Tag Archives: Jamie Collins

DL Potential Patriots Defense Draft Prospect Yetur Gross-Matos

Steve Balestrieri
April 9, 2020 at 7:22 am ET

As the 2020 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar or that we feel would be a great fit.

We’ve taken a look at a couple of linebackers and at safety but today we’ll look at the defensive line, specifically the defensive end/edge area. 

The Patriots don’t like to rely on one designated pass rusher but a collective effort where they can use different players to create mismatches by using stunts and blitzes to get after the opposing QB. The Patriots were tied for 7th in 2019 with 47 sacks but the leading sack producer was Jamie Collins with 7 followed by Kyle Van Noy with 6.5. Both of them are gone, so the production will have to come from elsewhere. 

On the edge, the Patriots currently have among the players on the roster Deatrich Wise, John Simon, Chase Winovich and Derek Rivers. They can use some fresh blood in there and provide them with the production that they received from Trey Flowers who signed with Detroit a year ago. 

So, let’s take a look at another one of the prospects that we feel would be a good fit for the Patriots and vice versa. A while back we wrote about Iowa DE A.J. Epenesa who could fall to them late in the first round of the upcoming draft. But this next player has an intriguing story.

Yetur Gross-Matos from Penn State is a very productive defensive end who is another talented defender just scratching the surface of his professional potential. He’s a long fluid athlete and has the prototypical size for a defensive end at 6’5, 265. 

He’s got excellent quickness and speed to power and consistently walks tackles back into the pocket. His production spiked in his last two seasons and last year had 40 tackles, 15.5 tackles for a loss with 9.5 sacks and 7 QB hits.

Gross-Matos had to overcome a lot in his early life as he lost his father to a drowning accident and a brother who was struck by lightning before he was 11 years old. He checks all of the blocks with size, speed, production, and athleticism. 

Pros:

– Prototypical size, agility, and athleticism. 

– Excellent production, 35 TFL, 17 sacks last two seasons

– Very good change of direction, and can disrupt the play at the LOS

– Growing more as a pass rusher

Cons

– Hand usage needs to improve 

– Sometimes allows blockers to get in his chest

– Still needs to grow into his frame

What his Role Will Be:

Gross-Matos would initially be a sub-package pass rusher as a rookie. But he has the ability, with good coaching to become an every-down player

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?

Yes, in Year 2 he should be competing for starting reps

How Many Downs Can He Play?

Four

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?

No one. His potential mirrors that of the former defensive end Trey Flowers.

What is his ST Value?

Minimal 

Conclusion:
Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller, their resident draft expert wrote about the Litany Lion, Yetur Gross-Matos is an impressive person and player. He has the size (6’5″, 266 lbs) to play 4-3 defensive end right out of the gate and will remind fans of Trey Flowers with his mixture of power and quickness. He’s also just scratching the surface of what he can be down the road with good coaching—something he’ll get plenty of in New England.

Gross-Matos is not yet the sum of his parts. The best word when describing him is “potential”. He’s one of those twitchy edge rushers with the size, length, bend and burst that teams covet at defensive end. 

While he’s far from a finished product and could easily pack on another 10-15 pounds of muscle on his frame, he also needs to improve his hand usage, something the Patriots have a perfect mentor in Joe Kim, who uses a martial arts background to teach that. 

Once Gross-Matos harnesses his potential with his speed-to-power moves and improves in the small things that he needs to clean up, he has a ton of upside. In a draft without a ton of talented pass rushers, he is one of the top 3-4 with the ability to become a star in the making. If the Patriots decide to use #23 or trade back into the 2nd round, Gross-Matos should still be available to them. 

Gross-Matos’ highlight reel tape from JustBombs Productions can be seen here: 

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 

Potential Patriots Draft Target – LB Malik Harrison 

Steve Balestrieri
April 7, 2020 at 11:09 am ET

As the 2020 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar or that we feel would be a great fit.

On Monday we wrote about Alabama’s Terrell Lewis, who we feel is a great fit for the Patriots in what they do and how they normally target potential linebackers in the draft process. 

Again, presently at the linebacker position, the team currently has Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley, and Terez Hall. The team also has hybrid edge rushers who can also play some linebacker with Chase Winovich, John Simon, Brandon Copeland, Derek Rivers, and Shilique Calhoun.

So, let’s take a look at another one of the prospects that we feel would be a good fit for the Patriots and vice versa.

