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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

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

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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.

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.

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A sweet shout out from @sweetfeet.

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

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Year 8

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New England Patriots News 8-12, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
August 12, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, Here is your Sunday’s Patriots news 8-12, & AFC East Notes. The Patriots are getting to back work this afternoon after their first preseason game on Thursday night. Bill Belichick has been taking a slower approach to training camp, having given the players several days off already. Belichick did say that the long 2017 season and the increased workload on the players definitely have an effect on how they approach the workload for the current training camp.

And lost in all the Malcolm Butler hoopla was this. On the Packers first drive of their preseason game against Tennessee, Brett Hundley completed a 48-yard bomb to Davante Adams who blew by Butler, giving the Packers a first and goal at the two. Maybe it is the conspiracy theorist in me, but if Butler had picked it off and went to the house, what would you think the odds would be that the play would have been all over the sports talk radio world?

Quick Hitters:  
With many missed tackles in the first preseason game and some general sloppy tackling all around, one reason (other than rust) could be the lack of live tackling and physicality in practice. It will be interesting to watch if that ramps up a bit now.

Ralph Webb had a really nice night in his professional debut scoring a pair of touchdowns and two, 2-pt conversions.  The former Vanderbilt running back was called up by Bill Belichick for congratulations after the team’s win and in his post-game press conference, Belichick had several compliments for the rookie. Washington lost very promising rookie RB Derrius Guice to a torn ACL for the season in the game. They stated that for the time being, they were going to stay with the players they have. However, Webb is still a longshot to make the 53-man roster. If the Patriots try to sneak him onto the practice squad in a few weeks, don’t be shocked if the Redskins make a move to bring him to their squad after his game this week.

Tom Brady’s $5 million dollar incentive clause into his contract was a head scratcher earlier this week. If earned, that $5 million will vault Brady up into the Top 10 of QB salaries, tied with Blake Bortles but less than Sam Darnold, who has yet to throw a pass in the NFL yet. Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston called it a band-aid fix and we’re inclined to agree here. A look at the list of QBs making more money than Brady, other than Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers is a Who’s Who? Of QBs having never accomplished a smidgen of what Brady’s done. So his contract, even at 41 is still a bargain. But tying the $5 million to incentives? Really? I don’t get that one.

Terrible setback for Pats LB Harvey Langi who made the roster in 2017 and then was in an awful car wreck last fall while stopped at a red light. Langi returned this year and had been having a good camp thus far until he took a hit to his side and suffered an internal laceration according to Jeff Howe of the Athletic. Because of concerns to his kidney, he will be out 4-5 weeks.

Very sad news about former Patriots LB Jerod Mayo and his 5-year old Bulldog who went missing after supposedly going for a walk with the dog’s trainer. The family and police searched for the dog and after two months the dog’s body was found in plastic bags inside a closet in the trainer’s house outside of Cranston, RI. The trainer, Amelia Ferreira told Wrentham, MA police the dog Knox, disappeared after slipping his leash at a conservation area in Wrentham. Charges are pending. And hopefully will be severe.

Derek Rivers Looks Strong in First Game Back From ACL Tear:
Less than a year removed from his torn ACL surgery, not only was DE Derek Rivers back on the field, he played at a high level showing good physicality and exceptional strength. The 2nd year player got the start at defensive end and had several good plays.

Derek Rivers during 2016 training camp. (SBalestrieri photo)

Perhaps his best was when he bull rushed Redskins tackle, John Kling. Rivers exploded off the snap and had Kling on roller skates. He then gave Kling a big shove pushing him into QB Colt McCoy and getting his hand up trying to knock down the pass attempt. The move against Kling is a total body type of movement from Rivers who when asked about his ACL and repaired knee from Henry McKenna of USA Today said, “It felt awesome,” Rivers said. “No complaints. Praise God.”

Make no mistake, the mental part of getting over an ACL injury is the biggest hurdle. This summer I spoke with UMass Medical Center Dr. Brian Busconi, who has performed hundreds of ACL surgeries on MLB and NFL as well as college and high school athletes. It was rumored he performed the surgery on Julian Edelman. Busconi would neither confirm or deny it, however, a signed picture of Edelman hangs in the office and a source of ours passed Edelman in the office earlier this summer. So take it for what it is worth.

Busconi said the surgery was only 30 percent of the fix for the athlete. The other 70 percent was doing the rehab work, strengthening the muscles that will atrophy because of the injury and the resultant layoff and most importantly, the mental hurdle to test the joint once it is ready. Edelman admitted last week he “doesn’t have his football legs” back under him yet. He looks to be in terrific shape, it is probably more a mental block more than anything.

