Tag Archives: Keion Crossen

Best Of Social Media: Preseason Week 4 Giants vs Patriots

Robert Alvarez
August 30, 2019 at 8:47 pm ET

The Patriots wrapped up the 2019 preseason with the New York Giants on Thursday night.

Check out all the best social media postings and videos from the final tuneup before the regular season.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B1wsl0Fg8IJ/
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In the first quarter Josh Gordon made his first appearance since being reinstated.

A Stephen Gostkowski 31 yard field goal gave the Patriots an early 3-0 lead.

The Giants would answer back with a 35 yard pass from Alex Tanney to Alonzo Russell.

7-3 New York Giants.

https://twitter.com/Giants/status/1167228155402211328?s=20

A 32 yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas gave the Giants their first lead of the game after one quarter of play.

10-3 NYG.

The second quarter became the Demaryius Thomas Show.

Thomas, who missed the remainder of the 2018 season with an achilles injury, looked sharp.

Thomas hauled in a 35 yard highlight catch for a touchdown from Jarrett Stidham, the two point attempt failed.

10-9 ballgame early in the second quarter.

The Patriots retook the lead when Stidham again found Thomas for a score completing a perfect drive for the rookie quarterback.

16-10 Patriots at the eight minute mark of the second.

Stephen Gostkowski tacked on a 40 yard field goal to extend the Patriot lead to nine.

A Nick Brossette rushing score opened up a 26-10 Patriots lead.

Don’t tell Tom Brady and Julian Edelman that its week four of preseason.

A Stephen Gostkowski 51 yard field goal just before halftime pushed the Patriot lead to 29-10.

In the third quarter the Giants mounted a comeback following a field goal and Kyle Lauletta touchdown to Scott Simonson to cut the Patriots lead to ten at 29-19 after three.

Gunner Olszewski captured the attention of many in the second half for his versatility to play multiple positions, will it earn him a roster spot, we will see?

The Giants comeback continued into the fourth quarter as Wayne Gallman brought big blue within three at 29-25.

With the clock winding down on the game late fourth, Alonzo Russell hauled in a stunning buzzer beater, game winning touchdown from Kyle Lauletta.

The Giants once again foiled a Patriots perfect (pre) season attempt with a come from behind 31-29 victory.

The regular season at long last begins for real on September 8th at 8:25 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

31-29 FINAL NYG

https://twitter.com/Giants/status/1167279830246842368?s=20

What to Watch For, Patriots and Giants Preseason Finale

Steve Balestrieri
August 29, 2019 at 7:25 am ET

The Patriots wrap up their preseason slate later on tonight against a very familiar foe, the New York Giants. The two teams have faced each other 15 years in a row in the preseason finale, it is akin to the warning bell telling both teams that the preseason is over and the games count starting next week. 

However, despite the fact that the starters on either team will barely play if at all should not lead one to believe that this game is meaningless. A number of players from both teams are playing for their futures tonight and while most of the slots on each team are already decided a few may hinge on what happens tonight in Gillette. 

So, from a Patriots perspective, what are we looking for tonight and how will these scenarios shape the upcoming roster cuts?

Stidham Should Play the Entire Game at QB:

Tonight will be the Jarrett Stidham show from start to finish. Tom Brady will definitely not play and Brian Hoyer should only enter in case of an emergency, or injury to the rookie. If Hoyer were to play any snaps in a scenario other than what was mentioned, it definitely wouldn’t bode well for his chances of sticking. 

And…in a perfect world, these should be the last meaningful snaps we see Stidham take in live-action until next preseason.  He won’t have a full complement of backs and receivers but, the coaches will get to evaluate how he handles the huddle, situational football and how well he grasps the offense.

Nick Brosette and Brandon Bolden …C’mon Down:

Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, and Damien Harris should get the night off. So it will be up to Brosette and Bolden to handle the running back duties. It wouldn’t be crazy if the coaches decided to get Harris some more game action but the feeling here is that he’s shown them enough and he’s been slowed by a few injuries this preseason, that they don’t want to risk aggravating anything this close to the Steelers game. 

Brosette has played pretty well this summer, but he’s a victim of the numbers game as the team is really deep at running back. Bolden is a special teams ace but will spell Brosette here and there as well as catch the odd catch out of the backfield.

While Bolden is pretty much a lock for the roster with his STs experience, Brosette will either be auditioning for the Patriots practice squad or for another team. Jakob Johnson [NFL International Player] will be on the PS and he and Andrew Beck should see plenty of work at fullback.

No Edelman, Gordon, Thomas, Harry Tonight?

It would be very surprising to see Josh Gordon or Demaryius Thomas on the field tonight against the Giants. Neither played against the Panthers and it would appear that the coaches are satisfied that they’ll be ready to contribute vs the Steelers next week. Ditto for Phillip Dorsett, although they may opt for him to play a few series just to give Stidham some targets [ditto for Jakobi Meyers]. No way we’ll see Julian Edelman. 