Malik Harrison from Ohio State is another one of those long-framed athletic linebackers who will play inside at the next level. He’d be an excellent fit in the Patriots 3-4 scheme as an inside backer. Harrison is versatile enough to be a good strong-side (SAM) backer in a 4-3 look 

He’s a very physical, downhill thumper in the running game. Prototypical size of 6’3, 247 who looks the part with a chiseled frame and huge arms. Was a former high school QB with freakish athleticism. 

Was considered only so-so in coverage, but improved as a senior and looked solid in coverage at the Senior Bowl with an interception. Growing as a blitzer up the gaps, he anchors well against the run and has great makeup speed.

Pros:

– Excellent Height and Length

– Freakish athleticism

– Outstanding change of direction, 6.83 in the 3-Cone Drill

– Just scratching his potential

Cons

– Natural aggressiveness makes him susceptible to play action

– Only average instincts

– Coverage ability still somewhat of a question mark

What his Role Will Be:

Harrison will initially be a backup and depth player for Hightower and Bentley. But as he grows into the system he could see more and more snaps as a rookie.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?

Yes, in Year 2 he should be competing (and winning) reps as a starting ILB. Then look for him to become a much-more utilized blitzer up the A-gaps 

How Many Downs Can He Play?

Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?

Harrison isn’t the replacement for anyone on the current roster, but look for the Patriots to use him similarly to how they used Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins.

What is his ST Value?

He’ll be a frequent and often used coverage player in the kicking game due to his freakish athleticism. 

Conclusion:
Our friend from Patriots.com and Patriots Unfiltered Radio, Mike Dussault wrote about Harrison, “With the expectation that the Patriots trade out of the 23rd overall spot, Harrison would be a great first selection in the second round. He has outstanding size and athletic ability and would bring just the kind of hard-nosed play the Patriots love from their linebacker corps. After testing through the roof at the combine, Harrison is a riser on draft boards and would be an ideal foundational player as the defense looks to rebuild their front seven.”

Harrison, playing on a stacked Ohio State defense had excellent production, 75 tackles, 16.5 for a loss, along with 4.5 sacks. Harrison has the versatility to play all of the linebacker spots and has experience as a core special-teamer (a Bill Belichick positive). 

Harrison is the classic inside linebacker who can stuff the run; hits like a brick wall and is he’s outstanding at shedding blockers and getting runners while they’re still in the backfield. He’s versatile and can be moved around (a la Van Noy) While he does struggle some when it comes to coverage a bit, what we saw in Mobile may be a harbinger to come. He was slotted to go in Rounds 3-4 but I doubt he lasts into the 4th Round with the way he’s been shooting up different draft boards. If he’s available when the Patriots pick in Round 3, he’d be a great fit.

Harrison’s highlight reel tape from JustBombs can be seen here: </span>

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 

Looking for Linebacking Help, Terrell Lewis Checks All the Boxes

Steve Balestrieri
April 6, 2020 at 7:30 am ET

As the 2020 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar or that we feel would be a great fit.

In my Sunday post, I touched upon the need at the linebacker position. The team lost an awful lot of talent of depth with Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Elandon Roberts all gone this spring. Not only were those players talented but they were versatile too. Van Noy and Collins, in particular, were like movable chess pieces who Bill Belichick could move around and create mismatches. That’s why the sack numbers were so high, especially early in the season when Collins was en fuego. 

At the linebacker position, the team currently has Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley and Terez Hall. The team also has hybrid edge rushers who can also play some linebacker with Chase Winovich, John Simon, Brandon Copeland, Derek Rivers, and Shilique Calhoun.

As I wrote for the Sunday column, a lot of people are enamored (and rightfully so) with players Patrick Queen, Zack Baun and a few others who are tremendously talented but are not the size the Patriots usually covet. The average size of a linebacker that the Patriots draft is over 6’2 and 245 lbs. So, while I’m not going to sit here and tell you that it isn’t going to happen for either of those guys but I’m not holding my breath. 

We’ll take a look at a few of the prospects that we feel would be a good fit for the Patriots and vice versa.

Terrell Lewis from Alabama is an intriguing prospect that played in the SEC for Belichick’s good friend Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa. When talking about Lewis, however, his injury history is bound to be a concern. He missed significant time as a sophomore with an arm injury and then all of his junior season with a knee injury. But healthy in 2019, he showed the potential that he possesses. He led Alabama with 16 QB pressures while notching six sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss. 

He is built like a prototypical linebacker, with a long frame, very well built and excellent footwork. He runs well for a big man at 6’5, 262. He has the versatility to either rush the QB off the edge or drop into coverage. 

