part of the rotation outside as an outside linebacker and drop into coverage for the Patriots. He can also move on to the defensive line and play with his hand in the dirt as a defensive end and rush the passer.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, with some added lower body strength and more work on his pass rush moves, he could easily develop into a full-time very productive player

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
Grissom, Matthis will be a guy that they’ll feel that they plug on the edge and get to play special teams.

What is his ST Value?
Good

Conclusion:
Matthis is a guy who will be intriguing to see where he ends up in the draft. The Washington coaches moved him around and after a productive start of 2016, he suffered an injury that sidelined him for the rest of the year.

He has very good, heavy hands and has a violent punch that will keep defenders off of him and allow him to get some separation. He has a good bull rush with good bend coming around the edge. He’s very good at setting the edge in the running game, a must in the Patriots system.

Matthis is a Patriots kind of player. He’s versatile, can play standing up as an outside linebacker or with his hand in the dirt, has good instincts and a high football I.Q. He plays with a violent streak, never stops working and will make plays all over the field with a non-stop motor.

Matthis is a guy who won’t be in high demand because of his injury, his lack of taped production and the fact that he’s isn’t an athlete that will blow people away with his measurables. But if he’s on the board in the fourth round, the Patriots could land one of the sleepers of this draft.

Matthis’ highlight tape 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.

How Lawrence Guy Fits In Patriots’ Defense May Influence the Draft

Steve Balestrieri
April 18, 2017 at 7:09 am ET

The Patriots, many are predicting will double-dip at the edge rusher position which may indeed be the case.  We’ve had multiple conversations on the podcasts about the edge and how they’ll approach it in the draft. But how they plan to use Lawrence Guy may have a bearing on those draft plans as well.

Guy has been kind of the under-the-radar signing that Bill Belichick has traditionally made during free agency. While the news of his signing wasn’t met with a ton of fanfare at the time in March, the four-year, $13.4 million-dollar contract certainly shows that they’re planning on using him in their system for the next several years.

The 6-foot-5, 300-pound defensive lineman has played in 67 games in his career, with 20 starts. He played in all 16 games for the Ravens in 2016 with 10 starts and played in 46 percent of the defensive snaps. He had a quarterback hit against Tom Brady on Monday Night Football last season. Guy had his most productive season in 2015 when he recorded 4.5 sacks and 46 tackles.

Guy’s most natural position is at the five-technique defensive end and he’d be a big body on the outside although he has the versatility to kick inside on passing downs and be a three-technique defensive tackle and provide an interior pass rush.

Unlike other players the Patriots have used in a kind of NASCAR-like package, Guy at 300 pounds isn’t an undersized guy but still has the athleticism to get after the quarterback. He’d provide them with plenty of versatility to play inside or outside. He’s not a space eater like Alan Branch but should be strong enough to hold up in the running game inside as well as push the pocket. At the age of 27, he’s just entering his prime as a player.

Guy’s former coach John Harbaugh thinks that the Patriots got a good player, and spoke highly of him at the league meetings last month.

“I just think they’re getting a great guy, and they’re going to love him because he’s a really good football player,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a very under-rated, under-valued player. I thought it was very Patriot-like to recognize his value and to pay him the way they did. I think they paid him very well and in a way that’s going to change his life forever so I’m really happy for him.”

“They’re going to get a guy that plays equally well against the run and the pass, plays super hard, will be excellent in the locker room and in the meeting room,” Harbaugh added.

So where will Guy play, on the edge or inside? Both probably and special teams as well. Because since the league has ruled that Shea McClellin’s leaping over the line is a [gasp!] safety issue, they’ll need more of an interior push to block field goals and extra points.

But in regards to the draft, while they’re about set in the interior with Branch, Malcom Brown, Vincent Valentine, Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo, and Guy, they will still be looking to add speed on the edge.

The Patriots have Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich, Kony Ealy and Geneo Grissom on the edge. Flowers will have big expectations this year after a strong second half of the 2016 season. Ninkovich has always been a solid big-play contributor but at 33, is starting to slow down. Grissom was a special teamer. Ealy has the size and versatility to also play inside or outside on passing downs.

