Tag Archives: Malcolm Butler

New England Patriots News 6-18, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
June 18, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 6-18, & AFC East Notes.

The Patriots are now off until training begins in about 5 weeks. With the OTAs and minicamp in the books, the team is good shape getting ready for the upcoming season. The weather was as unpredictable as ever this spring but that probably helps the team as they get used to playing in all weather conditions.

Five of the top news items coming out of the spring both good and bad include:

  • Gronk is 100 Percent Heading into Camp:
    Perhaps the best news to come out of the spring was that TE Rob Gronkowski was present for all of the workouts and that he wasn’t held back or limited in any way. That is particularly good news. As good as this offense was a year ago, it is even better with a healthy Gronkowski on the field.
  • Cooks is Going to be Exciting to Watch:
    Brandin Cooks turned heads here in joint practices last year and now is a member of the Patriots. The Patriots don’t normally have a receiver that has the blistering speed he does and it is going to be fun to watch how they try to integrate the productive WR into their offense.
  • Linebacker Still a Concern Heading into the Summer Break:
    Something we’ve discussed this spring was the depth at linebacker behind Dont’a Hightower. It is still a question of who steps up and wrests the reps away from the others. Shea McClellin, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and UDFA Harvey Langi are among the players who should be looking to compete for playing time once camp begins.
  • Injuries to Monitor:
    With the aforementioned Hightower not participating and obviously on the mend from offseason procedures, there were a couple of other players limited or missing time that will bear watching. Duron Harmon was limited all spring and Lawrence Guy, Kony Ealy, Jimmy Garoppolo and Andrew Jelks all suffered some sort of setback during spring workouts that caused them to miss time. They’ll bear watching once camp opens.
  • Spring is a Great Time for the Under-the-Radar Guys:
    Every spring we always hear or see (in many cases) some players rise up and stand out in the OTAs and minicamp. Or as Chris Price told me in a podcast this week the “Zach Sudfeld Effect.” Jonathan Jones stepped up to play a lot of nickel corner thus far. Other players making an early splash include RB D.J. Foster, WR Austin Carr and DB David Jones. Whether they can continue this will bear watching. Every year there are players who shine early and fade (Sudfeld) and those that continue to play well (Malcolm Butler). That’s what makes training camp so intriguing.

Speaking of Chris Price, the former WEEI Patriots beat writer and author has a couple of books in the works. His book on the 2016 Patriots Super Bowl Season should be on the shelves soon. He is also working on a book about the Hartford Whalers of the NHL. Price told me this week as a kid growing up in Connecticut, the Whalers were a franchise that the fans closely identified with. If these two books are just half as good as his previous work, they’ll be must reading and great gifts for the sports fan in the house.

Price also does a super podcast (Cover 2) with Don Banks on the Patriots website. Besides great Patriots content, they cover the overall NFL landscape and are doing a great job. Some great intriguing guests as well.

Patriots in the Heads of their Opponents Already? It would seem so:
The Patriots and more specifically Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are seemingly lodged firmly in the psyches of their opponents before the season even starts if the latest on Social Media are any indication.

In Pittsburgh, the headlines asked if Sidney Crosby, fresh off of Stanley Cup championship was better than Tom Brady.  But that wasn’t it for the Steel City, as Pittsburgh LB Ryan Shazier was asked if the Steelers have a “Patriots Problem” having lost four in a row to NE. Shazier took it a step further stating the NFL has a Patriots problem and the Steelers feel they can get over the hump this season.

And finally in Miami, Ndamukong Suh, who has a known reputation as large for dirty tactics as much as big plays made the statement at Dolphins OTAs that will certainly have found its way into the bulletin boards of Foxboro. Suh, stated, “I think one of the great things about Miami and this team, we’ve never been scared of the New England Patriots. We never will be. So, with that being said, when we play them late in the season, we’ll be prepared.” Earlier this spring Jarvis Landry predicted that Miami would sweep New England in 2017.

Confidence in one’s team is always fine, bravado is another. If you want to beat Belichick and Brady, take a page out of their book and say nothing about your opponents and tell the media, you’re focusing on yourselves at this early juncture of the spring/summer.