Pros:

– Excellent Height and Length

– Outstanding explosion off the snap

– Rare combination of speed and power

– Potential is far ahead of him

Cons

– Injury history in his middle two seasons

– Needs to get a little stronger in setting the edge

– Could use better use of his hands

What his Role Will Be:

Lewis will start out as a depth player, perhaps as a sub-package rusher, but by the end of his rookie season, he should be getting more and more reps

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?

Yes, in Year 2 he should not only be earning starting reps, but could see his role blossom into one of the leaders of the defense. 

How Many Downs Can He Play?

Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?

Lewis is won’t be replacing anyone currently on the roster but could see his role evolve into a similar way the Patriots used Jamie Collins. .

What is his ST Value?

Limited, but the team will probably use him on some of the coverage units taking advantage of his speed and athleticism

Conclusion:
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein in his draft profile wrote that Lewis, played in just 26 games, so he’s less technically sound than most Alabama defenders at this stage, but he was still productive and showed growth as a player in-season. With more coaching and development as a rusher, he should be able to pair traits with the skill to become a future NFL starter

Lewis’s future is tied up in potential. He is not yet the sum of his parts after playing in just 26 games in college. That combination of speed, power, and instinctive play should be an enticing look for the Patriots to take a flyer on. He is probably (if he can stay healthy) going to be a much better pro than he was as college player.

With the Patriots possibly trading down into the second round, Lewis should be around for them in the late 30s or early 40s.  The Patriots like their outside linebackers big, physical, and with the ability to either set the edge or drop their hand in the dirt and rush the passer. Lewis checks all of those blocks.

Lewis’ highlight reel tape from JustBombs can be seen here: 

 

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on Spreaker as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 

Kyle Van Noy, Danny Shelton, and Duron Harmon All Say Goodbye To The Patriots

Robert Alvarez
March 19, 2020 at 4:50 pm ET

Its been a tough week of thank you’s and goodbyes for the Patriots as free agency opens up.

Kyle Van Noy, Danny Shelton, and Duron Harmon all posted thank you messages to the Patriots organization and fanbase over Instagram following their signings or trades elsewhere.

Van Noy signed a four-year, $51 million deal with the Miami Dolphins on Monday reuniting with Brian Flores.

“It has been an honor, a privilege and a blessing to have represented the New England Patriots organization for the past three and a half seasons,” Van Noy wrote. “I am so fortunate that coach (Bill) Belichick brought me in and gave me a chance to contribute and leave my mark.

“Thank you to (Patriots owner) Mr. (Robert) Kraft, Coach, Nick, the Patriots staff and teammates for helping me grow as a player and as a person. I leave with two rings, but hundreds of memories that I will cherish forever.”

In 2019, Van Noy logged 56 tackles and a career-best 6.5 sacks to go with three forced fumbles and three pass deflections. He played in a Super Bowl in each of his three seasons in New England, winning two rings.

Read his full statement below.

View this post on Instagram

Thank you @patriots ! Thank you #patsnation ♥️♥️

A post shared by Kyle Van Noy (@realkylevannoy) on

As for Shelton and Harmon, both players reunited with Matt Patricia and the Detroit Lions.

Shelton agreed to a two-year, $8 million free agent deal and Harmon was traded over to the Lions with a 2020 7th-round pick for a 2020 5th-round pick. The trade is pending a physical.

With the acquisition of a 5th round pick, the Patriots now possess at least one pick in every round of the 2020 NFL Draft except the second.

The Patriots draft assets currently consist of 12 total picks, including four in the first 100.

Both Shelton and Harmon add to a growing list of ex-Patriots in Detroit, they join Jamie Collins, Trey Flowers, and Danny Amendola on the roster.

Known as “the closer” for his clutch late game-sealing interceptions, Harmon was drafted by the Patriots in the third round (91st) overall of the 2013 draft out of Rutgers and was apart of three Super Bowl championship teams.

“Pats Nation I love you and will miss you guys!” Harmon wrote in an Instagram caption.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B97K7dahTsA/

Lastly Danny Shelton departs the Patriots after two seasons and a Super Bowl championship.

“Thank you Pats Nation and @patriots organization! It’s been a great two years and I’m forever thankful for the opportunity. Looking forward to what the future holds,” Shelton wrote on Instagram.

Shelton played a key role in the Super Bowl LIII championship helping shut down the Los Angeles Rams running game and Todd Gurley.

Gurley was limited to just ten carries for 35 yards in the victory.

 

PHOTOS: Jamie Collins Thanks Patriots Following Free Agent Signing With Lions

Robert Alvarez
March 17, 2020 at 6:28 pm ET

On Monday night, free agent linebacker Jamie Collins signed a three-year deal worth $30 million with the Detroit Lions. The deal included $18 million guaranteed per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

The move reunites Collins with his former Patriots defensive coordinator turned Lions head coach Matt Patricia.

