Tag Archives: Justin Coleman

New England Patriots Training Camp Primer – Cornerback

Steve Balestrieri
July 19, 2017 at 6:30 am ET

The Rich Got Richer

The Patriots head into training camp at the end of next week 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. And we’re on to the Secondary and specifically the corners.

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. With a roster of 90 players and no cuts needed before the final 53-man roster cut down, there will be plenty of time for evaluation. And some serious decisions will have to be made to get to the 53-man limit at the end of camp this summer.

Our earlier evaluations looked at the
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Offensive Line
Defensive Line
Linebackers

 

So next up is the Patriots’ cornerback position. This spring the Patriots lost CB Logan Ryan who was a very valuable player for them. But the sting of his loss was more than made up for with the signing of Gilmore who came over from the Bills. All spring long the rumor had Malcolm Butler being traded but the deadline passed and he’s still here. That gives the team, embarrassingly deep riches at corner. Which means that they’ll be able to mix and match at the third or slot corner position depending on the opponent.

So, with that in mind who is locked in and who is on the bubble?

Roster Locks- Cornerback: Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore
The team laid out some healthy dough for Gilmore who is a bigger, physical corner and immediately upgrades the position. The Bills had him playing too much off-coverage which wasn’t his strength. And a look at the opposing schedule this season and the wide receivers that they’ll be facing shows that they selected Gilmore specifically with this in mind.

Stephon Gilmore will be a big piece of the NE secondary in 2017. (SBalestrieri photo)

He looks to be exactly what they’re looking for and thru the spring workouts, he was trying to glue himself tightly with the wide receivers in practice. They’ll be no off-coverage with him this year. The only question with him is how well he learns the defense and picks everything up.

Butler was the subject of countless trade rumors going to the Saints this spring. But being a restricted free agent, New Orleans balked at paying the Patriots asking price of a 1st round pick. The end result was that no one else was going to pay the price either. Next spring? That may be a different story when Butler can hit free agency. But the other 31 teams’ loss is the Patriots gain.

Butler has shown the ability to stick with opponent’s top receivers, be physical and stay on the field. He’s rarely banged up and never misses any practices or games. His biggest asset is his short memory.  Butler can get beat on one play and unlike other corners who will dwell on that, he puts it right behind him and is back competing hard again. Together the duo of Butler and Gilmore on paper looks to be a very good one.

Near Roster Locks: Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones
The Patriots brought in Eric Rowe last season and the young, third-year corner bounced between the slot and outside at times. Whether that was dependent on matchups and moving Ryan into the slot or Rowe’s inability to is a subject for debate. But he’s another big (6’1) corner who showed he can cover bigger wide receivers on the outside.

Jonathan Jones certainly turned some heads this spring. One of the fast players on the team, Jones impressed enough last summer to earn a roster spot. This spring he was getting a lot of work in the slot where his speed and short area quickness can be brought to bear. He’s generously listed at 5’10 but seems to be a bit shorter than that. But if he can continue to stick to the slot receivers, he’ll see plenty of work in the secondary this season. Plus, his work on special teams makes him almost a lock.

Jonathan Jones battles with Edelman in minicamp. (SBalestrieri photo)

Cyrus Jones had a rookie season he’d probably like to block from his memory. Having superb return skill and experience, he was thought to provide the team with an immediate upgrade in the return game while competing for slot corner duties. Neither happened. Starting in minicamp, Jones treated kicks like kryptonite and he never made an impression on defense. To make matters worse he was ejected from one game for fighting. He’ll look to make a huge jump in play this summer but his leash will be much shorter. Still, by virtue of his draft position, he’ll probably be safe…for now.

On the Bubble: Justin Coleman, D.J. Killings
The Patriots got a good return from UDFA Justin Coleman who played some valuable snaps for them in 2015. The 24-year old probably thought his role would increase with the leaving of Logan Ryan and the Butler trade rumors. Now he’s going to have to fight and produce really well just to stick.

Killings is one of those UDFAs that the Patriots seem to find every year and who carves out a roster spot. He didn’t get invited to the NFL Combine but had a very impressive Pro Day at Central Florida, running a 4.48 in the 40-Yard Dash, 6.97 in the 3-Cone Drill, leaping 37.5 inches on the vertical and doing 22 reps on the Bench Press which would have been tied for most by a defensive back.

He’s feisty, competitive, and versatile. He’s lined up all over the field and is an intriguing guy. The Patriots liked him enough to guarantee him $31,000 this spring. Don’t go to sleep on him this summer. He’ll be a guy to watch.

Outside Looking In… Long Shots: William Likely, Kenny Moore, Dwayne Thomas
Without any of the top five guys getting injured, I don’t see much of a chance for any of these three guys to make a big enough impression to make the roster. These three are really fighting for practice squad eligibility.

Likely is an undersized (5’7 but listed at 5’9 ½) corner who is very versatile and can play both offense and defense. He lined up as both a corner and a WR in the same game for Maryland in 2015. His size will make things difficult for him at the NFL level.