That’s why it was so important for Rivers (and Edelman) to get out on the field and run and cut and do all the things they did without thinking prior to their injury. Rivers looked good for the most part, he also had his not-so-good moments as well. On one play, he ducked his head and lost the running back, who zipped past his gap for a big gain.

However, for the first preseason game and after a year layoff from the field, Rivers took a great big leap back to being part of the edge player rotation. With Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn expected to be the starters, he and Deatrich Wise could combine and form a much better group at getting after the QB in 2018.

He leaped over the first hurdle. We’ll be watching him next week closely to see if he can continue to improve and produce when the Patriots play the Eagles in Week 2 of the preseason.

Hightower on the Block? Troy Brown Thinks It Could be a Possibility:

The Patriots welcomed back linebacker Dont’a Hightower in his first game action since October after the big man went on IR last season. Hightower played extensively, into the second quarter. At the time, we thought it nothing more than the coaching staff wanting to shake off the rust after not playing for about 10 months. But after the game, former Patriots WR Troy Brown thought the Patriots may be shopping the big LB.

Dont’a Hightower is back and played into the second quarter against Washington. (SBalestrieri photo)

Brown on NBC Sports Boston said, “Sometimes you gotta put people on the market and let people see what they can do.” At first glance, that stance would appear to be ludicrous, no one was more instrumental to the Patriots defense, Hightower was the one player on defense that they could ill afford to lose. While the talk centered around Malcolm Butler after the Super Bowl loss to Philadelphia, the absence of Hightower was a far greater loss overall.

Brown doubled down on his thought by adding, “You have to ask yourself…why is he still out there so long?” Assuming his take is correct, who would they trade Hightower to and what could they get in return that would help the team? Unless they’re making a push to the Raiders with Hightower a piece of a package for Khalil Mack, then it wouldn’t make sense.

From our view, we’re sticking with the “knocking the rust off”  scenario, but we’ve seen stranger things in Foxboro in the past.  

Bentley Makes a Strong Debut at Linebacker:
Ja’Whaun Bentley, the Patriots fifth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft wasn’t highly thought of when he was going thru the draft process, in fact, was considered to be a UDFA and wasn’t even invited to the NFL Combine. But the Patriots liked what they saw from the big Purdue linebacker in his first NFL preseason action.

Bentley had six tackles, two for a loss and QB hit and should have been credited with a forced fumble that the officials ruled forward progress had been stopped. A play Bill Belichick tried to challenge and when told he couldn’t, said it was “F***ing BS.”

Bentley was considered a Brandon Spikes throwback, a two-down run stuffer who couldn’t cover on passing downs. So far, he’s proving the critics wrong. He has had a strong training camp and followed it up with good performance in the opening PS game.

Rookie LB Ja’Whaun Bentley has been impressive thus far thru camp, especially in coverage. (SBalestrieri photo)

“I just wanted to come out and put my best foot forward to do the best I could as far as assignments and just make sure all my guys were ready to go,” Bentley said. “And I feel like we did a good job of that. Of course, we got some kinks to work out, but we did a very good job.”

Bentley also had some time calling the signals with the green dot communication device which is a great learning step for a rookie on the defense to be able to learn his responsibilities but also everyone else’s to call out the signals is a testament to his learning the system quickly.

His best play came in the first half. With the Redskins inside the three-yard line, they tried to pound the ball in the middle for a touchdown. Bentley, at his MLB position, read the play, waited for the right time until the RB committed and flew into the hole, dropping him for no gain.

He still has a long way to go but for now, he’s looking very good and appears to be almost a lock for the 53-man roster.

Jeremy Hill Buys In, And Shows Impressive Burst in Opener:
After a disappointing 2017 from Mike Gillislee, the Patriots drafted Sony Michel this spring and then added veteran Jeremy Hill who had lost his starting gig with the Bengals. Hill is bigger (6’1, 230 pounds) than most of the Patriots running backs, but it is something they need for certain situations, (goal line and short-yardage) with the offense.

Hill, whose snaps and numbers have steadily gone down in Cincinnati, at first glance didn’t seem like a good fit. But Hill had surgery to remove some bone spurs in his ankles. He also bought into the Patriots offseason conditioning system and lost weight in an attempt to add a bit of quickness to his step.

Jeremy Hill had a big game on Thursday night and is looking to turn that into a roster spot. (SBalestrieri photo)

He certainly appeared that way on Thursday night, hitting the holes with authority and showing nice vision cutting back against the grain. He appeared much quicker than Gillislee with the ability to convert those short-yardage situations.

His ability to flash in the passing game helped. Facing a 3rd and 8 from the 30-yard line midway thru the third quarter, Hill caught a short pass from QB Brian Hoyer and then made the first tackler miss and was able to convert the first down by stiff-arming a linebacker and then lowering his head and getting past the sticks.