A second round draft pick of the Patriots (52nd overall) in 2013, Collins helped the team win Super Bowl XLIX and earned Pro Bowl and second-team All Pro honors in 2015 before being traded to the Cleveland Browns on Halloween in 2016.

Collins subsequently signed a four-year, $50 million contract in January 2017 with the Browns.

After struggling for two seasons in Cleveland, Collins returned to the Patriots following a Browns release for the 2019 season and signed a one year deal where he regained his old form for most of the year.

On his Instagram account Tuesday, Collins thanked the Patriots and shared a slideshow of photo memories from his second stint.

“Thank you @patriots nation for the great times, memories, leadership, work, growth, and most of all opportunity. Couldn’t have done it without y’all. Forever grateful and will always appreciate the time there helping me jumpstart my career since 2013”, Collins wrote.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B92T4XJpfXo/

VIDEOS: Past Combine Workouts Of Jamie Collins And James White

Robert Alvarez
February 29, 2020 at 3:23 pm ET

As part of NFL Combine week in Indianapolis, the New England Patriots shared some past combine workouts of current players.

Check out the Jamie Collins’ (2013) and James Whites’ (2014) workout’s that helped lead them to future Patriots success.

For previous clips in the series, take a look here.

Video courtesy, The New England Patriots

Best Of Social Media: Stephon Gilmore Named NFL Defensive Player Of The Year

Robert Alvarez
February 3, 2020 at 1:32 pm ET

On Saturday night at the 9th Annual NFL Honors in Miami, cornerback Stephon Gilmore was named the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

“It’s a great honor. It’s a blessing. It’s a lot of hard work,” Gilmore said. “Obviously, I couldn’t have done it without my teammates, but to be the first player in Patriots history to win Defensive Player of the Year, it’s a great honor.”

Check out some of the best sights and sounds shared over social media from the evening below, including reaction from Gilmore’s teammates and players around the league.

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1223732979056414720?s=20

View this post on Instagram

D-P-O-Y

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

https://www.instagram.com/p/B8CpYbNhk2p/

https://www.instagram.com/p/B8CrJOLFmAf/

https://www.instagram.com/p/B8CsAsIlI24/

https://www.instagram.com/p/B8CuyEepiU9/?utm_source=ig_embed

https://twitter.com/_bigplayslay23/status/1223734233547595781?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1223734233547595781&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.patriots.com%2Fnews%2Fteammates-nfl-stars-react-to-stephon-gilmore-being-named-defensive-player-of-the

https://twitter.com/GamecockFB/status/1223733726451888128?s=20

Building the 2020 Patriots Roster, Where are the Biggest Needs?

Steve Balestrieri
January 17, 2020 at 7:00 am ET

The Patriots have a lot of work to do in the offseason and although the new league year doesn’t begin until March, their 2020 season starts now. They have to replace another coordinator (STs/WR coach Joe Judge) and perhaps their college scouting director (Monti Ossenfort) who is being interviewed for the open Cleveland Browns GM position.

Then there are a slew of the team’s free agents to decide upon. We’ll get to those in good time as we’ll take a look at where the team needs are. And a lot of what drives the train is always money. The Patriots have about $49 million to spend. It sounds like a lot. It is not. Especially when considering if the Patriots cut ties with Tom Brady is will cost them $13.5 million in dead money and a new contract will not come cheaply. 

So, let’s take a dive into the roster by position …as currently constructed and see where they’re at.

Quarterback: 

Jarrett Stidham, Cody Kessler
*Free agent: Tom Brady 

The Elephant in the room and all of the ridiculous (and it IS as ridiculous as it is maddening) drivel about non-existent homes in Greenwich, his luxury suite at Gillette and the amateur psychologists who became overnight experts at reading body language and hidden meaning in every word of his have gotten out of control.

Our feeling here hasn’t changed. We feel that Brady will return given that the Patriots don’t really want to ear $13.5 million bucks. Plus, there isn’t anyone on the roster that is a no-brainer to take over. Stidham may well be that guy, but we don’t know and haven’t seen him take a meaningful snap in months.  So until Bill Belichick or Brady comes out and definitely says he’s not returning, we’re going under the assumption he’ll be back.

