Tag Archives: Joey Iosefa

For D.J. Foster, The Clock is Ticking for the 2016 Season

Steve Balestrieri
August 24, 2016 at 6:21 am ET

Talented, Athletic RB Has to Make an Impression Now

The Patriots were in on D.J Foster right after the 2016 NFL Draft was completed and made contact with the very athletic running back and wide receiver from Arizona State. The one thing that jumped off the page was his lightning quickness and impressive footspeed. But he’s missed nearly all of training camp with a lingering hamstring issue and with the clock ticking, Foster will have to make a big impression to make the team.

Foster played running back as well as a slot receiver at Arizona State. Because of that experience, he is probably a more polished route runner than any of the Patriots backs. Watching him during the June minicamp, he was quicker in and out of his cuts than any of the other backs.

“There’s a no doubt in my mind that he can make it,” for coach Todd Graham told Boston.com back when the Patriots signed him.

“And I do think that he’s got a great chance to be very productive for the Patriots, because of how he fits in their offense. It’s all about being versatile. … I think it couldn’t be the perfect fit for him. One of the most versatile players I’ve coached. A lot of coaches make that statement, but kind of what gives it validity is he had 2,500 yards rushing and 2,500 yards receiving (during his college career).”

That versatility was noted by not only the media but by the coaching staff, he was the most intriguing of the backs entering the summer. It was thought that the 6’0, 195-pound Foster could even push James White for reps and a roster spot as the third down pass receiving back.

The coaches moved him around at a variety of positions during minicamp, showing that they were trying to find a role for the talented youngster. Then came the hamstring pull and everything stopped.


“It’s been something that has just been lingering,” Foster said to the media on Tuesday. “I’ve been doing all the rehab I can and they’ve been doing a great job just continuously being involved mentally in the game and I am just learning as much as I can.”

On Monday, Foster didn’t retreat to the lower practice fields after the stretching was done as he had been, but stayed with the team, a sign he’s finally healthy and ready to contribute. But did he miss too much time with his injury?

“There have been some tough times, but my teammates and coaches have done a great job with keeping me in the mix,” Foster said. “I’m just trying to learn as much as I can, be in the classroom, be in the playbook and take as many mental reps as I can.”

If he practices all week, he could see his first NFL action against the Carolina Panthers on Friday night in the Patriots third preseason game. “Yeah, I am excited,” Foster said. “That’s up to coach (Bill) Belichick, up to the coaching staff,” Foster said. “You’ve got to ask them. But I’m going to be as prepared as I can.”

With Dion Lewis needing additional surgery, the Patriots running back roster has an open spot. LeGarrette Blount is a lock, he’s the big back that carries the ball between the tackles. He’s a proven veteran and while not great, he has the confidence in the coaching staff that he can get the job done. White, also is a lock. He’s the third down back who will catch the ball out of the backfield and has had a good summer. He’s shown that he is ready to assume the mantle in Lewis’ absence.

Bolden is close to a roster lock. He can give the team a few reps here and there on offense but is one of the core special teams guys on the roster.

That leaves one roster spot (the team normally carries four running backs) and Foster will be competing with Tyler Gaffney and Joey Iosefa for the final slot. Gaffney and Iosefa are more of the bigger back mold like Bolden, so there’s a chance that Foster can still find a niche at this late juncture.

There’s still hope for him, but if the Patriots ultimately decide that he hasn’t done enough to warrant a roster spot, he could wind up on IR and be stashed away in a red-shirt type situation for 2017. Or they could roll the dice and waive him and hope that no one claims him and put him on the practice squad for at least the beginning of the season. For now, Foster has only one goal, get on the field this week.

“I feel good,” Foster said. “I keep going and doing what I can every day and to continuously improve.”

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.