This gives Belichick and Matt Patricia plenty of options on the defense as they’ll be able to mix and match with a variety of fronts. At the end of April, they’ll look for a speed rusher in the draft. Of course, if the opportunity avails itself, another would be even better. One can never have enough talented ‘guys’ on the edge.

But as for Lawrence Guy, he’ll be one player to watch this spring/summer. He may be the ‘guy’ no one talks about in the spring, then will rave about what a great signing it was in December.

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 Draft Profile, Missouri DE Charles Harris

Steve Balestrieri
April 10, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

As the 2017 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 are thin at defensive end; Jabaal Sheard has left via free agency and Chris Long has said that he isn’t coming back in 2017. The team did pick up Kony Ealy from the Carolina Panthers in a trade. Ealy has all the tools, he just needs to do it consistently. There has been talk that he didn’t take to coaching in Carolina, something he’ll have to do here to thrive.

That leaves him, Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich, and Geneo Grissom. Flowers came on in his second season and was arguably their best defensive lineman down the stretch. Ninkovich seems to be closer to the end of his career now after several solid seasons. Grissom was strictly a STs guy and didn’t contribute on defense. So, they’ll need to add some depth.

Edge rushers are like cornerbacks, you can never have too many good ones and the team is expecting Flowers to continue to improve on his 2016 season. Ealy will be looked at to contribute right away. That leaves Ninkovich and whomever they can bring in. Right now, the Patriots don’t draft until Round 3. But we don’t expect that to last. They’ll try to make a move to slide up into either Round 1 or 2 of the draft. And this next profile will be there if they can.

Charles Harris from Missouri is a 6’3, 253-pound defensive end who is another in a long line of productive edge rushers to come out of Mizzou. He was All-SEC second team in both 2015 and 2016. Despite the Tigers having a down year, Harris produced good numbers 61 tackles, including 12 for loss, 9 sacks, two passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and a recovered fumble.

Harris is versatile and can play either right or left defensive end as well as play standing up as an outside linebacker. He has good explosion off the snap, with loose hips that allow him to change direction quickly with no loss of speed.

He’s got a spin move where he can turn in either direction quickly. Harris has a non-stop motor and can go sideline to sideline. He’s got the quickness and strength to beat tackles to the inside on his pass rushes. Decent in coverage, but is inconsistent against the run.

Pros:

– Very good athletically, with excellent change of direction

– Quick first step, stays low and explodes off the edge

– Very good edge rush capability, counter moves, productive

– Excellent quick, hands, can shed blockers and get to the QB

Cons

– Only adequate height for a defensive end

– Can get washed inside at times in the running game

– Ran only a 4.82 at the Combine in the 40-yard Dash

What his Role Will Be:
Harris’ role would be to initially be a part of the rotation for the Patriots on the edge as a sub-package pass rusher. He could also kick outside as an outside linebacker and has the ability to cover or blitz from the outside.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, with some added lower body strength and improved against the run, he could be looking at starting reps in 2018.

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
Harris will look to earn his way on the field and he’ll play special teams as well as contribute on defense. He could replace Geneo Grissom on the roster this season.

What is his ST Value?
Good, he should see some action on the coverage units

Conclusion:
Harris is a first round talent and will be a guy that will contribute immediately as a rookie. First as a sub-package pass rusher, but I think he’ll push for starting reps right away. His numbers slipped a little bit in 2016 but the coaches asked him to try some different things and he struggled a little. But in the second half of the season, he took off and was dominant.

He’s the type of player that Bill Belichick loves, a versatile young player with a non-stop motor that can play on either side as a defensive end or stand up as an outside linebacker where he has prototypical size. He’s can also play on special teams.

He’d be a tremendous fit on a Patriots defense that can use a talented edge rusher. With his agility and footwork (former basketball player), he can get after the passer and be a very productive professional.

If the Patriots can find a way to work themselves back into the second half of the first or second round, Harris would be a guy, in our opinion, that they’d definitely take a long look at. He’d fit in seamlessly in the locker room as well as on the field.

Harris’ highlight tape 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.