Patrick Chung gets Incentive Boost in his Contract:
The Patriots, with plenty of cap space this year are giving safety Pat Chung the incentives to have a terrific 2017 season. Chung, according to ESPN’s Field Yates is getting an incentive laden boost in his contract that can pay him up to $1.7 million dollars this season.

Chung is signed through the 2018 season and is set to make $900,000 in 2017. His incentives can nearly double his pay, boosting him an additional $800,000. The Patriots have three safeties that they’ve paid on the higher end of the payroll with Chung, Devin McCourty, and Duron Harmon. They gave a similar incentive boost to Rob Gronkowski earlier this spring.

Chung has played much better in his second stint in New England, although his play slipped a bit in 2016. It could be that he was suffering from some ailments that we weren’t aware or it could be that the physical toll of playing the position close to the box as Chung does is finally taking a toll. Either way, the team is giving him the option to excel now and it is a smart move by Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio.

Kraft’s Touchdown in Israel Brings 18 HOFers to the Holy Land:
Patriots owner Robert Kraft makes an annual pilgrimage to the country of Israel with a bevy of Hall of Fame players to experience first-hand the sights and sounds of the Holy Land and to see the growth of football in the stadium in Jerusalem that bears his name.

This year’s group contains, Lem Barney, Jerome Bettis, Jim Brown, Cris Carter, Dave Casper, Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk, Joe Greene, Willie Lanier, Joe Montana, Andre Reed, Mike Singletary, Bruce Smith, John Stallworth, Roger Staubach, Andre Tippett, Aeneas Williams and Ron Yary.

Kraft told the assembled Hall of Famers on the plane flight to Israel, “My family and I are into spirituality, and no matter what your background, you’ll find a way to be uplifted by the country.” Updates will be posted on the Patriots website.

Pats Heading to W.V. For Joint Practices with the Texans:
The Patriots and Bill Belichick have always believed in joint practices. It breaks up the monotony and dog days of training camp and allows you to evaluate your players against an opponent that they’re not familiar with. Both teams benefit from it and it is an opportunity to improve as a whole.

Not surprisingly, the team has a pair of joint ventures lined up this summer. The Jacksonville Jaguars will visit Foxboro before their preseason game on August 10 for a pair of joint workouts on August 7-8 and now the team has announced that they’ll conduct a pair of practices with the Houston Texans before the preseason game in Houston on August 19.

However, the practices with Houston will be held at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia on August 15-16. It is the second time the Patriots will visit the resort after having held joint practices with the Saints there in 2015. The Saints visited Foxboro last year for joint sessions.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills RT Jordan Mills Draws Raves from the Coaches:
Buffalo Bills right tackle Jordan Mills had a 2016 season that many, including himself would rather forget. The fifth-year tackle allowed seven sacks and was whistled for four holding penalties.

But the new coaching staff of coach Sean McDermott is starting everyone off with a clean slate and one of the most impressive players thus far has been Mills, who put the work in during the off-season. “Jordan Mills has had one heck of an offseason,” McDermott told the Bills media last week.

Mills has settled in because he took the time to watch tape and evaluate his own play which allowed him to fix his mistakes.

“You’ve just got to in the lab in the offseason, learn from it and get better,” Mills said.

“And I felt like I did that every single day that I came back. It’s a different coaching style They expect different things out of us, but mostly my footwork in the run game and pass game, just keeping my hands up, using my hands better and stuff like that. And mentally, too, studying my opponents and looking at other offensive linemen around the league.”

I just focus on what I have to do and execute to the best of my abilities, and I felt like I did all spring.”

Dolphins’ Gase Admits Mistake with Wake in 2016:
Miami head coach Adam Gase has been very upfront and open about his missteps in his first season in 2016, specifically when speaking about the mistakes the team made with Cameron Wake. In 2016, Wake was coming off of a serious Achilles injury and the team erred on the side of caution, easing Wake into the lineup, an issue that Gase is far alone in making. Now he says, that was a mistake.

“I thought we were being smart,” Gase said to the Miami media. “It backfired on us. What we should have done is let him (Wake) play.”