Running Back:

Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden, Damien Harris, Fullbacks James Develin, Jakob Johnson 

Here is where things can get interesting. The team is set here at running back. In fact they’re a little too deep. They could add $4 million in cap space by releasing Rex Burkhead. However, Burkhead was their most productive back down the stretch, as he was a year ago. But injuries always seem to cut into his season and the team just spent a good draft pick on Damien Harris. Burkhead is a guy to keep an eye on. 

Develin had a neck injury and those can be tough to come back from. Don’t be shocked if they add another fullback this spring.

Wide Receiver: 

Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, Quincy Adeboyejo (future), Devin Ross (future)
*Free agent: Phillip Dorsett

The need for a speedy, reliable wide receiver here is critical. Edelman is going to be 34, Sanu will get all spring/summer to acclimate into the offense. Meyers and Harry will be fine. A lot of their issues had to do with overthinking things and that will be rectified in Year  2. Look for them to try to sign a fast, veteran outside wide receiver, possibly two and cut their ties with Dorsett. 

Tight End: 

Matt LaCosse Ryan Izzo
*Free agent: Ben Watson 

The most critical need of the Patriots, of the offense and the team overall. The offense really lacked a viable target down the seams all season.  Look for Ben Watson to retire and the team to double-dip here. Look for the team to sign a veteran free agent (Austin Hooper, Hunter Henry?) or try to swing a trade for an established veteran (O.J. Howard attempt again). And then address the need again with a young guy in the draft. 

Offensive Line:  

Isaiah Wynn, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Korey Cunningham, Yodny Cajuste, Hjalte Froholdt, Najee Toran (future)
*Free agents: James Ferentz, Ted Karras, Marshall Newhouse, Joe Thuney, Jermaine Eluemunor (RFA) 

Another area of need. We heard through the grapevine that Marcus Cannon won’t be returning. If he doesn’t it will free up $5.8 million in cap space, despite him signing an extension last summer. Coupled with the unlikely scenario of Joe Thuney returning means the offensive line has a lot of work to do. 

Yodny Cajuste didn’t take a snap in either a game or practice last year. So, expecting him to just jump in and start is a very long shot. Is Froholdt going to be ready? Doubtful too. Look for the Patriots to bring back Karras and Eluemunor for sure and then address tackle and guard in either free agency or the draft. 

Defensive Line:  

Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise, John Simon, Byron Cowart, Nick Thurman (future), Tashawn Bower (future)
*Free agents: Danny Shelton, Adam Butler (RFA), Keionta Davis (ERFA) 

Look for the team to attempt to bring back Shelton and Butler. But they’d still need at least another big run stuffer and a defensive end that can rush the QB. 

Linebacker:  

Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Chase Winovich, Derek Rivers, Brandon King, Terez Hall (future)
*Free agents: Shilique Calhoun, Jamie Collins, Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy 

Winovich should be in line for a big uptick in snaps this season. He’s more of a pass rusher than a coverage guy and I’d expect he’ll be tasked with filling the big shoes of Van Noy. I don’t expect Van Noy back this year, he’s in line for a big payday. I do expect them to make a push to bring back both Collins and Roberts. 

Calhoun may come back and flashed some potential. Rivers is going to have to have a big spring or he may not even be around for training camp.  Retooling Hightower’s contract could free up some space.

Cornerback: 

Stephon Gilmore, JC Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, Justin Bethel, D’Angelo Ross 

The Patriots are in great shape here. With Gilmore, Jackson, and Jones, they have three starting corners who excel at their position. Williams played sparingly in his rookie season and could be ready for a big uptick in snaps. That could put McCourty on the block. If the team were to release him, they’d save an additional $3.8 million.  Also, reworking Gilmore’s contract could free up some cap space

Safety: 

Patrick Chung Duron Harmon Terrence Brooks Obi Melifonwu (future) Malik Gant Adarius Pickett (future)
*Free agent: Devin McCourty 

Big decisions loom here. McCourty arguably had the best season of his career in 2019 and would normally be ready for a big payday. But he’s 33 and with both he and Chung are getting older, the team needs to begin to address the future. Harmon has ostensibly been a starter for several years. Gant flashed a bit in camp last year while Brooks played well. I’d expect they’ll try to bring back McCourty for one more year, but it is time to bring in some younger players and get them groomed for down the road.  

Special Teams:  

K Stephen Gostkowski P Jake Bailey LS Joe Cardona
*Free agents: Nick Folk, Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner, Justin Bethel 

I don’t see the team bringing Folk back and I think they’ll bring in another kicker for competition with Gostkowski this summer. Matthew Slater is the gold standard for special teams players. I expect the team to bring him back and to make an effort to bring back both Ebner and Bethel.

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.

