Tag Archives: Isaiah Wynn

New England Patriots News 3-24, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
March 24, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 03-24 and AFC East Notes.
Spring to a backseat to a snowstorm that hit the area on Saturday…A sight no one was happy to see except maybe the ski slopes still operating in the area.

We’ll begin our draft profiles on players that we feel would fit the team on Monday. Also, we’re doing a special Patriots 4th and 2 podcast early this week on some of the potential fits for the team in the draft. Be sure to check for that.  

ICYMI: Our first Mock Draft 1.0 attempt at building the 2019 Patriots roster is in the books. You can recap it here: You can expect the Patriots to be very active in this one, moving around the board due to having 12 draft picks and half of them in the first 101 picks.

Quick Hitters:

Bill Belichick was in Hollywood with Linda Holliday and as the pair came out from dinner and were awaiting their car from the valet, the paparazzi descended on Bill in force. While Ms. Holliday was gracious with some of the questions, Bill in a quintessential Belichick performance didn’t say a word to the ridiculous, inane questions thrown at him by the clueless TMZ staff. Listening to those questions, undoubtedly made Bill homesick for a press conference in the Gillette media workroom….ok maybe that is a stretch. So how was your week, Bill?

Stephon Gilmore freed up $5.67 million dollars of cap space by converting $8.5 million dollars of his contract into a signing bonus, which was reported by Field Yates of ESPN. That move gives the Patriots some much-needed space and comes just at the right time as the team is supposedly in negotiations with kicker Stephen Gostkowski on a new contract.

Do you think Tom Brady is slow? Maybe on the football field, but watching Brady zip down the ski slopes in the Rockies faster than we can drive any morning on the Mass Pike was a bit disconcerting to watch…can’t imagine the team was thrilled to see that. While we’re all waiting on news of an extension for the Pats QB, he won’t sign anything until he gets back from vacation.

Ryan Allen has re-signed with the team and is coming back on a one-year deal. The veteran of six NFL seasons was just 20th in the NFL a year ago with a 45.1-average. However, Allen’s value lies in his directional punting and the ability to pin teams back inside their 20-yard line. In the Super Bowl against the Rams, he did so three times and could have been a candidate for the MVP of the game.

Malcolm Mitchell in his only NFL season

Malcolm Mitchell Forced to Call it a Career

Former Patriots WR Malcolm Mitchell had to finally come to the realization that his chronic knee woes won’t let him continue his fledgling NFL career and it was over just as it getting ready to take off. Mitchell had close to 10 surgeries on his knees between college and the NFL.

The Patriots knew his injury history when they drafted him in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He caught 32 passes for 401 yards and four touchdowns in his rookie and only season in the league. But the vast majority came in the second half of the season.

In Super Bowl LI, during the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, Mitchell caught five passes for 63 in the fourth quarter, helping the Patriots tie and then beat the Atlanta Falcons in overtime.

But another knee injury forced him to miss all of the 2017 season. When his knee didn’t respond to treatment, the Patriots released him in 2018. In January, he said he wanted to continue his football career, but sadly it was not to be. At an event at Georgia, he announced he was done with football.

After struggling with reading, he joined a women’s book club and later became an author of his own children’s book, “The Magician’s Hat”. He created the children’s literacy program, “Read with Malcolm” as well as the “Share the Magic Foundation.” Although his NFL career was painfully short, he is making a lasting impact off the field. And he’ll always have SB LI.

Expect the Patriots to Make a Tackle Selection Early in the Draft:

With the free agency losses of both Trent Brown and swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle, the tackle position on the Patriots offensive line has gotten much thinner. And with last year’s top draft choice, Isaiah Wynn (23rd overall selection) coming off of an Achilles injury, it makes things even more uncertain. That’s why we expect the Patriots to make a tackle selection early in the upcoming draft.

If Wynn is healthy and ready to go for the season, it would put he and veteran Marcus Cannon at the tackle positions. Wynn has yet to play a snap in the NFL and their backups are limited to practice squad player Cole Croston, Dan Skipper, and Ryker Matthews.

Even with the legendary Dante Scarnecchia coaching the offensive line, that leaves too much of an unknown factor in the mix. During our first mock draft, we had the Patriots taking Greg Little from Ole Miss as a tackle. He’s one of the best pass blockers in the draft and can play left or right tackle. He could be the swing tackle in 2019 and be prepared to take over for Cannon in the future if all works out well for Wynn.

Achilles injuries are different from everyone, Vince Wilfork told Mike Reiss that it took him a full year and a half before he felt right again.

Patriots Visible at Numerous Pro Day Workouts:

Bill Belichick was on hand at the recent Pro Day workouts in Alabama and Georgia getting an up-close look at several of the players who will hear their names called in the upcoming NFL Draft. Belichick, sporting an Alabama sweatshirt, no doubt courtesy of his buddy, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban seemed to be completely in his element.

Dante Scarnecchia, meanwhile, was working much closer to home, attending the workout for the Boston College players, who have several players who should be drafted next month. One player who was drawing interest from Scarnecchia is Eagles interior offensive lineman Chris Lindstrom. Lindstrom is from Dudley and parlayed an outstanding high school career at Shepherd Hill under the coaching tutelage of his father Chris who played in the NFL,  into being a four-year starter for the Eagles.

In just a month, the Patriots will begin voluntary workouts at Gillette Stadium.

Four Patriots Throw Support for Education Bill at the Statehouse:

Four of the Patriots, Devin McCourty, his brother Jason, Duron Harmon and Matthew Slater, all members of the advocacy group, the Players Coalition, testified on Friday in support of Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz’s education bill, the PROMISE Act.

The Players Coalition stated goal is to make an impact on social justice and racial equality at the federal, state and local levels through advocacy, awareness, education, and allocation of resources.

Chang-Diaz’s bill, one of several,  has been backed by teachers, parents, mayors and education advocates. And she got the blessing of four of the Patriots star players. The goal of the bill is to bridge the gap in education spending between richer and poorer communities.

“These young people have inspired us in our day-to-day lives. We know that they are the future of our region, our nation, and our world,” said Patriots safety Devin McCourty. “And we are confident that if we give them everything, we could give them a million things.”

“We are prepared to battle for our children,” said Devin McCourty.

Patriots Still Waiting on a  Gronkowski Decision:

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski still hasn’t decided whether to return for the 2019 NFL or to retire. Mike Giardi of the NFL Network said that several members of his family are worried about the long-term health of the big man, not just from the surgeries to his back, knee, and arm but also the blows to his head.

If Gronkowski does indeed retire, it would add nearly $10 million in salary cap space but also leave a tremendous hole at the tight end position. Regardless, the Patriots are expected to add the tight end position in the upcoming NFL draft where several intriguing options exist. They have to start grooming a potential successor even if he does return.

New TE Matt Lacosse was ecstatic after signing a two-year deal worth about $4.8 million last week. “It’s an honor to be here,” he said. “Great franchise, great players, great coaches. Just the history behind this franchise is unbelievable. Just to be here and to see all that happens here and to be a part of it is huge, it’s awesome.”

