The Patriots are taking on the Carolina Panthers tonight in Foxboro for the third preseason game for both teams. This is the week that the starters traditionally see a lot of game action. But I have always disliked the term “dress rehearsal”, so for the eighth year in a row here at PatsFans.com, I’ll use my favorite quote from Willie Nelson. My wife and I spent time back and onstage with Willie at one venue and partied on his bus with him at others. [Those are stories for a different time.] But Willie’s words ring true.
“There are no dress rehearsals, we are professionals and this IS the big time”
So, both teams’ starters should see about a half of work and maybe a series in the second half to get acclimated to the entire process. This will be Cam Newton’s first game action this year after off-season shoulder surgery. So, he may not be as apt as he’s shown in the past about tucking the ball away and running with it. This will also be Tom Brady’s first preseason action this summer.
So, what are we looking for from a Patriots perspective tonight?
Can Brady and the New Faces Click on Offense?
Julian Edelman came off of NFI on Monday, Demaryius Thomas was removed from PUP on Tuesday. I don’t imagine either will play. Josh Gordon is still on NFI and has already been ruled out of tonight’s game. N’Keal Harry just returned to practice this week and may not play either.
So, this will be a really big test for Jakobi Meyers, going against the top Carolina defense as Brady’s go-to receiver. Phillip Dorsett and Braxton Berrios should also get a lot of snaps with the first unit.
This should be a good time to see how Sony Michel and Damien Harris are used out of the backfield in the passing game, something they’ve worked on this summer. We know James White’s value there, but the coaches made a concerted effort to by more unpredictable this summer. Michel and Harris should handle the bulk of the work in the running game. Isaiah Wynn’s workload should increase this week and we want to see how he handles this as well as how he holds up against a stout Panthers defense.
Matt LaCosse is back on the field after being injured in Detroit, and this is his opportunity to shine. No one has really stepped up at tight end this summer, so this a big chance to carve out a role with the team.
How Well the Front Seven [Starters] can Create Pressure:
We’ve seen the top guys dominate in workouts and joint practices. The second and third-tier guys have looked really good in preseason games, but now the starters get to show their stuff. And they get a good test against a Panthers team that has given them problems in the past.
With players like Micheal Bennett, Dont’a Hightower, and Kyle Van Noy getting into their first game action of the year, mixing in Jamie Collins, Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, and John Simon, we’ll get a better idea on how they are planning on using these players. In particular, will the coaches continue to be aggressive and we’ll be wanting to see the personnel groupings that they will rollout.
This front seven looks deep and versatile, with guys like Chase Winovich, Shalique Calhoun, and Derek Rivers coming on later to spell the starters, the 2019 front seven is as deep a unit the Patriots have had since the 2003-2004 teams.
Watching the Starting Secondary Gel On the Field:
This secondary unit of the Patriots is one of the more stronger ones in the league and arguably the deepest secondary unit that Bill Belichick has coached since he took over the reins of the Patriots in 2000.
Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, and Jason McCourty give the team their top three boundary corners. Jonathan Jones has easily bested former 2nd round pick Duke Dawson for the top slot corner. Now watching the starters and their communication with Devin McCourty and Pat Chung at safety is a step. This unit hasn’t played together in a game since the Super Bowl. This is a big week of preparation for the season. Many of them probably won’t play next week.
Dawson should see plenty of reps in the second half as he’s one of the guys who is fighting for a roster spot. Joejuan Williams, the rookie 2nd round CB, who has improved markedly since training camp began and Keion Crossen should also see a lot of work in the second half.
Special Teams Get Ready For Week 1:
With the release of Ryan Allen, Jake Bailey has won the starting punting position. But the pressure doesn’t let up now, it just gets even tougher. He’s replacing a very popular player with the fanbase and this will be his first game action in Foxboro. He’ll also be tasked with holding on field goal and extra-point attempts. It will be important for him to get off to a good, clean start.
Stephen Gostkowski has missed field goals in each of the first two games, whether that was all on him or something in the exchange between Joe Cardona and his new holder Bailey will bear watching. For all of the fans who would like to see the third most accurate kicker in NFL history replaced, who is out there and most importantly available? Other than the Ravens’ Justin Tucker, Gostkowski is right up there with the best kickers in the game. With a better career accuracy average than the guy he replaced 14 years ago.
The kick return game will bear particular watching tonight. Braxton Berrios or Gunner Olszewski’s roster spot may depend on how well they produce in the kick return game.
Social media was abuzz yesterday after and many Patriots fans were as happy as Christmas morning when the images of Josh Gordon stretching at practice and Demaryius Thomas in full uniform, off of PUP. With Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry also back at practice, the wide receiver position and situation was now much rosier and many folks were already checking flight availability to Miami in early February. Let’s just pump the brakes on that just yet.
We’re always glass-half-full types here and if there is anything that the past two decades have taught us is they always, always get things figured out. Which is why we weren’t in full-blown panic mode a week ago when the same social media mavens were decrying Bill Belichick for leaving the cupboard bare when Tom Brady was throwing to Gunner Olszewski early in the joint practice with the Titans.
Now with the risk of sounding like Debbie Downer here, we’ll try to explain our “cautious optimism” when it comes to the receiver group. Having Edelman, Gordon, Harry, Thomas, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers, Maurice Harris, and Braxton Berrios at the position is certainly cause for optimism, and if it were 2012, I’d be calling friends in Florida and preparing them for houseguests in February. But it isn’t and I’m not ready to do that… just yet.
Gordon The Most Physically Gifted But Flawed WR:
Gordon’s talent is still undeniable, he showed that last year where he came in and produced at a very good level. And there is no reason to doubt that at age 28 that physically he couldn’t produce the same or even more if he plays 16 games. But he hasn’t played a full season since his rookie year of 2012.
His issues have always been off the field and even with a great deal of support from the Patriots last season, his demons resurfaced and he once again found himself suspended by the league. While we certainly don’t want to see him backslide, more from a personal than a football standpoint, counting on him for an entire season is something the team can’t afford to do.
The Patriots made it clear that although they’d welcome him back [and gave him a tender], they weren’t planning on having him around. Hence the signings of Harris, Dontrelle Inman [now with the Bolts], Thomas and drafting Harry while adding Meyers after the fact.
Can Thomas Reinvent Himself?
With Thomas, the opposite questions are in-effect. His on-field regression with the Texans last year was evident after he was traded by the Broncos. He didn’t look like the same receiver before he tore his Achilles. But he’s been rehabbing hard with the training staff and seems as upbeat as one can be.
So what can be reasonably expected from Thomas at this juncture of his career? We didn’t think he’d even make the team, which is why the timing of his coming off of PUP was so intriguing. With just two days of practice before the Carolina preseason game, and then just a week of practice and a final tuneup with the Giants, it leaves him precious little time to get on the same page with Brady and the offense.
Perhaps Thomas is going to reinvent himself as a more of a possession type of wide receiver and become a chain mover rather than the game-breaker he was earlier in his career. That is a possibility, but until we watch him on the field and see him run, I’d err on the side of caution, and not count on him making the 53-man roster.
Harry and Meyers Have Upside But Are Still Rookies:
Patriots fans are justifiably pleased and should be with the selection and performance of both Harry and Meyers. And Meyers, the UDFA QB turned WR from NC State has probably been more impressive this summer. He’s shown a quickness off the line where he’s been able to gain separation and catch everything that’s been thrown his way.