Thomas shows good coverage in the slot during minicamp. (SBalestrieri photo)

Moore is another smaller (5’9) but very athletic slot corner from Valdosta State. He played both safety and in the slot but would have to make it with the Pats as a corner.

Thomas is a versatile guy and has played strong safety, slot, and perimeter corner in his college career at LSU. He’s got good size at 6’0, 200-pounds for a corner but may be undersized at strong safety. He’ll have the time to make an impression but faces a pretty steep uphill climb.

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 Draft Profile, Houston CB Howard Wilson

Steve Balestrieri
April 1, 2017 at 7:30 am ET

As the 2017 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar or that we feel would be a great fit.

The Patriots are in a state of flux at cornerback. They signed Stephon Gilmore to a big contract in free agency and the big corner is going to be looked at to provide man coverage on the many big WRs the team will face in 2017. Eric Rowe returns, after being brought over from Philadelphia, he played well in the second half of the season and into the playoffs.

They have depth guys, Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones, and Justin Coleman. Coleman played a lot of snaps in 2015 and the two Jones should be expected to make a big jump in their second season with the team. But the big question remains on where will Malcolm Butler be in 2017.

If the team can bring back Butler for at least the upcoming season on his tender, then the team will have a trio of starters with him,  Rowe, and Gilmore that they’ll be able to mix and match with anyone and plenty of depth behind them.

Corners, like edge rushers, however, you can never have too many good ones. So, if Butler is either dealt or signs an offer sheet elsewhere the team will look to add another corner.

Howard Wilson from Houston is a very good athlete with excellent length, size, and speed to be a productive corner in the NFL. He has fantastic athleticism and has the loose hips that allow him to turn and mirror with wide receivers. He wins his share of 50/50 passes and shows tremendous instincts and ball skills. He has a very smooth back pedal and his technique and fundamentals are solid.

Wilson made 54 tackles (45 solo), including 2.5 for a loss, and picked off five passes, had 10 passes defensed and recovered two fumbles for the Cougars in 2016. He’s smart, aggressive and can bait the opposing QB into making an ill-advised throw.

At 6’1, 184-pounds he has the length but needs to add some weight at the NFL level. His experience is somewhat limited because he missed nearly the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL. However, it didn’t stop him from being a willing and aggressive tackler in the running game.

Some scouts believe that Wilson could have been a first round pick in 2018 if he returned to college for one more season. He has tremendous short area quickness and ran a 6.68 in the 3 Cone Drill and a 3.94 in the 20-Yard Shuttle.

Pros:

– Excellent length, size, and athleticism to match up with wide receivers

– Fantastic short area quickness and burst

– Smart, coachable player with outstanding instincts

– Fundamentals and technique are very solid

Cons

– Needs to bulk up a bit at the NFL level

– Played at a lesser level of competition in AAC

– Experience is somewhat limited due to his injury in 2015

What his Role Will Be:
Wilson will immediately challenge for some snaps at the position of nickel or slot corner. He’ll also be given some work as a gunner on special teams.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, he’ll need to spend some time in the gym with the strength and conditioning coach Moses Cabrera and bulk up a little bit between Years 1 – 2. With some experience, he should be ready to compete for a bigger role in the rotation in the secondary.

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
He’ll compete with the Jones’ and Coleman right away for reps at the slot corner position. That will set some great competition for minicamp and training camp this summer.

What is his ST Value?
Good, he can provide kick coverage and will see some practice time as a gunner in the kicking game.

Conclusion:
Wilson is another guy who may just be flying under the radar a bit entering the 2017 NFL Draft. With a draft deep in talented cornerbacks, he has all the traits that you look for in a good, starting player on the outside. And sheer numbers may force him down into a lower draft position.

He has tremendous instincts and can read the quarterback easily and accurately. His loose hips allow him to turn and run without loss of speed to mirror wide receivers down the field. Wilson’s short area burst and quickness coupled with good timing will allow him to break up or intercept passes.

He’ll need to get a bit bigger and could possibly add another 10-15 pounds of muscle on his frame in the NFL. But he has excellent potential and could become a very productive corner for many years to come. He has the size, speed and athleticism, he just needs some more experience.

Wilson will probably be available in the 3rd round of the draft. He’d be a nice addition to the Patriots defense as his skill set would mesh perfectly. With what they do as his man coverage skills should immediately provide him with not only the opportunity to get some reps in 2016 but become a productive, valuable cornerback in the defense.

Wilson’s highlight tape can be seen here:

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

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

Who Will Be the Patriots’ Slot Corner in 2017?

Steve Balestrieri
March 31, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

The Patriots will have an interesting mix on their hands at the cornerback position if they can persuade Malcolm Butler to come back at least for this season. They’ll have Butler, newly signed Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones, and Justin Coleman as their corners (as of right now) unless they add another in the draft.

The question everyone is asking is, “Who will play in the slot?” And the easy answer is, all of them could at one time or another.

With Rowe and Gilmore being 6’1, they could line up them outside and push Butler into the slot where he’d line up on the quicker shiftier receivers much like Logan Ryan and before him, Kyle Arrington did in the past. But the NFL being what it is, many teams now try to line up their big WRs in the slot attempting to get them more of a free release and take advantage of matchups.

