Tag Archives: Kony Ealy

New England Patriots Training Camp Primer: Defensive Line

Steve Balestrieri
July 17, 2017 at 6:30 am ET

Versatility and Physicality Mark The Pats DL

The Patriots head into training camp in ten days 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. Next up on our primers is the Defensive Line position.

Bill Belichick likes to say that the spring’s OTAs and Minicamp is a learning exercise and that the real competition begins in training camp. 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.

So, we’re going to look at the Patriots Defensive Line and how they shake out. There is much versatility here and that what makes the Patriots defense so effective. In a sack driven league, they’re rather pedestrian at them despite leading the league in points against in 2016.

DL Malcom Brown will be expected to be more consistent in 2017. (SBalestrieri photo)

It wasn’t smoke and mirrors, the team uses a variety of different looks and squeezes offenses from running the ball and then with their pass rushers, do not let opponents out of the pocket where big plays tend to happen. They demand their edge players set the edge first, they’re not and have never been a “sell-out” pass rush team.

The team lost defensive ends, Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long, this spring but drafted two younger guys in Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise while picking up Kony Ealy from the Panthers in a steal of a trade, during the NFL Draft. The team also picked up the versatile and underrated Lawrence Guy from Baltimore. Trey Flowers was arguably their best DL down the stretch and into the playoffs and Alan Branch was outstanding all season.

Roster Locks: Trey Flowers, Kony Ealy, Rob Ninkovich, Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise, Alan Branch, Malcom Brown
Everything starts with the big men in the middle and Branch and Brown were very good in 2016. Branch frequently plays over the center and is outstanding at stuffing the run. Brown is as well. Their job is to force everything outside where the defensive ends and linebackers are supposed to clean it up. They each got a little bit of push in the passing game but that is something that Brown could do a bit more of as well as be more consistent in 2017.

Patriots rookie DE Deatrich Wise in action at minicamp in June. (SBalestrieri photo)

Ealy will be an intriguing guy to watch this year. He’s in a contract year and has been given a clean slate by the coaches in New England.  The biggest knock against him was that he didn’t buy in when he was in Carolina. He seems to be doing that right off the bat here, which is a good sign. When he’s on, he’s a difficult man to block. Just rewind to Super Bowl L and watch him against the Broncos.

Big things are expected of Flowers this season, and after the way he finished 2016, he seems to be the go-to guy in the pass rush. Flowers, like many others in the Pats defense, is versatile and can rush from the edge or push inside as an interior pass rusher.

Ninkovich is a guy who is always at his best in clutch situations. He may be losing a step but he’s another versatile guy who can line up as a defensive end or drop as an outside linebacker.

Rob Ninkovich has been a clutch performer for the Patriots defense. (SBalestrieri photo)

Rivers and Wise by virtue of their draft stock are untouchable this season. Rivers is another guy who can play DE or OLB and was the Patriots top draft choice this season. Wise is another big DE in the Patriots mold that is an edge setter first and a pass rusher second. He was hurt in his senior season in college but had a very impressive 2015.

With the depth listed above, these rookie edge players, they won’t have a ton of pressure put on them to produce much this season. They will be able to learn the defense, get used to the speed of the pro game and get some reps here and there.

Near Roster Locks: Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine
Valentine showed some nice flashes last year in his rookie campaign. He’s another big body who can stuff the run on the inside. Guy is a versatile, movable piece and plays the 1-technique or out to the 5-technique. He seems like he’s going to be a nice fit in the Patriots defense. We’ll have to see if he can translate that to the field.

It is going to take some hard work from the guys below to unseat either of these two players. But stranger things have happened. Unless someone gets hurt or a case of the Foxboro Flu.

On the Bubble: Geneo Grissom, Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo, Josh Augusta, Adam Butler
The clock is running out on Geneo Grissom. He’s a guy that was drafted ahead of Flowers and was thought to have all kinds of versatility. But it hasn’t happened for him, he’s been unable to make a dent in the defense. Hamilton made the team a year ago but with the addition of Guy from the Ravens, he’s going to have to turn it up… a lot.

Augusta is a big-body, run stuffer in the Vince Wilfork mold, he’s listed at 6’0, 335-pounds…which may be wishful thinking. Passing the conditioning test on Day 1 will be a tough task for the big man, who failed to complete a lap during minicamp…twice.

Butler is a definite under the radar guy. Signed as a UDFA from Vanderbilt, the 6’4, 305-pound DL can be a run-stuffing tackle or a penetrator from the interior on passing downs. He played OL in college before switching over. He’ll be a guy to watch to see if he can turn some heads.

Kilgo was drafted by Denver and appeared in 18 games in two seasons before being released last November. The Pats signed the big 6’3, 320 DL to the practice squad where he spent the remaining part of the season.

Our next primer will have the Patriots Linebackers… stay tuned.

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.

An Early Projection for the Patriots Starting Lineup, Better, Stronger, Faster

Steve Balestrieri
May 8, 2017 at 9:08 am ET

The NFL Draft is in the books, free agency has been fruitful, and the Patriots have made a flurry of initial UDFA moves. Barring any late moves or last minute trades, the initial roster of the 2017 Patriots should now be set.