So, Meyers, who has built quite a nice chemistry with Stidham should get the start and see plenty of work. This game will be very important to both Gunner Olszewski, and Braxton Berrios. Both showed good promise in the return game this summer. Berrios was beginning to catch on in the passing game before suffering an injury. Olszewski looked very good in the return game recently. 

But with the activation of Thomas from PUP and Gordon from suspension, the chances of either making the 53-man roster for their STs [read return] ability has really taken a hit. Either or both could be brought back to the practice squad. Of course, the question is, if they don’t make it, who are your kick returners? It would seem to fall to Dorsett and Bolden… stay tuned.

OL Shuffling, Newcomers to See Work?

The Patriots just traded a 6th round draft choice for swing tackle Korey Cunningham, he was a 7th round draft pick for the Cardinals last year who got six starts at left tackle. The 6’6”, 305-pound tackle should immediately vault over Dan Skipper and Cole Croston for a spot on the 53-man roster. 

With David Andrews sidelined for at least three months and possibly for the season, the Patriots brought in more depth in a trade with Baltimore for interior OL Jermaine Eluemunor. He was a 5th round draft pick of the Ravens in 2017 and has appeared in 17 games with three starts. He was named to the PFWA [Pro Football Writers of America] All-Rookie Team in 2017. 

Players like James Ferentz and Hjalte Froholdt will get plenty of playing time and it may come down to just one of those two making the roster,

Defense Is Set, Now Is the Time For Game Experience:

The Patriots defensive line looks pretty set right now so, with no Michael Bennett, Lawrence Guy, Danny Shelton, or Adam Butler expected to play tonight, the younger players should see plenty of action to get more game time snaps. That begins with impressive rookies Chase Winovich and Byron Cowart. 

Derek Rivers and Shalique Calhoun are still banged up so we’ll see a lot of Umfomba Kamalu, Nick Thurman and David Parry tonight. One big scenario to watch is for Deatrich Wise’s situation. Many have him on the bubble. If he sits it would seem his position is safe. If he plays, those rumors would appear to be true. 

The same holds true at linebacker where Elandon Roberts [trade bait?] and Calvin Munson appear to be fighting for one roster position. Munson has been impressive in the past few weeks. And with Brandon King on IR, Munson has taken many snaps on STs and it could swing in his favor. 

In the secondary, look for younger guys J.C. Jackson, Keion Crossen, and Joejuan Williams to get a lot of work at cornerback. Duke Dawson has played a lot of STs and he may play some safety too. The final safety spot comes down to Nate Ebner [strictly STs] or Obi Melifonwu who offers some ST’s acumen and a much higher upside defensively.

Check back with us after the game for our observations and notes. 

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

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

Patriots at Lions, Preseason Game 1, What to Watch For

Steve Balestrieri
August 7, 2019 at 9:01 am ET

The Patriots are wrapping up their final joint practice with the Lions on Wednesday and then all of the attention will turn to the first preseason game of the year. With that said, we should finally get a look at the Patriots rookie players with the real numbers that they’ll be wearing this season. 

Don’t expect to see any of Tom Brady and most of the starting lineups in Thursday’s game, they’ll get eased more into the next two games. This one is usually about the rookies and the new players to the roster. Expect to see a lot of QB Jarrett Stidham in this one. 

*For you who have been going to training camp, the following are the jersey numbers of the Patriots rookies for the game, unlike the funky numbers they’ve been wearing in training camp.

#4 Jarrett Stidham QB
#7 Jake Bailey P
#9 Gunner Olszewski WR/KR
#10 N’Keal Harry WR
#16 Jakobi Meyers WR
#19 Ryan Davis WR
#33 Joejuan Williams CB
#37 Damien Harris RB
#41 D’Angelo Ross DB
#42 Nick Brossette, RB
#42 Malik Gant, S
#47 Ken Webster CB
#50 Chase Winovich Edge
#63 Martez Ivey OL
#64 Hjalte Froholdt G
#65 Yodny Cajuste T
#67 Tyler Gauthier, OL
#68 Tyree St. Louis OL
#86 Andrew Beck TE
#99 Byron Cowart DL

So, with all of the roster number hoopla out of the way, what exactly are we looking for after preseason Week 1? 

Come Back to Foxboro Healthy: 

Injuries are part of the game and we know they are inevitable, but the last thing you want to see is a player from either team going down with an injury. Just two years ago it was there in Detroit when Julian Edelman made a cut and went down with a torn ACL without being contacted. It ended his season before it began and may have cost the team down the road in Super Bowl LII. 

So, while the coaches want to see their players perform well in all three phases of the game, coming out of the game as intact as possible, health-wise will be paramount.