Former Patriot and now analyst Matt Chatham said he looks like a six-year veteran on the field. He’s developed quite a rapport and chemistry with Brady and the QB has been throwing to his spots on the field before Meyers makes his breaks.
Harry has all of the tools and the size to be a very productive WR in the league for years to come. He’s the only WR that Belichick has ever taken in the first round of the NFL Draft. He’s the master of the contested catch. However, his development has been slowed by a few nagging injuries this summer.
But something to keep in mind with both of these players is that they are rookies. Their production may take some time to get going. The speed and physicality of the NFL game is something they’ll have to get used to. They won’t be facing the twos and threes of an opponent’s defense but their top-line players. Patience is the word of the day.
So, while we believe that the offense is going to be just fine [never had any doubts], let’s just slow the talk of the “best WR group since 2007” for a bit …As Belichick is so fond of saying… “they have a long way to go.”
With the Patriots now halfway thru their preseason slate, we’re going to take stock of the roster once again and take a stab at predicting a 53-man roster projection. The preseason games in Detroit and Nashville along with several joint practices conducted with both teams have given the coaches much more information and play against an opponent to evaluate.
What is different about this particular projection is that several established veterans may now find themselves on the roster bubble as the coaches now find that the depth of this roster will make them face some really difficult decisions moving forward.
Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham Out: none
No changes here. The Patriots could feel that Stidham can handle the backup duties for Brady, much like they did in 2009 when Brady was returning from his ACL injury and Brian Hoyer was a rookie backup. But Hoyer’s value lies in his experience, he is a sounding board for Brady and does a valuable and underrated job of running the scout team offense during the practice week. This could change, but for now we’re sticking with three QBs.
Running backs: (5) Sony Michel, James White, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden, James Develin Out: Rex Burkhead, Nick Brosette, Jakob Johnson* [NFL International Player]
A big change this time around. Develin could be lumped in with the tight ends but regardless of where he is, he’s not going anywhere. The Patriots are deep here and after the game in Nashville, Harris showed his versatility of being able to run the ball and made five catches out of the backfield. Something he shares with Burkhead.
Could the increased versatility of Michel and now Harris, plus the return of Gordon mean that the Patriots cut Burkhead? Due to the depth and decisions, they have to make on the other side of the ball, [see more below], some very tough decisions will have to be made, and this one won’t be easy. Watch who is playing late in preseason games 3-4 and we may have our answer
Brosette has played well in limited action and lands on the practice squad. Johnson got a number of reps in Nashville who is automatically granted an extra spot on the PS due to his NFL International status
Tight ends: (2) Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo, **Ben Watson Suspended** Out: Lance Kendricks, Stephen Anderson, Andrew Beck, Eric Saubert
This all depends on how serious LaCosse’s injury situation is. If he’s going to be out for a while, this could open the door for one of the other veterans to step in. LaCosse has had a solid summer. Izzo is a good inline blocker, remember he made the 53-man roster last year before landing on IR.
Wide Receivers: (6) Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers, Braxton Berrios Out: Maurice Harris (IR), Dontrelle Inman [asked for and granted his release Sunday], Damoun Patterson, Ryan Davis, Gunner Olszewski, Demaryius Thomas [PUP], Cameron Meredith [PUP]
Edelman, Harry, and Gordon project to be the top three. Gordon’s reinstatement puts him right smack on the roster in a lock status. They know his value.
Meyers has been extremely impressive all summer and is now a lock. Harris was having a terrific spring/summer but he got injured and Tom E. Curran from NBC Sports Boston has reported he could be out “for a while”. So this is where the Pats will place him on IR with the possibility of returning later this season. Dorsett is injured as well. His position seems a bit unsure right now as well.
Berrios goes from out in our last projection to making the roster by virtue of his ability to return kicks and punts. Although they could tag Dorsett/Bolden for that. Thomas, although seen running full speed this week, along with Meredith begins the year on PUP. With Gordon’s addition, the team will have to carry an extra wide receiver to protect themselves in the event that Gordon’s inner demons resurface.
Offensive line: (8) Isaiah Wynn, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Joe Thuney, Dan Skipper, Ted Karras, Hjalte Froholdt Out: Yodny Cajuste [NFI], James Ferentz, Cedric Lang, Tyree St. Louis, Martez Ivey, Cole Croston
Wynn’s return to action and his performance in the game against the Titans has to be a big relief for the coaching staff. The team keeps Skipper as the swing tackle for now as Cajuste gets a red-shirt IR year. Froholdt and Ferentz battle it out for the final backup spot. But the team could opt for keeping just seven OL as they did at cut-down time a year ago.
Edge Players: (5) Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise, John Simon, Chase Winovich, Derek Rivers Out: Keionta Davis, Trent Harris, Nick Thurman, Ufomba Kamalu
Rivers makes the cut this time around after very solid play this summer with a big caveat. He was hurt and helped off the field in Nashville. The severity of his injury may come into play here. Hopefully, he’s not injured badly this time around.
Winovich has been very impressive this summer, Bennett, Simon, and Wise are established veterans. Harris has played well as a sub-rusher and could sneak in if Rivers is hurt more seriously.
Interior Defensive Line: (4)
Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler
Out: Bryon Cowart, David Parry
No changes. Guy and Pennel should be the Week 1 starting combination inside. Shelton returns, as the backup nose tackle. Guy and Butler offer versatility in either inside DL in a 4-3 or as 3-4 DEs playing a five-technique. This is a solid group and Mike Pennel should be an immediate early downs producer. Cowart is playing really well and although pushing for a roster spot will end up on the practice squad.
Big changes here, once again difficult decisions force the team to part ways with Roberts and King who is a special teams ace. Sam and Munson have looked good in limited availability but are victims of the numbers crunch. Calhoun has gotten better all summer long and brings good pressure off the edge.
Cornerback: (6) Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, Jonathan Jones, Keion Crossen Out: Duke Dawson, Ken Webster, D’Angelo Ross
Another area where changes are made. Gilmore, McCourty, and Jackson give the team three very good outside corners. Jones has clearly outperformed Dawson and will handle the slot. Williams has really come on and has played very well in the past few weeks.
Will the Patriots cut ties with a 2nd round player [Dawson] who has never played a down? Unfortunately, that is the case.
Safety: (5) Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, Duron Harmon, Terrence Brooks, Nate Ebner Out: Obi Melifonwu, Malik Gant, AJ Howard
Ebner is back and edges out King for the STs slot. Toughest cut here is Melifonwu who has played well all summer long. The top three are locked in and Brooks has gotten a lot of work with the top unit.
Specialists: (4) Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Jake Bailey, long-snapper Joe Cardona, Gunner Matthew Slater Out: Ryan Allen
No changes here. Gostkowski and Cardona faced no camp competition, although Gostkowski has missed kicks in consecutive games. Bailey has a huge leg and also can kickoff, he still gets the edge over the established solid veteran in Allen, who won’t be unemployed for long. Slater is tremendous as the Patriots gunner.
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 08-18 and AFC East notes this week.
The Patriots are returning home and will prepare for the upcoming preseason game against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night. The joint practices are over as is the open public portions of training camp. The media will still be allowed in but their access will be shortened as well during practices
Check back with us frequently on PatsFans.com as we’ll continue to post daily training camp updates as well as breaking news.