We’ve seen this many times, and the Patriots would have the option of sliding any of their corners around depending upon those matchups. Flashback to Super Bowl XLIX, Arrington was being matched up with the Seahawks Chris Matthews who had a huge size advantage on him. Bill Belichick then slid Brandon Browner into the slot and the physical 6’4 corner quickly erased Matthews.

In 2016, the team used Butler and Eric Rowe on the outside and moved Logan Ryan into the slot. Butler has developed into one of the best corners in the game. He has a short-term memory, is very physical, doesn’t back down from a challenge and will jump up into the fray in support of the running game. He is outstanding in press man coverage at the line and is versatile enough to play on the outside or bump into the slot.

He is a perfect fit, depending on the matchups to play in the slot. The Patriots would have two big corners in Gilmore and Rowe and a slightly smaller but very athletic Butler. This is a secondary that could mix and match with anyone. Things become slightly murkier however if they do end up trading Butler.

The slot corner position would then be open for competition between Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones, and Justin Coleman. At that point, I think the Patriots would add a corner thru the draft if Butler leaves. But I truly believe sans Butler the job would be Cyrus Jones’ to lose.

Forget about 2016, that nightmarish rookie season is long gone. He got off to a rocky start in minicamp last spring with issues holding on to punts in the return game and it carried over into the season. Jones is starting with a clean slate this spring and I expect much, much better results from him on the defensive side of the ball in 2017.

He was much too good in Nick Saban’s defense in Alabama to forget how to play football. Jones has excellent press coverage skills, is a good, willing tackler in the running game and is more than athletic enough to cover anyone from the slot position. Obviously, without Butler, it would be a step-down, but the team and the rest of the secondary members could make it work.

Coleman and Jonathan Jones are the dark horses here but never say never…especially in New England. Coleman played some in 2015 and did fairly well overall. Jones had some flashes in training camp a year ago but it will be interesting to see how he looks in Year 2.

Devin McCourty at free safety and Pat Chung at strong safety in the box provide excellent overall play and still have plenty left in the tank although Chung’s physical play down low is bound to start taking a toll on his body soon.

Duron Harmon was brought back with a nice new deal that works well for both sides. He’s the guy that comes in for the Big Nickel formations. One player that may be replaced this summer is Jordan Richards. He’s been disappointing and is too stiff in the hips to be a consistent player in coverage.

The best-case scenario? Butler signs his tender and returns with a big chip on his shoulder and wants to show the rest of the league that he deserves a big money contract. With Gilmore, Rowe, and he providing three very good cornerbacks, the defense will be ready for the cavalcade of opposing QBs that they’ll face in 2017.

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 Draft Profile: Colorado CB Chidobe Awuzie

Steve Balestrieri
March 27, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

Four Year Starter is Versatile with Good Size, Athleticism

As the 2017 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar or that we feel would be a great fit.

The Patriots lost Logan Ryan in free agency and the jury is still out on whether Malcolm Butler returns at least for the 2017 season. With the signing of Stephon Gilmore, the Patriots can still use another corner, especially if Butler is indeed traded. That would leave them with Gilmore and Eric Rowe outside with Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones and Justin Coleman battling it out for the third corner position.

The draft is deep as usual in good talented cornerbacks, with many talented players being available in the middle rounds. And with no current picks in the first or second round, the Patriots will be selecting starting in Round 3. So, we’ll base our player profiles (for now), on players we think will be around then.

Some of the key qualities that the Patriots like to see in their cornerbacks are as follows:
Physicality
Versatility
Ability to Play Press Corner and Jam at the line
Must be Willing in Run Support
Sure Tackler (Logan Ryan)
ST’s Contributor

Chidobe Awuzie from Colorado is a cornerback with excellent size and strength that can play both press man and zone. He’s versatile and has covered outside as well as inside in the slot. Was Second Team All-Pac 12 in 2015 and 2016.

Made 65 tackles, with 12 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and an interception in 2106 for the Buffaloes. He’s got the size, 6-0, 202-pounds to line up outside and matchup with the bigger wide receivers.

He’s got good footwork for a bigger corner and is smooth at turning and running with wide receivers. He has a good jam at the line of scrimmage and has played confidently and well when put on an island against a top opposing WR. His top end speed isn’t fantastic but he should be able to run and mirror well.

Awuzie is good in run support although at times he wasn’t as aggressive as he should have been. Colorado used him as a blitzer his final two years and he was productive, notching seven sacks coming off the edge.

Pros:

– Instinctive and athletic

– Versatile, he can play outside or in the slot

– Excellent change of direction, 3-Cone Time (6.81)

– Good ball skills, gets his head turned around

Cons

– Top end speed is a question

– Needs to keep improving at defending the run and tackling

– A bit grabby when running downfield with WRs, could result in flags

What his Role Will Be:
Awuzie would immediately compete for reps. Initially, that may be inside in the slot where he has played in the past. He has the size and athleticism to match up anywhere.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, with improved play in run support and tackling, he could vie for starter’s reps on the right side opposite Gilmore.