Dion Lewis to Undergo “Clean Up” Surgery, Out Indefinitely

Steve Balestrieri
August 21, 2016 at 2:07 pm ET

Pats will likely try to swing a deal now

So much for good news, just a short time after he walked thru the locker room with no noticeable limp, it was learned that Patriots’ running back Dion Lewis will undergo “clean-up” surgery and be shelved indefinitely.

Adam Schefter from ESPN broke the story that Lewis will undergo a second surgery.

Lewis who hadn’t been seen since the last day of minicamp was seen by the media strutting thru the locker room during the open phase on Sunday. Since he’s been MIA since June, it was seen as a positive sign. Now he’s going to ….at a minimum begin the season on PUP and perhaps even wind up on IR.

This latest setback is expected to last 8-10 weeks which would put Lewis on the cusp of PUP and possibly landing on IR if he isn’t ready by then.

So what do the Patriots do in the meanwhile? Well, it immediately opens a spot on the 53-man roster. We had already projected Lewis to start the season on PUP so that part is no surprise. That opens a roster spot that we believe will go to…right now Tyler Gaffney. It could also open the door for someone like Donald Brown or D.J. Foster to make the roster, but both have missed a ton of time.

One thing is for sure now, and that is James White’s spot now appears locked as he’s now the best pass catching RB on the team. The Patriots depth chart currently consists of: LeGarrette Blount James White Brandon Bolden Tyler Gaffney Donald Brown Joey Iosefa and D.J. Foster.

Blount, White, and Bolden appear to be roster locks. The remaining players will fight it out for the final spot. FB James Develin is a lock and could be listed here or with a separate category.

Work a Trade? The Patriots could be trying to work a trade or will wait and watch the waiver wire for a suitable pickup. This was something Paul Perillo of PFW said during the broadcast of the game on Thursday.

He mentioned the Titans and Bishop Sankey. He’s got good size and is a Patriots type player and would be a good fit. Tennessee is loaded at the position with Derrick Henry, DeMarco Murray, Dexter McCluster, Antonio Andrews, David Cobb, Bishop Sankey and Devid Fluellen. Sankey could possibly be had at a bargain price with their depth.

Other trading partners could be either Dallas or KC. The Cowboys just drafted Ezekiel Elliot, to go along with Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar and sixth-round pick Darius Jackson. McFadden would be the obvious choice to get cut loose. Especially with the way Morris ran this week. Would Dallas and Jerry Jones look to help Kraft and the Patriots out? Hmmm.

A more likely deal could be had with the Chiefs and Andy Reid. Knile Davis seems the odd man out in KC and he had an impressive playoff game against the Patriots a year ago, right up until his fumble.

But regardless, the situation with the Patriots running backs and Lewis went from a wait-and-see to a position of need. It was hoped that Lewis would be back to start the season. Now the earliest that will happen looks to be early November.

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

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

Patriots Training Camp Primer, Running Backs

Steve Balestrieri
July 11, 2016 at 6:00 am ET

Unit Still Has Questions Entering 2016

The Patriots head into training camp in just a few weeks and there should be no shortage of competition at a number of spots. As a lead-in to the beginning of camp, we’ll break down the positions and give our take on who is a lock, a near lock for the 53-man roster and who is on the bubble. We start the week off at the running back position.

Bill Belichick likes to say that the spring’s OTAs and Minicamp is a learning exercise and that the real competition begins in training camp. While that is true to an extent, with 89 players on the current roster,  a minimum of 36 of these will be cut. That doesn’t take into consideration the tweaking that goes on during the season after the initial 53-man roster is completed.

So we’ll start with the running backs. We know Bill Belichick likes a running back by committee, which tends to keep those fantasy numbers down but keeps their legs fresh. The team lost both starters to season-ending injuries a year ago as LaGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis ended up on IR. Although they return in 2016, it isn’t a given both will be ready for the start of camp.

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

Roster Locks: Dion Lewis
Lewis burst onto the scene a year ago and was absolutely electric once he got his hands on the ball. He proved to be tough to bring down in the open field and was fantastic as a pass receiver out of the backfield.