Watching Stidham and Young Receivers in the Passing Game:

Stidham was drafted by the Patriots with little fanfare, he was hardly thought to be one of the best QB prospects in the draft. Part of the issue was the terrible offensive system they ran at Auburn. Stidham still has a long, long way to go but has been progressing nicely in camp and had a really good day on Tuesday’s joint practice. 

Now, he’ll get to put his foot in the water for his first NFL game action. Thus far, he’s had a typical rookie spring/summer with issues holding the ball too long and trying to learn an entire new offensive system, to some sessions where he’s thrown the ball well.

And he’s got a plethora of receivers who are new to the Patriots. Unfortunately, top draft pick N’Keal Harry may not be among them. Harry tweaked a hamstring in Tuesday’s practice session, so he may be held out of this one…it will bear watching. 

But rookies Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, Ryan Davis, 2nd-year man Braxton Berrios, as well veteran newcomers Maurice Harris, and Dontrelle Inman are getting their first reps in Patriots uniforms. 

Meyers is generating a ton of buzz around his play and his early grasp of the Patriots playbook but Berrios, who had a strong spring and a frustrating beginning to camp has shown signs of life against the Lions secondary. These preseason games will tell the tale of who earns more reps and carves out a role on the roster. 

Harris and Inman are veterans but want to put forward solid contributions in preseason working against mainly vanilla coverages to earn more reps with Brady, who is doubtful to make an appearance. 

Rookie Damien Harris has shown the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield during camp sessions. It will interesting to see if the coaches decide to use him and Brandon Bolden in that capacity in their first game action of 2019. 

Running Game Can Be Hit or Miss:

The problem with trying to judge running backs, and Harris should see a ton of action along with Nick Brossette and Jakob Johnson, is that the back-up offensive lines are in the game. And it frequently occurs that the offense can sputter in running situations as the backups don’t have the reps together to work in harmony with one another. 

However, I’m intrigued to watch what Harris and Brossette can do. Brossette will have a very tough time cracking the 53-man roster as the position is loaded this year. But I liked what I saw of him in college and thus far in limited reps. He’s playing for a practice squad role. 

Brandon Bolden is one of our favorite Patriots players to watch. The reserve running back and special teams ace should also see quite a bit of action in the preseason opener both in the running and passing game. 

Special Teams Battle: 

As much as I thought Ryan Allen could have made a case for Super Bowl LIII MVP, I’ve been sold on Jake Bailey since minicamp. He has a leg that puts distance and incredible hang time into the ball which almost puts it into the outer marker for Logan. He and Allen are battling it out for the punter’s job in 2019. While Bailey has the much stronger leg, Allen’s forte is directional punting and consistency, where he has the edge over the rookie.

One thing to watch all thru the preseason is kickoffs. Bailey is adept at it as well as being an emergency field goal kicker. He’s shared duties with Stephen Gostkowski on kickoffs in camp thus far and it could make a difference in the final cutdown. 

Defense As a Whole, But Keep an Eye on the Secondary:

The Patriots defense looks to be much better, deeper and more versatile than last year’s unit.  While many of the starting members may only play sparingly, the guys that really bear watching are the new players or those fighting for roster spots. 

Chase Winovich has stepped up his game in the practices with the Lions, it promises to be intriguing to see A. How they use him and B. How well he does in his first game action. The rookie from Michigan looks to be a very promising player. Shilique Calhoun, we wrote the other day is having a very solid camp. He continued his strong play against the Lions and has a chance to earn more reps as camp progresses. 

Other edge players on the bubble and bear watching are Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis, Trent Harris, Ufomba Kamalu, and Nick Thurman. All of them have played well so far but need to step it up during the next four weeks. 

In the secondary, with Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, and Jason McCourty known quantities, the guys we really want to see are new 2nd round pick Joejuan Williams, Duke Dawson, Keion Crossen and D’Angelo Ross at cornerback. 

At safety, Terrence Brooks, Obi Melifonwu, and Malik Gant are all vying for roster spots behind Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, and Duron Harmon. Both Brooks and Melifonwu have played well and have gotten reps with the starting unit. 

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

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

Patriots 2019 Training Camp Guide – Cornerbacks

Steve Balestrieri
July 22, 2019 at 8:30 am ET

The Patriots begin training camp later this week and like most people, I can’t wait as it seems like football has been missing for a long time. The weather is supposed to be much more manageable than the past few days, which makes the experience for the people in attendance and the players more enjoyable.

Today, we’re looking at the cornerbacks and the Patriots are loaded at this position. This is easily the deepest position on the team. There will be some players not making the roster (or traded), that are NFL quality corners. The old saying that “you can never have enough cornerbacks”? It seems the Patriots and Bill Belichick have taken that to heart.

This year’s roster is deeper and more talented than the group who held the Rams to just three points in the Super Bowl. Stephon Gilmore returns from an outstanding season and is joined by veterans Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, and Keion Crossen. At this time last year, J.C. Jackson was an undrafted free agent and considered a long-shot to make the 53-man roster. Not only did he make the team, as the year went on, but he also contributed and was a starter. Duke Dawson was a 2nd round draft pick a year ago but was injured and on IR, but was activated near the end of the season. However, he didn’t dress for any of the games being an inactive scratch.  