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Four

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
Logan Ryan who departed via free agency, and Awuzie will battle the Jones’ and Coleman for the third CB slot

What is his ST Value?
Good, he played some in Colorado and you can expect to see him on the coverage units as a gunner for the Patriots.

Conclusion:
Awuzie was essentially a starter since the end of his freshman year. He’s got lock-down corner qualities and is athletic, versatile, and aggressive. He’s very alert and instinctive on the field with good ball skills when the throw is on the way.

For a bigger corner, he can change direction quickly and will mirror even the smaller, shiftier slot wide receivers down the field. His top end speed was thought to be a question but ran well (4.43) at the Combine.

Awuzie is a smart, physical player that rarely makes mistakes or is out of position. His tackling can be an issue as he tends to go too high, where in the NFL the bigger receivers or tight ends can break those for yards after the catch.

He’s a guy that would fit in well with New England if they decide to pursue him. He’s got very good size, is aggressive and versatile, a facet of his game that plays well with Bill Belichick. He can play outside or in the slot. That quality as the potential third corner allows Matt Patricia to use him as a matchup player either inside or out. He’s a dangerous and effective blitzer off the edge and can play gunner on Special Teams.

Awuzie is a player that may be around in Round 3 when the Patriots get to make their first selection. If he’s still there, then he’d be a good fit for New England and will immediately compete for starting reps as the third corner.

Awuzie’s highlight film can be view here:

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

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

Just Say No to Revis… Patriots Should Pass

Steve Balestrieri
March 18, 2017 at 4:10 pm ET

The Patriots made a big splash in free agency with the signing of CB Stephon Gilmore, formerly of the Bills and he’s locked up for the next several years. They’re also locked into an ugly struggle with Malcolm Butler their restricted free agent corner because of it.

They tendered Butler with a first round pick and the former UDFA corner is upset that the team paid Gilmore the money he feels he’s earned. Now he’s trying to find a home in New Orleans who may very well work out a deal for him. But if Butler goes, should New England bring back Darrelle Revis who was released by the Jets? I’d say a resounding no.

Revis came to New England on essentially a one-year deal and played very well during the Super Bowl run in 2014. He did everything that was asked of him and by all accounts was a good soldier and teammate that year. Butler himself stated that Revis was a big help to him and he credits Revis with helping him to become the player he is today. So, can the Patriots catch lightning in a bottle twice? Again, no.


Darelle Revis had a solid 2014 in helping the Patriots win a Super Bowl. (USA TODAY Images)

The Patriots tried to bring back Revis in 2015 and offered him a big money deal worth in the neighborhood of $35 million. But the Jets were intent on bringing him back, even to the point of tampering with Revis. They didn’t need to. Revis who in retrospect, really wanted to go back to New York, got twice that amount from Gang Green. But he didn’t just get his ring, his money, and be on his way. Revis took parting shots at both Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

Worse, during the Deflategate saga as it unfolded, Revis went out of his way to criticize Brady and the Patriots, basically calling them cheaters. Do you think that Bill Belichick may hold a little bit of a grudge there for this? It is possible. The backlash over his comments about Brady, Belichick, and the Patriots prompted Revis to send his mother to get his Super Bowl ring at the team ceremony in 2015. Except that the Patriots didn’t allow his mother into the celebration.

But the fans and even many members of the media are clamoring for a Revis – Patriots Part Deux, basically ignoring the fact that the past two years, Revis has been flat out awful, especially in 2016.

The 31-year old Revis has been a shadow of himself the past two years and in 2016, teams didn’t shy away from Revis, they attacked him, and sought his side of the field out. For the first time in his career, Revis allowed two touchdowns in a game to the same receiver. In this case, it was against New England and was rookie Malcolm Mitchell.

Revis was overweight, out-of-shape and lost a step. He claims to have already lost 10 pounds this off-season and wants a final shot at redemption. The Jets still owe him $6 million this year, so a one-year deal would be affordable. But would the Patriots pull the trigger again? If they’re smart…in a word no.

While Belichick can bring out the best in players, he doesn’t have a magic elixir that is going to make a player gain those steps he’s lost overnight. No doubt, he’s seen the decline in Revis and knows that he can’t do anything to stop the inevitable slide that has already begun in his game.

It never fails to amaze how fickle some people are. For the past two years, fans and media here in New England have been all over the “Revis is fading” storyline while touting Bill Belichick as brilliant for letting him walk to the Jets in 2015. Many of those same people now are clamoring for his return…And if he signs with his hometown Steelers, as he’s been politicking to do, watch those same people jump back on the “he’s finished” bandwagon.

But while the Pats possibly need another corner if Butler moves to New Orleans, they aren’t in a crisis. Gilmore, Eric Rowe can hold down the corners. And 2nd-year player Cyrus Jones should be much improved in 2017 or Justin Coleman can compete in the slot. And there is the draft.

But as much as Bill Belichick loves to stick it to the Jets, he knows what he sees. Revis is done, or very close to being done. That ship has sailed. And the Patriots should pass.

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.

Butler For Cooks Deal Being Hashed Out Between NE-NO?