Among his many highlights arguably his best was a 10-yard touchdown against Dallas. Lewis caught the pass from QB Tom Brady one-handed and proceeded to shake and bake his way into the end zone making no less than three defenders miss.

Dion Lewis was fantastic in 2015 prior to going down with a season-ending injury. (USA TODAY Images)

Lewis was rewarded with a contract extension during the season but ended up tearing his ACL on a non-contact play against the Redskins. He had season-ending surgery and was definitely missed down the stretch and into the playoffs. He did make it onto the field for the last of the spring workouts and was running and cutting without a knee brace so there is room for optimism that he’ll be ready for the beginning of the year.

Near Roster Locks: LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden, James Develin
While Blount isn’t highly thought of outside of Foxboro circles, he remains a favorite of Belichick. The big (6’0, 250lb) running back is a threat if he can get to the second level of the defense and had decent numbers a year ago.

Blount had 165 carries for 703 yards, for a 4.3-yard average with six touchdowns rushing. He also caught six passes for 43 yards and a touchdown. He’s never been much of a receiving threat out of the backfield but can catch the odd pass occasionally.

The biggest question for him now is his injured hip. Will he be ready to go once training camp begins? And will his hip allow him to return to the same level, movement wise for him to be effective?

LaGarrette Blount, if healthy will be the Patriots big back in the running game. (SBalestrieri/PatsFans image)

Bolden is a proven core special teams’ player who can contribute on occasion both running and catching the ball out of the backfield. I don’t see him going anywhere in the short-term future. Develin was a guy who was missed in the running game last year, especially in short-yardage situations. He’s versatile, and can line up as a fullback, H-back or as a tight end.

As a lead blocker, Develin can really open up some holes for the backs to get to the second level. But his absence a year ago also hurt  in play-action passing situations. Teams didn’t respect the run enough to bite as much on play-action passes, something which should return this year.

On the Bubble: Donald Brown, James White, D.J. Foster
The Patriots could use a back that can backup Blount as the bigger back and carry the ball if he were to go down. Brown is a veteran that can not only carry the ball but catch it effectively out of the backfield and is an excellent back in pass protection. That is something the Patriots demand of their backs.

While he’s not prolific in any one area, having a guy with Brown’s experience and skill set give him a leg up on the competition. With Blount returning from a serious injury, look for Brown to get plenty of reps this summer.

White did a good job of replacing Lewis in the passing game out of the backfield last season. He caught 40 passes for 410 yards and four touchdowns in 2015. But his drawback is carrying the ball in the running game.

James White, here in 2016 minicamp, was effective in the passing game last year but must improve as a runner. (SBalestrieri/PatsFans image)

The Patriots didn’t have the confidence in White to allow him many carries last season. He logged only 22 carries for 56 yards, a paltry 2.5-yard average and two touchdowns in the running game. He too often doesn’t make people miss and goes down on first contact. He’s going to have to improve that aspect of his game this season. The team was too one-dimensional with him in there and opponents didn’t respect the run.

Foster is the wild card here. The undrafted free agent running back from Arizona State was so effective out of the backfield that the team moved him to slot receiver in his final college season. He is undersized but possesses the type of speed and quickness that Lewis has. He’s much taller however at just around 6’0 and has special teams’ versatility. His ability to return punts and kickoffs may be just enough to get him a roster spot. Foster is an intriguing case, keep your eyes on him this summer. Each year a UDFA seems to make the team, he’s a prime candidate.

Outside Looking in…. Longshots: Tyler Gaffney, Joey Iosefa
The Patriots thought enough of Gaffney after he was injured in 2014 to snatch him off the waiver wire from the Panthers. Gaffney was stashed on IR and brought back last year. But just a few days into training camp, Gaffney took a huge hit from Sealver Siliga during a drill and was lost for the season to another injury soon after.