Lacosse will bring an immediate upgrade at the backup tight end position in the passing game as he should have little trouble passing Dwayne Allen’s 13 receptions in two years, including only 3 in 2018. However, Allen was one of the better blocking tight ends in the league. Lacosse has a long way to go there.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Continue to Add Depth:

The Buffalo Bills added a trio of players this week, signing guard Jon Feliciano from the Raiders as well as tight end Jake Fisher and linebacker Maurice Alexander as they continue to build the depth of their roster.

Feliciano is an intriguing player. Stuck on the depth charter behind center Rodney Hudson and guards Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson in Oakland, he started just eight games in four years but appeared in every one. Known as a very physical player who has a mean streak he’ll immediately vie for starting reps.

Fisher was an offensive tackle who lost some weight and converted to tight end. The former 2nd round draft pick is on a one-year contract. He’ll be used as a blocking tight end or an extra offensive lineman. Alexander came over from the Seahawks where he was a reserve safety and special teams’ contributor. He’ll probably be the “big nickel” linebacker and STs for the Bills.

Dolphins Sign Fitzpatrick, Host Edge Rusher:

The Miami Dolphins solved the immediate need for a quarterback by signing veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, making Miami the third AFC East team he’s played for. He’ll be the bridge QB for the time being while the team searches for hopefully their franchise QB. Miami watched Dwayne Haskins and Drew Lock at their respective Pro Days.

Another big need is at the edge. Cameron Wake is gone, Robert Quinn is rumored to be gone also very shortly, which leaves Miami with just Charles Harris. So, the Dolphins are bringing in TCU edge rusher L.J. Collier, who is a shorter, more compact player who was considered a late-round prospect. But a good week in Mobile at the Senior Bowl may have changed the Dolphins perspective on him.

Jets Need Help At Center, Wisniewski on the Radar:

The New York Jets have struggled to run the ball the past two seasons and have given up an inordinate amount of pressure up the A-gap because of poor play at the center position. Spencer Long had a nightmarish season and was cut loose. Many expected the Jets to target Matt Paradis from Denver or Mitch Morse of the Chiefs in free agency.

While the Jets are thought to be looking for a long-term solution during the draft, they are also thought to be looking at Stefan Wisniewski who spent the last three years with the Eagles. He’d be a stop-gap measure but regardless would bring an immediate upgrade in talent at the position.

With the Jets looking to make a big step in rebuilding the team with a young QB in Sam Darnold, they can’t have running for his life every week.

So, how was your week?

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Best Of Social Media: Preseason Week 2 Eagles vs Patriots

Robert Alvarez
August 18, 2018 at 11:52 am ET

The Patriots entered week 2 of the preseason with a little extra “hype” surrounding their matchup with the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.

While the game wasn’t going to be a true “rematch” of the defeat back in February, there were enough reminders of the Super Bowl thanks to the Eagles fanbase.

Quarterback Tom Brady, who didn’t see any action against the Redskins a week ago, was reportedly expected to play the entire first half, and he didn’t disappoint.

Here we go again!! @patriots

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

“No one ever drowned in sweat.” – U.S. Marine Corps. #GameDay

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

https://twitter.com/JoeGiza/status/1030217836642426881

https://twitter.com/JoeGiza/status/1030216116277309440

The Patriots, after forcing a three and out to start the game, Brady immediately kicked the offense into gear with some help from James “Sweet Feet” White

Brady, a perfect five for five on the opening drive, found Chris Hogan for the games first points.

7-0  Patriots early in the first.

In what would become a recurring theme throughout the night, the Patriots defense made Eagles quarterback Nick Foles uncomfortable, and quickly off the field.

A Stephen Gostkowski 37-yard field goal put the Patriots up 10-0  after one quarter of play while Tom Brady looked as smooth as ever.

At the start of the second quarter, the good feelings were brought to a halt, when rookie tackle Isaiah Wynn was carted off the field with an ankle injury.

It was then reported on Friday that Wynn tore his achilles and will miss the entire 2018 season.

The defense continued to make big plays, as newcomer Adrian Clayborn forced a strip sack that was recovered by rookie Ja’Whaun Bentley and returned 54 yards for a touchdown.

https://twitter.com/KVN_03/status/1030472370887294977

17-0 Patriots at the 12 minute mark of the second quarter.

Brady was in midseason competitive form.

WARNING, Language.

With 6:29 to go in the second quarter, the Eagles got on the scoreboard by way of a four yard touchdown pass from Nate Sudfeld to Shelton Gibson.

17-7 Patriots.

The new additions continued to shine on Thursday night, as wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson showed off his speed.

The catch and run led to a Gostkowski 49-yard field goal to bump the lead to  20-7 with 3:46 to go in the second.

James White and the offensive line aided Brady with another touchdown under two-minutes in the half.

At the Half the Patriots found themselves up 27-7 as Brady’s impressive night came to a close.

https://twitter.com/JoeGiza/status/1030267047761076225

In the second half, the young Patriots defense continued to impress as rookie Christian Sam came up with an interception.

The turnover led to Cordarrelle Patterson’s first touchdown as a Patriot from backup Brian Hoyer.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BmlwfyyFKfT/?hl=en&taken-by=ceeflashpee

34-7 Patriots at the 10:27 mark in the third quarter.

Midway through the third, the Eagles offense put together consecutive scoring drives for the first time all night, with Sudfeld finding Richard Rogers and Rashard Davis to bring the score to 34-20 after three quarters.

In the fourth quarter, Gostkowski nailed 29 yd field goal and that would be it for the scoring as the Patriots would go on to win their second preseason game of 2018 by a final score of 37-20 on an all around impressive showing by both sides of the ball.

Respect.

A post shared by New England Patriots (@patriots) on

A sweet shout out from @sweetfeet.

A post shared by New England Patriots (@patriots) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BmlRUXfBPu4/?taken-by=tombrady

https://www.instagram.com/p/BmlOj_fnj8Q/?taken-by=lindaholliday_

Back to the practice field. Good win last night! @jwhiteprod thanks for pic

A post shared by Patrick Chung (@23patrickchung) on

Year 8

A post shared by Adrian Clayborn (@ajaclay99) on

Patriots Announce Jersey Numbers For 2018 Rookie Class

Robert Alvarez
August 9, 2018 at 6:25 pm ET

For the first time in their NFL careers, the New England Patriots 2018 rookie class was officially assigned jersey numbers on Thursday.

The full list, which is still subject to change, has number assignments that align more closely with each players respective position as opposed to the “non-traditional” numbers the rookies donned since their first days in pads this past spring.

At the start of training camp, most rookies wore numbers in the 50’s and 60’s, making it difficult for observers to differentiate between them and the veterans.

According to 985 The Sports Hub’s Matt Dolloff, the Patriots active roster is still dealing with duplicate numbers for multiple players, but they aren’t on the same side of the ball when viewing tonight’s game.