But Gase is taking a similar track with center Mike Pouncey as he returns from a serious injury this year. “He’s on a really, really good track now,” Gase said. No decision has been made yet as to Pouncey’s availability for training camp but the team remains optimistic. “We need him to heal and be there for the duration,” Gase said.

Jets Building for 2018, Will Have $80 Million In Cap Space:
While the Jets prospects for the 2017 season appear dim, they’re laying the groundwork to be building for the future. The Jets are expected to have more than $80 million in cap space heading into 2018, which would be tops in the league.

The carryover from the 2017 season would put them in the $66 million dollar range according to Rich Cimini of ESPN, and they still have $24 million plus that they can spend this season.

The Jets crop of free agents next season include Sheldon Richardson, Morris Claiborne, Marcus Williams, Demario Davis, Wesley Johnson, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Josh McCown. None of whom are indispensable as of today.

The Jets are expected to be looking for the next franchise QB either in the 2018 NFL Draft or via free agency. A couple of the QBs listed by Cimini include the Redskins’ Kirk Cousins and the Patriots Jimmy Garoppolo.

WR ArDarius Stewart is one the mend from not only one but two surgeries on his groin and thumb since being drafted by the Jets in April. Stewart wasn’t able to participate but coach Todd Bowles expects him to be ready for training camp.

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.

Best Of Social Media: New England Patriots Super Bowl Championship Ring Night

Robert Alvarez
June 12, 2017 at 9:42 pm ET

On Friday night, New England Patriots owner and CEO Robert Kraft hosted the teams Super Bowl championship ring ceremony at his Brookline MA home.

The headliner for the night began with news the 2016 ring contained quite possibly one of the greatest subtle tributes to the teams historic comeback victory. The ring contained exactly 283 diamonds, meant to commemorate the 28-3 deficit the team overcame in the second half and included an engraved message that read “Greatest Comeback Ever.”

The social media posts that followed as the night progressed would make any Patriots fan light up like it was February 5th, 2017 all over again, so without further ado below are some of the best sights and sounds.

Date night ❤ #Patriots super bowl ring ceremony

A post shared by Gisele Bündchen (@gisele) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVJI9XYBVgM/?taken-by=tombrady

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVJT6mLhPdS/?taken-by=tombrady

Turn Up Champs!

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

A rare occasion for Head Coach Bill Belichick as he was spotted wearing all of his championship rings from his NFL career. Seven Super Bowl titles across the Giants and Patriots including three AFC Championship rings from 1996, 2007 and 2011.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVLAXCGgVyf/

This happened last night ~ and then this happened! #MagicalNight #TheGreatestCombackEver *Scroll through!

A post shared by Linda Holliday✨ (@lindaholliday_) on

@bombsquad #family

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

#sundayze

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

That feeling when you see your Super Bowl ring.

A post shared by New England Patriots (@patriots) on

"I'm so Icyyyyy" – @laflare1017

A post shared by LeGarrette Blount (@l_blount29) on

A crazy/fun night to remember!! #Blessed

A post shared by LeGarrette Blount (@l_blount29) on

Last night was dope @tombrady . Tonight will be even better. #Celebrating6

A post shared by Martellus Bennett (@martellusb) on

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

LEGENDARY NIGHT #2timechamp -Dmac

A post shared by Jason+Devin McCourty (@mccourtytwins) on

Wow–just a small sample of the night we all had!! #superbowlchamps #rings

A post shared by Robert Ninkovich (@nink50) on

2X W O R L D C H A M P I O N #PATSNATION

A post shared by Malcolm CB Butler (@mac_bz) on

It was lit !!!!!'

A post shared by Dion Lewis (@d_lew33) on

2X

A post shared by Nate Ebner (@ebs43) on

Special teamer Nate Ebner shared his unique collection of hardware, both of his Super Bowl rings along with the one given to him by the United States Rugby Olympic team when he participated in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio last year.

LI… Rio 16'… XLIX

A post shared by Nate Ebner (@ebs43) on

Long Snapper Joe Cardona sported his US Naval Academy graduation ring with his new bling.