Steve Balestrieri
March 9, 2017 at 12:10 pm ET

Just when you resign yourself that the Patriots are going to be quiet on Day 1 of free agency, something like today happens. First, the team is reportedly signing Bills CB Stephon Gilmore to a 5-year deal in the neighborhood of $14 million dollars per year. Now comes the news that the Patriots are talking a trade with New Orleans with Malcolm Butler and Brandin Cooks being dealt straight up.

Dianna Russini of ESPN was the first to report that the player for a player deal is being discussed and after the Gilmore news, it isn’t surprising.

CB Malcolm Butler could possibly be traded to the Saints for WR Brandin Cooks via ESPN’s Diana Russini. (SBalestrieri photo)

It is just speculation at this point, but like the Wes Welker/Danny Amendola situation, the Patriots no doubt had a backup plan. There have been rumors that Butler’s agent wants him to be paid like an unrestricted free agent. Butler may have been refusing to sign his 1-year tender, so Bill Belichick pulled the deal with Gillmore out of his hat and now they’re trying to trade Butler for Cooks, who they coveted anyway.

The Saints need defensive help especially in their secondary and Butler would be an immediate upgrade. Cooks would make an already potent Patriots offense even scarier with a player that can go deep.

The sticking point is that Butler would have to either sign his tender with the Saints or do a long-term deal with New Orleans.

Again, it is just speculation here, but it seems the relationship has soured with Butler and the Patriots. Obviously trying to deal him signals that there is no way that the team is expecting that any deal can get done between the two sides and that Butler, will not sign his tender with New England.

If the Patriots make this deal and Logan Ryan leaves via free agency as is expected, it would leave New England with Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones, and Justin Coleman at cornerback.

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 Have a Long List of Free Agents in 2017

Steve Balestrieri
February 9, 2017 at 9:28 am ET

The Patriots will enter the 2017 offseason with a ton of cap space ($61,248,593 according to our own salary cap guru in Miguel @patscap) but have a lot of players hitting free agency.  There is a total of 19 players that are free agents this spring. It begins with 13 unrestricted free agents, three restricted free agents, and three exclusive-rights free agents.

Here is a list of the Patriots free agents and their ages in parenthesis:

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS:
TE Martellus Bennett (30)
RB LeGarrette Blount (30)
RB Brandon Bolden (27)
DT Alan Branch (32)
FB James Develin (28)
WR Michael Floyd (27)
FS Duron Harmon (26)
LB Dont’a Hightower (26)
DE Chris Long (31)
LB Barkevious Mingo (26)
CB Logan Ryan (26)
TE Greg Scruggs (26)
DE Jabaal Sheard (27)

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS:
CB Malcolm Butler (26)
OT Cameron Fleming (24)
LB Trevor Reilly (29)

EXCLUSIVE-RIGHTS FREE AGENTS:
CB Justin Coleman (23)
LB Brandon King (23)
TE Matt Lengel (26)

So, what are the differences in the categories you ask? Well, I’m glad you did… sort of. The Patriots can extend any of the players below to a new deal prior to the March 9th deadline. Once the deadline hits, then that is when the different categories come into play.

The Unrestricted free agent is free to sign with any team for basically the best deal for the player, whether it be the money, the team or any other reason.

Restricted free agents can be offered one of three “tenders” by the team holding their rights. They are for players with just three years of accrued service in the league. Since most rookie contracts run for four years now, they are becoming rarer.

A tender is a one-year contract for a pre-determined amount and here are the categories: (note the amounts listed here are in 2016 money and will be subject to change.)

First round tender: 1 year, about $3.582 million
Second round tender: 1 year, about $2.516 million
Right of first refusal/Original round tender: 1 year, about $1.647 million

The original round tender means that if another team swoops in and signs a player, his last team would get a draft pick from the round that player was drafted in. In the case of a UDFA, the team would get nothing.

The team has the right of first refusal as well if a team were to offer a restricted free agent an offer, the Patriots have the right to match it.

Exclusive rights free agents haven’t accrued three years of NFL service and if the team extends them an offer sheet, they have to sign it.

So while the Patriots have tons of cap room, they also have some big decisions to make in regards to 21 free agents. The ERFAs are the most easily done if they want to keep them they are the easiest to retain. But from there the questions become a bit stickier.

We’ll be looking at some of the free agents in depth in the upcoming days. Who may stay and who may go.

Any questions regarding the salary cap and the inner workings of it should be addressed to Miguel aka @Patscap who covers the salary cap of the Patriots better than anyone else anywhere. We are fortunate to have him here at PatsFans.com and he has the breakdowns of the deals and how it all works.

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 Bye Week Mid-Term Report Card – Defense

Steve Balestrieri
November 4, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Unit hasn’t played to their potential…yet

The Patriots get their bye week at a perfect time, right smack dab in the middle of the season before they begin a very important stretch of games that will mark the outcome of the 2016 regular season.

The Jamie Collins trade furor has subsided a little bit and again good timing by Bill Belichick. The players get over their shock, get a couple of practices in, get some time off to lay in the sun somewhere and come back refreshed, and hopefully focused.

We’re breaking down our mid-term grade for the defense’s positions today after the offense’s yesterday.