Derek Rivers – Tough break for the Patriots 3rd year player who has been having a very good training camp and he went down with an injury and didn’t return. Hopefully, it isn’t a serious injury this time around.
Russell Wilson – Is now a part-owner of a sports franchise, [Seattle Sounders]. One has to wonder if another QB was to purchase a portion of a professional team, say Tom Brady buys a piece of the NE Revolution that just happened to be owned his own team owner, Robert Kraft, then the internet would implode…instead, crickets.
Tom Brady – playing elsewhere or retiring in 2020? The story that just won’t die but truthfully, yes it could conceivably happen. And it could snow for the Panthers game. Brady is playing for a basic one-year deal. So are Phillip Rivers and Drew Brees. But ask yourself this, the Patriots aren’t going to saddle themselves with deferred bonus payments in 2020 and 2021 if they didn’t believe that there isn’t a very good chance of his returning. Feelings here is, depending on how 2019 goes, it gets done.
Chase Winovich – Was chastised by Brady on Instagram. Wino posted a clip from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” Act II, Scene I where he wrote: That lowliness is young ambition’s ladder, Whereto the climber-upward turns his face; But when he once attains the upmost round. He then unto the ladder turns his back, Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees By which he did ascend.
Brady responded with “Study your playbook”…savage
Josh Gordon is Back, What Are Realistic Expectations?
The NFL has allowed Josh Gordon to be conditionally reinstated back to the team after a five-game hiatus [two regular-season games, three in the playoffs]. The league has to feel that he has his mental health and substance abuse issues in order. That is a good sign, for both the player and the person.
The Patriots kept a space open for him by offering a 2nd round tender on him and that wasn’t surprising, considering Gordon was a popular teammate and a productive one on the field. But now what? Where do the Patriots go with Gordon?
It isn’t as clear cut as one would think. During the entire offseason, NFL insiders were reporting that the Patriots would welcome Gordon back but they weren’t counting on his presence. Does that change now? As they already know, those demons that Gordon has battled don’t just magically disappear. It takes a life-long struggle against them. And just one slip-up now could mean the end of Gordon’s NFL career.
Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick have to decide whether they just fully embrace Gordon’s return and insert him in the offense and risk losing a big piece of it somewhere down the road this season, or do they ease him in and give another wide receiver a roster spot…just in case he has issues again.
With a healthy Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, and a reacclimated Gordon at WR, all of a sudden the WR position projects to one of strength. Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers, Maurice Harris, and Braxton Berrios are there for depth. And they have both Demaryius Thomas and Cam Meredith on PUP.
Dorsett and Harris are also banged up right now, which would thrust Meyers into a more prominent position, at least early in the season. How this plays out will be an intriguing story to watch. Everyone wants to see Gordon succeed in life first, football second, but the NFL is a business, which we’ve been told over and over.
This development I believe means that they certainly have to keep an extra WR on the roster at cut down time. I’d also look for Gordon to be targeted as much as he merits this season. Brady has trust in him on the field, and with Edelman, Harry et al, it should prove to be a fun offense to watch.
Brady and Vrabel Trash Talk Rooted In Deep Respect:
One of the more entertaining things about the joint practices this week with the Patriots and Titans was being able to witness the constant trash talk that emanated between Tom Brady and Titans head coach Mike Vrabel.
The two were very close personal friends as teammates and remain so today, despite the fact that Vrabel now coaches another team. But their friendship was marked by constant playful jabs at one another. Brady is a Michigan man while Vrabel went to Ohio State. There were bets made before the ‘big game’ every year and frequently the winner of the bet would have his college jersey worn by the other. After one Ohio State win, Vrabel had his jersey hanging in Brady’s locker.
This week was a continuation of that. It started on the first day as Brady strolled on to the practice field, Vrabel yelled at him for walking, where Brady retorted to basically mind his own business, but in more colorful language.
Brady upped the ante on Vrabel’s birthday by handing him a small trophy inscribed with the score of last year’s game, where Tennessee ripped the Patriots 34-10, with the subliminal message that while Vrabel won the battle, the Patriots ultimately won the war with their sixth Super Bowl title.
Brady spoke with the media after practice and couldn’t stop smiling while talking about his trash-talking with his former teammate. “I wouldn’t describe it as civil,” Brady said. “He’s been a good friend for a long time. Obviously, he’s done a great job leading his team. Proud of him and everything he’s accomplished. We all support him even though he’s coaching for another team.”
Vrabel, who had a reputation as a player who could even crack up Bill Belichick on occasion, gave Brady, even more razzing after he and Ben Watson failed on a connection in the red zone. “I never dropped one of those. Let me know if you need me to report.”
“It was fun. It brought back a lot of memories, just to be able to sit out there and have him make a play and he turns around and says, ‘Mikey, you know you better cover that. You guys need to do this,’” Vrabel said. “We had a lot of fun. We have a lot of respect for those guys and can learn a lot from them; how they practice and how they operate.”
The respect between the two is obvious, but it is also entertaining to watch those two jaw at each other constantly. The Patriots’ practices back then must have been something to behold.
Michel, Harris Need to Factor More in the Passing Game:
The Patriots like to force opposing defenses to face an array of possibilities when they have the ball. That unpredictability was somewhat lost when Sony Michel was on the field in 2018. The Patriots ran the ball approximately 76 percent of the time when Sony was behind Brady.
The plan this year is to get Michel and rookie Damien Harris involved more in the passing game out of the backfield. The benefit there would be two-fold. It would make the offense more unpredictable and would also boost the running game by keeping the opponent from loading up the box in an attempt to stuff the run.
With injuries piling up at WR and TE, the running backs, a position of strength can really help in this regard. James White remains the primary 3rd-down pass-catching back but Rex Burkhead is the kind of versatile player they need in this scenario. Now Michel and Harris should begin to chip in more and more once the regular season begins.
Part of Michel’s lack of productivity in the passing game last year was that he missed a significant amount of training camp with an injury and the coaches limited what they were putting on his plate as a rookie. That should change this year.
Harris is an outstanding pass blocker and an underrated receiver out of the backfield. He was beginning to see more looks in the passing game in camp but has been slowed by a hand/wrist injury.
Look for more passes going to the backs this season and for them to mix and match liberally to create matchup problems for the Patriots’ opposing defenses.
Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:
Josh Allen/Cole Beasley Connection Off and Running for the Bills:
The Buffalo Bills first-team offense looked extremely sharp in their preseason 27-14 win over the Carolina Panthers. Josh Allen was particularly impressive. In two drives, he completed 9-11 passes for 102 yards as the Bills’ offense put up 10 points. One of Allen’s two incompletions was a drop by Shady McCoy out in the flat.
As we’ve posted here several times, Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll has decided to use Cole Beasley a lot in this offense. And he and Allen are thriving working together. On Allen’s 11 passes, five went to Beasley, all completions, for 44 yards. Beasley is loving this offense.
“I love Daboll so much, I have so much respect for him and I’m so appreciative for the opportunity and the belief that he has in his guys,” said Beasley. “You feel that and when you feel that from a coach you’re not afraid to go up to him and suggest things, give him some ideas. He likes to try things and have fun with it, and it makes it fun to come to work.”