The team added Joejuan Williams in the 2nd round this spring, he’s a very big (6’4) corner who will provide some matchup possibilities with bigger WRs and TEs. They also added corners Ken Webster and D’Angelo Ross. 

With nine corners, not all of them are going to make the 53-man roster, so the back end of the depth chart will have four players competing for two, possibly three roster spots. 

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. And be sure to keep up with our coverage from training camp. 

So, let’s take a look at the position as it unfolds as training camp begins this summer.

Current roster – Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, Duke Dawson, Keion Crossen, Joejuan Williams, D’Angelo Ross, Ken Webster

Locks –Gilmore, Jackson, Williams

Near Locks –  McCourty, Jones

Bubble – Crossen, Dawson

Long Shot – Ross, Webster

Discussion – With the return of their four main starters (Gilmore, Jackson, McCourty, Jones) from the Super Bowl team, this team is set up for continued success in 2019. In fact, this may just be the deepest set of cornerbacks the Patriots have had… ever.  Five of their corners played significant roles last year (Crossen on Special Teams) and getting a 2nd round pick back from an injury that didn’t play at all in 2018 and adding another intriguing 2nd rounder gives them an embarrassment of riches. 

Gilmore cemented himself as one of the best corners in the league with a fantastic 2018 season. He played in all 16 games, notched 2 interceptions along with 20 passes defended. Opposing QBs targeting him had just a 56.3 passer rating. Pro Football Focus had him as the top corner in the league last year. And btw, the All-Pro sealed the Super Bowl with an interception deep in Patriots territory. 

Jackson made the team after a very impressive training camp where it seemed like he was making highlight-reel plays daily. He made the team and played in 13 games, garnering more and more playing time as the season wore on with 5 starts. In the final five regular-season games and the playoffs, he played in nearly 80 percent of the defensive snaps.  Jackson notched three interceptions and opposing QBs had just a 42.0 passer rating when targeting him. Some NFL insiders believe that Jackson has the potential to be an All-Pro and could even surpass Gilmore as the top Patriots corner at some point in the future. 

McCourty came to the Patriots last season coming from a winless Browns team to winning a Super Bowl. He’s versatile and can line up as a corner or safety. He played very well last year and logged 80 percent of the defensive snaps. He’s nearly a lock this year but will still have to show he can produce on the wrong side of 30. However, his veteran savvy and leadership, as well as his versatility, bode well for him sticking around for the 2019 season. 

Williams is a lock just by virtue of his draft status but his potential is very intriguing. Many people questioned why Belichick would take a corner with their second pick, #45 overall. And the answer is matchups and versatility. Williams is a very big corner (6’4, 211 lbs) who is a big, physical presence. Some people compared him to the Patriots 2014 team’s Brandon Browner and after watching him at minicamp it is easy to see why. He won’t be lining up on small, shifty slot receivers but against the bigger WRs and TEs, Williams gives them matchups that they can roll out depending on the opponent. 

Jonathan Jones was a former UDFA who has gradually worked his way into being a very solid and dependable slot corner. He began working on special teams (Crossen) and gradually worked his way up and has improved every year. The Patriots drafted Dawson last year with the possibility of replacing Jones in the slot. But his injury and Jones’ play made Dawson inactive down the stretch. 

Dawson has a long way to go if he wants to supplant Jones in the slot, however, Jones is also in a contract year, becoming a free agent in 2020 at the age of just 26. This will be a battle to watch. If the Patriots decide to keep Jones for the long-term, this could put them in a position to possibly trade Dawson rather than risk losing him on the waiver wire. But with camp and preseason ahead, there is a long way to go. 

Crossen was a 7th round draft pick (243rd overall) in the 2018 NFL Draft. He’s got speed and athleticism and carved out a role as a special teams’ gunner, with nine tackles. He saw the field very sparingly on defense where he was picked on a bit, not uncommon for a rookie. 

However, with the addition of the very athletic but very raw Webster, his role on STs may be pushed. Webster is one of those intriguing 7th round picks (252nd overall), where he has the athleticism and potential to be a viable corner at some point, it may not be right away on this roster. He may battle Crossen for that coveted STs gunner/backup corner role. This will be another battle to monitor as camp progresses. 

Ross has a tough road in front of him. It is simply a numbers game. The small (5’9) but fast corner from New Mexico ran a 4:32 at his Pro Day in the 40-yard dash. In other years he may have been a potential player to crack the 53-man roster as a UDFA. But with the limited amount of snaps he may see this summer, he is a candidate for the practice squad heading into camp. 

The Patriots are stacked at corner heading into training camp. One potential boon of this is that the wide receivers will all be going against some excellent competition this summer, which should prove to help them when the games begin in earnest.