As it stands now on paper, the roster for this season’s team looks better than the one that just won the Super Bowl. But as Bill Belichick has frequently said, you never really know what each season’s team will be like until Thanksgiving. Lots of things can and will change, injuries occur, and some players’ production will either rise or fall inside the system. Tweaks to the roster always occur during the season.

But what we see now should constitute the bulk of this year’s team. Confidence is high as always in New England. And for a team that has won 10 or more games for 14 straight seasons, why should there be any other feeling?

So here is a quick projection for the starting lineup for the 2017 Patriots

Offense:
Quarterback:

Tom Brady: Well duh? No change from last year or the 15 years prior. While the talk remains that eventually, his play is going to fall off a cliff due to his age, at this point, it is a lot of wishful thinking for a lot of non-Patriots supporters. His play, especially in the 2nd half of Super Bowl LI shows he’s still at the top of the heap in regard to NFL QBs.

His backups remain Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. The rumor mill for Jimmy G. had him being traded this offseason but he’s still here, at least for 2017 and should any injury occur, he’ll be ready to step in.


James White is among a crowded Patriots backfield this season.

Running Back:

James White: After a Super Bowl where he could have easily been named the MVP, White has been given a nice raise and contract extension. And with the Patriots being a passing team first, White has proven to be a trusted, capable weapon in the offense.

But the Patriots are a matchup team that uses a rotation of running backs so their roster of backs doesn’t really have a starter per se, it will depend on how they match up against an opponent. Mike Gillislee will have a big role, taking over the big back i.e. LeGarrette Blount role. Something to consider, New England runs the ball on third down much more so than most fans would believe, so Gillislee will have a big role.

Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis, who should be completely healthy now round out the RB options. James Develin remains the fullback. Brandon Bolden, D.J. Foster, and LeShun Daniels are longshots for the roster at this point.

Wide Receiver:

Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks: The Patriots brought in the speedster Cooks who was very productive in New Orleans this offseason. He’ll move around from outside to the slot depending on the matchups. A look at the top three with Edelman, Hogan, and Cooks shows that all of them can do the same. That makes for a very difficult group to cover. The versatility factor makes this group even more dangerous.

Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola are the primary backups and they’ve shown that they’ve earned Brady’s circle of trust. Mitchell came on in the second half of his rookie season and should be ready for more production in Year 2.

Devin Lucien, Devin Street, and Cody Hollister are longshots for the roster.


Rob Gronkowski is once again the Patriots top TE Option heading into 2017.

Tight End:

Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen: Gronkowski returns healthy for 2017 and Allen was brought over in a rare trade with the Colts, replacing Martellus Bennett who left in free agency. Gronk, when healthy remains the gold standard for NFL tight ends. Allen is an excellent blocker that can be very productive in the passing game who can attack the seams of the defense.

There is now plenty of depth behind them with James O’Shaughnessy, Matt Lengel, Rob Housler and Jacob Hollister fighting it out for a roster slot and repetitions. Training camp competition will be interesting to watch here.

Tackle:

Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon: No changes here from 2016. Solder returned from IR and played very solid in 2016. He’s in the last year of his contract and the Patriots must decide this year if they want him to return in 2018. Cannon was the biggest pleasant surprise of 2016. He parlayed a contract extension into a very solid campaign under the able tutelage of Dante Scarnecchia.

The team drafted a potential replacement for Solder in 2018 or beyond with Antonio Garcia. They added another tackle in the late rounds of the draft with Conor McDermott. He’ll be fighting backups Michael Williams, Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle for reps and a roster slot.

Guard:

Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason: No changes here from 2016. Thuney came in and started from Day 1 at left guard. As can be expected, he struggled a bit as a rookie and needs to come back stronger for his second season. Mason is a tough, road grader in the running game and will be looking to improve as well in 2017.

Primary backups should be Jamil Douglas who was brought over in midseason from Miami who was a 4th round draft pick in 2015 and Chris Barker.

Center:

David Andrews: No change here from 2016. Andrews is a bit undersized for the position but is smart and tough. He won over Tom Brady during training camp last year because of his ability to make the line calls and seeing the field much like Brady did.

His backup remains Ted Karras, the tough but less mobile version of Andrews. Karras can also play guard as well, the versatility that the coaching staff loves.


Flowers had a strong showing in 2016.

Defense:
Defensive End:

Trey Flowers, Kony Ealy: Lots of changes here. Gone are last season’s Week 1 starters Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard via free agency. But Flowers, who came on strong in the 2nd half of the season was the team’s best defensive lineman down the stretch and should be primed for a very solid 2017. Ealy was brought over from the Panthers as well as a 3rd round pick for the Patriots 2nd rounder.

Lots of good depth here now, Rob Ninkovich will play both DE and OLB and fill in where he’s needed and may still lobby for starting duties. Top draft choice Derek Rivers gives the team the speed and athleticism from the edge. Deatrich Wise is a bigger, edge setting end who can kick inside as an interior pass rusher. Lawrence Guy is another big man who can play inside as an interior tackle or on the edge. Geneo Grissom is on the outside looking in this year.

Tackle:

Malcom Brown, Alan Branch: No changes to the starting lineup. Brown played solidly in Year 2 but could stand to improve his pocket push in 2017. Branch was excellent against the run in 2016, eating up a ton of space. He returns with a new deal and has played the best football of his career since coming to New England.