The full list is as followed

5 – Quarterback Danny Etling

7 – Punter Corey Bojorquez

14 – Wide Receiver Braxton Berrios

22 – Running Back Ralph Webb

29 – Running Back Sony Michel

33 – Cornerback A.J. Moore

34 – Cornerback J.C. Jackson

35 – Cornerback Keion Crossen

42 – Cornerback Duke Dawson

44 – Linebacker Christian Sam

45 – Defensive End Trent Harris

48 – Fullback Henry Poggi

51 – Linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley

76 – Offensive Lineman Isaiah Wynn

85 -Tight End Ryan Izzo

92 – Defensive Tackle Frank Herron

97 – Defensive Tackle John Atkins

The 2018 New England Patriots On Social Media

Robert Alvarez
August 2, 2018 at 6:03 pm ET

The following list is a reference point for the 2018 New England Patriots social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and YouTube.

(NOTE: Most Snapchat account links only available within app and are not listed publicly)

Ryan Allen 

David Andrews

Ja’Whaun Bentley

Braxton Berrios

Brandon Bolden

Tom Brady

Kenny Britt

Rex Burkhead

Marcus Cannon

Patrick Chung

Adrian Clayborn

Duke Dawson

Phillip Dorsett

Eric Decker

Nate Ebner

Julian Edelman

Danny Etling

Trey Flowers

Marquis Flowers

Mike Gillislee

Stephon Gilmore

Rob Gronkowski –

Lawrence Guy

Duron Harmon

Dont’a Hightower

Jeremy Hill

Chris Hogan

Jacob Hollister

Brian Hoyer

Cyrus Jones

Jonathan Jones

Ted Karras

Harvey Langi

Brandon King

Devin Lucien

Shaq Mason

Jason and Devin McCourty

Sony Michel

Malcolm Mitchell

Cordarrelle Patterson

Derek Rivers

Elandon Roberts

Eric Rowe

Christian Sam

Danny Shelton

Joe Thuney

Vincent Valentine

Kyle Van Noy

LaAdrian Waddle

James White

Deatrich Wise

Isaiah Wynn

Isaiah Wynn Fields Punt, Earns Teammates Two Days Off

Robert Alvarez
July 31, 2018 at 9:49 pm ET

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick may preach “No Days Off” when it comes to the necessary hard work and dedication required to succeed in the National Football League, but even he understands, a break now and then is good too.

During Monday nights training camp practice inside Gillette Stadium, fans saw the lighter side of Coach Belichick when rookie offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn attempted to field a Ryan Allen punt that could earn his teammates two days off with a catch.

Watch what unfolded below.

https://twitter.com/iwynn77/status/1024131269825835009?s=21

New England Patriots Training Camp Primer – Offensive Line

Steve Balestrieri
July 3, 2018 at 8:21 am ET

Health is the Biggest Question Mark

The Patriots head into training camp in just about three weeks now and as we’ve been saying, the competition this year at a number of positions will tell the tale on who goes and who remains. This has been a tumultuous offseason in many different ways. The Patriots lost a lot of key veteran players and all of the off-field hoopla surrounding Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski have been non-stop.

Soon that will all be behind us as the players get back on the field and we start talking about football again. In the next segment of our 2018 Patriots Training Camp primers is the Patriots Offensive Line.

The team lost left tackle Nate Solder this spring as he signed a big money contract with the Giants. He’s protected Tom Brady’s blind side for several years and done it well. Replacing a trusted veteran like Solder who was as good off the field for the team as well as on it.

So, with that in mind who are locked in and who’s on the bubble?

Roster Locks: Trent Brown, Isaiah Wynn, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon

The Patriots traded for Brown with the 49ers this spring, giving up a 3rd round draft pick in return. Although he’s played mostly right tackle in the NFL, he says he can play anywhere and the team may move him to left tackle.

Brown is a mammoth-sized human being. Listed at 6’8, 359 pounds, he’s every bit of that and possibly even bigger. But for a very large man, he has surprisingly good footwork. And he’s just 25 years old. Brown got some great kudos from Denver’s Von Miller who said this about the new Patriot:

“He’s the best right tackle in the National Football League,” Miller said of Brown. “And he may even be a top-five tackle, period, in the National Football League. There’s not another tackle who’s that tall, that big and can move the way he moves.”

The team used a 1st round draft pick (#23 overall) on Wynn and although he played left tackle for the Bulldogs, he projects to be a left guard in the NFL. Wynn is short for a tackle, 6’2, 302 but both he and Brown were competing for the left tackle spot but during the spring, they lined up next to one another with Wynn at left guard.

Andrews, Mason, and Cannon have been starters and remain solid pieces who have performed very well. The only questions with the locks revolve around health. Brown and Wynn are coming off of shoulder surgery, while Cannon was placed on IR late last season.

If this unit is the starting five on Week 1 and we believe that they will be, the team should be in a very good position for the offensive line play to start the season. Cannon’s availability physically is the only question. Will he be ready to go? Or will he begin camp on the PUP?

Near Roster Locks: Joe Thuney, LaAdrian Waddle

Thuney missed the spring minicamp with an injury and his spot was taken by Wynn. It will be interesting to note if Thuney is healthy for training camp, he may a fight on his hands to get back his starting left guard spot from the talented rookie from Georgia.

There is a possibility that Thuney will start training camp on the PUP if he’s still not ready to go. Health is the only possibility we’d see with him not making the 53-man roster.

Waddle is a valuable swing tackle who they brought back during free agency despite his getting feelers from other teams. He can play either side and has performed well when called upon. And with the long season that the team faces, he’ll be called on again this year.

On the Bubble: Cole Croston, Jason King, James Ferentz, Andrew Jelks, Ted Karras, Matt Tobin, Luke Bowanko, Ulrick John

The Patriots have several players vying for one or possibly two spots along the OL. Our feeling here is that Croston nails down one of those slots. We penciled him in for first 53-man roster projection. He’s versatile and can fill in at guard or tackle if needed.

But his spot will have to be earned so, the competition factor again will come into play. The team brought back King this spring, so that speaks highly for him. Karras has made the team as a backup and can play guard or center.

What may open the door for one or two more of these players is if Thuney or Cannon or maybe both are placed on PUP to start training camp. But with the demanding and outstanding OL coach Dante Scarnecchia back in the fold for another year, one thing is for certain. He’ll get the very best out of this group.

While as a whole, they have to improve but in pass blocking and in the running game, Coach Scar made it clear back in the spring, “I really like the guys we have here right now,” he said during the OTAs.

So physical questions aside, the Patriots offensive line may be very different, at least on the left side this year but they also have the potential to be very good and better than the 2017 unit as well.

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 53-man Roster Projection 1.0 Post Minicamp Edition

Steve Balestrieri
June 18, 2018 at 9:39 am ET

With minicamp over, it is time to a very early look at a New England Patriots 53-man roster projection. We got a brief glimpse of what the players can do in the Bill Belichick system during the spring workouts and although no one was wearing pads, it was as close to actual football activities as the players will get prior to training camp beginning in about five weeks.

We’ll start posting training camp primers by position very soon to break down the current 90 man roster to a workable 53-man roster.

Offense –
Quarterbacks: (3)
Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Danny Etling

The Patriots will probably go with three QBs this year. Etling has shown enough in the spring to earn that much moving into camp. Will he push Hoyer for the backup job this summer? Very doubtful. Hoyer has a comfort level in the system and the confidence in the coaches that he can step up and play well in an emergency. Etling has a long way to go in that regard.