So… step back off the rail on the Tobin Bridge, buckle up and let’s look at the first half of an eventful and at times, tumultuous first half of the season. The Patriots went 7-1 much to the chagrin of the league and the rest of the teams as they are the top team in the AFC at the midway point.

One thing to keep in mind about the Patriots defense, and something Bill Belichick preaches constantly. The most important stat per Belichick is points, specifically, points allowed by the defense. The Patriots are currently third in the NFL allowing only 16.5 points per game behind just Minnesota and Seattle.

Denver whose defense is the one that Patriots fans always use for comparison is currently fifth, allowing 17 points a game. Does that mean the Pats defense is better than Denver’s? Not at all, but at the same time it shows that there is possibly a lot more that this unit can accomplish.

Defensive Line: B
The Patriots defensive line has done a pretty good job at defending the run this year…apart from the two games against Buffalo. They’re allowing 101.2 yards per game this season. Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, with Vincent Valentine and Woodrow Hamilton have been very good at clogging up the middle. Branch is playing some of his best football in his career with the Patriots and has been a very valuable piece inside. Even pushing the pocket a bit on passing downs.

The edge players, Chris Long, Jabaal Sheard, Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich have likewise been outstanding in run support and set the edge very impressively. They stay at home, stretch the plays out and either make them on their own or allow the linebackers or secondary members to clean it up.

Where they’ve lacked thus far this season is in the pass rush department. They just aren’t winning the one-on-one matchup battles nearly consistently enough. Part of the reason is by design. Both Bill Belichick and DL coach Brendan Daly have stated that the defense has sacrificed the pass rush to help defend certain backs and tight ends as well as keep scrambling QB’s in the pocket.

Daly told NESN this week, “A lot of people want to judge it based on sack numbers, quarterback hit numbers. I think there’s a lot of other things that go into play there: keeping scrambling quarterbacks in the pocket, forcing quarterbacks that aren’t as mobile to move out of the pocket, the kind of marriage of coverage and rush. And certain times game plan-wise, we may sacrifice some pass rush to take away a back or a tight end.

“The reality is, you’re trying to affect the quarterback. However, you get that done to be more successful is what the ultimate goal is in winning the game. So, I think it’s a very difficult thing to put your finger on in terms of ‘is it successful, is it not successful?’”

While they aren’t as terrible as they’ve been made out to be, can they improve? Absolutely. This one area I would expect them to be working on much harder next week.

Linebackers: B
Jamie Collins wasn’t his dominant self the first half of the season. Other than the Houston game where he was all over the field, he played well but not well enough apparently and the coaches shipped him off to the equivalent of football Siberia…Cleveland. Now they’ll have to replace his three-down presence.

Dont’a Hightower and Elandon Roberts are physical downhill, instinctive run-stuffers. Hightower will have much more on his plate now and the defensive captain will be looked to even more to provide the leadership on the defense as well as do some more blitzing in the A-gaps.  Roberts is an undersized, rookie who plays much bigger than his size, see Joe Thomas in Cleveland.

Shea McClellin was brought here in free agency but hasn’t played a ton. He also missed a few weeks with a concussion. Ninkovich can also drop back and play some linebacker as he’s done in the past.

Which brings us to our final two linebackers and now with the trade of Collins the most intriguing, Barkevious Mingo and Kyle Van Noy. Both at this stage are complete unknowns.

Mingo came over at the end of preseason and has the freakish athleticism of Collins, but lacks his size and strength. Could he become the third down ‘backer that can rush the passer? Possibly. Although he’s been playing a lot of special teams, he’s played very little on defense, a total of 27 snaps, including 10 against the Bills, his most.

Van Noy came out of the draft as a guy that could do a little bit of getting after the passer and coverage of tight ends and backs. He too will probably get some snaps to see what he can do. Can the Patriots bring out what the Lions and Browns couldn’t with these two? We’ll soon find out.

Secondary: B
The secondary has had a decent start to the season. Malcolm Butler was hobbled by a bum ankle but has been playing better than his 2015 season and has shown he deserves a very healthy pay raise next year.

Logan Ryan has played okay, and usually gets matched up with the opponent’s speediest receiver with some safety help. But his play has been a bit inconsistent of late and facing teams with some bigger receivers, the Pats gave Eric Rowe the start the past two weeks. Rowe is the biggest of the Pats corners but struggled in Buffalo, drawing some PI flags…one in particular, was not earned.

Justin Coleman and Cyrus Jones, the Pats top draft pick, have not been good as the slot or nickel corner. Both have struggled and Jones has been a healthy scratch for the past three weeks.

Devin McCourty and Pat Chung lead a safety group that is very solid. McCourty is the QB of the secondary and has had an outstanding season. Chung has gotten some flak, undeserved in my opinion as he’s been a major plus in his second go-around with the team. Duron Harmon is an under the radar third safety. Jordan Richards and Nate Ebner haven’t gotten a ton of snaps.

Special Teams: B
After struggling to start the season, Stephen Gostkowski looked more like the guy we’ve seen for the past 10 seasons, last week in Buffalo. He was 5 for 5 on extra points and made both field goal attempts, including a 51-yarder at the end of the half. His short kickoffs have been outstanding all season.