Backups include Vincent Valentine, Woodrow Hamilton, Guy, Darius Kilgo, and UDFA Josh Augusta who is one of the players to watch in training camp. He’s a huge space eater who could be one of the surprise players to stick on the roster.

Linebacker:

Dont’a Hightower, Jonathan Freeny: Wait, what? People forget Freeny, a Bill Belichick favorite was a starter for the defense a year ago until landing on IR. Hightower got a new deal after testing free agency and not finding the market he envisioned out there. He’s the glue that holds the defense together for the Pats. He calls the defense and is the guy they need in the middle. He can do it all, stuff the run, cover in the flat and blitz up the A-gaps. Hightower’s starting slot is secure, Freeny will have to re-earn his spot this summer. But for now, he’s in.

Backups include sub-package third down players Shea McClellin and Kyle Van Noy, run-stuffer Elandon Roberts, Ninkovich, Trevor Bates and UDFA Harvey Langi. Langi is one of my players to watch this summer.

Since the Patriots spend so much time in sub-packages, we only include two starting linebackers, therefore…


Butler’s potential return solidifies a terrific secondary.

Cornerback:

Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe: The team gave Gilmore a big money contract this spring during free agency. And after a contentious period with Butler, he signed his free-agent tender and has been in for off-season workouts. Rowe is a big matchup corner and gives the Patriots a very solid starting three. Each has the versatility to be shifted around and play outside or in the slot depending on how Belichick and Matt Patricia choose to use them.

Backups include Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Coleman, Jonathan Jones, and intriguing UDFA D.J. Killings who for now, is a long shot for the roster.

Safety:

Devin McCourty, Pat Chung: No changes here from 2016. McCourty is the QB for the secondary and always ensures that the players in are in the right position. He plays the centerfield position in the base defense and can slide up to play in the slot in the “big nickel”. Chung is the guy in the box, he plays physical against the run and he’ll cover tight ends in the short to intermediate range.

Duron Harmon was brought back with a nice deal in free agency. He plays a lot of snaps and replaces McCourty as the center fielder in big nickel coverage. Jordan Richards has been disappointing thus far. Nate Ebner and Brandon King are special teamers.

Special Teams:

Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Matthew Slater: The team’s specialists remain the same. Gostkowski will have training camp competition for the first time in a while from Josh Gable, known more for his trick shots. Punter Ryan Allen and LS Joe Cardona face no competition. Slater is a perennial Pro-Bowl gunner.

So, with the additions made in the draft and free agency, the Patriots look …on paper in a prime position to compete for another Super Bowl bid. Of course, injuries and other factors always weigh in but there are no holes on the roster as it currently stands. They’ve addressed their needs across the board and look even better than the team that won 14 games in the regular season and three more in the playoffs in 2016.

Is it time for mini-camp yet?

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.

Patscap Podcast: Recap Of The Patriots Draft

Russ Goldman
May 3, 2017 at 1:13 pm ET

In this episode Miguel shares his thoughts on the Patriots draft.

Patriots’ Defense on the Edge Will Have a Different Look in 2017

Steve Balestrieri
at 10:50 am ET

 The Patriots didn’t have to make too many changes for a roster that had just won Super Bowl LI but one of the areas that underwent pretty dramatic change was at defensive end on the edge. With Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long leaving via free agency, it was considered the Patriots biggest area of need.

And the Patriots have addressed it, bringing in Kony Ealy in a trade with the Carolina Panthers and then drafting a pair of edge players Derek Rivers from Youngstown State and Deatrich Wise from Arkansas. Those three players will join Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich for the Patriots this season. The team signed UDFA linebacker Harvey Langi as well and he played the edge for BYU somewhat last year, but his best fit is at outside linebacker.

Flowers was arguably the best Patriots defensive lineman down the stretch last season. He’s guaranteed to be starting at RDE when the season starts. Ninkovich and Ealy will compete for the LDE spot. With Rivers and Wise providing rotational depth.

But this year’s unit has a much different feel to it because they have more versatility. Ealy is a bigger guy at 6’4, 275 pounds. He can set the edge in the running game, has the athleticism to get after the passer and is big and physical enough to kick inside as an interior pass rusher on third down. Flowers already does that frequently.

The Patriots brought in another free agent, Lawrence Guy who can be a sub-package interior pass rusher. That’s what they’ll get in Wise as well. He’s a big kid, at 6’5, 275 pounds with insanely long arms that he needs to learn to use better. When he extends his arms, with his upper body strength, he can push through tackles and get to the quarterback. He’s frequently been compared to Chandler Jones but isn’t nearly as athletic. He’s more of a big edge setter. But Wise can also kick inside and provide interior pass rush…Seeing a trend here?

Which brings us to the team’s first draft pick Derek Rivers. If there was one element the Patriots front seven lacked on the edge last season was speed. Rivers will bring that speed to the pass rush with an athleticism that should serve the team very well.

Rivers isn’t as big at 6’4, 250 pounds at the defensive end position but ran a 4:61 in the 40-Yard Dash, with a 1:61 10-Yard Split. His time in the 3-Cone Drill was third best at the position with 6:94. That shows he has the quick twitch athleticism, loose hips and the ability to change direction as well as bend off the edge to get to the QB. He showed his strength with 30 reps at the Bench Press.