Now entering his third NFL season, Gaffney has yet to take the field and although has the size and quickness needed as the backup “big back”, he’s a long shot. He’ll have to stay healthy and turn some heads during the summer.

Iosefa was brought in to bring some pop to the backfield and against Tennessee, he certainly did. While he only gained 51 yards on 14 carries, (3.6 avg), his day is remembered by one specific play. Iosefa ran over Cody Sensabaugh en route to a 15-yard gain. The 6’0, 245-pound fullback from Pago Pago, Samoa will have a tough time making the roster with Develin back in the fold, but even if he doesn’t, I think the team finds a way to keep him around.
Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

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

New England Patriots News 5-15, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
May 15, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 5-15 notes and what’s happening around the AFC East.

Edelman Has Another Surgery on Injured Foot:
Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman had another surgical procedure on the foot that he broke against the Giants last season and this latest one was classified as a “cleanup procedure” but reportedly involved putting an additional screw in his foot.

Despite this latest surgery, the Patriots are stating that Edelman should be ready to go once training camp begins in late July…Don’t bet on that.

Edelman will probably start camp on the PUP list along with RB Dion Lewis who is recovering from ACL surgery. This will be an area to monitor not only this summer but as the season goes along. Many of these foot injuries tend to be on the chronic side.

Cardona May Play After All:
Patriots LS and Navy Ensign Joe Cardona may end up in a Patriots uniform after all in the 2016 season. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus a few days ago told Dan Patrick on his show that he has granted approval for both Cardona and 2016 Navy Academy graduate Keenan Reynolds permission to play in the NFL this season.

This came just a short time after Mabus said that the Patriots would probably have to play without Cardona in 2016 due to his naval commitments. Service academy graduates incur a minimum five-year service obligation after graduation.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter will make the final call, balancing the needs of the service over these two players’ NFL careers and the resultant recruitment potential they would bring in their playing professional football.

Cardona Ebner

Rookies Got the Memo, Toting the Patriot Line Already:
The Patriots introduced the 2016 rookie class to the media this week and if there is a common theme that could be drawn from any of the comments from any of the newcomers is that they’re all already toting the party line.

Not much could have gleamed from any of the players comments but a healthy dose of “learning the system”, “wanting to work hard” and “fitting in” was the order of the day. Which must have been music to the ears of Bill Belichick who likes his players’ comments bland?

Perhaps the best comments came from the Patriots biggest questioned draft pick, Vincent Valentine the 6’3, 329-pound DT who answered questions about his work ethic and whether he was a reach at #96 when many had him projected as a late round pick or a UDFA.

“It’s their opinion, but they can’t stop me from putting in work every day and bettering myself,” Valentine said. “I kind of tune that out and not pay attention to that as much. I’m in the position I’m at right now for a reason — it didn’t just happen, it didn’t just fall out of the sky. But I’m just excited to be here.”

Valentine went on to state, “The past is the past. I’m going to use that as motivation. I’ve got a lot of things to do out here. But the past is the past. I’m trying to put the whole thing at Nebraska behind me and just become as good as I can here. I’m not really worried about how things went at Nebraska … I know things could have been better … but I’m in a good spot now and I think the coaches are ready to bring me along and I’m ready to be as good as I can.”

Nick Caserio’s comments didn’t exactly put the matter to rest when he stated, “(Valentine) is a massive guy. We’ll get him in here, try to get him going early, get him in shape (highlighted text is mine), and try to take advantage of the things he does well.”

Shouldn’t a 3rd round draft pick already be in shape? He will be interesting to watch, on one hand he squatted nearly 750 pounds but in the 225-pound bench press, he did fewer reps than 186-pound CB Jonathan Jones.

Iosefa Never Left Town, back on the team:
The Patriots waived RB/FB Joey Iosefa last Friday but he was informed that the team needed to juggle the roster some and that, if he cleared waivers, that the team would be looking to bring him back on the roster. This was first reported by Mike Reiss of ESPN.