Dolphins Rosen Gets the Start in PS Game vs Tampa Bay:
The Miami Dolphins started QB Josh Rosen over Ryan Fitzpatrick in their 16-14 loss to the Bucs on Friday night. And while Rosen’s numbers were hardly eye-popping, 10-18 for 102 yards, they were much better than Fitzpatrick’s as the veteran was under pressure the entire time and could complete only 3-9 for 20 yards. Rosen was also the victim of several drops, including several by Preston Williams who, after shining in Week 1 was only able to make one catch for seven yards while getting starting reps.
The offensive line struggled to protect their quarterbacks and to open holes in the running game. Rosen, and Fitzpatrick after him were under duress all game long. Fitzpatrick is slated to get the start next week against the Jaguars, but unless they get better OL play, it won’t matter who is under center.
Jets Lose LB Avery Williamson With Torn ACL For the Year:
New York Jets linebacker Avery Williamson is to undergo season-ending surgery after tearing the ACL in his right knee Thursday night against the Atlanta Falcons. This was a huge blow for the Jets defense as he was one of the team’s most consistent and durable players a year ago, playing in all but five defensive snaps.
Williamson’s injury happened on a fluke play late in the second quarter. He and CB Tevaughn Campbell were in coverage defending running back Brian Hill in the end zone. Williamson and Campbell collided, as Campbell dove into Williamson’s knee as he tried to make a play on the ball.
He called the signals last year but turned those duties over to C.J. Mosely this season as well as moved to the weak side LB position.
“Well, I have a ton of respect for Mike [Vrabel] as a person, as a coach. He’s been a friend for a long time and obviously did a great job last year in the game we played him. We really got handled down here. He’s got an excellent staff and I’m sure that he’s teaching these guys a lot of football. He was a really smart player, a very fundamental player, so I’m sure that you can see those strengths in the way he coaches his team.” Bill Belichick on joint practices with the Titans – 8-14
Some big news on Friday after it appears the Patriots may not be without Josh Gordon to start the season after all.
According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the league is “conditionally reinstating” Gordon and lifting his indefinite suspension. He’ll be able to start working with the team on Sunday, but it will be a while before he’ll be able to see game action. According to NFL.com’s Jeremy Bergman, he’ll only be able to attend the team’s third preseason contest next week. He won’t be able to play.
It’s terrific news for a group that currently has a slew of injuries at the position, but more importantly, it allows Gordon to start getting back to work as the Patriots continue preparing for the 2019 season.
Gordon was reportedly returned to the reserve/commissioner suspended list indefinitely last December following the team’s loss to the Steelers for violating the terms of his conditional reinstatement under the league’s substance abuse policy. That news came out not long after an announcement by Gordon, who initially said he was walking away to get ”a better grasp on things mentally.”
The suspension was a surprise to those who were hoping he’d be able to get a little bit of redemption here in New England and Friday’s news of his reinstatement certainly provides a bit of positive news, as it’s another chance at a new beginning for the embattled receiver.
Roger Goodell issued a statement, saying everyone is “rooting for Josh to succeed, both personally and professionally,”
Gordon played in 11 games for the Patriots last season, finishing with 40 receptions for 720-yards and 3 touchdowns.
With the Patriots first ten days of training camp over, it is time to take another crack at our New England Patriots 53-man roster projection. With eight practices in, several of them fully padded, we’ll look at the early risers and whose falling. We’ll revisit this after a week with the Detroit Lions and their first preseason game.
Offense – Quarterbacks: (3)
Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham Out: Danny Etling
The Patriots will continue to go with three QBs as Brady, Hoyer, and Jarrett Stidham will man the position this year. It will be interesting to see if Stidham shows enough in the upcoming preseason games to push Hoyer as Brady’s backup in case of emergency.
Running backs: (6)
Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden, James Develin Out: Nick Brosette, Jakob Johnson* [NFL International Player]
Sony Michel looks good, now that he is back on the field and he and Damien Harris are getting more frequent looks in the passing game. James White looks as good as ever while Brandon Bolden isn’t going anywhere, he’s a good depth guy and outstanding on STs. Develin could easily be posted with the tight ends as he practices with them frequently. If the Patriots decide five is enough would that make Burkhead expendable? Possibly, but for now, he sticks.
Brosette is a victim of the numbers and lands on the practice squad. Ditto for Johnson who is automatically granted an extra spot on the PS due to his NFL International status
Tight ends: (2) Matt Lacosse, Ryan Izzo, **Ben Watson Suspended** Out: Lance Kendricks, Stephen Anderson, Andrew Beck
The Patriots have Lacosse being the receiving tight end with Izzo as the blocker who nudges out Anderson, the move tight end thus far. Ben Watson will return after the first month which means they’ll have to make another cut somewhere.
Beck got a fair amount of guaranteed money and could become another fullback option if Develin gets hurt, he’ll be a practice squad candidate.
Wide Receivers: (5) Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris, Jakobi Meyers Out: Braxton Berrios, Dontrelle Inman, Damoun Patterson, Ryan Davis, Gunner Olszewski, **Josh Gordon Suspended** Demaryius Thomas [PUP], Cameron Meredith [PUP]
Edelman, Harry, and Dorsett are the top three, Dorsett is still an intriguing case. He has all of the tools to be a very productive receiver but only produces in short flashes. But given the cuts, he’s the only viable kick returner on the roster unless the coaches want to push Edelman or Michel back out there.
Harris has been the most consistent receiver on the field thus far and Meyers is already beginning to develop the chemistry with Brady that will be needed. Thomas has yet to see the field so no one knows if he has anything left in the tank. Gordon has applied for reinstatement by the league so we’ll be watching to see how that unfolds.
Berrios can’t get any separation and after a strong showing in the spring, has taken a step back. This coming week with the Lions will be huge for him. Inman has been largely invisible but just began making progress this week. Patterson, Davis, and Olszewski are practice squad candidates.
However, Berrios and/or Olszewski could carve out a role in the return game. Preseason will tell the tale.
Offensive line: (8) Isaiah Wynn, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Joe Thuney, James Ferentz, Ted Karras, Hjalte Froholdt Out: Yodny Cajuste [NFI], Dan Skipper, Cedric Lang, Tyree St. Louis, Martez Ivey
Hmm, depth at tackle remains a dicey situation with Isaiah Wynn still not a full go at practice. At this point, they need to start getting him real reps and not a walk-thru if he’s going to be ready for the regular season. The team is giving Dan Skipper every opportunity to win a roster spot but he’s shown that even against the 2nd tier guys, he’s getting beat. Not good for a left tackle.
Cajuste is still on NFI and the longer it drags on, the more it seems that he won’t be ready until midseason. The answer for the short term? Joe Thuney at LT, Karras at LG and now it makes more sense to keep Ferentz.
Edge Players: (4) Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise, John Simon, Chase Winovich Out: Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis, Trent Harris, Nick Thurman, Ufomba Kamalu
Bennett and Wise are your defensive ends in a base 3-4, which they’ve run a lot of this spring/summer. Simon and Winovich could easily be lumped in with the linebackers. It is curious if they do run a 3-4, Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler could be 3-4 DEs as well. Rivers has looked good so far, but Winovich is looking just a strong right now and would, IMO get the nod.
Nobody is closing the door on Davis, Harris, Thurman, or Kamalu at this point. All of them have had good moments in camp. Plenty can happen in the next few weeks, but as of today, they’re on the wrong side of the numbers crunch.