He may need some time to find his feet in the NFL, similar to how Flowers progressed in his first campaign, but he has the potential to be a very good player in the league. The good part is, with the depth of the team, he won’t be pushed too hard too soon. They can let him develop and learn the nuances of the position at the NFL level.

With the added depth, the Patriots can move Ninkovich around and possibly let him take some snaps at OLB with Shea McClellin, Kyle Van Noy, and Langhi.

However, the edge will look quite different in 2017. How effective will it be? No one knows right now but I’d bet on Belichick having it figured out as the season winds along.

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.

New England Patriots News 4-30, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 30, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 4-30, & AFC East Notes.

Not that anyone really cares but on Saturday, Deflategate actually ended. The Patriots had to cede their 4th round draft pick. But if the NFL’s arbitrary enforcement of an equipment violation’s intent was to punish New England, think about this. During the timeline of Deflategate, New England was 31-7 with two Super Bowl wins…. Back to the drawing board guys.

With the draft complete, the Patriots were so deep at so many positions, they drafted only OL and DL. That is a good problem to have.

We mentioned this before here, but nobody does a better job of evaluating talent than the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock. Between his work on the Combine and then the Draft, he’s head and shoulders above everyone else. I’d be surprised if someone doesn’t try to bring him on board a franchise soon as a talent evaluator.

Draft Had the Future in Mind: The Patriots added some depth and potential impact players in the 2017 NFL Draft but this seemed to be a draft with the focus clearly on 2018 and beyond. While players such as top pick Derek Rivers will be looked at to contribute this season, he and OT Antonio Garcia were selected clearly with the future in mind. Deatrich Wise will be looked to be a sub-package player initially.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. With a roster as loaded as New England’s is and fresh off another Super Bowl victory, there aren’t a ton of open starting positions available. And they used some of their draft capital on free agent player, which will segue right into this…

Belichick, Patriots Go for Known Commodity, Value over Draft Picks:
We’ve repeated this time and again but it bears repeating. While many fans and some of the talking heads in the media lament the lack of draft picks for the Patriots, Bill Belichick doesn’t

“Obviously, we’ve been watching a lot of picks go by, but I feel like overall our opportunity in this draft started a couple of months ago, Belichick said.

“The four players that we acquired already are also part of the draft process, Belichick added.”

“Hopefully we’ve been able to improve our team, become more competitive. That’s the ultimate goal, he said.”

One needn’t have to read the tea leaves to see that Belichick considers the players traded for draft picks in free agency as draft capital. So, he deems Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy as the team’s first and second-round picks. Dwayne Allen as a fourth rounder and Mike Gillislee as a fifth-round pick.

In trading for established pro players, Belichick has a known commodity in making the deals. Cooks, for example, has been a very productive receiver in the NFL and there’s no reason to believe that at just 23 years old, he won’t continue to grow as a player.

The draft is a crap shoot because no one really knows how a player will turn out once he turns professional. How many “can’t miss” prospects end up busting? It is an inexact science, something Belichick has said numerous times. They know Cooks, Ealy, Allen, and Gillislee can produce in the NFL because they already have. Albeit, some at different levels than the others but with Belichick, he will place these players in a position to succeed, knowing that they are professionals already.

Now take a second look at the Patriots ‘draft’ haul and it looks much different.
1st Round – Brandon Cooks, WR, Trade with New Orleans
2nd Round – Kony Ealy, DE, Trade with Carolina
3rd Round – Derek Rivers, DE, Youngstown State
3rd Round – Antonio Garcia, T, Troy
4th Round – Dwayne Allen, TE, Trade with Indy
4th Round – Deatrich Wise, DE, Arkansas
5th Round – Mike Gillislee, RB, RFA Buffalo
5th Round – James O’Shaughnessy, TE, Trade KC
6th Round – Connor McDermott T, UCLA

Now courtesy of another lookover of the haul and it seems like a much deeper draft class, doesn’t it?

Garoppolo and Butler Stay Put, Despite All the Trade Rumors:
After much talk dedicated to the “what if” category of New England trading QB Jimmy Garoppolo and CB Malcolm Butler this offseason, both remain here and likely will for at least the 2014 season.

There were rumors that the Patriots rebuffed a Cleveland Browns trade offer on Thursday night. Whether the Browns didn’t offer enough compensation or not remains unseen but supposedly New England told the Browns that Garoppolo was not up for grabs.

Cleveland eventually took a QB in the draft, DeShone Kizer from Notre Dame with the 52nd pick, so that should put the Jimmy G. rumors to rest now.

Butler too was subject to many trade rumors to New Orleans. Although the Saints said they were impressed with him, they didn’t swing a deal for him since they would have had to give the Patriots compensation of a first-round pick and then some and subsequently signed him to a long-term contract.

Both remain on the roster and should remain there for at least the 2017 season. With no CB taken, Butler, Stephon Gilmore, and Eric Rowe seem to be the top three CBs in the rotation. Butler may see some time in the slot depending on the matchups. Cyrus Jones is in the mix too.