Ryan Allen has had some ups and downs but he’s been very solid for the most part in 2016. He’s been very good at angling his punts inside the 20 to limit the returns. The Patriots coverage units have been terrific so far and the return game got a boost from Danny Amendola returning the second half kickoff last week 73 yards.

Coaches: B+
Matt Patricia hasn’t had a great season thus far. The defense is not playing as well as they were envisioned at the beginning of the year. The talk was that this was going to be a Top 10 or even a Top 5 defense. While they are third in points allowed, their overall play has only been so-so. And until recently their play in the red zone and on third down has been spotty. Patricia has his work cut out for him in the second half as the defense will be going thru some changes.

Bill Belichick did a masterful job of not only preparing the team but its two young QBs to carry on for Tom Brady in the first quarter of the season. Now he faces another difficult challenge.

By trading one of the top players on the team and easily the most athletic, he’s pushed all of his chips into the middle of the table betting that he can get the best out his remaining players on defense. And of course, lead them to another Super Bowl berth. Now we’ll all watch to see how the players will react. There are examples of them reacting well, (2003), and poorly, (2009). One thing it won’t be is boring.

We’re on to Seattle.

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.

Best of Social Media: Week 6 Bengals vs Patriots

Robert Alvarez
October 17, 2016 at 8:15 am ET

On Sunday, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady returned home for his first start at Gillette Stadium in 2016 and the Patriots Nation faithful made sure to let him know how much they appreciated him before kickoff.

A few old friends made an appearance on the field pregame.

Following kickoff, Brady was serenaded.

Just before the end of the first quarter, fans pulled off this wonderful card stunt for breast cancer awareness month.

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

After getting off to a rather slow start against the Bengals defense, Tom Brady engineered an efficient two minute drill just before halftime to give the Patriots a 10-7 lead.

Heading into the second half, former Patriot wide receiver Brandon LaFell helped the Bengals jump back in front.

It was a trend for the majority of the afternoon, the Patriots third down defense continued to struggle.

Stephen Gostkowski’s problems continued following a missed extra point.

Trailing 14-12 late in the third quarter, tight end Rob Gronkowski found the end zone for the first time in 2016.

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

Running back James White had a big afternoon, snatching his second touchdown of the game and Tom Brady’s third touchdown pass.

With the Patriots leading 25-17 with 11 minutes to go in the game, controversy erupted following this Vontaze Burfict low hit at Martellus Bennett’s knees that appeared to be a “cheap shot” to many observers.

Following the incident, some chirping began between Gronkowski, Burfict, and corner Adam Jones.

Gronkowski ultimately received a taunting penalty, but got the last laugh after having a career best 162 yards receiving with his seven catches.

Following a Dalton sack, Hightower showed off his air guitar skills.

With 1:55 to go in the game, LeGarrette Blount iced the game with a score putting the Patriots ahead 34-17 and Gronkowski doing a little disco celebration.

With the win, the Patriots moved to 5-1 on the season as they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers next Sunday.

Good team win! #KodakBop #FreeKodak

A post shared by James White (@sweetfeet_white28) on

Great team win fellas!!! Love my squad!!! #PatsNation

A post shared by LeGarrette Blount (@l_blount29) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BLpKprWhIJL/?taken-by=_boomtower

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

Black Unicorn x Captain America #PatsWin #patsnation #nasa #FirstBlackManOnTheMoon @chrisevans.ig @nasa @patriots

A post shared by Martellus Bennett (@martellusb) on

Posted by Tom Brady on Sunday, October 16, 2016

 

Tuesday Daily Rundown 9/13: New England Patriots News and Notes

Ian Logue
September 13, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Here’s a quick look at this morning’s top stories:

Cardinals GM: Loss “Unacceptable” – Bill Belichick and the Patriots coaching staff got a lot of praise on Monday after having Jimmy Garoppolo prepared well enough to go out and beat the Cardinals in their house to open the 2016 season, but in Arizona, the story was quite different.

Cardinals general manager Steve Keim told Arizona Sports radio 98.7 FM that he was “embarrassed” by Sunday night’s loss, and it’s obvious that losing to a wounded New England team that was missing both Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski didn’t sit well.

“You wake up Monday morning with a loss. You’re angry, disappointed, embarrassed, and that’s the way we should all feel,” Keim said via ESPN. “Just didn’t get it done, and a lot of reasons why we didn’t get it done. And that needs to improve. That’s certainly unacceptable.”

Keim blamed the loss on bad execution, especially on third down where the Patriots went out and converted 10-of-16, with Garoppolo completing 8-of-10 with seven first downs, which went to six different receivers.  Meanwhile, the Cardinals converted just 6-of-12 on third down and despite not committing any turnovers while also committing fewer penalties, they just didn’t make enough plays when it counted.

Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians felt the Cardinals blew a terrific opportunity to start 2016 off with a win, although part of that can be attributed to questionable clock management late in the game.  However, the opportunity was there as the game ended up coming down to a missed field goal at the end, which cost them.