Interior Defensive Line: (4)
Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler
Out: Bryon Cowart, David Parry
Guy and Pennel should be the Week 1 starting combination inside. Shelton returns, as the backup nose tackle. Guy and Butler offer versatility in either inside DL in a 4-3 or as 3-4 DEs playing a five-technique. This is a solid group and Mike Pennel should be an immediate early downs producer.
Cowart and Parry have some ground to make up but are for the time being, outside looking in.
Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Elandon Roberts, Brandon King Out: Christian Sam. Terez Hall, Calvin Munson, Shalique Calhoun
Linebacker is a position of strength and the Patriots could still play Winovich and Simon here as well. If they were to add another roster spot for extra depth, Sam, who is having an under the radar camp or Calhoun who has played well in limited reps could find their way on the roster.
Hightower, Bentley, and Roberts will handle the inside duties while the others will play outside, but moving players around seems like a given this year.
Cornerback: (7) Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, Jonathan Jones, Duke Dawson, Keion Crossen Out: Ken Webster, D’Angelo Ross
You can never have enough talented corners…right? Gilmore, McCourty, and Jackson give the team three very good to excellent boundary corners. Jones and Dawson will handle the slot. Williams is a big corner (6’4) that allows him to play against the bigger WRs or matchup with tight ends.
The versatility and depth of this group give the Patriots their deepest part of the roster. Both Ross and Webster are candidates for the practice squad.
Safety: (4) Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, Duron Harmon, Terrence Brooks Out: Obi Melifonwu, Malik Gant, Nate Ebner [PUP], AJ Howard
Brooks has been seeing a lot of reps on defense with the top unit and the veteran ST’s ace edges out Obi Melifonwu right now. Obi has had a good camp and has gotten a lot of reps himself with the top unit. His size and athleticism make this one a tough choice. But the competition continues.
Ebner is on PUP for now and Gant is a candidate for the practice squad.
Specialists: (4) Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Jake Bailey, long-snapper Joe Cardona, Gunner Matthew Slater Out: Ryan Allen
Gostkowski and Cardona aren’t facing any competition in camp and other than Brady, perhaps, these two should rest easiest in training camp. Bailey the strong-legged punter and Allen are locked in a good camp battle. Bailey has a booming leg with incredible hang time while Allen is the steady vet. But Bailey can also kickoff and fill in for Gostkowski on FGs if need be. Slater practices hard on his own all session long with a staff member, working on his gunner skills.
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 07-21 and AFC East notes this week.
Just 4 more days until the hard work begins for “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door.”
Tony Romo- was effusive in his praise of Bill Belichick this week while doing an interview on 105.3 the Fan in Dallas. Romo called the Patriots Super Bowl LIII game plan as “one of the greatest defensive performances I have ever seen in football.”
“He genuinely is not scared to go outside the box,” Romo said. “And I find in the NFL very few teams vary from what they do. So what he does then, is he drafts people that he believes can adapt from week-to-week.”
Patriots Cheerleaders – were doing their annual calendar shoot in St. Lucia this week, catch up on that on Patriots.com
Tom Brady – was cliff diving with his daughter in Costa Rica, then went horseback riding with his wife Gisele in his last family getaway before training camp starts next week. But his shot at Max Kellerman was the stuff of gold…
Mike Lombardi – Former Patriots front office person and friend of Bill Belichick was a guest on VSIN’s “A Number’s Game” and said he believes the Patriots defense will be better than the 2018 version.
“I think they are better on defense,” Lombardi said. “I think New England is better on defense this year. I think Jamie Collins wanted to come back to New England. He wanted to play. I think he will make them a better team and allow (Dont’a) Hightower to play more on the edge, which is what he’s more suited for than playing in the base. Then, there’s Kyle Van Noy. I think Michael Bennett still has some gas left in the tank, so I do think they will be better on defense. I think the guy that is coaching the defense is a Hall of Fame defensive coach — forget the fact that he’s a Hall of Fame head coach. I do think they will be better.”
Gordon Not In Patriots Plans, But Would Be Welcomed Back:
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network and NFL.com was on WEEI this week and addressed the Josh Gordon situation with the Patriots. He stated that the team would most certainly welcome the troubled but very talented wide receiver back, but that they were not counting on him in 2019 and have no idea when or if he’ll even be reinstated.
“Josh Gordon, I don’t know,” Rapoport said. “It’s not a guy who’s in their plans right now. I think that they would certainly welcome him back if he showed that he’s going to be a better version — as a person, I’m talking about — a better version of the one they got last year. I just don’t know that he’s actually going to get reinstated, prove to the Patriots that he has turned the corner, that he’s a different person, show that he’s in the right frame of mind.”
“As always with Josh Gordon, the talent is incredible. We’ve seen probably one-tenth of it, honestly,” Rapoport added. “But there’s always so much that goes into it. I think the Patriots know better than to say this is a guy we’re counting on for next season.”
Hill Situation Highlights Lack of Consistency with NFL:
The NFL decided that Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill will not be disciplined under the league’s personal conduct policy. Whenever an NFL player is accused of off-field wrongdoing, the conduct policy is detailed in Article 46 of the league’s collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the National Football League Players’ Association is brought into play.
Back in March Hill’s son who is just three years old suffered a broken arm and was removed from the home of Hill and fiancee Crystal Espinal by the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF).
The District Attorney declined to press charges against either which prompted Hill’s attorneys to write the NFL that it was an accident and that he played no role in his son’s injuries.
After doing an investigation, Park Avenue decided not to punish Hill saying it “cannot conclude” that Hill, whom the Chiefs ordered to stay away from the team pending the NFL’s investigation, violated the personal conduct policy.
This is the same Hill who still proclaims his innocence of beating Espinal while she was pregnant four years ago. He pleaded guilty to domestic assault and battery charges that he hit Espinal in the face and stomach while she was eight weeks pregnant. He also strangled her. Despite his repeated claims of innocence of those charges, he admitted to them in court.
Then there is the taped phone conversation. In it, Espinal says their son is terrified of his father, Hill responds with a threat.
“A 3-year-old is not going to lie about what happened to his arm,” Crystal Espinal tells Hill in the recording, adding, “He is terrified of you.”
Hill responds, “You need to be terrified of me, too, dumb bitch.”
So while the NFL says that the child’s safety is their priority, it rings with insincerity.
It cannot conclude Hill caused the child’s injuries…Really? The same man who punched his pregnant girlfriend in the face and stomach, strangled her and threatens her on the phone. Someone broke the child’s arm. So, they have to consider that Espinal is guilty?
The utter lack of consistency is plain to see. Less than a year ago, the NFL suspended Ravens CB Jimmy Smith for threatening and abusive behavior.
New England fans began to harp on this latest fiasco from Park Ave. Of course, this entailed some people stating it doesn’t apply. to this case. To that, we reply… respectfully, “Bull excrement”.
The NFL in the Wells report, (Pg 228) it stated that the league couldn’t conclude with certainty that anyone did or did not tamper with a football, but their analysis is “dependent on assumptions and information that is not certain.” There was a total lack of evidence that anyone even attempted to deflate a football, when in fact a reasonable scientific explanation was right at hand.
But in this case, a player with a history of abuse suddenly has a child with a broken arm and threatens his fiancee openly. And … nada. “There isn’t evidence?” It never stopped them before. One has to conclude that the child’s safety takes a backseat to the fantasy points that will be generated by Hill in the highest-scoring offense in the league.