Iosefa remained put in the area and turned down some offers to work out and sign elsewhere. His loyalty and trust were rewarded when the Patriots indeed signed him back on the 90-man roster following LB Tony Steward’s release.

The entire episode begs the question of why the team and Bill Belichick chose to release him in the first place if they were just going to release someone else a few days later and then bring back Iosefa. Why not keep in the first place?

The 6’0, 240-pound back played in only two games last year but was elevated to instant cult-like status when he bulldozed the Titans’ Coty Sensabaugh during a game in Foxboro in late December.

“Summer of Gronk” Begins, Big TE will grace cover of GQ, Madden 17:
Pats TE Rob Gronkowski has had a busy week. First were pictures of his cover shoot for GQ magazine where it showed the Patriots most visible player frolicking in the surf naked with a supermodel.

Then later in the week, it was announced that Gronkowski would be the first member of the Patriots and the first tight end to grace the cover of the video game Madden NFL 17.

Yesterday was Gronk’s 27th birthday and since he entered the league in 2010, no one has scored more touchdowns (66) than the big TE and he’s already #3 all-time on the TE touchdown list.

Gronk GQ cover

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Dolphins Set to Sign DE Jason Jones:
The Dolphins are reportedly flying in free agent DE Jason Jones today and announce his signing tomorrow on a one-year deal according to ESPN’s Josina Anderson.

Jones is a 29-year old run stuffing defensive end who will immediately add depth to a unit that struggled to stop the run in 2015. With Cameron Wake coming off of an Achilles injury and newcomer Mario Williams, Jones can be expected to play a significant role along with Andre Branch.

He had a very productive 2015 season for the Lions with 4.5 sacks and 31 tackles while starting 15 games. He also played one season in Seattle and four in Tennessee. Jones has notched 175 career tackles, with 28 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.

Jets’ Decker in Fitz’s Corner, “Surprised they took a QB:
Jets WR Eric Decker has been vocal in his support for QB Ryan Fitzpatrick this offseason. And while accepting an honor in NYC this week, reiterated his support for the Jets 2015 starting QB and now a free agent.

“I was a little surprised, to be honest with you,” Decker said while being honored by the United Way of NYC. “But Mike [Maccagnan,Jets GM] and his scouts do their research and homework for a reason and they saw something special with him. I guess they wanted him earlier than later.”

With a veteran team built to win now, Decker is firmly on the side of Fitzpatrick in his contract negotiations with the Jets. ” I think he definitely is the right man for the type of team we have now,” Decker said.

“It’s a team that’s ready to win now, and we need someone with a veteran presence at the quarterback position. My job is to catch the ball, but obviously, I want what’s best for the team.”

Bills sign 5th Round Draft Pick, RB Jonathan Williams:
The Bills got a steal in the 5th round with running back Jonathan Williams out of Arkansas. The big, 5’11, 220-pound back dropped so low because he had surgery on his foot that caused him to miss the entire 2015 season.

But he was a productive big back for the Razorbacks, notching 22 touchdowns and rushing for more than 2,300 yards while averaging 5.7 yards per carry. He posted a single-season career high 1,190 rushing yards and forced 44 missed tackles in 2014.

He has light, quick feet for a big man and appears fully back to health, running a 4.59 time in the 40-yard dash with a Short shuttle time of 4.29 seconds, and a  3-cone time of 6.97 seconds

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

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

Transaction News: Patriots Waive Joey Iosefa, Lose Two Players On Waivers

Robert Alvarez
December 28, 2015 at 10:09 pm ET

As first reported by ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, the New England Patriots announced on Monday they have released fullback Joey Iosefa following two weeks on the 53-man active roster.

Iosefa saw his only game action of the 2015 season against the Tennessee Titans in week 15 when he played 20 snaps and rushed for 51 yards on 14 carries. His most memorable highlight this season came on a 15 yard run when he knocked down Titans defensive back Coty Sensabaugh.