Rivers on Meeting Belichick on Pre-Draft Meeting, “It was Awesome”:
Top Patriots draft pick Derek Rivers

“It was awesome, man,” Rivers said to the media via conference call. “I mean, we talked ball. I love coach Belichick. I love everything he is and what he stands for and how he coaches his demeanor. I mean, he’s an awesome dude. I could learn a lot from him.”

“Man, it’s awesome,” he said when asked about coming to New England. “I’m super excited. I mean, there’s just so much I can learn from those guys that were there, as far as just the commitment that those guys have, the type of coaching that’s in that locker room.”

“I’m just ready to learn from those guys and get better with those guys.”

UDFA Signings By the Patriots:
As soon as the draft was complete, the undrafted players immediately began getting interest from teams. The Patriots have already either signed or are bringing in several players on a tryout basis. Those already linked to New England include:
DT Josh Augusta, Missouri
LB Harvey Langi, BYU
WR Austin Carr, Northwestern
S Jason Thompson, Utah
G Jason King, Purdue
TE Jacob Hollister, Wyoming
CB Kenny Moore, Valdosta State
DE Corey Vereen, Tennessee
S David Jones, Richmond
DT Adam Butler, Vanderbilt
RB Leshun Daniels Jr., Iowa
OT Cole Croston, Iowa
OT Max Rich, Harvard
S Damarius Travis, Minnesota
CB D.J. Killings, Central Florida
DE Adam Butler, Vanderbilt

There will be plenty of comings and goings on this list, so stay tuned…

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Address Needs and Move up and Down the Board:
The Buffalo Bills had needs at CB, and WR with the loss of Stephon Gilmore and Robert Woods. Their first two picks in the draft definitely met those.

LSU CB Tre’Davious White is a perfect fit for the Bills zone defense and he’s considered a solid locker room presence as well as a player. He will compete for an immediate role as a starter.

Zay Jones, the WR from East Carolina gives Buffalo a solid #2 WR that will provide the receptions to move the chains. He was an incredibly productive receiver with 399 career receptions in college.

I loved the pick of BC LB Matt Milano, who flies all over the field and will play special teams. But moving up for RT Dion Dawkins? Seemed like a reach and there wasn’t really a need to move up. Time will tell. The pick of QB Nathan Peterman from Pittsburgh was another nice move. He’ll push Cardale Jones for a roster spot.

Miami Grabs Nice Edge Rusher in Harris:
The Miami Dolphins first pick in the draft was Missouri DE Charles Harris, who we really liked in the pre-draft process. He fits an obvious need and should fit right in with the Dolphins defense.

Another excellent pick in Round 2 was Ohio State LB Raekwon McMillian. He filled a position of need at ILB where the team will eventually decide to replace Koa Misi. He’s solid, and an excellent player against the run.

Round 3 CB Cordrea Tankersley from Clemson gives them the length they needed at the position. He should compete for reps on Day 1. Isaac Assiata was another good pick. The OL was a place the Dolphins needed to upgrade and he’s a good choice. An excellent run blocker, he’ll need to work on his pass protection. A very good draft for the Dolphins.

Jets Snag Two Safeties Early:
The New York Jets double-dipped at the safety position with two good selections who fell right into their lap at the #6 and #39 positions respectively with Jamal Adams from LSU and Marcus Maye from Florida. The Jets had an obvious need there and those two should step right in and compete.

They then double-dipped at WR with Ar’Darrius Stewart and Chad Hansen but their sleeper pick is Jordan Leggett, TE from Clemson who has the tools to be a very good one in the NFL. But the biggest question still isn’t answered. Who is going to be the QB?

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 myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

 

New England Patriots Draft Profile: Washington Edge Player Joe Matthis

Steve Balestrieri
April 20, 2017 at 6:19 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 certainly going to be looking at players on the edge with the picks that they have left in the NFL Draft.  Trey Flowers, Kony Ealy, and Rob Ninkovich are the guys we look to at providing the edge pressure but they still have DL Lawrence Guy who can play on the edge as well as kick inside as an interior pass rusher. Geneo Grissom is a STs player.

As we’ve repeated here many times, edge rushers are like cornerbacks, you can never have too many good ones. Many experts are looking for the Patriots to double dip in the draft next week, taking a DE and an OLB that can provide pressure as well. And this next guy maybe a bit of a sleeper.

I was watching a few games of Washington looking for tape on Sidney Jones and this next player began to jump off the screen in the early games of the season. So much so, that we grabbed him in our Mock Draft a week ago.

Joe Matthis from Washington is a 6’2, 266-pound defensive end/outside linebacker who is a well-rounded edge player. He shows good leverage in the running game and an ability to get to the passer despite not being a “quick twitch” athlete. He’s a guy that is versatile and can play with his hand in the dirt or stand up as an outside linebacker. That is always a plus in the Bill Belichick book with the Patriots.

He has good, heavy hands and uses them well to shed blockers at the line of scrimmage. Matthis is a very physical player who goes non-stop and all out on every down. He’s a sleeper because he was injured after just six games in 2016 and there was very limited tape on him.

At the time of his injury, he led the team with five sacks thru six games. A look at how their defense faded after his injury may provide a good look at how valuable he was to the team.