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

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

Patriots Players on the Bubble Prior to 2019 Training Camp

Steve Balestrieri
July 9, 2019 at 8:49 am ET

When you win a Super Bowl, there generally isn’t a lot of available roster spots to go around. The 2019 New England Patriots currently sit at 90 players and they are no exception. There promises to be a ton of competition this summer for the back end of the team’s 53-man roster. 

The Patriots were picked earlier this summer for having the deepest roster in the NFL. Whether or not you subscribe to that is immaterial.  A look at the roster and there really isn’t a lot of wiggle room for players to come in and carve out a role for themselves.

So, that brings us to the purpose of this piece, several well-known players will be firmly on the bubble when training camp begins. Others, due to injury or subpar play could be added as camp practices progress and some of these players could cement themselves with solid play. Here are some but not all of the players on the bubble. There is a long way to go. 

Danny Etling – Some people are surprised that Etling is still on the roster. During minicamp, the 2nd year QB was clearly displaced as the #3 signal caller by Jarrett Stidham. Etling was playing STs as the personal punt protector. The Patriots just used a 4th round pick on Stidham, while that isn’t in itself a guarantee, they clearly were giving him plenty of opportunities, to the detriment of Etling this spring. 

The team isn’t going to keep 4 QBs, so Etling is the odd man out. Could he push Hoyer for a slot? Doubtful. And it is also doubtful that the Patriots cut their ties to Hoyer with Stidham so green…at least for 2019.

Braxton Berrios – The 2nd year WR was injured and missed the entire 2018 season and appeared in just one preseason game last summer. Now healthy, Berrios has turned some heads during OTAs and was arguably the best player on the field during Day 1 of the mandatory minicamp. 

He hasn’t locked down anything yet however. Once training camp hits, he’ll need to continue that solid play catching passes, returning kicks and more importantly, stay on the field. This will be a big camp for him as he could either carve out a decent role for himself or fall completely off the radar. 

Dontrelle Inman – Inman was signed by the Patriots in May after the Colts decided to let him walk in free agency. Inman was picked up by the Colts in midstream of the 2018 season and worked himself into a key role. Indy moved him around as a big (6’3, 205) slot receiver and occasionally as the “X”. He had good production down the stretch and in the playoffs. 

But a very subpar minicamp dropped Inman far down the depth chart. He didn’t catch a single pass in team drills in all three days of the mandatory sessions. That doesn’t mean he’s out yet… but it does put him in a precarious position to begin camp, far down the depth chart. 

Ted Karras – The tough, versatile Karras was picked up by the Patriots in 2016 and has been a valuable depth piece on the offensive line ever since. He can play anywhere on the interior offensive line. But the team invested a 4th rounder on Hjalte Froholdt. And the Arkansas alum can do the same things that Karras can do. 

The feeling is that with Joe Thuney a free agent after this season, the team is grooming Froholdt to be the starter. He and Karras will be battling for the backup position this summer and it should be a great battle. 

Derek Rivers after TC practice. SBalestrieri photo

Derek Rivers – The Patriots top pick from two seasons ago is facing a huge training camp this summer. He lost his rookie season to a torn ACL during the preseason and never stepped on the field. He returned, albeit not 100 percent physically last summer and played sparingly. In his two seasons, he’s logged 78 snaps, two tackles, and one sack. 

The Patriots know his potential and his NFL Combine performance and his production in college were the things that attracted them. But this summer is the beginning of Year 3 and projections are no longer in the cards. It is make or break time for Rivers this summer.

Keion Crossen/Duke Dawson – The Patriots are loaded at cornerback. It is arguably their deepest position. With Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, Crossen, and Duke Dawson who missed all of his rookie season, the team added more. They drafted Joejuan Williams in the 2nd round and Ken Webster in the 7th. They also added D’Angelo Ross later.  They can’t keep all of them. 

Gilmore, Jackson, and Williams (by reason of his draft position) are locks for the roster. McCourty and Jones are near locks themselves. That makes the competition between Crossen and Dawson for the sixth spot one to watch. The feeling here is that they’ll keep six but could opt for more, at least initially.  

Crossen is a special teams standout with the athleticism to play cover corner, much like Jones, who began the same way. The team invested a second rounder in Dawson last year, but he was lost to injury. With the players they added this spring, Dawson is far from safe. He and Crossen may be fighting it out for the final corner slot.

Nate Ebner/Obi Melifonwu – The Patriots are also very deep but aging at safety. While they have ostensibly three starters in Devin McCourty, Pat Chung and Duron Harmon, the first two are on the wrong side of 30 and McCourty hinted at retirement this spring. 

The team normally keeps five safeties/STs but this spring they signed former Jets S/ST ace Terrence Brooks. Brooks got a two-year, $4 million dollar deal with a $500,000 signing bonus and $1.3 million of that guaranteed. That puts him in the lock category. 