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

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVLKu4nF-_0/?taken-by=iii_flowers

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVLfRRlBeaW/?taken-by=sweetfeet_white28

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVKSZRMnT-B/?taken-by=vrvj99

"…Big rings, champagne…"

A post shared by Matt Lengel (@matthewlengel) on

https://twitter.com/EricRowe32/status/873300301650030594

Following the presentation of the rings, guests were treated to performances by rappers Snoop Dogg and Gucci Mane.

All in all it was a very special night that officially closes the door on the 2016 Patriots season, as Quarterback Tom Brady would say the best ring is “The Next One”.

New England Patriots News 6-11, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
June 11, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 6-11, & AFC East Notes.

Because of extensive travel this weekend, this week’s news and notes piece will be a bit shorter than normal with no AFC East notes this weekend. We’ll be back with all of them next Sunday.

Patriots Get Their Super Bowl Rings in Private Ceremony:
The Patriots were all invited to the private digs of Robert Kraft on Friday night and received their rings from the franchise’s fifth Super Bowl victory.

The words “We Are All Patriots” and “Greatest Comeback Ever” are engraved inside the ring. The Pats trailed the Falcons by 25 points in the third quarter before staging the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history. No team in the first 50 Super Bowls had rallied from more than 10 points down to win.

Also engraved on the ring is “Unequivocally the sweetest,” which was Kraft’s postgame comment about the Patriots’ latest championship in a dig at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the entire Deflategate saga, that the team and QB Tom Brady were punished with.

The ring includes 283 diamonds, a not-so-subtle reminder of the Falcons’ 28-3 lead that New England overcame.

“We celebrated our first Super Bowl ring ceremony 15 years ago to the day,” Kraft said. “It was our first Super Bowl championship in 42 years and, at the time, I couldn’t imagine a more exciting game or ring celebration.”

“It was a historic comeback win, and the players deserve to have a ring that represents that accomplishment. So, we created the biggest Super Bowl ring ever made. Watching the expressions of the players and coaches when they saw them for the first time and the overwhelming pride when they put them on was priceless.”

Julian Edelman Gets Contract Extension and is a Bargain:
The biggest news coming out of minicamp this week was that the Patriots extended WR Julian Edelman for an additional two years which will keep him in Foxboro thru the 2019 season. Edelman’s contract is worth a reported $15 million dollars in pay and incentives which is a total bargain for New England.

Consider this, Edelman’s potential $15 million is what the Colts are paying T.Y. Hilton, for just the 2019 season. Edelman finished 2016 with 98 catches for 1106 yards, but his grab at the end of the Super Bowl may have saved the Patriots Super Bowl comeback.

In the past four seasons, only three players have more receptions that Edelman’s 356, Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas, and Julio Jones. Edelman is tied with Larry Fitzgerald, some pretty heady company.

Not too shabby for a 7th Round draft pick out of Kent State on an option quarterback who had never played a down at the position of wide receiver before.

Minicamp Had Few Surprises But Was a Good Teaching Experience:
The team wrapped up their mandatory three-day minicamp on Thursday and while there a few small surprises, the team treats it like the learning camp that it is. We all get excited about the performance of a player either good or bad but that’s what these sessions are designed for. However, a few things that did stand out, because, hey that is all we have to judge on.

The good? Newcomers Brandin Cooks, Rex Burkhead, and Kony Ealy flashed early in the workouts. Cooks was displaying his noted speed on the outside had a few splash plays as he and Tom Brady are working hard on their chemistry early this year. Burkhead had a nice day on Wednesday catching the ball out of the backfield. Ealy who missed the second two days with an unspecified injury stood out on Tuesday.

Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan looked impressive in passing drills both individually and in team drills. Tom Brady looked to be in near mid-season form. Stephon Gilmore impressed with his coverage ability

The not-so-good? Dwayne Allen struggled in the rain on Tuesday and dropped a number of passes, Wednesday he seemed to be just fine as we were in attendance and didn’t see any drops. Jacoby Brissett had a particularly rough outing on Wednesday, holding the ball too long and struggling with his accuracy. But the bottom line is, there is no reason to get too high or too low over minicamps with no pads on. But after 4 months of no live football, it is easy to get excited over seeing the players do football activities.