The Patriots insist all of their running backs pass block as well and Hill had a highlight reel play when he planted LB Shaun Dion Hamilton, giving Hoyer time to hit FB Henry Poggi on a check down out of the backfield.

Again, there is a long way to go, but Hill with his performance didn’t do a thing to hurt his chances to not only make the team but earn some significant snaps. Especially with Sony Michel on the shelf for the time being.

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Allen Has Buffalo Abuzz After Preseason Debut:
The Buffalo Bills played the Carolina Panthers in their Week 1 preseason opener but it was strictly the Josh Allen show for the fans, and who can blame them? The Bills fans have been waiting for that next franchise QB since Jim Kelly retired. And after moving up to take him in the first round of the NFL Draft this spring, fans are excited.

Head coach Sean McDermott wasted little time in letting Allen uncork his arm which is his strongest asset. He lasered a 60-yard pass downfield on his first snap which was caught by WR Robert Foster but just out of bounds.

Yes, his footwork is inconsistent and his decision making can still be suspect but Allen possesses a cannon for an arm and it as well as his playmaking ability were on full display. He completed 9 of 19 for 119 yards and a touchdown while rushing three times for 29 yards, twice converting third downs with his feet.

For now, he’ll remain the 3rd QB on the depth chart and be the future. But Buffalo fans caught a glimpse of that and can’t wait for him to be the present.

Dolphins Tannehill Aces First Test:
The Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill played his first football since the 2016 season in an albeit short but impressive stint against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tannehill played a series and took the Dolphins into field goal range but the most important feature was that he looked comfortable, cool in the pocket and in control of the offense. The offensive line gave him plenty of time to throw, coach Adam Gase said Tannehill was “back there peeling an orange.” to push home the point.

One thing that the Dolphins seem intent on doing is getting Mike Gesicki the ball in the end zone and that combination with the big rookie TE and Tannehill looks intriguing. We’ll expect to see more of it next week against Carolina.

Jets QBs Shine In Preseason Win Over Atlanta:
The New York Jets unleashed rookie QB Sam Darnold in their preseason opener and the rookie taken with the #3 pick in the draft didn’t disappoint. Darnold shined, completing 13-18 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown in a little over two-quarters worth of work. He received thunderous applause from the Jets fans and didn’t disappoint, hitting on eight of his first 9 throws.

Teddy Bridgewater on his first action of the season after returning from an injury was also very sharp hitting on 7-9 for 85 yards including a 16-yard touchdown. Coach Todd Bowles said Darnold looked poised out there and it is clear that the Jets organization is going to give Darnold every opportunity to win the starting job over veterans Josh McCown and Bridgewater.

McCown started the game but played only one series and completed the only pass he attempted for four yards. It will be interesting to see how the Jets decide to play this out. While the temptation is there to get Darnold on the field, with two good veterans, there should no attempt to rush him into the starting lineup until he’s ready for it.

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.

What to Watch For, Patriots – Washington Preseason Opener

Steve Balestrieri
August 9, 2018 at 7:30 am ET

Football is back…finally. The Patriots begin the 2018 preseason with a home tilt against the Washington Redskins. The kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Gillette Stadium and it is supposed to be hot and steamy around kickoff time.

The game will be broadcast on WBZ TV4 with the Patriots radio crew of Bob Socci, Scott Zolak holding down the play-by-play and color duties, with sideline reporters Rob Ninkovich and Steve Burton.  Andy Hart and Paul Perillo from Patriots Football Weekly will provide frequent commentary from the studio.

This will be the 22nd meeting between the two teams in the preseason. The Patriots and Philadelphia have met 22 times as well and have only played the Giants in the preseason (27 games) more.

However, this game will likely have little bearing on who starts the regular season for the Patriots or the Redskins. While both starting QBs, Tom Brady and newcomer Alex Smith for the Redskins may make a cameo appearance, one wouldn’t expect them to play more than a series, if at all.  

But there are a lot of players on both teams that need to perform well during the preseason as they hope to make each team. Right now the rosters are set at 90 players and each team can keep only 53. On the Patriots, there are probably 39-40 players who are locks to make the roster and another 3-4 more who are near locks. That leaves an awful lot of competition for the bottom half of the roster.

There are some spots were open competition will tell the tale, so the players, matchups etc. that we’ll be watching for from a Patriots perspective are:

Left Tackle Position: The Patriots traded for Trent Brown this spring and after losing long-time left tackle Nate Solder in free agency to the Giants. Brown is huge, 6’8, 380 pounds but moves well for a big man. He’s had a good training camp up to this point but tonight will be his first game action as a member of the Patriots.