Reiss also reported “tight end Asante Cleveland (waived Friday) and receiver Leonard Hankerson (waived Saturday) were both claimed on waivers. Cleveland by the Chargers, and Hankerson by the Bills.”

ICYMI Patriots vs Titans: Best of Patriots Social Media Week 15

Robert Alvarez
December 21, 2015 at 3:03 pm ET

Heading into the New England Patriots Week 15 matchup with the Tennessee Titans, it began on a somber note as news was passed along via Rob Gronkowski’s Facebook account that a friend and trainer of his named Dana Parenteau passed away at the age of 42 , and he was going to dedicate the game in his honor.

This one's for Dana. #GameTime

Posted by Rob Gronkowski -Gronk on Sunday, December 20, 2015

During pregame warmups, teammate Chandler Jones did his best to lift Gronkowski’s spirits and fire him up with some chest bumps.

It didn’t take Gronkowski long to pay tribute to his friend, Gronk would score a touchdown on a third and three play from the five yard line in the first quarter. As soon as Gronkowski crossed over into the end zone, he raised his arms and pointed to the sky. The Patriots took the early 7-0 lead.

(Courtesy @PP_Rich_Hill)

Following the Gronkowski touchdown pass, Chandler Jones continued his torrid pace this season after causing this strip fumble that was recovered by Akiem Hicks and returned for a touchdown giving the Patriots a 14-0 lead and the rout was on.


Hicks was asked following the game on whether or not his teammates got a laugh from his unlikely score, he told The Boston Globe, ““I’m sure somebody’s gonna get ahold of [the tape] and say, ‘rumbling, bumbling, stumbling,’ I know that’s coming,’’ he said. “I’m comfortable with that, I’ve been a big guy all my life.”

Fullback Josey Iosefa, who came off the practice squad just days before Sunday’s game, made his presence known on the field during his first game action of the season. The Patriots appear to have a growing list of finding “diamonds in the rough” for the running game despite the mounting injuries.

The Patriots defense remained stout throughout the game, Malcom Butler collected this interception at the goal line late in the first half and it the Titans defense couldn’t muster much more as the Patriots won their 12th game of the season by a final score of 33-16.

(Courtesy @PP_Rich_Hill)

Defensive end Alan Branch busted out some moves.

Patriots fans hearts briefly stopped at this moment.


A lone Titans highlight from the afternoon was this touchdown pass on a  57-yard bomb by quarterback Zach Mettenberger to wide receiver Delanie Walker after breaking multiple tackles.

The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Denver Broncos later on Sunday evening 34-27 which ensured the Patriots a first round bye and no less than a two seed in the NFL playoffs for a record sixth consecutive season.

Good team win #LB91 #FindersKeepers

A post shared by Jamie Collins (@j_collins91) on

Devin McCourty was feeling “fresh as lettuce” monday morning following the victory as he recovers from his ankle injury.

Last but not least, we take you into the Christmas holiday with a festive singing rendition by (sort of) head coach Bill Belichick of the classic song “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.”

(Courtesy NFL on FOX)

What Can Steven Jackson Bring to the Patriots? Plenty

Steve Balestrieri
at 12:33 pm ET

In the end, Steven Jackson will end up signing with the Patriots. Last week the 32-year old running back visited with team and it was reported that no signing was imminent. But Ian Rapopport of NFL Network has reported that the Patriots are signing Jackson to a one-year deal for the remainder of the season.

Jackson, bruising 6’3, 229 pounder has been a favorite of Bill Belichick since he entered the league in 2004. Belichick prior to a 2012 game against the Rams spoke about Jackson and the time he spent with him prior to the draft.

“I went out there and met with him and spent the whole day, pretty much the whole day with him out there — he was a very impressive individual,” Belichick said.