Pros:

– Good frame and strength on the edge

– Excellent, heavy hands with a violent punch

– Good football I.Q., very good against the run

– Shows good bend around the edge, non-stop motor

Cons

– Only average athletically

– Needs to refine pass rush moves

– Injury history, limited body of production on tape

What his Role Will Be:
Matthis’ role would be to initially be a part of the rotation outside as an outside linebacker and drop into coverage for the Patriots. He can also move on to the defensive line and play with his hand in the dirt as a defensive end and rush the passer.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, with some added lower body strength and more work on his pass rush moves, he could easily develop into a full-time very productive player

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
Grissom, Matthis will be a guy that they’ll feel that they plug on the edge and get to play special teams.

What is his ST Value?
Good

Conclusion:
Matthis is a guy who will be intriguing to see where he ends up in the draft. The Washington coaches moved him around and after a productive start of 2016, he suffered an injury that sidelined him for the rest of the year.

He has very good, heavy hands and has a violent punch that will keep defenders off of him and allow him to get some separation. He has a good bull rush with good bend coming around the edge. He’s very good at setting the edge in the running game, a must in the Patriots system.

Matthis is a Patriots kind of player. He’s versatile, can play standing up as an outside linebacker or with his hand in the dirt, has good instincts and a high football I.Q. He plays with a violent streak, never stops working and will make plays all over the field with a non-stop motor.

Matthis is a guy who won’t be in high demand because of his injury, his lack of taped production and the fact that he’s isn’t an athlete that will blow people away with his measurables. But if he’s on the board in the fourth round, the Patriots could land one of the sleepers of this draft.

Matthis’ highlight tape can be seen here:

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How Lawrence Guy Fits In Patriots’ Defense May Influence the Draft

Steve Balestrieri
April 18, 2017 at 7:09 am ET

The Patriots, many are predicting will double-dip at the edge rusher position which may indeed be the case.  We’ve had multiple conversations on the podcasts about the edge and how they’ll approach it in the draft. But how they plan to use Lawrence Guy may have a bearing on those draft plans as well.

Guy has been kind of the under-the-radar signing that Bill Belichick has traditionally made during free agency. While the news of his signing wasn’t met with a ton of fanfare at the time in March, the four-year, $13.4 million-dollar contract certainly shows that they’re planning on using him in their system for the next several years.

The 6-foot-5, 300-pound defensive lineman has played in 67 games in his career, with 20 starts. He played in all 16 games for the Ravens in 2016 with 10 starts and played in 46 percent of the defensive snaps. He had a quarterback hit against Tom Brady on Monday Night Football last season. Guy had his most productive season in 2015 when he recorded 4.5 sacks and 46 tackles.

Guy’s most natural position is at the five-technique defensive end and he’d be a big body on the outside although he has the versatility to kick inside on passing downs and be a three-technique defensive tackle and provide an interior pass rush.

Unlike other players the Patriots have used in a kind of NASCAR-like package, Guy at 300 pounds isn’t an undersized guy but still has the athleticism to get after the quarterback. He’d provide them with plenty of versatility to play inside or outside. He’s not a space eater like Alan Branch but should be strong enough to hold up in the running game inside as well as push the pocket. At the age of 27, he’s just entering his prime as a player.

Guy’s former coach John Harbaugh thinks that the Patriots got a good player, and spoke highly of him at the league meetings last month.

“I just think they’re getting a great guy, and they’re going to love him because he’s a really good football player,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a very under-rated, under-valued player. I thought it was very Patriot-like to recognize his value and to pay him the way they did. I think they paid him very well and in a way that’s going to change his life forever so I’m really happy for him.”

“They’re going to get a guy that plays equally well against the run and the pass, plays super hard, will be excellent in the locker room and in the meeting room,” Harbaugh added.

So where will Guy play, on the edge or inside? Both probably and special teams as well. Because since the league has ruled that Shea McClellin’s leaping over the line is a [gasp!] safety issue, they’ll need more of an interior push to block field goals and extra points.

But in regards to the draft, while they’re about set in the interior with Branch, Malcom Brown, Vincent Valentine, Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo, and Guy, they will still be looking to add speed on the edge.

The Patriots have Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich, Kony Ealy and Geneo Grissom on the edge. Flowers will have big expectations this year after a strong second half of the 2016 season. Ninkovich has always been a solid big-play contributor but at 33, is starting to slow down. Grissom was a special teamer. Ealy has the size and versatility to also play inside or outside on passing downs.

This gives Belichick and Matt Patricia plenty of options on the defense as they’ll be able to mix and match with a variety of fronts. At the end of April, they’ll look for a speed rusher in the draft. Of course, if the opportunity avails itself, another would be even better. One can never have enough talented ‘guys’ on the edge.

But as for Lawrence Guy, he’ll be one player to watch this spring/summer. He may be the ‘guy’ no one talks about in the spring, then will rave about what a great signing it was in December.

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.

New England Patriots Draft Profile, Missouri DE Charles Harris

Steve Balestrieri
April 10, 2017 at 6:00 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 thin at defensive end; Jabaal Sheard has left via free agency and Chris Long has said that he isn’t coming back in 2017. The team did pick up Kony Ealy from the Carolina Panthers in a trade. Ealy has all the tools, he just needs to do it consistently. There has been talk that he didn’t take to coaching in Carolina, something he’ll have to do here to thrive.