“We should have won the game,” Arians said. “As poorly as we played, we still should have won.”

For now what happened Sunday night wasn’t the performance Keim was hoping for in front of the home crowd, and he made it clear that they need to turn things around and quickly to make sure they don’t let another opportunity like that slip past them again.

“We got to regroup,” Keim said. “It’s the-sky-is-falling Monday, and that’s the feel that all of us should have and use that as a chip on our shoulder to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Color Rush Uniforms To Be Unveiled – The team is set to unveil their Color Rush uniforms Tuesday morning at 9am, which will be the first alternate jerseys for the Patriots since 2003, which saw them wear silver jerseys with blue pants.

A couple of rumors that surfaced Monday revealed that the Patriots may be wearing all-red when they play the Texans on September 22, while the Texans will wear dark blue.  The Patriots had previously worn all blue back on October 27, 2002 in a game against the Broncos where they lost at home at Gillette Stadium, 24-16.

If you’re going to be near the stadium Tuesday, the Patriots ProShop is planning on opening early this morning at 9am for the launch of the jerseys.

Ninkovich Extended – The Patriots redid Tom Brady’s contract during the offseason to help minimize the financial impact of his four game suspension, and it appears they may have done the same for defensive end Rob Ninkovich.

According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, the veteran, who was suspended by the league for testing positive for a banned substance, signed a one-year contract extension with the club through 2017 that helps him avoid losing what could have been as much as $475,000 in base salary and bonuses.

Ninkovich’s suspension reportedly stemmed from an ingredient that was in a store-bought product that contained a substance the defensive end was “unaware” was banned.

“Any supplement I’ve ever used was bought at a store. I was unaware something I bought had a substance in it that would give me a positive test because it wasn’t listed [as an ingredient],” Ninkovich told ESPN earlier this month.

“One thing I have learned is that if a supplement is not NSF certified, there are no regulations that ensure that what is on the label is 100 percent accurate. That is a hard lesson for me to learn at this stage in my career, but I take responsibility for it. It’s a mistake I made and it hurts that I won’t be there for my teammates.”

Ninkvoich will rejoin the team the same week as Brady when he returns for Week 5 against the Browns.

Brady on Garoppolo, “it was a great night for him” – Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was interviewed on Westwood One on Monday night for his weekly segment and was impressed by Garoppolo in his first NFL start.

“I thought he was great,” said Brady via WEEI.  “I thought it was a great night for him and our whole offense. I think the one thing you realize as the quarterback is everyone being in sync and being on the same page and the communication with your teammates is so critical.”

“For us to go in there and get a win like that, it was great for … obviously our offensive football team. The defense played great. Special teams. It’s such a team sport. And Jimmy did everything he was asked to. It was a great way to start the season for our team.”

One of the biggest things Brady pointed out was the fact they got off to a fast start, which is something he said is always one of the things the team focuses on and it obviously helped put the Patriots in control of the game early, which played a part in the victory.

“It was great to see the offense get off to a great start with a great first drive,” said Brady.  “A lot of great plays from Jimmy and the skill players. The offensive line did a great job. To get up, 10-0 like that is huge. I think that was a great way to start the game for our team. We always talk about starting fast, and we certainly got off to a fast start last night.”

Belichick Praises CB Coleman – Defensive back Justin Coleman played well on Sunday night and made a couple of key pass break-ups, including one at the end that helped ensure a more difficult field goal attempt for the Cardinals that ultimately sailed wide left.

His performance drew some praise from Bill Belichick on Monday, with the coach saying that the play likely played a part in keeping Cardinals QB Carson Palmer from looking his way again during that drive.

“I thought that Coleman gave us some real quality plays and that one at the end of the half that you mentioned was good,” said Belichick.  “The one at the end of the game where they were, it looked like, trying to run the ball to get it into field goal position to get the ball a little bit closer and we had our safeties down to defend the run, and so [Carson] Palmer threw the fade up outside and Coleman made the play on that, which was another big play because it stopped the clock which kind of worked in our favor a little bit in that particular point in time and also no yards gained.”

“It’s a big breakup and I think it really probably discouraged Palmer from thinking about doing that again, so that was a key play for us as well as the one you said at the end of the half where we undercut [Jaron] Brown and was able to get his hands right up in the pocket of the catch and break it up. That was big.”

See the Patriots Celebrate After Sunday Night’s Win – This one is pretty self-explanatory.  The Patriots posted video of the scene in the locker room following Sunday night’s win out in Arizona, and it was fun to see this group after kicking off 2016 with a win.

You can see Bill Belichick praise Garoppolo, telling him, “Great Job.  That’s a tough place to play.”

Check it out via this link if you haven’t seen it.

Fake Brady Making the Rounds – Finally, in case you haven’t seen it, there’s a guy wearing a mask that looks so realistic it’s scary, resembling the Patriots QB.

He was spotted at the stadium in Arizona Sunday night, and it’s about as spot on as it gets, all the way to the quarterback’s hair.

Take a look:

Here’s a Vine…scary, isn’t it?

https://vine.co/v/5JFHEOvDPwP