“Obviously a big, strong kid that runs well, that catches the ball very well. Very good in the passing game — he’s a little underrated in that area. Good in blitz pickup. A smart guy. Has really had an outstanding career. He was definitely a guy we were very much interested in.”

Now Belichick’s interest has turned to reality but the question has to be asked? What does he have left in the tank and what can he bring to the table for the Patriots. If the answer to the first question is anything close to his normal level of play, then he can be a big factor, figuratively and literally for the Pats.

Jackson has always been an outstanding runner; as his 11,388 career yards will attest. But the Patriots aren’t going to be expecting him to log 25 carries a game for the entire season. He’s coming into Week 16 and the Patriots remain, at heart a passing first team.

One of the issues they’ve had is running the football when the opponent expects it. Jackson would be asked for about 15 touches a game for the remaining two regular season games and at most three playoff games with a bye week thrown smack in the middle.

With a serviceable Jackson in the lineup, the Patriots can platoon him with the 245-pound Joey Iosefa inside with James White remaining free for obvious passing situations out of the backfield. That will free up Brandon Bolden to return to his ST’s duties and give the Patriots a lot more depth at RB than they had just a few days ago.

Jackson is a stout blocker in the passing game and at 6’3 is one of the bigger targets Brady will have seen out of the backfield on early downs. This move is a win-win for the Patriots. They’re expending just the veteran minimum for Jackson who gets one last shot at a ring with a contender. It is a story that could have a fairy tale ending…. if Jackson still can bring it.

A heathy, viable Jackson would leave Montee Ball on the practice squad and in short yardage, the site of Iosefa opening holes for the 229-lb Jackson should fill Patriots fans with confidence.

Jackson posted a picture of himself doing pull-ups on his Twitter account with the title “I’m Back”… The Patriots certainly hope so. Things just got a tad more intriguing here on Monday afternoon.

Media preview

All eyes will be focused on Jackson as he practices with the team this week and moving forward to see how much action he gets this week against the Jets.

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

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

Monday Observations, Patriots Drop Titans, Earn Bye

Steve Balestrieri
at 7:30 am ET

The best news of the day was that despite a game that wasn’t their best, the Patriots took care of business defeating the Tennessee Titans 33-16 Sunday at Foxboro and have earned a bye for the Wildcard Round of the playoffs.

This marks the sixth straight season the Patriots have earned a bye, an NFL record. And it has to come as great news as the injuries continue to pile up at a near ridiculous rate for a team with the best record in the AFC.

This one won’t go down as one of their highlight games but on a day where the team was hurting, the Patriots did what they do best. They circled the wagons and did what they had to do.

Their win coupled with the Steelers win over Denver have given the Patriots no worse than a #2 seed and a bye for the divisional round of NFL playoffs. Pittsburgh vaults up to the #6 seed, knocking the Jets back via a tie-breaker. That makes the game in the Meadowlands next week even more dire for Gang Green.

Other observations from Sunday include:

Gronk Plays with heavy heart and dedicates game to friend: Rob Gronkowski missed Friday’s practice when it was learned that his personal trainer and close friend Dana Parenteau passed away Friday at the age of 42.

Gronkowski, on his Facebook page dedicated the game to his friend and after scoring a touchdown on the Patriots opening drive raised both arms in the air in a salute.

“My good friend loved the game of football, (he) loved being at all my games, always had my back,” Gronkowski said. “I definitely dedicate that touchdown to him. I pointed up. I know he was up there watching. I just definitely made that score for him and I know he was going crazy knowing that it was dedicated to him.”

Patriots center Brian Stork missed the game due to a death in his close family according to reports after the game.

Next Man Up Isn’t Just a Mantra: Around New England, many of the fans of Patriots Nation react with the well-used (and well needed), phrase “Next Man Up” when a player goes down with an injury.

That phrase may be getting a bit cliché in other places but just take a look around at some of the key moments of the game for the Patriots and it just isn’t a mantra for the team.