Training Camp will hold answers for DL/OL Running Game:
One thing missing from minicamp was the play of the offensive and defensive lines as well as the running game. With no pads on the battles in the trenches is very difficult to judge as well as the running game.

We’re intrigued to see how well newcomer Mike Gillislee fits in with the Patriots offense in 2017. He was there on the field and most definitely looks the part but until the pads come on, we won’t really know. On the offensive line, newcomer Tony Garcia is an intriguing prospect who could someday push Nate Solder for reps.

On the defensive side of the line, draft picks Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise are going to be watched closely this season, especially in training camp to see how much they can contribute in their rookie campaigns. Trey Flowers looks to continue a stellar second half of 2016 and playoffs and will enter 2017 as a starter on the edge at defensive end.

Ealy in a contract year looks to get a fresh start in New England and already gets high marks for showing up for the voluntary OTAs and showing the willingness to work hard. Something he was criticized for in Carolina.

Some of the UDFA free agents looking intriguing, WRs Austin Carr, Cody Hollister, DB David Jones and LB Harvey Langi are all guys who will bear watching once camp opens for real in about six weeks.

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.

Patriots Day 2 Minicamp Observations from Wednesday 6-7

Steve Balestrieri
June 8, 2017 at 6:58 am ET

 The Patriots concluded their second day of mandatory minicamp on Wednesday under bright sunny skies after Tuesday’s session seemed more like late October weather with rain and temperatures in the 40s.

A total of 88 players took part with DL Lawrence Guy and backup OL Andrew Jelks being the only players not on the field. Brandon King was on the field however he didn’t appear to be working out.

Dont’a Hightower worked out on the exercise bike at the beginning/stretching phase of the workout and he and Malcolm Mitchell retreated to the lower fields with training personnel. Jonathan Freeny wore a red non-contact jersey and is still recovering from shoulder surgery that landed him on IR.

Russ Goldman and I were at Wednesday’s session and this was our observations from the practice. And remember, it is really early and there aren’t any pads on until training camp.

Cooks appears even faster than we remember:
Last summer during the joint practices with the Saints, Brandin Cooks stood out with his speed when working against the Patriots corners, specifically Malcolm Butler. Fast forward a year and if anything, he’s even more impressive.

Brandin Cooks looks to be a very intriguing option for the offense in 2017. (SBalestrieri photo)

Cooks’ speed was on full display on Wednesday, he connected on a post route from Tom Brady where he literally left Jordan Richards and Devin McCourty in his dust. Richards has been playing some deep safety early in minicamp as Duron Harmon has been limited and we know that isn’t his strength but it is clear that if defenders can’t get a jam on Cooks at the line, he has the speed to create separation and dare we say it…. stretch the field.

He showed during both 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work, that whenever he wasn’t disrupted he was getting open. Cooks is obviously putting the work in to build that early rapport and trust factor with Brady, something that can’t be overstated.

Brissett had a Rough Outing:
Look, we get it, it is one practice and an early one at that. But this spring we made a mental note to watch Brissett and look for that big second season jump in play. And this wasn’t it. After reading about his struggles on Day 1, he’ll have to put some extra work in before training camp begins.

Jacoby Brissett had a rough outing on Wed’s minicamp session. (SBalestrieri photo)

He seemed to process things late, holding onto the ball for far too long. His accuracy was off as well. He missed many throws he needs to make if he’s pressed into service again. During 7-on-7s RB D.J. Foster had a good step on his man down the center of the field on a post route and Brissett badly overthrew him. That’s a throw that Brady makes consistently.

Nothing to be overly alarmed at unless it becomes a trend. As Russ pointed out, some of his timing issues could stem from the fact that he was working with an entirely new cast of characters and he hasn’t had the opportunity to build any chemistry with them yet.

On the flip side, Brady not surprisingly looks to be in mid-season form. His throwing motion is always perfect, something he works on. A staffer was filming all three QBs as they went thru their throwing motion. Fundamentals are always stressed at this time of year. Garoppolo looked sharp after reading of his struggles on Day 1.