“You do not have to be convicted or even charged of a crime to be able to demonstrate that you’ve violated a personal conduct policy, and reflect poorly not only on themselves, but all of their teammates, every NFL player in the league, and everyone associated with the NFL.” Roger Goodell
Joe Thuney Enters Pivotal Contract Year:
With training camp set to begin later this week, one player who will be garnering a lot of attention this season will be guard Joe Thuney. Thuney is entering a contract year and is part of arguably the best guard tandem in the league with Shaq Mason.
He is slotted to make about $2 million dollars in 2019 in the final year of his rookie contract and is in line to make much more in 2020. Will it be with the Patriots? Time will tell, but if he plays it out until free agency, the chances of him making significantly more cash will be available to him. The Patriots locked up center David Andrews this spring with a three-year $9 million dollar deal. Last summer, Mason signed a five-year contract worth a total of $50 million with $23.5 million of it guaranteed. Will the Patriots make Thuney as big an offer as he’ll get on the open market? Doubtful.
Thuney’s versatility, he can play anywhere along the offensive line was apparent this spring. With both Isaiah Wynn and Yodny Cajuste out of minicamp due to offseason surgery, Thuney was taking all of the first-team reps at left tackle. If for any reason Wynn and Cajuste aren’t ready for training camp, look for Thuney to continue to fill in. That will further drive up his already considerable …and growing value.
He has been remarkably durable, not only playing in all 48 games of his NFL career but in every one of the Patriots 1119 offensive snaps in 2018. Since entering the league, he’s been constantly improving under the tutelage of Dante Scarnecchia. Last year he was the NFL’s 7th rated guard by Pro Football Focus (PFF).
If you make it down to training camp this week, be sure to check out big #63. It may just be his last season in a Patriots uniform. And he’s been one of their better performers.
Patriots Players Needing to Rebound in 2019:
Training camp is the time for the young players to show what they can do to earn a roster spot. It is also time for some of the veterans to show that they can still perform at a high level. Here are a couple of players who will be looking to ignite their production in 2019 on the eve of training camp.
Demaryius Thomas – The former Broncos and Texans wide receiver was once one of the most productive WRs in the game but his game has been in steady decline for several years. He’s gone from 1619, 1304,1083, 949 to 677 in the past five years. Then he tore his Achilles with the Texans late last season.
Thomas may not even be ready for training camp, having not taken part in any activities this spring. He may begin camp (and we suspect he will) on the PUP list. While no one expects him to return to his glory years with Denver, there is some hope that he can still be a viable target in the Patriots offense…time will tell.
Derek Rivers – We already identified 2019 as a make or break season for the Patriots top draft pick in 2017. He tore his ACL in preseason of his rookie season but was still not looking 100 percent last year. While he did make the team in 2018, he played very sparingly in six games and registered just two tackles and one sack. That isn’t the kind of production the team was looking for out of him.
He’ll get the opportunity to show what he’s got this summer and he’ll have to shine. With a much more crowded front seven this year, we currently have Rivers on the outside looking in. He’ll have to leapfrog some players and show he can produce at the NFL level.
Ryan Allen – If it seems strange to you for a player who could’ve been named the MVP of the Super Bowl to need “to rebound” in 2019, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, it is true. The 2018 season wasn’t the most consistent of Allen’s career. But he did turn it on for the playoffs and in the Super Bowl, he was outstanding, out-punting the Rams Johnny Hekker who is among the best in the game.
But for the second year in a row, the Patriots have brought in competition for Allen. This year they moved up in the draft to take Jake Bailey from Stanford. The reports about the strength of Bailey’s leg are well-founded. After watching him at minicamp he puts an absolute charge into the ball. Plus he’s more versatile and can kickoff as well as fill in as a field goal kicker in an emergency. His issue has been consistency as well.
But with the Patriots possibly relying more on the running game this year, especially early in the year, they may be looking for a punter with more range and hang time in the event they’re punting more from their own side of the field and deeper than in year’s past. Allen will be on watch this summer.
Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:
Cole Beasley Looks to Be the Top Target in Bills Passing Game:
When the Buffalo Bills throw the ball this season, they will have a new and revamped passing attack. When we wrote about the changes forthcoming here a while back, we mentioned that Brian Daboll who used to be on the Patriots staff could be looking to replicate a lot of what the Patriots do with Julian Edelman. And that player on Buffalo would be Cole Beasley.
Beasley left Dallas and complained that he wasn’t getting enough looks in the passing game. And he’d have a point. In 2016, he led the Cowboys with 75 catches, 833 yards, and 5 TDs. The Cowboys went 13-3. In 2017, Dallas’ offense went away from Beasley, in 15 games he had just 36 catches for 314 yards and 4TDs. Dallas went 9-7. Last year, he was second on the team with 65 catches for 672 yards and 3 TDs, with Dallas going 10-6. But once Amari Cooper came onboard, Beasley’s numbers and targets went down. In the playoff loss to the Rams in the Divisional Round, he was targeted just twice.
With Buffalo and Daboll as the Offensive Coordinator, he has a chance to be the safety blanket, the chains mover and 2nd-year QB Josh Allen’s favorite target. Like Edelman, he excels in the short-area quickness part of the field. Buffalo threw the ball down the field too often in 2018. Look for them to utilize the short areas of the field more this year. And with the sure-handed Beasley in the mix, he should be the boon of his QB’s throws, especially on a team that had more than their share of drops.
Rosen or Fitzpatrick? The Dolphins TC Will Answer That:
The Miami Dolphins have (finally) moved away from QB Ryan Tannehill, who got more than a fair shake as their team’s QB. Now with a new coach and staff, new QBs and a fresh attitude, they’re going to attempt to turn things around.
With a full rebuild going on, no one is expecting Miami to be very competitive this season for a playoff spot. But with new coach Brian Flores and new signal callers under center, the Fins will be intriguing to watch.
After signing Ryan Fitzpatrick as their bridge QB, Miami swooped after the Arizona Cardinals simply had to have QB Kyler Murray after drafting Josh Rosen with a Top 10 pick just a year ago. This could prove to be highway robbery.
While no one knows how this will play out, Flores is going to let the players decide on who starts and who sits. But at some point, he’ll have to let Rosen show what he can do so that they can either stick with him as a potential franchise quarterback or that they have to address the situation next year in the NFL Draft.
Our money here is on Rosen; he was awful last year, but he was a rookie saddled with an even more awful team. It was a total lose-lose situation. The games in the AFC East this year within the division are much more compelling with all of the new quarterbacks in place.
Jets Williams Still Unsigned, May Miss the Beginning of Training Camp:
The New York Jets rookie players were scheduled to report for training camp on Friday. Quinnen Williams was not to be one of them. Williams still hasn’t signed his contract, making it the second year in a row that the team has had its top draft pick not show up on time for training camp. Last year, Sam Darnold missed the first three days of training camp while getting his deal finalized.
Williams took part in all of the Jets’ spring workouts and the hold on his contract isn’t about his salary, which is mandated by the league. The Jets took Williams with the #3 pick in the NFL Draft this spring. What the holdup is, probably centers around offsets and cash flow.
Is it a big worry? No, but the team never likes having their top draft pick miss any time during his first training camp. This is something that should be worked out fairly quickly and then Williams, who is considered one of the top picks in the draft, should be ready to go.