Brooks is known primarily as a STs ace who can fill in and play some safety when needed. Nate Ebner is another STs standout and a Belichick favorite. However, he rarely if ever plays on defense. Obi Melifonwu was brought in at midstream last season and now has a full offseason under his belt. The team’s idea was for the uber-athletic and big Obi to cover big WRs and TEs in the slot. But with the addition of Williams in Round 2, that makes him potentially expendable. 

Melifonwu offers much more upside than Ebner defensively and got some first-team reps this spring with Chung missing but he doesn’t have the ST’s acumen of the latter. These two may be battling it out for the 53rd and final roster spot on the team.

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

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

Patriots Breakout Player of 2019 – CB J.C. Jackson

Steve Balestrieri
July 8, 2019 at 8:30 am ET

What a difference a year makes. At this time last year, Jackson was an undrafted rookie cornerback from Maryland and a longshot to make the roster. But not only did he make the roster out of training camp but he developed into a starter opposite of Stephon Gilmore for the Patriots.

After a very impressive spring and summer where he shined at training camp, Jackson played in only about 16 percent of the defensive snaps for the first nearly three-quarters of the season. But from Week 12 onwards, he played in nearly 80 percent of the defensive snaps, starting in both the AFC Championship and the Super Bowl where the Patriots held the Rams to just three points. 

In the last several years, Jackson is the third CB plucked by the Patriots as an UDFA to become a starter or regular contributor. Malcolm Butler in 2014 and Jonathan Jones in 2016 before him also were undrafted. 

He shined in man coverage and was able to stick with and mirror opposing wide receivers. He also has shown extremely good ball skills with three interceptions and six passes defensed. As we have seen countless times, covering the opponent is one thing. But having the awareness and skills when the ball is in the air is another. Jackson has been able to do that.

Jackson posted the best passer rating allowed on cornerbacks who played 200 or more snaps in 2018 with an outstanding 42.0 when opposing QBs targeted him. According to PFF (Pro Football Focus), Jackson allowed only 22 receptions on 42 targets for a combined 262 yards as well as zero touchdowns to go along with his three picks. He also allowed 0.80 yards per coverage snap according to PFF. Gilmore’s was 0.72. 

He also had an outstanding 21.4 percent forced incompletion rate, good for 7th overall in the league. Overall, he finished 2018 as PFF’s 12th best-rated corner. Perhaps Jackson’s best game was in Pittsburgh in Week 15. Matched up with the very dangerous JuJu Smith-Schuster, Jackson was extremely competitive. Smith-Schuster was targeted 10 times in the game and had just four catches for 40 yards, the second least productive games he had (catch percentage wise) in 2018 where he caught 111 passes for 1426 yards.  

The Patriots are primarily a man-coverage team but Jackson showed he can play some zone as well. In the Week 16 game against Buffalo, he played underneath and undercut the route getting one of his three picks against Josh Allen. 

If there is one area of weakness in Jackson’s game it could be playing against bigger wide receivers. Jackson who is generously listed as 6’1, 198 (he measured 5’10 at the NFL Combine) had a rough AFC Championship Game against the bigger Sammy Watkins and against Travis Kelce, however, the Chiefs ran roughshod over nearly every defense they faced in 2018.

But the Patriots, as they nearly always do, had a plan in place. They drafted a very big corner in Joejuan Williams (6’4) who can cover those bigger wideouts they’ll face. Flashback to 2014, the Patriots had Revis (lockdown) and Brandon Browner in those roles. Now with Williams in the fold, they’ll be able to mix and match against nearly anyone.

However, there are some in the Patriots front office who believe that Jackson will one day surpass Gilmore as the top corner of the team. And at just 23-years old, Jackson has yet to hit his peak. In fact, he’s just scratching the surface of his potential. 

He and Gilmore are the locked down starters for a very talented group of corners that includes Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Williams, Keion Crossen, Duke Dawson and rookies Ken Webster as well as D’Angelo Ross. 

The future appears bright for Jackson and he is our first choice as the 2019 Breakout Player of the Year.

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

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

ICYMI: The Patriots Wish Bill Belichick A Happy Birthday

Robert Alvarez
April 17, 2019 at 8:30 pm ET

On Tuesday, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick celebrated his 67th birthday and a few of his players chimed in on social media with some wishes to the future Hall of Famer.

Of course, its unlikely Belichick will actually see any of the below postings.

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HBD to Mr. All Smiles #GOAT

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

Since his head coaching debut with the Cleveland Browns in 1991, Belichick has amassed 292 wins over his career with six Super Bowl championships in nine appearances.

Belichick will enter his 24th season as an NFL head coach in 2019 and his 19th in New England.

Best Of Social Media: Week 6 Chiefs vs Patriots

Robert Alvarez
October 16, 2018 at 8:45 pm ET

On Sunday night the New England Patriots entered their Week 6 matchup with the undefeated 5-0 Kansas City Chiefs.