Other observations included:

Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan look to pick up right where they left off last season. Each looked sharp in their route running and each made a couple of nice catches in team drills. Hogan with a back-shoulder throw and catch near the sideline over Butler and Edelman with a grab down the middle.

Julian Edelman had a typically strong day at minicamp, making a few nice catches, as this one over the middle. (SBalestrieri photo)

Newcomer Stephon Gilmore definitely looks the part of a tall, physical defender. He looked impressive at times but was beaten by Edelman badly, going for a fake and left grabbing air. Not surprising since the jamming is very limited at this time of year. He took a back seat to Eric Rowe for many of the drills today as Rowe got some work with the first unit.

Gronk beat Pat Chung for a touchdown in team drills on a nice pass from Brady. The big man is looking healthy and was all business on the field Wednesday. Chung has the unenviable position of usually covering him in practice. And when he’s on like that, no one can stop him one on one.

Kyle Van Noy picked off Garappolo during 11-on-11s and Kony Ealy had a pass breakup during team drills, dropping into the flat to cover the area for check downs, something that Chris Long did frequently last season.

Rex Burkhead looked to be a nice target in the passing game as he was the recipient of about a half dozen passes during full team drills.

Watching Deatrich Wise had a strange gait in his running and we originally thought he was hobbled. He even had it walking, he wears a bulky knee brace and first thoughts were that he tweaked something. But after speaking with others there, it is a natural gait for him.

UDFA David Jones turned a few heads with some nice coverage ability. He’s a big safety who is listed at 6’3, 210 pounds from Richmond. He’ll be a guy to monitor in future workouts in training camp.

Cody Hollister is a big target (6’4, 209) and had a pretty good day at catching the ball. He was able to generate some separation and used his body well to shield the defenders away.

Good news for Cyrus Jones, he was clean fielding all his kicks on Wednesday. That is encouraging for the rookie who struggled all of last season. And it all started with minicamp struggles in the wind a year ago.

The team gets back for their final minicamp practice on Thursday.

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 Photo Gallery Minicamp Session 6-7

Steve Balestrieri
June 7, 2017 at 8:12 pm ET

Our guys were at Patriots minicamp today and here are some of the photos from the day’s action. Be sure to check back later as we’ll have our observations on what went down on Day 2 of Minicamp and what to look for on Thursday.

Which Players May be Traded by the Patriots in 2017?

Steve Balestrieri
May 30, 2017 at 6:36 am ET

The Patriots always seem to make a couple of surprise trades either just before or during the season. Most times they bring in some veteran players who may not register much on the radar screen but find a role for them to play that fits the New England system. Some are more productive than others. Other times they make surprise moves by jettisoning players that are or have been starring on the team.

Recent examples of the former include players like Akeem Ayers who played a key depth role in the 2014 Super Bowl and Kyle Van Noy who they brought in mid-season and who played well for the team. One move that didn’t work out was LB Barkevious Mingo who couldn’t carve out a role with the defense and played only on special teams in 2016 during the Super Bowl run.

There are several examples of the latter. Bill Belichick hasn’t been shy about trading some of his star players if he feels it is in the team’s best interest in doing so. Jamie Collins was traded last season for a conditional 3rd round draft pick. Chandler Jones was traded in the off-season for guard Jonathan Cooper and a conditional 3rd round draft pick. After unloading both Jones and Collins, many media members considered it the death knell for the defense in 2016. The team ended up with a Top 8 unit in yards and first in points against and won the Super Bowl, so Belichick gets the benefit of the doubt.

Just prior to the 2014 season, Logan Mankins was having contractual issues and was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for tight end Tim Wright and a 4th round draft pick.

Going back a bit further, Randy Moss in 2010 was also having contract issues, just four games in, he was traded along with a 7th round pick to the Vikings for a 3rd round selection in the 2011 season. Richard Seymour was “blindsided” by a trade to the Raiders prior to the 2009 season. The Patriots got a 1st round pick in that deal.

So, who could be the surprise players traded either just before the season starts or during the year in mid-stride? There are a lot of variables that go into it but a quick look at the early work in OTAs may provide a hint.