“I no longer listen to what people say, I just watch what they do. Behavior never lies” Winston Churchill
The Patriots have many questions heading into the 2019 season at wide receiver. Julian Edelman returns, the Super Bowl LIII MVP is still at the top of his game but at 33, one has to wonder how much longer he can perform at a high level.
After him, the situation gets murkier. Phillip Dorsett has been fine whenever his number has been called but his production really could use an increase. Demaryius Thomas’s numbers have been steadily going down the past several years and now he’s coming off of an Achilles injury. Josh Gordon is suspended indefinitely and no one knows if he’ll be allowed to play this year.
The Patriots drafted N’Keal Harry in the first round of the draft this spring and expectations with him are high. But rookie wide receivers have struggled to make an impact here in the past. Braxton Berrios had a very strong spring but spent his entire rookie season on IR. Maurice Harris and Dontrelle Inman are coming on to try to carve out roles for themselves after playing for the Redskins and Colts respectively.
So, the opportunities are there for several players to carve out roles for themselves once training camp opens. There are 12 players that should be vying for reps, and possibly 13 if Thomas is ready to go. Gordon is forbidden to enter the facility or work out with the team during his suspension. Let’s take a look at who is in good shape and who has a lot of work to do at the wide receiver position
Check back with PatsFans.com as we’ll go thru the entire roster as our primers for training camp continue before the heavy lifting starts on July 25.
Current roster – Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, N’Keal Harry, Matthew Slater, Demaryius Thomas, Braxton Berrios, Maurice Harris, Dontrelle Inman, Damoun Patterson, Jakobi Meyers, Ryan Davis, Gunner Olszewski, Josh Gordon (suspended)
Locks – Edelman, Dorsett, Harry, Slater
Bubble – Berrios, Thomas, Harris, Inman, Meyers
Long Shot – Patterson, Davis, Olszewski, Gordon
Discussion – Edelman, Dorsett, Slater, and Harry are all locks. Obviously, the conversation starts with Julian Edelman. Yes, Edelman is 33 but if you watched him in the Super Bowl he was uncoverable. The Rams threw several different defensive backs on him and nobody could lock him down. I watched him thru all three days of minicamp and he looks ready to go again.
Dorsett was getting plenty of reps early last year but lost those after Gordon was brought in. The hope here is that he’ll be able to replicate what he did last year, and with an additional year in the system, be able to add to it.
Slater is a WR in name only but is a Special Teams’ captain and one of the best at what he does both on and off the field. Harry is a first-round draft pick who has incredible upside but is just a rookie. With a first-round draft pedigree, he’s automatically on the 53-man roster.
This is where it gets interesting. Berrios had a very strong spring but is in no way a lock at this point. He has a long way to go but is definitely trending in the right direction. The smaller but quick slot receiver recognizes the opportunity in front of him. Mike Reiss of ESPN has written that Berrios has already reported into camp. The hope is that he could fit into that Danny Amendola role in the Patriots offense.
Harris likewise had a very strong spring, catching nearly everything thrown his way with a few nice highlight-reel catches during minicamp. Can he do it again when the secondary players are allowed contact? Inman, on the other hand, didn’t have a good week at minicamp. He didn’t catch a single pass in team drills during the three sessions. He has a lot of ground to make up.
Meyers is an interesting addition. A former QB turned WR, Meyers has good size for the position, (6’2, 203) with very good hands, tight route-running and the willingness to go into contested areas. He doesn’t have great top-end speed but could be an oversized slot receiver. What was intriguing about him was that during a side session with Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, and Josh McDaniels, during minicamp, Meyers was brought in with Harry to work on route selection. May end being nothing, but it could mean they have a plan in mind for him.
Patterson was on the practice squad a year ago but along with Davis, and Olszewski are all facing long odds of making the roster.
In a perfect world, Gordon would get reinstated and Thomas would come back better than new. But we don’t live in a perfect world and the fact is, the Patriots can’t rely on Gordon being reinstated any time soon, if at all. And Thomas may end up on PUP to begin the season. That means other players will have to step up….Questions, questions. This will make training camp and the preseason so compelling this summer.
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 06-23 and AFC East notes this week.
Bill Belichick – and his long-time girlfriend Linda Holliday took advantage of the downtime before training camp and vacationed on one of the islands of Greece. Ms.Holiday posted some pics on her Instagram account.
Kenjon Barner – a reserve running back had three different stints with the Patriots last season before being released by the team for good in November. So, Barner was surprised when a note from Robert Kraft arrived with his Super Bowl ring.
Barner was shocked, and on his Instagram account posted this: “Just want to send out a huge thank you to everyone at the Patriots organization again for the opportunity that was given!” Barner wrote on Instagram. “Wasn’t expecting this when I got the call and still wasn’t expecting it when the ring was in my hands! Thank you, thank you, thank you, God is good!” #BacktoBack #2X
Tom Brady – and Josh Gordon took the social media pages by storm last week when the two were photographed tossing a football around at Brady’s home. With Gordon still suspended by the league, this led many to question if this was allowable under the league rules…More on these two will follow below.
Brady was also #1 in NFL royalty cash as his NFL merchandise was the top seller across the league. Not bad for a soon-to-be 42-year old “dink and dunk” QB.
Eagles – will open only one training camp practice to the public this season. They’ve been trending down the past few years and this summer will only allow fans in to see one session. Personally, I see that as a bad move. When the two teams met at Gillette for joint practices a few years ago, the place was packed and thousands of Eagles fans made the trip up for those. With the NFL pricing itself out of the range for many fans, training camp is the only time many of the fans get to see their teams up close and in person.
Bills-Patriots – Game in Buffalo this year will be the scene of a wedding. The Bills are going to host a wedding for a couple of their fans to take place at halftime when the Pats visit. That is a good move and will be a memorable way for a pair of Bills’ fans to tie the knot.
Caserio Story Takes On a Life of its Own:
The on-going saga of whether or not Nick Caserio, the Patriots Director of Player Personnel, would leave this season, seems to be over. The Houston Texans have been courting Caserio to take their GM position for some time now. But the story refuses to die and in fact has grown more legs.
As is typical for this and most stories today, a ton of people, fans and media began to comment on the story without ever reading it. Nowhere in it did Volin quote Caserio, his agent or any sources close to Caserio or the situation. He wrote it and came to his conclusions by going over the facts as he knew them and made his own analysis.
Part of the confusion was in Volin himself. His lede for the story didn’t sound like an opinion piece but rather a statement of fact. When Volin went on Houston radio the next day, he stated that it was his opinion and not a report. A firestorm erupted on social media and Volin, who is a favorite target for Patriots’ fans wrath, was being roasted.
This caused him to do a 180 and appear on WEEI on Wednesday and reverse course, stating that his piece wasn’t an opinion but in fact a report.
“Absolutely. I stand by everything that is written there. It’s all, I think, 100 percent true. Yes,” Volin said. “There’s no other way to interpret this story. The facts speak for themselves. And I know things on background. I know things about the relationship among the guys in the front office. I don’t think this will affect Nick Caserio’s job performance this year. I think he’s good at his job and doesn’t want to affect his reputation and things of that nature. But he looks around the league and he sees all these guys who are less accomplished than him getting general manager jobs, probably making more money than him. He’s been here 19 years, he’s restless. He wants to go be a general manager. And the Houston job, while I do think it’s a lateral move, is obviously a good setup for him.”