The team invested a first-round draft pick on G/T Isaiah Wynn from Georgia just hours before trading for Brown. He’s played mostly tackle with a bit of guard thrown in this summer on the left side but he’ll get some work at both. Wynn is small for an NFL tackle at 6’2, 311 but he makes up for with being gifted athletically.

They seem to be taking the same approach with Wynn as they did with Solder, they’ll let him learn the ropes for a year under Dante Scarnecchia, while getting frequent reps to earn some experience.

While all signs point to the pair being just fine this season, until they get on the field and show some work against opponents, there will be questions. But with Scarnecchia being the tough love teacher, I would expect to see Wynn start at some point this season.

Cornerback: With Malcolm Butler now a Tennessee Titan, the Patriots had a hole at the CB spot opposite of Gilmore. Many of the national sites are calling Butler’s loss the Patriots top CB last year. But in reality, since about halfway thru the season, it was Gilmore who was the better of the two and down the stretch and into the playoffs there was no doubt about that.

Now there seems to be a two-way battle between veterans Jason McCourty and Eric Rowe. Both have had their good moments during training camp And each brings a little something different to the table but it may end up being more a case of who the opponent is, the coaches may decide to go with the better matchups.

However, waiting in the wings is unheralded rookie J.C. Jackson from Maryland. Jackson turned some heads during OTAs and minicamp and got some reps opposite Gilmore. He has since gotten more in training camp and looks like he belongs. He’s not overwhelmed at all  Second-year player Ryan Lewis has the prototypical size that teams are looking for and has turned in a solid training camp as well.

In the slot, rookie Duke Dawson has gotten a lot of reps and has played well. But Jonathan Jones just came off of PUP and will have something to say about that. It is doubtful, however, that Jones will play so soon.

Running Back: With 1st round draft pick Sony Michel on the shelf after getting fluid from his knee drained, it leaves a decent sized hole that two veterans will be fighting for a roster spot over. The Patriots brought in Mike Gillislee last year, but overall he’s been disappointing. He’s missed some playing time during camp this summer, which isn’t helping his cause.

The team signed former Bengals back Jeremy Hill this offseason and he’s had the upper hand so far during training camp. Hill brings an element in the passing game that Gillislee doesn’t have and has run the ball pretty well so far.

These two are probably fighting over one roster spot so these preseason games all become very important for each of them.

Edge Rushers: The Patriots defense was not good getting after the quarterback a year ago. Trey Flowers had a good year and the team got a decent rookie season from Deatrich Wise but had little else. They’ll have to be much better this year at getting pressure on opposing QBs.

During free agency, the team went out and got veteran Adrian Clayborn. They also got back last year’s top draft pick Derek Rivers as well as Dont’a Hightower on the defensive front seven. Rivers is starting to round back into form from his torn ACL from last preseason and it will be a test for him to get back into game action.

He should be part of a four-man rotation with Flowers, Clayborn, and Wise, who is having a terrific camp thus far this summer.

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

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

Patriots 53-man Roster Projection 2.0, Training Camp Opens

Steve Balestrieri
August 6, 2018 at 7:30 am ET

With the first week-plus of the Patriots 2018 training camp in the books, it is time to do another look at our New England Patriots 53-man roster projection. So far, without the benefit of an actual game situation of a preseason game, we’ll have to go with what we’ve seen in the practice sessions thus far.

This week’s first tilt against the Redskins ought to be very interesting of how things begin to play out, especially with some players being hurt already.

Offense –
Quarterbacks: (2)
Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer

In our first roster projection, we had them going with three QBs and Etling making the 53 man roster. In this one, he’s going to the practice squad as they’ll need that slot elsewhere. Is there a chance someone swoops in and takes him away? Not really at this point. So he should be safe

Sony Michel is currently on the shelf with a knee injury. (SBalestrieri photo)


Running backs: (6)

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

Sony Michel suffered a knee injury on Wednesday that will have him out for a while after having his knee drained of fluid. It is a big setback for his development. But Burkhead, White, and Hill seem poised to be fine for now. Hill could lose his spot if Michel is given a clean bill of health early.  Bolden makes the cut this time for his STs ability. Develin is the fullback and isn’t going anywhere.

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

No changes here. Hollister is having a very solid summer and is working his way into Tom Brady’s “Circle of Trust” which is a very good sign. No one is stepping up to challenge Allen for his blocking TE prowess and he’s looking better in the passing game. Gronkowski looks to be on a pitch count and has been very sharp.

Patterson is working his way into the offense. (SBalestrieri photo)


Wide Receivers: (6)
Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Eric Decker, Cordarrelle Patterson, Kenny Britt, Matthew Slater, (Suspended: Julian Edelman)

Edelman’s suspension is a big loss for the first month but may prove to be a blessing. He was complaining this week, that he’s not feeling in shape yet, or as he termed it, “football shape.” Jordan Matthews’ injury was also a blow and then the team signed Decker, who isn’t a lock yet and has only practiced once. But he’ll have to show he fits in. For now, he’s in.