Malcolm Butler: Cornerback Jonathan Jones was getting a ton of work with the first unit players as the third or slot corner in the first week of OTAs. This could mean a lot or nothing. Possibly somebody was hurt and Jones was just stepping in. Or perhaps Belichick wants to see what Jones can do against the Patriots suddenly very deep wide receiver corps. It is always dangerous to read too much into OTAs.

Malcolm Butler may still be moved this season if the price and situation is right. (SBalestrieri photo)

Most think that this points to Rowe being a matchup corner against bigger wide receivers, which may indeed be true. But it could also be setting the Patriots up to use Stephon Gilmore and Rowe outside with Jones if he’s ready to play the slot. Butler could be trade bait to bring in a high draft pick. If they wait until next offseason, Butler would be gone and they’d get little in compensation.

I’m one of those who really wants to see Butler and Gilmore work beside each other all season. And beyond that, I’d really like to see the team sign him to a long-term deal. But I have this sneaking suspicion that they’re going to move Butler before the season is out and before he reaches free agency.

Dion Lewis: For the record, I love what this guy brings to the table. When he gets the ball in his hands he’s electric and makes you sit up a bit straighter in your seat. After coming off ACL surgery, he didn’t have quite the jump in his step that we saw prior to the injury in 2015. But that is understandable, it normally takes a year or more for a player to get his feet totally back under him.


Dion Lewis should be completely healthy but may become trade bait in 2017. (USA TODAY Images)

Now Lewis should be completely healthy and ready to assume that role of the Patriots “Swiss Army Knife” again. But with the emergence of James White, the Super Bowl performance he had and his resultant contract extension, the additions of Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee, where does the team go from here? Don’t forget the 2nd year player D.J. Foster who can also be electric with the ball in his hands. The running back position is pretty deep at this point.

I think the Patriots may feature Lewis early in the summer to get the interest in him high and to show that he’s all the way back. Look for him to play a key role in joint practices with the Jaguars when they roll into town along with a media horde during that week.

And don’t be shocked if the team dangles him out there for trade bait.

Nate Solder: Would this be a surprise? Absolutely it would be, but a shocker? No. The Patriots have shown this before when they shipped Mankins off to Tampa Bay for Tim Wright and a draft pick. Solder is in the last year of his contract and it isn’t known if the team has approached him about an extension.


Nate Solder in the last year of his contract could also be a subject of a trade in 2017. (USA TODAY Images)

But with a look towards the future, they picked up not one but two tackles in the NFL draft this spring. The intriguing pick is Tony Garcia, the third-round pick from Troy. He’s a work in progress and he was taken with 2018 and beyond. But what if his game takes off quickly under Dante Scarnecchia and he shows he’s ready to assume a starting role earlier than expected?

Solder could be one of those surprise moves to a team that desperately needs OL help and it frequently happens when teams get hit with a rash of injuries or some established veterans don’t work out in new environs.

Every year we see Bill Belichick make some moves in mid-stream that are surprising. I wouldn’t expect the 2017 season to be any different. Of course, certain things will have to fall into place for any of these players to be moved, but I wouldn’t rule out a surprise move or two. Just look at the list of players above. We didn’t see most of them being moved at the time either.

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What are the Three Keys for Continued Patriots Success in 2017?

Steve Balestrieri
May 16, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

The Patriots are primed for another deep Super Bowl run in 2017. With a roster heavily laden from a Super Bowl victory over the Falcons in February, the team had very few holes to fill but they did so with free agency signings, (Stephon Gilmore), trades (Kony Ealy, Dwayne Allen, Mike Gillislee and James O’Shaugnessy) as well as the draft. They added needed depth at both the DE and OL positions. So what do they need to do to ensure success in 2017?

We’ve highlighted three areas that need to occur if they want to make it three out of four Super Bowl titles again:

The health of Key Players:
The skill position players beginning with Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, and Dont’a Hightower are the players most indispensable to their success. It is easy to add in Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, and Devin McCourty into the mix.

After the Patriots Super Bowl win of 2014, the biggest obstacle in their path and what ultimately proved their undoing was the rash of injuries that decimated the team a year later. The Patriots were much healthier last season, despite losing Gronkowski to IR and having some players dinged up for parts of the campaign.