Running backs: (5)

Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, Jeremy Hill, James Develin

Sony Michel looked like a rookie at times this spring, making mistakes, blowing assignments…all the things that rookies do in assimilating into a new system. That’s part of the learning process but shouldn’t affect his availability at all.

Sony Michel after practice. (SBalestrieri photo)

However, his upside was also there for all to see. He’s a threat to run or receive and showed a smoothness in the passing game with good hands. Along with Rex Burkhead and James White, the Patriots passing offense using their running backs should be very difficult to stop in 2018.

But that learning process may give the coaches pause enough to carry the veteran Hill to make the comeback attempt with the Patriots in the early going of the season. That may be bad news for Mike Gillislee and veteran ST presence, Brandon Bolden. I know, we cut Bolden every year and every year he’s out there making big plays on the special teams, which he’s known for.

Tight ends: (3)
Rob Gronkowski, Jacob Hollister, Dwayne Allen

The fact that Hollister had a great spring shouldn’t surprise anyone. He made the team a year ago as a UDFA and played, although sparingly during the season. He needed to bulk up and get stronger, and it appears he has. Allen has the firm backing of the head coach and is like an extra tackle out there as a blocker. If he can get anything going in the passing game, it is a bonus.

Jacob Hollister beefed up in the offseason and had an excellent spring. (SBalestrieri photo of 2017 training camp)


Wide Receivers: (6)
Chris Hogan, Jordan Matthews, Cordarrelle Patterson, Kenny Britt, Matthew Slater, Malcolm Mitchell (Suspended: Julian Edelman)

Edelman’s looming suspension, unless his appeal is successful will give one Patriots WR at least a month’s reprieve. In this case, it is Malcolm Mitchell. Mitchell’s status has zero to do with ability but everything to do with availability. He missed the majority of the spring but the good news was, the Patriots were taking a cautious approach with him.

Can he stay on the field this summer? If he does, he’s a lock, if he can’t then difficult decisions will have to be made by the coaches. There is a lot of competition to be had here at this position this summer, Philip Dorsett, Riley McCarron and Braxton Berrios will all be vying for spots. And other than Hogan, and Edelman, everything is on the table. And that includes Slater who is a WR in name only.

Offensive line: (8)
Trent Brown, Isaiah Wynn, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Joe Thuney, Cole Croston, LaAdrian Waddle

The state of the offensive line, if everyone was healthy would be very bright. But injuries abound and because of that, there are plenty of questions right now. Thuney hasn’t made an appearance yet, Wynn and Brown are coming off of shoulder injuries, Cannon is still hurt after going on IR last year. This position will bear watching this summer.

Defense
Defensive line: (8)
Trey Flowers, Malcom Brown, Danny Shelton, Adrian Clayborn, Deatrich Wise, Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine, Derek Rivers

No big surprises here, the Patriots really liked Valentine in his rookie season and if he’s healthy (a big if), he noses out Butler who played well last year on the inside. If Valentine doesn’t have the same impact, Butler or one of the other edge players Eric Lee, Keionta Davis, Trent Harris may be able to step up and be noticed.

Linebacker: (7)

Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Christian Sam, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Marquis Flowers, Harvey Langi, Brandon King

Roberts got a lot of reps with the “starters” this spring, Bill Belichick hates the term 1st and 2nd team during OTAs but the fact they drafted Bentley speaks volumes. I’m going out on a limb here and say Langi beats him out for an inside LB spot. King is an ST maven but practices with the LBs.

Harvey Langi (SBalestrieri photo)


Cornerback: (6)
Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, Eric Rowe, Duke Dawson, J.C. Jackson, Keion Crosson (PUP: Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones)

Jackson, the UDFA got quite a few looks opposite Gilmore this spring and looked pretty solid. Eric Rowe didn’t have a great spring and McCourty was…unused. Neither is a worrisome development yet. But with Gilmore looking outstanding thus far and a young crop of corners entering the picture, this position looks in good shape.

Safety: (4)
Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner

Once again I go to minicamp and watch Gronkowski and Hollister smoke Jordan Richards in coverage and say, “surely the coaches see this too….right?” But when the smoke clears, we’ll see what happens. Ebner and King are STs first and safety/hybrid LB second. So the depth could use a jolt. Two words:  Kenny Vaccaro.

Specialists: (3)
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Corey Bojorquez, long-snapper Joe Cardona

Jumping the gun here but UDFA rookie punter Corey Bojorquez can really put a charge into the ball. We watched him during minicamp and were thoroughly impressed with his leg strength and hang time. He has a long way to go to beat out Ryan Allen and needs work on his directional punting and pinning opponents deep, things that Allen is very good at. But for the simple fact of competition, we’ll give him the early edge. The other two will sleep well during camp as no one has been brought in to challenge them. That must feel nice.

 

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 5-13, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
May 13, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, and a very Happy Mother’s Day to all of the Moms out there. Here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 5-13, & AFC East Notes

Quick Hitters: One of the treats of the spring is getting to hear the assistant coaches speak, as in most of the NFL, that isn’t very often. Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia was on hand and asked about his newest acquisition in top draft pick Isaiah Wynn. Scarnecchia spoke highly on the rookie’s potential stating, “he was a really good player in the best conference in America…he played left tackle and guard so, that’s what I like about him. He’s smart, as tough as they come…we look at three traits, smart, tough and athletic for the position. We’re going to give him the opportunity to play left tackle, guard and we’ll see. That is what training camp and the preseason is for.

Ivan Fears, the Patriots running back coach was smiling too when talking about fellow first-round pick and fellow Georgia Bulldog Sony Michel.”They loved the kid down there at Georgia, all you could get was great accolades about him as a player and as a person. We’ve only had the one meeting this morning in the meeting room but it seems like we’re going to have some fun.”

Josh McDaniels made it clear that he’s very grateful to be back in New England for another season from a personal and professional standpoint. His family is heavily rooted here but he did make it clear, he’d like to be a head coach again. McDaniels was disappointed by not worried about having Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski at the voluntary workouts thus far in the spring.

Brian Flores, the team’s linebacker coach and the defensive coordinator without a title, who will be calling the defensive signals this season, isn’t worried about titles, just helping all of the players get better. “I try to think as a player. What’s the best way to teach this? What’s the best technique for this specific player?” And as for the style, the Patriots defense will play this year? “I’m passionate about this game, passionate about coaching this team. This is going to sound like a Bill Belichick-coached team: tough, smart, dependable, cool under pressure. That’s been a good formula. I’ll go with that one.”

Some good news to hear…Malcolm Mitchell who missed all of 2017 with knee issues after coming on late in his 2016 rookie season is expected to be a full participant for the OTAs beginning on May 21. Mitchell caught 32 passes for 402 yards and four scores, with the vast majority coming down the stretch. He added 6 catches for 70 yards (including five in the fourth quarter) of the Patriots Super Bowl comeback win over the Falcons.

Patriots Offensive linemen align their helmets after practice. (SBalestrieri photo)

Patriots Sign Six Rookie Draft Picks and Nine UDFAs:
The Patriots announced that they had signed all of their Day 3 Draft picks and nine rookie UDFAs.They inked fifth-round draft pick LB Ja’Whaun Bentley, sixth-round draft picks LB Christian Sam and WR Braxton Berrios and 2018 seventh-round picks QB Danny Etling, DB Keion Crossen, and TE Ryan Izzo. Terms of the contracts were not announced.