Dorsett is having a good summer (Ditto for Patterson),  and his move inside is looking like a smart one. Britt is just getting back on the field but has plenty of time to get caught up now. Both Riley McCarron and Braxton Berrios go to the practice squad but are just a step away from active roster because of punt return duties, however, if anyone else gets hurt or stumbles, they could move up. Slater who is a WR in name only makes the cut too.

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

The state of the offensive line is still a bit in flux, but Trent Brown is looking like the left tackle for now. Isaiah Wynn has struggled with his consistency right now, not surprising for a rookie but he’s going to challenge for either the LT or LG position soon. I could see Cole Croston or Ted Karras easily slipping up here as well.

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

No changes here, Adam Butler could easily step into a spot here. Wise has looked outstanding thus far. Flowers and Clayborn have been ok, but are probably pacing themselves. Rivers is coming on again and will be really intriguing to watch. I like what I’ve seen from 2nd-year edge player Keionta Davis in very limited views. He may rate a practice squad role.

Dont’a Hightower’s return is a big key for the Pats defense. (SBalestrieri photo)

Linebacker: (7)

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

Christian Sam has been invisible so far and goes to the practice squad. Both Roberts and Bentley make the roster and each has had good moments. Having a healthy Hightower back this fall is a must. Van Noy and Flowers are having good camps thus far.  King is an ST ace but practices with the LBs.

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

Gilmore is having a tremendous offseason. McCourty and Rowe and rounding into form. Dawson has looked mostly good in the slot. But Jackson, who shined in minicamp continues solid play. Lewis, the 2nd year corner from the practice squad, has the size and has played very well this summer. His rise bumps 7th rounder Crossen off the roster as the rookie has had trouble staying on the field with back spasms.

Cyrus Jones could still be the team’s punt returner but he hasn’t been seen on the field yet, still recovering from ACL surgery and begins the year (with Jonathan Jones) on PUP.

Stephon Gilmore, seen here breaking up a pass to Hogan has had a terrific offseason. (SBalestrieri photo)

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

Once again I’m leaving Jordan Richards off the roster but Bill will prove me wrong again. He actually has made some good plays so far in camp but has also been roasted fairly regularly. Eddie Pleasant could easily change the coaches’ minds about his status and has been okay. The position is solid with the top three…but I am still stinging over the Titans signing Kenny Vaccaro this week.

Specialists: (3)
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Ryan Allen, long-snapper Joe Cardona

Allen now noses just above Corey Bojorquez, who has the much stronger leg but still struggles with his consistency. But this battle will go back and forth right until the final roster cuts. Gostkowski and Cardona have no competition in camp and are locks.

 

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 8-05, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
August 5, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, Here is your Sunday’s Patriots news 8-05, & AFC East Notes. The Patriots are getting the day off today from training camp, but we hope to see many of you down there in the coming days as the team gears up for their first preseason game.

Quick Hitters:

Sony Michel who left practice early on Wednesday with an injury to his already damaged knee, had a procedure done to drain the knee. He’s expected to be sidelined for at least 10 days but it could be that we won’t see Michel until the first game of the regular season. It is a waiting game at this point. But that was the drawback of drafting Michel, he’s had knee woes before. Hopefully this won’t be a long-term issue but regardless, it definitely sets back his progression in a big way

With the birthday of Tom Brady on Friday, the Patriots made enough birthday cake for Brady and 5000 of his fans. Shaped in a big #12, the cake consisted of 2000 eggs, 250 pounds of sugar, etc … all of which are usually strictly off-limits for Brady’s diet. He was surprised after practice by his wife and kids on the field. And was serenaded by both fans and teammates as he got a rare off-day in training camp.

Julian Edelman told the media on Friday that recovering from last year’s ACL tear has been a “grind” on the field. Edelman said that “I feel like I got to get my legs under me a lot more. I don’t have my camp legs, I don’t have football legs, and it’s evident out there.”

Training camp he added has been difficult,  “You get tired, you create bad habits, you don’t run your routes right and you get yelled at in meetings for it. I’m expecting to do that because I got to pick it up,” he said. “I wasn’t as good as I want to be today and feeling that’s because I’m not in the best shape right now.”

Riley McCarron is having a pretty good training camp thus far, the 2nd year practice squad player is vying for one of the Patriots WR spots on the roster. McCarron and Braxton Berrios are almost mirror images competing against one another for the slot/PR duties. Both are similarly built can return punts and good in the middle of the field. While there is a long way to go, McCarron may be slightly ahead of the rookie at this point, but this will bear very close watching once the preseason games begin.