Patriots Free Agents Will Demand Several Important Decisions

Steve Balestrieri
January 7, 2020 at 1:12 pm ET

A look at the Patriots impending free agents shows that the team will be forced to make several very important decisions moving forward. There are several key players, especially on the defense that will require the team to decide whether to bring back those players or not once the new league year begins in March. 

The biggest question the Patriots have right now is are they all-in for another big push for a 7th Super Bowl, or is this a rebuilding year, where they break it down and start anew. Much of that answer will have to do with the first name on the list.

If he returns then it would most certainly mean that they’re planning on retooling for another run. The team has already lost STs/WR coach Joe Judge who is the new head coach of the New York Giants. That is the first big domino to fall.

First, here is a look at the Patriots free agents in 2020: 

Tom Brady
Devin McCourty
Kyle Van Noy
Matthew Slater
Phillip Dorsett
Nate Ebner
Jamie Collins
Danny Shelton
Nick Folk
Marshall Newhouse
Joe Thuney
Ben Watson
Shilique Calhoun
James Ferentz
Ted Karras
Elandon Roberts

Three players will be restricted free agents:
Keionta Davis
Jermaine Eluemunor
Adam Butler

Obviously, a lot hinges on Brady’s status. Are the Patriots going to bring him back for one more year? From a monetary standpoint, it would be beneficial to do so, if Brady leaves, the Patriots are on the hook for $13.5 million. Can the two sides work out fair compensation for both parties, but still allow them to retool and add enough weapons? 

This is the big one. Because if Brady returns (and we think he will), then they may feel they only lack a player or two to make another run. While they start the new year with seemingly plenty of cap space, a new Brady contract will eat a lot of that up. If they decide to move on from Brady, does this mean Jarrett Stidham is the man? And if so, does the offense change too? Interesting times ahead.

So who goes? I think that Kyle Van Noy will command a lot of cash in free agency and has earned his payday, with 6.5 sacks, 14 QB hits, and a team-leading 58 QB pressures. No one else had more than 33. I think he’s gone. 

Joe Thuney will be one of the most sought-after guards in free agency.  He earned 2nd team All-Pro and has never missed a game…he’s gone too as he’ll get a big payday.

Jamie Collins came back to NE on a one-year prove-it type deal and he had an outstanding start to the season. While he finished quietly, what he showed early this season should earn him a healthy payday. His type of athleticism can’t be taught. 

Phillip Dorsett is a popular guy in the locker room, but after a very nice start to the season, he disappeared down the stretch with three catches in the final five games of the season and had only 29 catches on the year. I’d be surprised if he comes back.

Ben Watson came out of retirement to play for the Patriots one more time this season. He was released early but brought back and handled it the way he always has, with class. One of the nicest people to play the game, he had a disappointing season but still led all NE tight ends in receptions. He is likely to retire again, judging from his postgame comments. 

One of the toughest calls to make will be with Devin McCourty, a team leader on and off the field, McCourty had arguably his best season with the Patriots in 2019. His age and the amount of money it will take to bring him back will make it a difficult proposition. It may get compounded by if the team decides to cut ties with his brother Jason. I think they’ll try to work out a deal with him to stay for one more year. But if one of his former coaches wows him with a big-money deal, who knows?

Danny Shelton went from a healthy scratch late in the 2018 season to one of the team’s most important defensive linemen. He and Lawrence Guy were outstanding this season in the interior as run stuffers. 

Matthew Slater is a borderline Hall of Famer for Special Teams, a team captain and a huge veteran presence in the locker room. Any signs of aging in this 12th season at age 34? Not a bit. He was a 1st team All-Pro this year. It would be a huge surprise not to see Slater back in 2020. 

Elandon Roberts’ snaps went to a career-low defensively this season but if anything he’s improved his stock with the team. With James Develin and Jakob Johnson on IR, Roberts stepped up and played fullback and did a very commendable job. Belichick loves versatile guys who put the team first. 

Nate Ebner is a Belichick guy, a tough as nails STs guy, one of the better STs guys in the league… Will he back? Belichick wore his rugby jersey at joint TC practice with the Saints a few years ago…any questions?

Nick Folk stepped in (twice) for the Patriots this year with Stephen Gostkowski on IR and played pretty well. The only FG he missed was blocked. Gostkowski’s status may have a play in this, but the feeling is here, they’ll move on but keep his number just in case.

Marshall Newhouse started nine games this season, eight at LT for Isaiah Wynn, one for Marcus Cannon at RT. He’s played for seven teams in his career and is now 31. We’ll have to see how the Patriots feel about the return of Yodny Cajuste but the feeling here is they’ll let Newhouse walk. 