Coming into the game, in the Belichick/Brady era, the Patriots were seeking to move to 24-0 at home in the regular season against rookie quarterbacks. Chiefs standout rookie Patrick Mahomes stood in the way.

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Attack

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

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Locked in. #LFG

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

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Back at it again. #Gameday #LFG

A post shared by Chris Hogan (@chrishogan_15) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bo7V4EkgIOS/?utm_source=ig_twitter_share&igshid=oi0jxryl6qyn

In the first quarter after both teams traded field goals, Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower recorded his first career regular season interception to set up the games first touchdown.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bo-HA-shCWS/?taken-by=_boomtower

Running back Sony Michel continued his hot pace, becoming the first Patriots rookie to record a rushing touchdown in three straight games since Benjarvus Green-Ellis in 2008.

After the Chiefs responded with their second field goal, the Patriots led 10-6 after the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the Patriots opened the scoring when Tom Brady found Julian Edelman for his first touchdown reception of the season, his first since the 2016 AFC Championship game. 17-6 Patriots.

Leading 17-9 following a third Chiefs field goal, rookie Sony Michel found the end zone again, becoming the first Patriots rookie with two rushing touchdowns in a game since Laurence Maroney in 2006. 24-9 Patriots heading into halftime.

HALFTIME 27-9 New England.

In the third quarter, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs began their comeback, with Mahomes finding Kareem Hunt deep for a 67-yard touchdown to close the gap to 24-16.

https://twitter.com/Chiefs/status/1051655179794141184

After another Chiefs field goal to cut their deficit to 27-19, the defense also made plays, forcing a Brady fumble that led to another touchdown.

https://twitter.com/Chiefs/status/1051666926751993856

With a minute to play in the third, Mahomes found Tyreek Hill to make it a one point game at 27-26 after three quarters.

https://twitter.com/Chiefs/status/1051665428806680576

Although the Patriots opened up the fourth quarter with a field goal to push the lead back up to four at 30-26, the Chiefs kept the pressure on following this 97 yard kick return by Tremon Smith.

The return setup a Mahomes to Hill 1 yard touchdown pass to give the Chiefs their first lead of the night at 33-30.

Needing to respond, Brady and the offense drove down the field on the following possession, enter Chris Hogan.

The deep ball setup this Brady four yard touchdown run to retake the lead, here comes the Clydesdale! 37-33 Patriots.

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https://twitter.com/EzekielElliott/status/1051673728663375872

With the Chiefs trailing by seven following another Patriots field goal, with three minutes to go in the game Mahomes again attacked the Patriots secondary and found Tyreek Hill for a 75-yard touchdown to tie the game at 40.

https://twitter.com/Chiefs/status/1051674306634084352

The good news, the Patriots had three timeouts and plenty of time…oh and some guy named Tom Brady.

With 3:03 to go in the fourth, Brady marched the Patriots down the field with a little help from his tight end.

The drive setup a 28-yard field goal attempt by Stephen Gostkowski, who drilled it for the 43-40 victory.

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https://twitter.com/NFLResearch/status/1051684050593705984

 

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VICTORY.

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https://twitter.com/NBCSCameraGuys/status/1051677477234532357

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W (Lay down @gronk! Go to sleep!)

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https://twitter.com/deionbranch84/status/1051676571633881088

https://twitter.com/Flyguy2stackz/status/1051683770510774272

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Patriots Announce Jersey Numbers For 2018 Rookie Class

Robert Alvarez
August 9, 2018 at 6:25 pm ET

For the first time in their NFL careers, the New England Patriots 2018 rookie class was officially assigned jersey numbers on Thursday.

The full list, which is still subject to change, has number assignments that align more closely with each players respective position as opposed to the “non-traditional” numbers the rookies donned since their first days in pads this past spring.

At the start of training camp, most rookies wore numbers in the 50’s and 60’s, making it difficult for observers to differentiate between them and the veterans.

According to 985 The Sports Hub’s Matt Dolloff, the Patriots active roster is still dealing with duplicate numbers for multiple players, but they aren’t on the same side of the ball when viewing tonight’s game.

The full list is as followed

5 – Quarterback Danny Etling

7 – Punter Corey Bojorquez

14 – Wide Receiver Braxton Berrios

22 – Running Back Ralph Webb

29 – Running Back Sony Michel

33 – Cornerback A.J. Moore

34 – Cornerback J.C. Jackson

35 – Cornerback Keion Crossen

42 – Cornerback Duke Dawson

44 – Linebacker Christian Sam

45 – Defensive End Trent Harris

48 – Fullback Henry Poggi

51 – Linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley

76 – Offensive Lineman Isaiah Wynn

85 -Tight End Ryan Izzo

92 – Defensive Tackle Frank Herron

97 – Defensive Tackle John Atkins

2018 Patriots Training Camp Primer – Cornerback

Steve Balestrieri
July 20, 2018 at 10:14 am ET

The Patriots begin training camp in less than a week and have many intriguing decisions to make at several positions on the roster. With 90 players on the current roster, many of them will be truly competing for roster slots and reps and are not just camp bodies.