Riley McCarron has had a good start to training camp. (SBalestrieri photo)

J.C. Jackson has been having a strong offseason, dating back to OTAs. The UDFA from Maryland has been getting some reps opposite Stephon Gilmore and has competed hard and showed nice flashes of potential. He shook off a rookie mistake against Chris Hogan, not locating the ball in time on a 50+-yard completion by breaking up a pass in the end zone and intercepting a two-point conversion try.

Kenny Britt, Matthew Slater, and Mike Gillislee returned to practice after missing time due to injuries. That is a good sign as injuries, most of the non-serious nature begin to pile up.

Hollister Seems Primed for a Big Year 2 Jump:

The Patriots signed UDFA  TE Jacob Hollister a year ago and he flashed enough athleticism, good hands and toughness to make the team. After playing sparingly in 2017, he set about to improve his all-around game starting with becoming a better blocker in the running game. He looks a tad more chiseled this season after a year in the strength and conditioning program but his pass catching looks right on schedule.

Hollister has made several standout plays during the first week of training camp. Showing good hands and the ability to find the open areas of coverage and attack the seams of the defense, Hollister is a much more fluid receiver than the current #2 Dwayne Allen, but Allen’s blocking skills remain his strong suit.

Bill Belichick was asked about Hollister this week and gave (for him) an almost glowing recommendation. “He’s still got a long way to go. He has a lot of football in front of him. He didn’t have a lot of experience–had some–but has gained a lot and will gain a lot more. I think he’s got a great future, Belichick said.  “He works hard, he’s a tough kid, he plays hard, practices hard and has become much better at his fundamentals and techniques at his position.”

While the highlighted text was my doing, this kind of praise is rare from Belichick. And he’s right, although he says this about everyone, Hollister still has a long way to go. But he’s definitely arcing in the right direction. With the uncertainty at the WR position as it sorts itself out, the Patriots offense could easily lean more on the running game and two tight end sets (12 personnel) in the first month of the season until Edelman returns.

Watching practice at training camp this week, Tom Brady usually throws a side session during Special Teams drills with his “Circle of Trust” receivers, normally Gronkowski, Hogan, and Edelman. Hollister was included in there this week a few times. That in itself is a very encouraging sign, we’ll see how the preseason plays out.

Jacob Hollister is looking much more comfortable in the passing offense in Year 2. (SBalestrieri photo)

Belichick Inserts Fun? Into Patriots Training Camp:

With the abundance of stories from players, some of whom have never stepped foot in the Patriots locker room that the team doesn’t have any fun, this week’s events should effectively put those to rest…well not really but you know what I mean.

On Monday Night, the in-stadium practice for the season ticket holders, Bill Belichick ended practice on an interesting note. He had rookie OL Isaiah Wynn back fielding a Ryan Allen punt. If Wynn catches the ball cleanly, the team was didn’t have night meetings on Monday night and could get a little extra rest.

With the team cheering him on, Wynn dropped the first attempt but caught the second, amid wild cheers from the players and fans and big smiles all around, even from Belichick.

Then on Thursday, Day 7 of camp, Belichick ended the practice by switching roles. The defense went on offense and vice versa. Watching Duron Harmon play QB and Tom Brady safety was, as Monty Python once said, “something completely different.”

The defense, especially QBs Harmon and Pat Chung struggled but the players loved it. Devin McCourty broke it down for the media as follows:

“We need a lot of practice,” McCourty said. “We need a little bit more rules. There was no running game. (The offense) dropped like nine into coverage and rushed two. They had a little bit of an advantage because they rushed (380-pound offensive tackle Trent Brown), so that’s like rushing three. It’s tough for us on offense, but hopefully, we do it again and we get another shot at those guys.”

It should be noted here that these are things that Belichick has done frequently in the past and it was not him reacting to the crap that is posted in social media, not that he would anyway. But for the team known as the buttoned-down all business Patriots, it is always good to see them lower the guard a bit.

Young Edge Rushers Look to Improve Pass Rush in 2018:
The front seven of the Patriots defense was beset by injuries in 2017 and that was the cause of many of their struggles. As much as people want to point at the lack of Malcolm Butler as the cause of Super Bowl failures, the absence of Dont’a Hightower was an even bigger factor in their struggles.

But initially, on paper, for now, things are changing for the better. The team added run stuffing DL Danny Shelton and he and returning from IR Vincent Valentine should really help the rotation inside. Hightower and Harvey Langi return from IR which should help the LB core play much better. But at the edge is where the team is looking to play much better in 2018.

 

The team went out and signed DE Adrian Clayborn during free agency. Clayborn isn’t a dynamic “hair on fire” pass rusher, but a very solid, big, veteran presence who should help solidify things. And the trio of young edge players, all just 24 years old should, with Clayborn be much better against the pass and the run.