That leaves him, Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich, and Geneo Grissom. Flowers came on in his second season and was arguably their best defensive lineman down the stretch. Ninkovich seems to be closer to the end of his career now after several solid seasons. Grissom was strictly a STs guy and didn’t contribute on defense. So, they’ll need to add some depth.

Edge rushers are like cornerbacks, you can never have too many good ones and the team is expecting Flowers to continue to improve on his 2016 season. Ealy will be looked at to contribute right away. That leaves Ninkovich and whomever they can bring in. Right now, the Patriots don’t draft until Round 3. But we don’t expect that to last. They’ll try to make a move to slide up into either Round 1 or 2 of the draft. And this next profile will be there if they can.

Charles Harris from Missouri is a 6’3, 253-pound defensive end who is another in a long line of productive edge rushers to come out of Mizzou. He was All-SEC second team in both 2015 and 2016. Despite the Tigers having a down year, Harris produced good numbers 61 tackles, including 12 for loss, 9 sacks, two passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and a recovered fumble.

Harris is versatile and can play either right or left defensive end as well as play standing up as an outside linebacker. He has good explosion off the snap, with loose hips that allow him to change direction quickly with no loss of speed.

He’s got a spin move where he can turn in either direction quickly. Harris has a non-stop motor and can go sideline to sideline. He’s got the quickness and strength to beat tackles to the inside on his pass rushes. Decent in coverage, but is inconsistent against the run.

Pros:

– Very good athletically, with excellent change of direction

– Quick first step, stays low and explodes off the edge

– Very good edge rush capability, counter moves, productive

– Excellent quick, hands, can shed blockers and get to the QB

Cons

– Only adequate height for a defensive end

– Can get washed inside at times in the running game

– Ran only a 4.82 at the Combine in the 40-yard Dash

What his Role Will Be:
Harris’ role would be to initially be a part of the rotation for the Patriots on the edge as a sub-package pass rusher. He could also kick outside as an outside linebacker and has the ability to cover or blitz from the outside.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, with some added lower body strength and improved against the run, he could be looking at starting reps in 2018.

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
Harris will look to earn his way on the field and he’ll play special teams as well as contribute on defense. He could replace Geneo Grissom on the roster this season.

What is his ST Value?
Good, he should see some action on the coverage units

Conclusion:
Harris is a first round talent and will be a guy that will contribute immediately as a rookie. First as a sub-package pass rusher, but I think he’ll push for starting reps right away. His numbers slipped a little bit in 2016 but the coaches asked him to try some different things and he struggled a little. But in the second half of the season, he took off and was dominant.

He’s the type of player that Bill Belichick loves, a versatile young player with a non-stop motor that can play on either side as a defensive end or stand up as an outside linebacker where he has prototypical size. He’s can also play on special teams.

He’d be a tremendous fit on a Patriots defense that can use a talented edge rusher. With his agility and footwork (former basketball player), he can get after the passer and be a very productive professional.

If the Patriots can find a way to work themselves back into the second half of the first or second round, Harris would be a guy, in our opinion, that they’d definitely take a long look at. He’d fit in seamlessly in the locker room as well as on the field.

Harris’ highlight tape can be seen here:

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.

New England Patriots Draft Profile Florida Atlantic DE Trey Hendrickson

Steve Balestrieri
April 5, 2017 at 6:00 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 thin at defensive end; Jabaal Sheard has left via free agency and Chris Long has said that he isn’t coming back in 2017. The team did pick up Kony Ealy from the Carolina Panthers in a trade. That leaves him, Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich, and Geneo Grissom. Flowers came on and was fantastic down the stretch and into the playoffs. Ninkovich seems to be on the downside of a very solid career here in New England. Grissom was strictly a STs guy. So, they’ll need to add some depth.

Edge rushers are like cornerbacks, you can never have too many good ones and the team is expecting Flowers to continue to improve on his 2016 season. Ealy has flashed and had an incredible Super Bowl with Carolina but hasn’t been able to do it consistently. The Patriots will have plenty of options but as of today, they don’t pick until the third round.

Trey Hendrickson from Florida Atlantic is a 6’4, 266-pound defensive end that has shown good production despite opponents keying on him. League coaches named him first-team All-Conference-USA in 2015 – 2016. He had excellent production in his final campaign with 51 tackles, 15 for loss, 9.5 sacks.

He’s quick of the snap and shows good bend on the edge. He has strong hands and uses a club move to gain the edge and arm extension move to convert speed to power. Hendrickson has very good lateral quickness and had outstanding times in the 20-yard shuttle as well as the 60-yard shuttle as well as a good time in the 3-Cone Drill.

He’s good at jarring the ball free and forced four fumbles in his final season at Florida Atlantic. He shined at the East – West Shrine Game and was named as the game’s most outstanding defensive player.

Pros:

– Very good production with 23 sacks the past two seasons

– Quick off the snap and explosiveness off the edge

– Good hands and plays sideline to sideline

– Versatile, can play either DE or OLB

Cons

– Lean lower half of his body

– Arms a bit short for a DE, may fit best as a 3-4 OLB

– Can get too tall at times allowing blockers to get under his pads

What his Role Will Be:
Hendrickson’s role would be to be a part of the rotation for the Patriots on the edge as a sub-package pass rusher. He could be asked to drop into coverage a bit as well.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, with time to get a bit stronger in the strength and conditioning program, he could develop into a premium pass rusher and become an every down player.