The UDFAs, who fans may not be read up on as much consisted of:
CB A.J. Moore: Moore is a slightly undersized corner for the boundary at 5’11 but played primarily nickel at Ole Miss and ran a 4:40 in the 40-yard dash. Interesting stat- in 39 games, Moore didn’t have an interception.

TE Shane Wimann: Wimann is a 6’3, 255-pound tight end from Northern Illinois. He had 30 receptions and seven touchdowns in 2017. He has average speed but shows nice hands extends his arms well showing a nice catch radius. Below average blocker.

DT John Atkins: Another Georgia Bulldog, the big man inside (6’3, 321) is primarily a run stuffer and was known as the man who helped keep Roquan Smith clean. Phone booth worker inside with very little pass rush ability.

CB J.C. Jackson: Jackson is solidly built and in our opinion is just realizing his potential. We wrote about him in detail here. He is an intriguing player that may fight for a roster spot and earn some reps at a very crowded position.

DE Trent Harris: Harris led the Miami Hurricanes with 8.5 sacks and 37 tackles in 2017. Nicknamed “Toolbox Trent” because of his array of moves. Smaller for a defensive end, he may move to LB with the Pats. Our analysis of him is here:

WR Chris Lacy: Lacy is a 6’3, 205-pound wide receiver from Oklahoma State. He has good size and decent top end speed but struggled in the underneath routes and didn’t have great production. Some experience as a returner.

RB Ralph Webb: Webb was a very productive player from Vanderbilt who reportedly got a decent signing bonus from the Pats, which usually means he may be a keeper. While a workhorse type of player who brings it every day in practice and the games, his play speed will be something to watch. He was considered too slow for the NFL by most draftniks.

DT Frank Herron: Herron, despite a standout performance at the East-West Shrine game didn’t come with high expectations into the NFL Draft. He had only so-so production at LSU with 21 tackles and a forced fumble. An early-season suspension may have been a red-flag which hurt his stock.

WR Darren Andrews: Andrews’ name was a surprise as no one had listed him as a Patriot target. Andrews was a shorter, stockier wide receiver who was a good slot receiver at UCLA. He is quick out of his breaks and finds the open spots on the field. Suffered a torn ACL at the end of the season, he may not be 100 percent yet.

From Mike Regalado on Fansided: “Andrews is not the quickest receiver, but if the Patriots need someone to go out and reel in short-yardage passes consistently, especially from one of the best signal callers in history, Tom Brady, then the former Bruin is their man. Andrews runs clean routes, has a solid position on defenders and can grind out yards after contact.”

Patriots Cut Garcia, Illness Takes Its Toll on Promising Tackle:
More bad news for Antonio Garcia, the Patriots third-round draft pick in 2017 (85th Overall) out of Troy. The team is releasing Garcia with a non-football-illness designation, ESPN’s Field Yates reported on Friday

His rookie season never got off the ground as the illness he suffered, blood clots in his lungs caused him to be placed on IR and the medication to combat those caused a loss of about 40 pounds.

After the Patriots moved up to take him in the 3rd round last year, he was considered the heir apparent to LT Nate Solder. He took part in the early portion of training camp including joint practices with the Jaguars. Then his illness sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

Earlier this spring, he posted on Instagram that he was cleared for football again by his doctors and his weight was again up to his college playing days. He had been taking part in the voluntary portion of the off-season workouts. This has to mean he’s had another setback. Very sad to see a young man’s dreams taken away so close to realizing them. We all hope he makes a full recovery.

Patriots Will be 4-Men Short During OTAs:
With OTAs starting next week, the Patriots will be short at least four players and all of them from the offensive line.

New additions Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown are both coming off of shoulder surgery in the offseason and aren’t expected to be ready. Marcus Cannon went on IR late last season and isn’t expected to be ready until training camp and Joe Thuney just had foot surgery and likewise won’t be ready until training camp.

As Dante Scarnecchia said, he’s very excited to work with the group that they have. But he won’t see them on the field until camp starts in late July.

Patricia Story Makes an Appearance 22 Years Later:
Former Patriots defensive coordinator and current Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia is facing questions over a sexual assault case from 22 years ago when he was a college football player on spring break at South Padre Island.

The Lions’ standard background check came back clear because they checked only for criminal convictions. Patricia was arrested and charged but the charges were later dropped. The Patriots released a statement that they too had never heard of this incident which was eight years before Patricia was hired in New England.

According to the indictment, Patricia and his friend and former college teammate, Greg Dietrich at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, then 21, had sex with the woman without her consent through the use of “physical force and violence.”

The alleged victim was a 21-year-old Indiana college student on spring break who had met the football players on the beach. She told police that she was asleep in a friend’s room at the Radisson hotel at about 6 p.m. when Patricia and Dietrich burst into the room and took turns assaulting her, the newspaper reported.

The case was dropped because the woman told prosecutors that she couldn’t take the stress of a trial, which is very common in those cases. During a sexual assault trial, often times the victim is more vilified than the accused.

In these cases, it all comes down to whether or not there was consent. The sex act is usually not even a question. There is no way to know which side is telling the truth in this case, as there just isn’t enough information to make any kind of definitive statement on whether the case had merit. Perhaps more information will come to light in the coming weeks.

The South Padre Island area normally has about five sexual assault cases every spring break. Patricia is adamant he did no wrong on that night in question and the Lions are standing by him. If indeed he is innocent of those charges, then this was a very unnecessary blight on what has been a very stellar NFL career.

But make no mistake, the crime of sexual assault or rape is a vile act and has no place in our society. We’ll reserve judgment for now as there isn’t enough information to accurately sift through.  

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Josh Allen Lost for Words Meeting Bills Legend Kelly:
The Buffalo Bills quarterback of the future met the quarterback of the Bills glory years and he was more rattled meeting Jim Kelly than he was in his first NFL practice. Head coach Sean McDermott introduced the pair after the session and Allen was in awe.

“I’m still shaking from meeting him,” Allen admitted.

Allen is well aware of the Bills history with Kelly and the famed K-gun offense that went to four straight Super Bowls during his tenure.

“I can’t say anything else but he’s a special man. He’s been through a lot,” he said. “And to be in the spirits that he is and to come out here and show support for the Buffalo Bills, that just shows to me how much he means to Buffalo and Buffalo means to him. It’s awesome.”

Kelly who just had another bout with cancer in his jaw, walked slowly with the aid of a can and still has trouble speaking but appeared upbeat and smiled, giving a thumbs up for photos.

Allen has a long way to go in his development but forging a relationship with a Bills legend is definitely getting off on the right foot with the fanbase. Buffalo has been searching for a franchise QB since Kelly retired in 1996.

Dolphins Looking For Fitzpatrick to be the Game Changer on Defense:
The Miami Dolphins defense was generous to opposing quarterbacks in 2017. The Fins QB rating against their defense a year ago was 94.8, fifth worst in the NFL. They’re hoping that their first pick and 11th over Minkah Fitzpatrick is going to go a long way in changing things in that respect.