Trey Flowers is the elder statesman of the DLine, having been there the longest but he’s still just reaching his peak where many predict an All-Pro season for him. Deatrich Wise is having an outstanding camp and is making a big jump in play so far this summer. And Derek Rivers, last year’s top draft choice who missed all of last year with an ACL injury is over that now and beginning to come on in the 2nd week of training camp. These players are the top 4 rotation that should help the defense be much improved in 2018.

Derek Rivers is getting his comfort level back after missing all of 2017 with a torn ACL. (SBalestrieri photo)

Eric Lee who played last year and the under-the-radar Keionta Davis who missed all of his 2017 rookie season with a neck injury and Trent Harris are all still in the mix. The front seven will bear considerable watching in the preseason but the edge players are the ones poised to look vastly different. We’ll keep you updated as camp rolls along.

Van Noy Trade Continues to Be a Steal For New England:

The Patriots traded just a 6th round draft choice for LB Kyle Van Noy in 2016, but the linebacker has worked his way into becoming a key contributor and leader in his second full season in New England.

With Dont’a Hightower injured last year, a lot was forced onto Van Noy’s plate including the mantle of leadership, something he’s embraced. Now with Hightower back, Van Noy can return to do the things he’s better suited for on the outside and is penciled in as a starter for 2018.

Bill Belichick was very complimentary about the level of play and the mentoring he’s shown with the younger players at one of his daily press conferences this week.

“Kyle’s done a really good job for us,” Belichick said. “He’s a player that didn’t start his career here but has come in and really has understood the way that we have tried to do things. He’s embraced it. He’s become very much of a leader in, A, doing his job and doing it the right way, but also helping other guys, particularly guys that transition onto the team as he did. He has a good perspective for that.”

The fact that the Patriots were able to snag the former 2nd round draft pick (40th overall) and a 7th rounder for just a 6th round pick has been an outright steal for Bill Belichick. They found a role for Van Noy and he’s met their expectations and has had more put on his plate. He should be much more effective with Hightower back in the fold this fall.

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills UDFA Phillips Impressive in First Week of Camp:
The Buffalo Bills signed Virginia Tech UDFA WR Cam Phillips to a deal this spring that paid him a signing bonus of just $600. Yep, that isn’t a typo, but the WR has used that slight to motivate him to earn the trust of his QBs and coaches. And the young WR is doing just that.

Phillips has shined in the first week of training camp that has many re-evaluating him as a long shot to make Buffalo’s 53-man roster to a player that now has a really good shot of doing so. Phillips has been making some big plays in practice every day, something that is getting the attention of the coaching staff.

With a WR position that is wide open, Phillips is making a spot for himself at the table. Now he’ll have the chance to do some work once the preseason games begin.

Dolphins Going With Three Safety Look This Season? Not yet says DC:
The Miami Dolphins already had a pair of talented safeties in Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald before drafting the very talented Minkah Fitzpatrick, the glue from the National Champion Alabama defense with the 11th overall pick in this year’s draft.

Now the issue is getting all of the pieces gainfully employed. Dolphins defensive coordinator was asked this week when he “has to” get the three of them on the field together. Burke wasn’t having any of it. “I don’t have to,” he said.

“We’re mixing the groups. What you’re probably not seeing is we’re repping guys at different spots but maybe not all together. So, there may be times where there are only two safeties on the field but one of them is playing a spot that they’d be playing when there are three safeties on the field if we’re going to do something like that.”

The three will eventually see the field in practice at the same time to iron out any potential issues they may encounter with communication. The Patriots use a similar grouping with Duron Harmon joining Devin McCourty and Pat Chung.

For now, it is still early in training camp for the Dolphins and it is a good problem to have as they an abundance of talent at the position.

Jets Tight End Position a Possible Achilles Heel in 2018:
The New York Jets may have made a mistake in letting TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins walk in free agency this spring. As it looks right now, they may struggle at the position in 2018. Jenkins is now a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Jets don’t have an answer at this early stage of training camp.

In a piece written by Luis Tirado for the JetPress, Tirado says the Jets haven’t had Jordan Leggett who is injured and thus far Chris Herndon, Eric Tomlinson, Neal Sterling, and Clive Walford haven’t done anything to stand out positively.

Any quarterback’s security blanket is usually their tight end, it may be especially so if the Jets top draft Sam Darnold wins the starting job this summer once the preseason games begin. Without having a credible target at tight end will hurt even an established veteran like Josh McCown, with a young QB like Darnold, it could prove even more so.

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.

What Does the Eric Decker Signing Mean for the Patriots?