The defense was much maligned in 2017 and there looks to be several different faces on the field from the team that played in the Super Bowl. Among them is the cornerback position. Malcolm Butler left via free agency to the Tennessee Titans after being benched for the Super Bowl. Jonathan Bademosi in now in Houston.

The team drafted Duke Dawson and Keion Crossen in the 2018 NFL Draft. They also brought in the intriguing rookie J.C. Jackson as a UDFA this spring. Jackson had a strong spring but now will have to prove it again once the pads come on. With several veterans and rookies, 11 players in all vying for probably six roster spots, reps will be valuable and possibly limited for some. This will be a fun position to watch next week.

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

Roster Locks- Cornerback: Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Duke Dawson

The team paid big bucks for Gilmore last season in free agency and after a little bit of a shaky start where he was struggling to find a comfort level, he quickly turned it around. Gilmore was the Patriots best corner, by far down the stretch and into the playoffs last year. His diving play, knocking the ball away on a 4th down against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game, sealed the deal and sent the Patriots to the Super Bowl.

He followed that up with a stellar spring where he blanketed whoever was assigned to him to cover. Gilmore is locked in as the team’s starting left corner and they’ll be in good shape with him out there for the next few years.

Rowe has the size (6’1,205) they like to match up with bigger wide receivers and will vie for the starting spot opposite Gilmore. He has the versatility to play outside or in the slot, although with the players they’ve brought in, it seems they are intent on keeping Rowe on the perimeter.

Dawson was the team’s 2nd Round (56th Overall) selection in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Patriots have scouted him for quite some time and like the versatility for the soft-spoken corner. He can play on the perimeter, in the slot and even some safety. But given his size, 5’10, 202, he’s shorter but very stocky, he may be best suited for the slot.

Near Roster Locks: Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones

The Patriots brought in McCourty from Cleveland and after trying a few years to land the twin brother of Pats safety Devin, they’ve finally got their man. He was thought to be in the mix for the starting job immediately but then in the spring he barely played. Was it a nagging injury or something else? We’ll have to see.  But I think he will stick and play a key role.

Jonathan Jones played valuable snaps in the slot last season and generally fared well when he was on the field. He played sparingly in 2016 but then parlayed that into nearly 50 percent of the defensive snaps a year ago while being a regular valuable contributor on Special Teams.

He was hurt late in the year with an ankle injury that landed him on IR and the Patriots really missed him in the slot especially in the Super Bowl where they were gashed by the Eagles.

He missed all of the spring workouts and I have a sneaking suspicion that he’ll begin training camp on PUP.

On the Bubble: Cyrus Jones, Jomal Wiltz, JC Jackson, Ryan Lewis

The Patriots used their top pick a couple of years ago on Cyrus Jones who, it was thought would be an immediate contributor on defense as well as in the punt return game. Neither happened as he struggled all season with fielding kicks cleanly.

He tore an ACL and meniscus during preseason last year and was placed on IR. In Year 3, he’s running out of time to show something. Unfortunately for him, he may not be ready to go either, missing all of the spring workouts and may begin camp on PUP.

The Patriots picked up Wiltz last season and he spent the entire season on the practice squad. He could be in line for a big jump in Year 2 but we’ll have to see if he can turn some heads in camp.

Jackson may be this season’s UDFA steal. He had a pretty impressive spring and earned reps next to Gilmore and went against the likes of Edelman, Hogan and the other starters. He looked strong and feisty and competed hard on every snap.

With the two Jones possibly on PUP, it may open the door a crack for the former Maryland corner to find his way onto the roster if he can continue his strong play.

Lewis is a very intriguing player. Undrafted last spring, he went thru camp with the Cardinals and played well. He was cut, signed to the Arizona practice squad and released on September 12. The Patriots signed him the next day to their practice squad.

Buffalo attempted to sign him off the practice squad to their 53-man roster but the Patriots convinced him to stay by paying him the salary of an active roster player. That speaks volumes about what the team thinks of him.

He’s certainly athletic, at his pro day in March 2017, Lewis ran a 4.37-second 40-yard dash with a 6.87-second 3-cone, 35-inch vertical leap, 10-foot, 8-inch broad jump and 4.34-second short shuttle. Those are all impressive numbers. With a strong second season, he too could force his way onto the roster.

Outside Looking in… Long Shots: Keion Crossen, AJ Moore

Without any untold injuries, it is hard to envision either the athletic Crossen or Moore making the roster at this point. Unless they have a fantastic summer. But it is strictly a numbers crunch. There are only so many reps to go around. Both are candidates for the practice squad. But crazier things have happened. Malcolm Butler was another one of those real longshots to make the roster and he’s now cashing in Tennessee.

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.