Ted Karras filled in for David Andrews all year at center, when the veteran suffered from blood clots in his lungs. Can Andrews even return to football this year? I think Karras returns and will battle for a guard spot if Thuney leaves and Andrews returns or is the team’s center if he doesn’t. James Ferentz is a backup interior lineman and won’t break the bank to get to return. He did make two starts this year inside. It will be interesting to see how Hjalte Froholdt works out. 

Shalique Calhoun is a situational pass rusher and he played in 15 games this year, at times pretty well. If the money’s right, he’ll be back. Ditto for Keionta Davis who spent the entire season on IR.

Adam Butler should be brought back. He notched six sacks, nine QB hits, eight tackles for loss and five passes knocked down as an interior situational pass rusher. Great depth guy who can step up when needed. 

Jermaine Eluemunor is an interior OL who the Patriots traded a 4th round draft pick for this summer. He only played a handful of snaps this year and was a healthy scratch for most of the season. It shouldn’t break the bank for him as well. 

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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.

Patriots-Titans Wild Card Game, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge

Steve Balestrieri
January 3, 2020 at 7:35 am ET

The Patriots are at home against the Tennessee Titans in the Wild Card game of the 2019 NFL Playoffs. The Patriots (12-4) are the #3 seed while the Titans (9-7) are the #6 seed in the AFC. 

The Patriots have been outstanding at home in the playoffs and have won a playoff game for an NFL record eight years in a row. 

The Patriots were five and a half minutes away from a bye week if they held on to beat the Dolphins last week but that loss knocked them into the Wild Card weekend. Tennessee has been very good since installing Ryan Tannehill in at quarterback. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and have scored at least 20 points in their last seven. 

However, he will be making his first postseason start while Tom Brady will be making his 41st career start in the postseason. 

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.  

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Titans Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Tennessee

The Patriots running game has taken off in the past three games against Cincinnati, Buffalo, and Miami giving them something to build off of. For much of the season, they were stuck in neutral due to injuries and subpar play along the offensive line. But that part of the equation has ratcheted up and the backs, Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead have looked much better and more explosive lately. 

The Titans are solid against the run coming in at #12 in yards against and #7 in yards per carry. They have the big guys upfront DaQuan Jones in the middle, with Jeffery Simmons and Jurrell Casey on the ends in their 3-4. 

The Patriots need to establish the run early to get their passing game going and I expect Michel, Burkhead, and James White will get plenty of work. But I also expect former Patriots coaches Mike Vrable and DC Dean Pees to take a page out of Miami’s book and cheat the linebackers up and run blitz to disrupt the running game and dare the Patriots to beat them in the middle of the field with the tight ends.         

Patriots WRs vs Titans Secondary – Razor’s Edge Tennessee

The Patriots passing game has had issues most of the season and while people will talk about Tom Brady’s decline, after Julian Edelman (100 catches) the next wide receiver in production of Phillip Dorsett with 29 catches. The tight ends have been disappointing in their production as well. Brady has had to rely on the consistent but banged up Edelman and James White (72 receptions) out of the backfield. 

The Titans pass defense isn’t great and finished at #24 in the league allowing 255 yards per game. With corners Logan Ryan and Adoree Jackson, safeties Kevin Byard and Kenny Vaccaro they have a good group but they miss former Patriot Malcolm Butler who is on IR. 

The Patriots need everyone to step up this week and that includes the tight ends, who have to occupy the middle of the field. Tennessee has 43 sacks on the year, which is led by Harold Landry with nine. They can get after the QB and we’d expect some blitz action on third downs as Pees will mix things up. Protection for Brady, like always is key here. 

Next up the Titans offense:

Titans RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Tennessee

The Patriots run defense with Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton has continued to play outstanding football and have been excellent at slowing or stopping the run at the point of attack and allowing the linebackers to make plays. 

Tennessee has Derrick Henry who led the NFL with 1540 yards, an average of 5.0 yards and 16 touchdowns. He was a big reason they were so successful down the stretch. Dion Lewis is their #2 back who can run or catch out of the backfield. QB Ryan Tannehill is very mobile and can run as well.

A big key for the Patriots is not only to slow Henry at the point of attack but setting the edge here as well. If Henry gets to the edge, bad things will happen for the Patriots defense. The defense has had some issues with big backs this season, Frank Gore, Nick Chubb, and Joe Mixon have all given them problems. On a short week with several players less than 100 percent, this could be problematic.  