The bottom line is Volin is free to believe and write whatever he wants. No one knows more than he does, that whatever he does write will be faced with a healthy dose of skepticism by the fanbase.
But the question now is, “does Caserio truly want out?” Most people tend to believe that the answer is yes. Houston is going to carry on the 2019 season (at least for now), with no general manager, ostensibly waiting for Caserio’s contract to be over with New England in 2020.
One local radio host was so incensed at Volin’s remarks on a Houston talk show that he lambasted him for printing opinion but then decided that they would take it at face value as the “real truth” and openly called for the Patriots to trade Caserio’s rights to Houston.
And yet we still haven’t heard yet from Caserio, (the Patriots probably won’t make him available for a while) nor Caserio’s agent stating that his intent was to sign with Houston. Or that he was planning on remaining in New England. It is very surprising that neither Volin nor anyone else reached out to either the man or his agent while preparing their stories.
This much is for sure, this story, like the in-fighting supposedly between Belichick and Brady won’t die. And it will probably continue until we see either the Patriots to lock up Caserio long-term or he does indeed walk next year.
Touchdown in Israel Trip:
Patriots owner Robert Kraft has taken several more players, this year all Patriots either current or former ones on another trip to Israel. It is a unique opportunity for the players who are religious or just lovers of history, maybe both to experience all that the Holy Land has to offer.
From someone who has been there (several times), it is a beautiful and magical place. The players visited all of the well-known sites, and for the 15 players and their wives, it will no doubt be an experience they won’t soon forget.
On Thursday evening, Kraft was awarded the Genesis Prize in Jerusalem. It is known as the “Jewish Nobel” and was given to Kraft for his philanthropy and commitment to combatting anti-Semitism. Along with the award, Kraft was also awarded $1,000,000 which he further pledged to fight anti-semitism.
The players also got to see youth football up close at the fields that Kraft built in conjunction with the football officials in Israel.
Brady-Gordon Dynamic Is More About the People, Not the Players:
The pictures and a short video of Tom Brady and Josh Gordon tossing a football around last week in Brookline set social media afire for awhile. And then the story by ESPN’s Jeff Darlington which came out about the levels that Brady went to last year to help Gordon get acclimated and feel part of the team was, while intriguing, not unexpected.
Darlington on the network’s NFL Live show spoke about the commitment by Brady to help Gordon not just on the field but off of it as well.
“He recognized that Josh Gordon made the team better and recognized that he was going to need some attention,” Darlington said. “Josh Gordon was going out to dinner with Tom Brady and Gisele at times because Tom recognized that he needs to bring this guy in, foster him, make him feel like he is at home, recognizing some of the issues that Josh Gordon goes through.”
“While that is, in part, a guy just trying to get better, it’s also Tom Brady being a really good person, continuing to try to help out and manifest Josh Gordon …Tom Brady, to this day, really respects Josh Gordon and would love to see him live a better life,” Darlington added.
Recently retired QB Josh McCown echoed similar thoughts on Gordon later this week.
“I like Josh, quiet, great… guys like him,” McCown said. “Guys like to be around him, fun guy to be around. Obviously, he’s had his battles. But obviously, when you get to know him… like you’re saying Tom gets to know him… you go, ‘This is a worthy investment.’ He’s a good guy. He just has a fight that he’s fighting. I think the league and New England, they’re trying to rally around to give him the right support.”
While Gordon remains suspended by the league and there is no timetable for his reinstatement, the Patriots offered Gordon a restricted free agent tender this spring and he remains a possibility for the team to add once again this season. If the league reinstates him and he serves any penalties that they hand down.
But what this week’s story really shows that despite the fact that the player being suspended and the very real possibility that he may not play at all in 2019, the Patriots …and Brady are investing in the person. Gordon’s long-term health and well-being outweigh everything else. And that is cause for optimism.
Simms’ Ignites Social Media Over Clickbait QB Piece:
We’d be remiss without mentioning Pro Football Talk’s Chris Simms who penned his annual Top 40 QBs of the NFL. And Simms who’s made a habit out of dismissing Tom Brady out of his Top 5 NFL QBs, this year added to his annual Brady dismissal by dropping #12 all the way to #9 and with Drew Brees at #10.
And while fans went haywire, (shocked face), even Kurt Warner, a former rival, took exception to this latest drivel with “ Are u kidding me???”
Simms of course, rushed to Twitter to proclaim that this wasn’t clickbait….Um, “child please.”
So, in trying to track down all of the Simms past QB lists, I came across Mike Dussault’s column (aka @PatsPropaganda) who cataloged several of these. (Thanks Mike!)
November 2014: Tom Brady is not a Top-5 Quarterback “Tom Brady’s not in my top five. I mean, he’s still really good, but I like other guys better. I’d go Aaron Rodgers one, Andrew Luck two, Ben Roethlisberger three, Russell Wilson four and Peyton five.”
Simms went on Boston radio to explain and became the unintentionally funniest Tweet of 2014: “If Andrew Luck doesn’t throw for 400 yards and four touchdowns, they can’t win a game. He doesn’t have Jonas Gray (emphasis mine)and the offensive line the New England Patriots do where they can run for 250 yards in a game. … I don’t think anybody bears the weight of the organization on their shoulders week in and week out more than Andrew Luck.”
March 2015: Brady shouldn’t have won the Super Bowl MVP
“I don’t think he should have won the MVP, either. That’s just the way I think about it. He had a really good game against a really good defense, but he threw like 35 five-yard passes the whole game. I think in my estimation, (Julian) Edelman should have been the MVP.”
2015? Nope. Simms claimed that ever since his knee injury of 2008 his mechanics had changed and couldn’t throw deep…SMH
2016? Nope. “To say that Tom Brady is still one of the five best quarterbacks at 39 years old is a little crazy.”And this…“I do think as a sports fan, communities, all of us, people have a hard time putting these fairy tale endings to bed. Mickey Mouse isn’t real.”
So, word of advice to PatsFans out there…Ignore the noise, every year when this comes out I get a chuckle out of it, when reading the reactions on social media. Clicking on it? Nope, Simms isn’t on my list of Top 40 sportswriters/commentators to read.
Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:
Daboll/Beasley Key to the Success of Bills/Allen in 2019:
When the Buffalo Bills signed WR Cole Beasley this spring, I immediately thought of how Bills Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll would try to utilize him. The Bills are looking for much better things with both their offense as a whole and with QB Josh Allen in 2019. And the key to a big, big part of it, will probably rest with how successful and how Daboll decides to use the former Cowboys’ slot receiver.
Daboll saw firsthand how the Patriots used Julian Edelman and how Tom Brady continues to get his presnap reads with Edelman. Look for Allen to put Beasley in motion a lot this season. This will accomplish two things.
First, it will help Allen to recognize the defensive alignment. This will make his reads easier and get the ball out of his hands faster. The second thing it will do is to get Beasley a freer release, where he can become a focal point of the Bills offense, much like Edelman is here.
If Allen and Beasley can develop their chemistry and timing, much like Brady/Edelman, the Bills offense will be able to utilize the quick passing game that works the underside and middle areas of the field. I think Beasley is poised to have a really good year.
If you believe in yourself and have dedication and pride – and never quit, you’ll be a winner. The price of victory is high but so are the rewards. Bear Bryant