Miami’s corners are good, where they were leaky was at safety, especially free safety where tight ends and running backs routinely feasted. Fitzpatrick was the best defender on the national champion Alabama Crimson Tide defense.

The Dolphins may decide to run a version of a 4-2-5 defense which the Patriots call their “big nickel” where a safety takes the place of a linebacker. Fitzpatrick will no doubt be tasked with coverage in that role. It is a role he’s perfectly suited for.

On offense, the Dolphins are rolling the dice in 2018 and hoping that QB Ryan is ready to go and healed from his ACL injury and finally ready to assume the mantle of being “the guy” for Miami. Behind him is just Brock Osweiler, David Fales, and the recently signed Bryce Petty.

Jets Tight End Position Not Conducive to Helping a Young QB:
The New York Jets believe that they finally have their franchise QB in Sam Darnold and he’ll be watched closely if he takes the field in 2018 as many expect he will and take over the reins from Josh McCown.

But what nearly most successful quarterbacks have, and especially what a young one will need is a go-to guy, a tight end that can be used as an emergency valve when the pocket begins to collapse all around him.

A look at the Jets tight end situation isn’t going to make anyone quake in fear of shutting them down. Clive Walford has 70 career receptions, 768 yards, and 10 scores. Eric Tomlinson and Neal Sterling have 26 combined catches between them. Two second-year players, Bucky Hodges and Jordan Leggett are looking for their first NFL receptions.

The pressure will be on 4th round draft pick Chris Herndon to not only make the team but to put in quality reps and provide some meaningful production this season. Herndon is still a very raw prospect and while he didn’t have any great production at Miami, he is very athletic and could be a factor down the road with the right coaching and experience. But for Year 1, it could be a struggle for both the young TE and QB.

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

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

New England Patriots News 5-6 & AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
May 6, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 5-6, & AFC East Notes

Quick Hitters: One of the nicer stories to see this week was about a woman in the Philadelphia area who is a huge Philadelphia Eagles fan needed a kidney transplant. She found a matched donor from the New Haven, CT area who, you guessed it is a life-long Patriots fan.

The woman, Patricia Pizzimenti,  recognized the irony of all of it, just after their transplant on March 8 and after meeting her donor, Michael Houlihan made up t-shirts that captured the humanity of the moment and the humor in it all. Well done all around.

Bill Belichick was named to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition by Donald Trump as was former Yankee great Mariano Rivera, Herschel Walker, Misty May-Treanor, Natalie Gulbis and Dr. Oz.

This is a tradition that has been going on since probably the late 1950s and of course set off quick hot takes that seek to politicize everything between “the Donald” and the Patriots ever since that “MAGA” hat was seen in a locker in Foxboro a couple of years ago. Does this mean that the Yankees have a “Trump Problem” like a well-known media outlet decried about the Patriots? How did Bill react?

“The physical fitness of children in our country is an apolitical issue that is extremely important to our future. … I was humbled to be asked and honored to accept, as I would have done for any administration.”

Belichick’s statement attempted to depoliticize this but, I guarantee this will be raised in his next press conference, not as an honor but about his political connection with #45.

Robert Kraft was courtside at the Celtics Game 2 against the 76ers with recently freed rapper Meek Mill, and Gucci Mane (Mane is a C’s Fan and a friend of Jaylen Brown) and the three were seen having an animated discussion. Chalk that one up to something you would have never dreamed as a possible scenario a few months ago.

So, on to the news this week, but first …

The Culture of Winning, the Biggest Cause of Tension in the Patriots Locker Room:
After hearing ad nauseum the latest daily dose of the “tension in the Patriots” between the coach and two of his star players as everyone becomes an amateur profiler from watching “Criminal Minds” and are psychoanalyzing Gronk’s tweets, and Brady’s body language and piecing together the subliminal messages that may have passed between all three…please.

Is there tension in Foxboro? You betcha there is. Is it new or anything more so than they’ve ever had before? No. So why is there so much tension there?

It is called a culture of winning. Bill Belichick knows and has witnessed, in his 35+ years in the NFL, the first thing that will destroy a great football team is being self-satisfied and complacent. The “we’re the best” and we’ve earned it” smug attitude will get a team knocked off their perch faster than a speeding bullet.

And this isn’t anything new or unique, as I pointed out in a recent Patriots 4th and 2 podcast, while I was never a professional athlete, I spent more than a dozen years as a Green Beret in the U.S. Army Special Forces. If there is a bigger testosterone-driven, Type A personality atmosphere bigger than a professional sports team, that is it.

After everything we did, we’d do an After-Action Review, (Hot washes, we’d call them) and they were very critical of every minutia of the operation. If you had a thin skin, you wouldn’t last long. There was tension every day. That is what made us so close to one another. It is also what made the unit so great.  

So, how does Belichick stop the Patriots from falling into this trap, and has succeeded far beyond any of his contemporaries? He doesn’t allow any complacency or self-satisfaction. As Brady said in the Jim Gray interview, if anyone bothered to watch the entire thing, besides the “I PLEAD THE FIFTH,” comment, Brady explained how Belichick would constantly harp in film studies on the things the team did wrong to keep them sharp, even during an 18-0 run during the 2007 season.

Brady did a pretty good Belichick impression and then followed it up with saying, “Humble pie was served,” adding “it was a very grounding force for all of us.” And this isn’t anything new, the Patriots and Belichick have always been known as the never satisfied bunch because Belichick is always working on keeping the players moving forward.

Because once a player or a team is satisfied, they stop growing and will start losing. Is it a difficult environment to play in, feeling like you’re constantly on the cusp of being cut and having to prove yourself day after day. Of course, it is. Do players, even great ones like Brady and Gronkowski chafe at that treatment? No doubt. But while they’ll chafe at it, they know, they won’t reach their full potential without it.

The Patriots have won at least 10 games for 15 years in a row. No one else in this era can come close to touching that. Russ Goldman, our host of the “4th and 2” podcast did a soccer show recently where he interviewed one of the top goaltenders of the English premier league, Asmir Begovic who won a championship and is coincidentally a die-hard Patriots fan. He asked Begovic if he’s had tension in a locker room in the EPL (English Premier League) and he laughed. He told him every day there is tension and it comes from trying to win championships.

Hopefully, Russ will schedule Begovic on our podcast again soon and we can revisit that conversation for our listeners. Much rather do that than to respond to quotes from the ultracrepidarianism that seem to be rampant on certain sports talk radio shows.

Matt Ryan’s Contract Is Testament on How Difficult it is to Find a Franchise QB:
The Falcons have given QB Matt Ryan a mammoth five-year, $100 million dollar deal with $94.5 million of it fully guaranteed. The other $5.5million is guaranteed for injury only. Ryan’s contract will pay him $30 million dollars this season. He is now the highest paid QB in the NFL. For comparison purposes, Tom Brady will make $20.5 million in 2018.

Ryan has always been a good but not great quarterback in his 10-year NFL career since coming out of Boston College. That changed in 2016 when he had a career year and led the Falcons to the Super Bowl where they narrowly lost to the Patriots in the first overtime game in NFL history.