Titans WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England

The Tennessee passing attack has thrived under Ryan Tannehill who has played outstanding since taking over and getting out of Miami for a fresh start. Tannehill easily had the most impressive season in his career, completing 70 percent of his passes with a QB rating of 117.5 since taking over. He threw 22 TDs and just six INTs. 

Tannehill has several good weapons at his disposal. Rookie WR A.J. Brown, Corey Davis (who roasted the Patriots for 125 yards last season) and two good tight ends in Jonnu Smith and Andrew Firkser with Dion Lewis out of the backfield. 

The Patriots pass defense (until last week) was outstanding all season allowing just 180 yards per game It will be interesting to see if the Patriots decide to use Gilmore on Brown or Davis. With both Jason McCourty and Jonathan Jones hobbling with groin injuries it cuts down on their depth. Tannehill won’t have slot WR Adam Humphries who is out with an injury. 

The pass rush, so dominant earlier this season has to ratchet it up now. The Patriots had 47 sacks but in the past few games, they’re just not getting home, just missing with the sacks. The Titans allowed a whopping 56 this season, and this is an area that the Patriots have to exploit or it could be a long night for the defense. Look for a similar gameplan like Kansas City where the Patriots try to keep everything in front of them.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots special teams have been a big bright spot with four blocked punts and outstanding coverage. Nick Folk now has the team confident that he can consistently make field goals and extra points. Jake Bailey had a terrific rookie season with 36 punts downed inside the 20. 

The Titans like New England have gone through four kickers this season. Greg Joseph took over for the injured Ryan Succop two weeks ago and hasn’t attempted a field goal yet. Punter Brett Kern had an outstanding season averaging 47.1 yards per punt with 37 inside the 20 with just two touchbacks. 

Neither has much of a return game but the Patriots get the edge at home here and could use a big play (or two) from their STs this week.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

The Patriots have a tough matchup this week with a very hot Titans team that has scored 20 points or more seven weeks in a row. When the defense has allowed 20 or more points this season, they’ve lost. So, the 20 point plateau is a benchmark to monitor.  

Here are our keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Slow Down Henry and the Run Game – The Patriots have to slow down Henry and force Tannehill into obvious passing situations. The linebackers have to have their best game of the year. Bringing down Henry is no easy task and they have to get him running east-west at the point of attack. 

With the Titans’ deep group of receivers, the Patriots won’t have the luxury of stacking the box as the Titans will on defense. The front seven will have to stand up and be the “Boogeymen” this week. If Henry gets going and puts the Titans on his back with second and third downs with short yardage, it will be a long game. 

Start Quickly and Get the Lead – The Patriots got off to a horrible start last week and appeared to be sleepwalking through the first quarter. They can’t have that this week if they want their season to continue.

The offense needs to get going early and get some points on the board and force the Titans to play catchup. It will put a little bit of pressure on Tannehill who is playing in his first-ever playoff game.

They have to have the lead late in the game and again put Tannehill in a position where he has to throw. A great bit by Mike Dussault of Patriots.com, Henry in the last seven games has 250 yards more than any other running back, 10 touchdowns and averaging 8 yards per carry in the second half of the Titans games. 

Brady Has to Get Everyone Involved – With the playoffs here, the Titans are going to stack the box to take away the run and dare Brady to beat them down the field. Expect Edelman to get bracketed all game long. So, they’ll need the secondary receivers, Mohamad Sanu, Phillip Dorsett, N’Keal Harry to step up and produce. 

This will be a big week for the tight ends if they can produce. The middle of the field will be there for the taking but Matt LaCosse and Ben Watson haven’t been able to do much this year. If they can hit a few seam passes it will open up a lot of room for the struggling players outside.  

Where are the Turnovers, They Need Turnovers – The defense hasn’t got any turnovers for the past two games and this week they could really use a few. If the pass rush can get to Tannehill, a strip-sack or a forced throw for an interception would go a long way in helping an offense that is having trouble consistently scoring points. 

Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson were both off their game a week ago. Look for them to be more competitive this week and try to steal a pass in some tight windows. 

___________

This is not a great matchup for the Patriots. Coming off of a short week, facing a physical and hot Tennessee team where the coaching staff and several players have plenty of experience in the New England system. 

We know the Patriots are very tough at home in the postseason and haven’t dropped a home playoff game since 2013.  But the Titans being able to mix things up on offense and having a tremendous red-zone offense (scoring 75.6 percent of the time) is a tough matchup this week.

There are plenty of ways I can see the Patriots circling the wagons and toughing out a hard-fought win at home. We’ve seen it too many times to count. But the feeling here is that the offense won’t be able to keep up and allow them to move on. Titans 24-17

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 and breakdown game analysis