James White, who was all but an afterthought at the beginning of the season given the accomplishments of Dion Lewis, had another big day in the passing game. White had seven catches for 71 yards including a highlight reel 30-yard touchdown. He also had a 65-yard pass and run from Brady that was wiped out by another ridiculous Offensive PI penalty that is a subject for another time.

Joey Iosefa who wasn’t on any team just two months ago, was activated from the practice squad this week and promptly led the team in rushing. His run where he trucked over CB Coty Sensabaugh has already become legend on YouTube and thru GIFs. He gained 51 yards on 14 carries and immediately has become a fan favorite. The man from Pago Pago was a great midseason under the radar pickup.

Duron Harmon had to replace Devin McCourty as the Patriots centerfielder on defense as the free safety. Harmon played more than adequately in lieu of the QB for the secondary and acquitted himself well. He’s been a solid role player in his time here and now will have to step up in DMac’s absence.

Akiem Hicks had worn out his welcome in New Orleans; he was acquired in a trade for backup TE Michael Hoomanawanui and with Dominique Easley on IR has stepped up. He got two sacks in Houston last week and followed that up with another sack and a touchdown on a fumble return. Hicks rolled into the end zone after Chandler Jones strip sacked Marcus Mariota and it gave the Patriots their first defensive score of the year.

While certain players (Brady, Gronk Collins, Butler among others) are irreplaceable, if the Patriots are going to go on a deep run again, they’ll need these lunch pail types to step up at a high level.

Welcome Back to the party Mr. Jones: Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones who has been quiet the past month burst back into the spotlight on Sunday with a pair of sacks giving him 12.5 for the season, a new career high.

Jones’ strip sack of Mariota resulted in a Patriots defensive touchdown. New England was one of only four teams without a defensive or special teams score in 2015. His two sacks were part of five of the day for the Patriots. Hicks, Jabaal Sheard and Jamie Collins got the other sacks for the Patriots.

But it is important to see Jones back in the box score again. When he’s on top of his game, he gives the Patriots along with Sheard and Rob Ninkovich, three quality edge rushers who they’ll need against the suddenly pass-happy Jets.

Injuries Decimate team again: Just when you thought it was safe to go back on the football field the injury bug once again ripped thru the Patriots roster.

Danny Amendola tweaked an already bad knee in the first half while returning a punt and limped off the field. He was examined on the sideline and tried to return in the second half before heading off for good prior to the second half kickoff.

Dont’a Hightower who returned to action on Sunday after sitting out the last two games with a strained MCL also re-aggravated his injury and didn’t return.

Pat Chung took a nasty hit from teammate Jon Bostic on his knee/hip area while trying to wrap up TE Delanie Walker and went down in a lot of pain. After being attended to by the training staff, he attempted to jog off the field and then went gingerly to the sideline. He, like Amendola and Hightower didn’t return.

Brady Passes Another Milestone: QB Tom Brady started hot going 8-8 for 70 yards and a touchdown on the Patriots first drive. After that, he wasn’t at his absolute best, but like the rest of the team, he got the job done.

Brady finished 23 of 35 for 267 yards and two touchdowns. His second, to James White was his league leading 35th of the season. And it also marks his fourth season with 35 or more touchdown passes, tying Peyton Manning for most all-time.

Special Teams turnover again costs Pats: The normally sure-handed Danny Amendola coughed up a fumble on a punt return Sunday marking the fourth game in a row that the Patriots have suffered a turnover on Special Teams.

The Titans turned that turnover into three points despite moving backwards five yards on the possession. It has been an alarming trend the past month since the Denver game and something the team will have to tighten up moving forward.

Stephen Gostkowski proved that he is indeed human when he missed a field goal from 48 yards, just his second miss of the season and had another near miss. But overall on the day, Mr. Automatic kicked 4 of 5 field goals as well as all three extra points.

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