But it is telling on how hard it is to find…and keep franchise QBs in the league. Of the top five paid NFL QBs in 2018, (Ryan, Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo, Matthew Stafford and Derek Carr) only Ryan has a playoff win (4-6 career record in the postseason). Carr and Garoppolo have yet to appear in the postseason and the other two are 0-4.

Aaron Rodgers has to be looking at this and smiling as he’s soon due for a new contract and will most certainly command more money than any of those five. Brady at $20.5 million? Is an absolute bargain

Patriots Decline Options on Shelton, Brown, Dorsett for 2019:
More than a few eyebrows were raised this week when the Patriots declined their fifth-year options on defensive tackles, Danny Shelton, Malcolm Brown, and Phillip Dorsett.

On the Wednesday deadline, the Patriots are betting on the market for the defensive tackles being less than the $7.1 million that would be their financial boon in the final year of their rookie deals. And call it what it is. This is a financial decision, not one based on performance.

Brown has been generally good for the Patriots on the field and Shelton hasn’t played a down yet. The team still has the option of signing one or both with extensions during the regular season. Dorsett, on the other hand, is more of an open and shut case. He’s hardly a lock for even making the roster at this point with a crowded field during the upcoming training camp. Dorsett had trouble getting in tune with Tom Brady and the offense in 2017. He had only 12 catches on the season.

Reps are going to be hard to come by in the Patriots offense next season. With Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell back, Chris Hogan healthy, and Rob Gronkowski back in the fold, reps will be earned. My player to watch is Jordan Matthews for the wide receivers, but we shall see who earns the looks this summer.

Spring Reps at Tackle Will Be Interesting to Chart:
Right now, on paper, the Patriots have a ton of depth at tackle. Tackles like cornerbacks is something you can never have too many of. But when the OTAs and minicamp begins, don’t expect to hear of too many of them being on the field.

Although Tony Garcia was supposedly given a clean bill of health after his blood clot issues in his lungs, expect the Patriots to be particularly cautious with him in the spring and allow him to acclimate back into playing shape.

Ditto for top draft pick Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown who the team recently drafted in the 1st round and then traded for soon after. Both had shoulder surgery in the winter and while they both claim to be healthy, the team will probably take things slow with both. And Marcus Cannon, the team’s starting right tackle from 2017?

He was placed on IR due to a foot/ankle injury late last season and isn’t expected to be ready until June, which probably puts everything thru the team’s minicamp out of the question.

The first time we’ll probably see all of these players on the field at the same time will be training camp. That will give them time to carve out roles for themselves. But at the same time, the other players on the roster, who will be fighting for reps/roster spots will get a leg up on the competition.

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Hire Dan Morgan as Director of Player Personnel:
The Buffalo Bills have made a solid hire with the signing of Dan Morgan who will head up Buffalo’s scouting department.  Morgan was an All-Pro linebacker for the Carolina Panthers during his seven-year playing career.

He became a scouting intern for the Seattle Seahawks and worked his way up through the ranks as a pro scout and was eventually promoted to Assistant Director of Pro Personnel in 2013, and the Director of Pro Personnel in 2015.

He takes the place of Brian Gaine who left to become the Houston Texans General Manager. Bills GM Brandon Beane spoke to the media about Morgan and believes he is prepared for the job.

“The great thing about Seattle is they allowed him to get out on the road some. So even though he was doing pro, he was on the road doing college stuff. His main background is on the pro side, but he’s touched college as well and that makes him a good fit for the role.”

Dolphins Claim QB Bryce Petty Off Waivers From the Jets:
The Miami Dolphins didn’t wait long to snag QB Bryce Petty after he was released by the New York Jets. Petty was without a team less than 24 hours when he was scooped up by Miami.

Many had the Dolphins targeting a QB early in the 2018 NFL, but they eschewed that and didn’t even take a developmental one. Instead, turning their picks in the first two rounds into DB Minkah Fitzpatrick and TE Mike Gesicki

Petty has started in seven career games while with the Jets going 1-6 and completing just 53 percent of his passes. With Ryan Tannehill expected to be fully healthy this summer after missing all of 2017, Petty will be battling Brock Osweiler and David Fales for backup QB duties.

Todd Bowles Cracks Up Media After First Jets Rookie Practice:
The New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles is usually a quiet, presence on the podium during the Jets press conferences. After Sam Darnold’s first rookie practice on the Jets, the media rushed to ask Bowles his first impressions of the Jets rookie QB.

Bowles, having fun with the moment, came out of character for a bit and in mock enthusiasm, slammed his open hand on the podium and shouted, “He was great! I want him to play right now!”

That cracked up the media members who have to ask these questions but it also diffused the questions for a bit…at least. As Bowles was saying, Darnold has a long way to go to learn the Jets offense and it is going to take time. But they won’t hold him back, they want him to progress at his own rate.

Darnold said all the right things, calling himself a naive rookie just trying to fit in, but in truth he’s anything but. Expectations are thru the roof with him, whether he wants it or is ready. The team will have patience but Darnold knows all eyes will be on him all summer.

“It’s just really cool how excited they are about me being here,” he said. “It’s really awesome to have that feeling, that you feel wanted. Whether I’m wanted or not, I’m going to come in here and do my thing.”

For now, Josh McCown is the starter and Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater and Christian Hackenberg will be all in the mix, but once he’s deemed ready, the job will be his to lose. Jets fans, hungry for a franchise QB since the days of Joe Namath, are expecting much, much more.  

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.

Friday Patriots Notebook 4/27: Two Georgia Bulldogs Added; AFC East Sees Two QBs Drafted

Ian Logue
April 27, 2018 at 9:13 am ET

It’s Friday and here’s a look at this morning’s top stories.

Patriots Add Two Bulldogs – The Patriots stuck to the offensive side of the ball on Thursday night during Round 1 of the NFL Draft and took two players out of Georgia, grabbing offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn and running back Sony Michel in the first round.

With Bill Belichick having spent time at Georgia’s Pro Day last month, he must have obviously been pleased with what he saw after selecting two players from the University.  Wynn’s addition is interesting primarily because he was sidelined that day during the workout while recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum.  However, Belichick must have been pleased with what he saw on film and with what he heard, which gave him enough confidence to spend their first pick on him.  Wynn is reportedly a well-respected player, having been named one of four permanent captains during his time at Georgia.

Wynn and Michel are the latest two Bulldogs to join New England’s roster, with Malcolm Mitchell having been drafted in 2016 and center David Andrews having joined the team as an undrafted player in 2015.  Andrews has become a key player on New England’s offensive line and Wynn admitted that Andrews was helpful back when the newcomer was just a freshman.

“Pretty close. I’m actually very close with him,” Wynn told reporters Thursday night when asked about his relationship with New England’s center. “He was, coming in as a freshman at Georgia, he was one of the guys who was like a big brother and took me under his wing. I just learned a lot from him coming into my freshman year because as a freshman it’s kind of rough just getting adjusted, but David Andrews helped me a lot. He helped me a lot.”