Steve Balestrieri
August 3, 2018 at 7:30 am ET

With the surprising news that Jordan Matthews’ injury was severe enough for the Patriots to place him on IR, the Patriots lost out on one of the key free agent signings they made this spring. The team ended up releasing Matthews, I’m thinking, at his request as he probably believes that he’ll be ready to go a lot sooner this season.

But back to the situation at hand, with Matthews gone, the Patriots saw this coming and worked Decker out before he was signed on Thursday. After nearly missing all of 2016 with the Jets, Decker signed with Tennessee and put decent but career low numbers since becoming an every-down player. He caught 54 passes for 563 yards (career-low 10.4 yards per reception) with just one touchdown. But he remains reliable, his 65 percent catch percentage was the second highest of his career.

Can he revert to something akin to his last two years with the Broncos or the first two with the Jets or has he permanently lost a step. Part of his stats could stem from the struggles of the Titans offense. Last season they were just 28th in passing attempts and 23rd in yardage. Catching passes from Tom Brady should be more akin to better stats than Marcus Mariota.

The biggest asset Decker brings to the Patriots is versatility. He can play outside as the Z- receiver or in the slot. As a slot guy, he’s much like Matthews, a bigger (6’3, 215 pounds) who relies on his size to box out smaller defenders. So how will the Patriots use Decker?

Without seeing him run yet in practice, I see Decker as the Z-wide receiver, not the X. He will be used to attack the middle depth routes and work the perimeter and the middle of the field. They can move him around to create matchups in the slot where he logged about 50 percent of the Titans’ snaps last year when the opportunity avails itself. Phillip Dorsett has been seeing a lot of reps in the slot this summer and he’s been one for the more impressive players on offense.

Right now, the wide receiver depth has Chris Hogan, Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson, Decker along with rookies Braxton Berrios and Darren Andrews with 2nd-year player Riley McCarron, and Paul Turner. Veteran Matthew Slater is a wide receiver in name only, he’s a special teamer. Veterans Kenny Britt and Matthew Mitchell are not practicing yet and are considered day to day. Julian Edelman will return to the team Week 5 when his suspension is finished.

Decker isn’t a lock to even make the team but I believe he’ll have enough in the tank to beat out one of the younger slot guys (Berrios/McCarron) but time will tell. He had just a tad of experience with Josh McDaniels in Denver during his rookie season.

While the loss of Matthews is a blow, we thought he’d be an integral member of the offense in 2018, it certainly isn’t a death knell. Why? The Patriots still have plenty of talent at the wide receiver position. They like Britt and he’s only a year removed from a 1000-yard season. Dorsett appears primed to shake off his first season blues and be a bigger contributor. Patterson is the wild card, he’s never been able to produce like he was thought to be when he arrived in the NFL. But the Patriots are intent on finding him a role.

And this team has so many other talented pass catchers at other positions. Rob Gronkowski is the gold standard among NFL tight ends. Jacob Hollister seems poised to make a big jump in production from Year 1 to Year 2 and has caught more passes from Brady this summer than anyone. And the production from Rex Burkhead, James White and Sony Michel at running back shouldn’t have anyone pushing the panic button.

So while I’d temper expectations a bit for Eric Decker right now, I think he’ll be fine here. He’s at the age where his one-year deal comes at a good time for him. He’ll be very visible with the Patriots nationally and could parlay this into one more good payday. I expect him to be a model teammate (unlike the other guy fans were clamoring for) and be “all-in” immediately.

While I have never been a big fan of Decker’s, the timing may be just right for him to come to New England and carve out a nice role for himself. His versatility will be a key facet in him being able to pick up the offense on the fly. Without being here all spring, and the first week of training camp, he’s well behind the rest of the receivers. However, it isn’t anything that can’t be overcome with hard work.

Orchestrating all of this is Tom Brady, who has taken the Patriots deep in the playoffs and to a Super Bowl with far less talent than he has right now with this offense. The loss of Matthews and Edelman (for a month) is a blow but this team will be just fine. They always start off a bit slow anyway. No reason to panic and sound the alarm. In one aspect of this, they were fortunate that the injury happened in the first week of training camp rather than Week 9 or 10.

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.

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

New England Patriots Training Camp Primer – Running Backs

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

 

Different Look, Better Production?

The Patriots head into training camp in just a few weeks and there should no shortage of competition at several spots, especially at the back end of the roster. As a lead-in to the beginning of camp, we’ll break down the positions and give our take on who is a lock, a near lock for the 53-man roster and who is on the bubble. Next up are the running backs.

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

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

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

Roster Locks: Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel, James Develin

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

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

Sony Michel after practice. (SBalestrieri photo)

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

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

Near Roster Locks: James White

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outside Looking in…. Longshots: Ralph Webb

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

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

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

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

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

New England Patriots News 6-24, AFC East Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The video can be seen here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.