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
Geneo Grissom, Hendrickson will become a Special Teams standout player early. He will earn his reps there and in sub-packages. But with a strong summer, he may push for some reps defensively early

What is his ST Value?
Excellent. Blocked a punt, two field goals and an extra point in 2016.

Conclusion:
Hendrickson is a player that won’t be denied, he has the mentality that the coaches love and look for. He does a good job of setting the edge in the running game although he will need to beef up a little at the NFL level.

Scouts were focusing on his arm length and lack of dynamic pass rush ability until the East – West Shrine Game where he turned some heads with strong play all week. He has the positional versatility to play either as a defensive end with his hand in the dirt or as an outside linebacker. He hasn’t had much experience playing standing up and that may take some getting used to if the team feels he’s best suited there.

In our opinion, this kid can play defensive end and be a productive one. He’ll start out as a Special Teams and sub-package pass rusher specialist but he has the ability to become a true three-down player. His versatility to play multiple positions and be a key contributor in Special Teams will resonate with Bill Belichick.

Hendrickson is slated to go somewhere between Rounds 3 and 4 in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Patriots will be looking to add a couple of edge rushers this spring and if he’s on the board when they are on the clock, he’d be a nice fit for the Patriots defense. He has the mentality, the drive to succeed at the next level.

Hendrickson’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 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, Edge Rusher Tyus Bowser

Steve Balestrieri
March 25, 2017 at 8:24 am ET

Ascending Edge Rusher May Be a Hidden Gem

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 added Kony Ealy early in free agency in a trade with the Carolina Panthers. They swapped pick #64 for Carolina’s #72 and got the talented by inconsistent DE from Missouri. But the team needs at least one other edge rusher, possibly two to round out the depth and help the team get the pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

The draft has several talented and well-known edge rushers, but unless the Patriots swing a trade to move up into either Round 1 or 2 in the draft, they’ll be picking no earlier than Round 3. So, with that in mind, we’re looking at prospective players that may be around in Round 3 or below.

Tyus Bowser from Houston is a name to keep an eye on. Although he’s a bit of tweener, he has the explosiveness off the edge to warrant moving up in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. The Patriots dipped into the draft with the revitalized Houston program last season with Elandon Roberts and could be tempted to do it again with Bowser.

In a very deep class of edge rushers, he is a player that isn’t being talked about too much but is a very intriguing prospect. Bowser shows very good bend and shoulder dip when rushing off the edge. He’s got an excellent change of direction skills and his 3-Cone Drill time of 6.75 is excellent for a man of his size.

He improved against the run in 2016 and with further coaching at the next level there’s no reason to expect that not to continue. The one caveat with him is his size, would he be able to hold up physically and set the edge in the running game.

Bowser is versatile, and rush off the edge as a DE with his hand in the dirt or stand up as an OLB. He can drop and cover TEs or RBs in the flat. His pass rush repertoire needs some work. He relies too much on his speed and athleticism and can use some work with the coaches. But his ceiling is high and probably hasn’t scratched the surface of his potential yet.

Pros:

– Explosive, Quick twitch athlete

– Versatile can play multiple positions

– Excellent change of direction, 3-Cone Time

– Just coming into his own, hasn’t scratched potential

Cons

– Undersized for the edge as 4-3 DE

– Needs to keep improving at defending the run and setting the edge

– Pass rush technique still needs work

What his Role Will Be:
Bowser would be initially, a sub-package pass rusher. With his athleticism, he could get after the QB and create some pressure. He can also cover tight ends and running backs as a standup linebacker in subs.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, with improved play at setting the edge he could push for starting reps. Working with the coaches on his pass rush moves, the potential is there for Bowser to become a dominating type pass rusher.

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard. Both have left via free agency

What is his ST Value?
Good, the Patriots will look to use him much like they did Barkevious Mingo a year ago. Bowser will quickly find himself on the coverage units that can utilize his athleticism.

Conclusion:
Bowser was a four-year player and a two-year starter for the Cougars. He has the versatility to play either as a 4-3 defensive end or as an outside linebacker. He dropped in coverage on about a third of his defensive snaps and can run with tight ends or running backs but he isn’t a deep coverage guy.

He missed five games with a broken orbital bone in his eye socket after an altercation with a teammate. It should be noted that he didn’t throw any punches in the incident so the off-field concerns aren’t a big concern.

Despite playing in just eight games as a senior, Bowser racked up some impressive numbers. He garnered 12 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He measured 6’3, 247 at the Combine and playing around 250 pounds at the next level, he would be an intriguing target to play either as a sub-rusher at DE or as SAM with the Patriots.

He was generally considered to be a 3rd to 4th round talent as he’s still emerging and a bit of a tweener at his position. But after an impressive showing at the Combine where he flashed his athleticism, many now have Bowser going much earlier as teams love players who show quick twitch tendencies.

So, if he remains where he was envisioned, I could see New England taking a look at him in Round 3. A movable piece, Bowser can be moved around to take advantage of personnel matchups. He’d be a nice fit for the defense and has the versatility to play multiple positions and special teams, something Bill Belichick loves in his defenders.

Bowser’s highlight film 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.