As for Michel, he’s an interesting addition.  Looking at his numbers, he was clearly an explosive player, averaging 6.1 yards per carry rushing the football, along with 9.7 yards per reception. He rushed for 3613 yards on 590 carries during his career along with 33 rushing touchdowns, as well as catching 64 passes for 621 yards and six touchdowns out of the backfield.

But despite being a tremendous athlete, he’s definitely not afraid of contact, which you can see below:

Michel told reporters he was excited to see Wynn drafted, with the offensive lineman having been roommates with him in college.  Even better, now they’re NFL teammates.

“I shot him a couple of texts. I’m excited for him, especially him being one of my roommates in college,” said Michel. “I’ve seen how hard he works, so I was very excited for him in the moment. I shot him a couple of texts. I knew he had a lot going on so I really couldn’t have too much interaction with him, but just talking back and forth I was just expressing my emotions for how I feel about his situation.”

The one question with Michel has been his injury history, which has seen him banged up.  He’s dealt with a broken forearm (a non-football injury that happened in an ATV accident), along with injuries to his knee and ankle.  But his knee is reportedly the bigger concern, with Mike Lombardi reporting before the draft that the Georgia running back was potentially dealing with a “bone-on-bone” condition in his knee and that may be the reason he fell so far in the draft.

However, Lombardi still liked what he saw from Michel and if he’s healthy, Lombardi feels Michel could be a productive player in the NFL.

“I love this kid,” Lombardi said via DawgNation.com. “I think I’m concerned. There’s a lot of teams telling me there’s a medical concern here, so he could slip a little bit. I don’t know what it is, but the way the medical works at the combine is there’s a table with like six doctors from each team at one table and six different from another team at another table. His medical grade is a little iffy from what I’m told.

“But this kid, to me, is the prototypical NFL back. He can catch the ball, he can impact the passing game. Remember how we have to evaluate running backs– it’s block, catch, run. It isn’t run, catch, block. And this kid blocks well. This kid can be impactful. I love this kid as a player.”

Michel also downplayed the injury reports, telling reporters that there’s nothing to worry about.

“I’m not sure what’s out there, but I’ve been playing with no problems,” said Michel.  “I don’t have any injuries. I’m not sure what you guys are hearing.”

With the loss of Dion Lewis this offseason, it appears that Belichick may have found a potential replacement to compliment James White in the backfield if Michel can take the next step.  But either way, he should be fun to keep an eye on in the coming months at training camp.

Patriots Passed Twice on Jackson – One other thing that was interesting about Thursday night is the fact that despite their apparent interest in Jackson, which even saw them bring him into Gillette Stadium recently, the Patriots passed on him twice on Thursday night.

They selected Wynn at #23 overall, before electing to grab Michel at #31.  If they had any plans on taking him later, the Baltimore Ravens put an end to that notion when they jumped in and made a last-minute trade with the Eagles to snag him with the #32 overall pick to close out the evening.

As expected, the top quarterbacks were gone long before the Patriots had an opportunity to pick, with Sam Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen all off the board by the time the Patriots made their first pick at 23rd overall.  Two of those players are now in the AFC East, with Darnold having been taken by the Jets and Allen being taken by the Bills.

Jimmy Garoppolo is a former second-round pick so the odds of New England finding someone they feel confident in the later rounds are pretty good.  Now we’ll just have to wait and see who is on Belichick’s radar when the draft resumes tonight.

AFC East Additions – Taking a look at the AFC East, there were some interesting selections made by the Patriots Division rivals in round one Thursday night.

Following the selection of quarterback Baker Mayfield by the Browns and the Giants’ selection of running back Saquon Barkley, the Jets jumped on USC’s Sam Darnold at #3 overall to try and bring stability to a quarterback position that’s been a mess in recent years.

Darnold brings with him an impressive resume.  The 6’4″ standout is an accurate, athletic passer, coming out of the NFL Combine having run a 4.85 40-yard dash.  He finished his career completing over 60% of his throws, finishing 303-of-480 for 4143 yards (63.1%) in 2017 and 246-of-366 for 3086 yards (67.2%) in 2016.

The biggest question will be whether or not the Jets can develop him and help him take the next step as an NFL starter, or if he’ll end up as another failed attempt to shore up a position that’s been shaky for as long as most can remember.  Time will tell.

His selfie with Jets fans would lead you to believe he’s got his work cut out for him as he’ll likely be under intense pressure to turn that franchise around.

Meanwhile, the Bills made the first splash of the night, jumping up to the #7 spot after making a trade with Tampa Bay and grabbing who they believe will be their quarterback of the future after selecting Josh Allen.  The move reportedly cost the Bills two second-round picks to move up and leapfrog everyone to get him.

The former Wyoming quarterback has been the subject of controversy heading into the draft, having made racial slurs in Tweets he made in high school that got him in a bit of trouble.  However, prior to the start of the night, Allen took responsibility for being what he said was “young and dumb.”

“First off going back to six years ago, I was a kid. I’m not the same person I was,” Allen said via NFL.com. “Obviously we were young and dumb — me and my friends — and that’s what we did. We made mistakes; I own up to it. I’ve learned from it and I’ve learned throughout the way. This is just a reiteration from what I’ve learned through my journey going to [Junior College], going Division 1. I love my family, I love my teammates. Obviously, this is a very embarrassing moment but the support I got from my teammates at Wyoming and at my Junior College has been outstanding. They know who I am, I know who I am. Obviously, it was not the best situation but I’m looking forward to tonight.”

He’s a strong kid with good athleticism and does a good job throwing the ball when moving to his left but appears to be a project after having issues with accuracy (56% last season).  The latter stat is a little concerning when you take into account that according to ESPN’s Stats and Info, Allen threw a higher percentage of short passes than Darnold, Mayfield and Rosen, with 30 percent of his attempts having traveled zero to 5 yards in the air.

Needless to say, he appears to fall under the category of a player who seems to have some questions and may have some work to do as he tries to help the Bills become contenders in the AFC East again.

The other interesting moment of the night came at #10 when Arizona made a deal with the Raiders to jump in front of the Dolphins, who were reportedly set to take quarterback Josh Rosen.  Instead, it was Arizona, who signed Sam Bradford this offseason, who swooped in and grabbed him.  Rosen was thought by many to be the best quarterback in the draft, so the fact he was kept away from the Dolphins is at least the one solace Patriots fans can take away after many were hoping he might fall far enough for New England to have a shot at him.

That left Miami to have to settle for Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, adding some size and athleticism to their secondary. The 6’0″ Fitzpatrick finished with eight pass break-ups and an interception in 2017, but he has nine career interceptions, including four he returned for touchdowns.  He’ll reportedly be playing safety in Miami’s defense.

Buffalo later jumped up again, moving up from 22 to 16 after making a trade with the Ravens.  With the pick, the Bills took linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, grabbing the 6’5″, 253-pound star out of Viriginia Tech.

Edmunds is a big, speedy linebacker who is considered to be a good edge rusher, while also having terrific lateral quickness out in the flat.  Should he end up on the field by the time the Patriots meet them in week 8, it could potentially set up an interesting battle between he and Rob Gronkowski – which could be one of the big reasons why he was on Buffalo’s radar.

Rounds two and three will take place beginning at 7pm on Friday night.