If the core of the roster can remain healthy and on the field, this team will be a very difficult one to stop. This is a really deep team, with multiple different options that they can bring to bear on opponents.

Assimilation for New Faces:
No this isn’t the Borg from Star Trek the Next Generation, but it may well be the case. The one thing no one can predict with 100 percent certainty is how the new players added this offseason will gel within the Patriots system. And the players must assimilate or they’re soon gone. Bill Belichick doesn’t tolerate freelancing for very long…(see Collins, Jamie).

But joking aside, the new guys, Stephon Gilmore, Kony Ealy, Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen, Mike Gillislee, and James O’Shaughnessy will have to adapt to the Patriots (Belichick) way of doing things. And they may be tasked with playing in ways that they are unfamiliar with or haven’t been asked to do.

Not everyone who comes to New England works out, Belichick has had his share of swings and misses in free agency but overall his average for finding players that work well in his system is very good.

Gilmore was paid big money this spring to come to New England and Gillislee got a decent amount of cash in Year 1 of a two-year deal. But Ealy is a free agent in 2018, Cooks is locked up for two years. They’ll be looking to play themselves into big money contracts or extensions. They’ll put the pressure on themselves to produce.

Not much will be expected of the four players drafted in 2017 with the exception of possibly DE Derek Rivers who may be tasked early on to be a sub-package pass rusher. Deatrich Wise, Tony Garcia, and Connor McDermott were drafted with 2018 in mind.

Brady keeps Father Time at Bay:
Tom Brady’s season at age 39 was pretty remarkable. He looked better than he did at age 29. Many pundits predicted that the Patriots would struggle without him and that he may finally begin to show his age after sitting out the first month of the season with the Deflategate suspension.

Neither happened. The Patriots went 3-1 with Jimmy Garoppolo and rookie Jacoby Brissett under center. Brady came back from suspension and was razor sharp. The Patriots cruised to a 14-2 record, the best in the NFL and beat the Texans, Steelers, and Falcons in the playoffs for the team’s fifth Super Bowl win in the Brady/Belichick era.

Now Brady will be 40 when the season starts and already the same nay-sayers are quick to point out/hope that THIS may be the year that Brady’s play begins to slip. Or as the one unintentionally funny guy says…falls off a cliff.

There is no reason to believe that his play would be any less stellar than it was a year ago. Brady takes meticulous care of his body and his work ethic and preparedness is legendary amongst his teammates. If he performs on a level with his 2016 season, the Patriots offense should be something to behold.

Cooks brings the element of speed to the WR position that they’ve lacked. Gillislee is a younger quicker version of LaGarrette Blount in the running game. Allen, O’Shaughnessy and Jacob Hollister should be able to match what they’ve lost in Martellus Bennett from 2016.

This 2017 Patriots team is deeper and a better one (on paper) than the one that just won the Super Bowl. If these three things listed above come to fruition, then there is no reason not to believe that this team should be primed for a deep playoff run. It is almost time for minicamp and then training camp is just two months down the road.

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 5-14, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
May 14, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 5-14, & AFC East Notes.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the great Moms out there. We hope you all enjoy a great family day and that it is a safe and happy one.

While the weather thus far this spring hasn’t been great, the rain we’ve got so far is making things nice and green and the fruit and vegetable gardens are getting plenty of irrigation. But the grapes are still pretty sour this time of year, right Bill Polian?

Brady “I don’t believe in curses” on the Cover of Madden 18:
A lot of people will wring their hands at just about anything these days. Now the (gasp!) “Madden Curse”? Gimme a break. Tom Brady tried to allay those irrational fears by poking fun at all those superstitions and posted a pretty funny video after being selected for the cover of the new EA Sports Madden 18.

Let’s just hope they don’t dust off an old horror genre this fall with “Hollywood 19 ½ Jason Takes Foxboro”. Seriously folks? Of course, the division rivals in the AFC East, eager for any straw to grasp at, were posting silly curse-related tweets in reaction to the news. It really begs the question to how far we’ve evolved as an educated people from the “world is flat” era of curses and silly superstitions.

Michael Williams’ Release, a Numbers Game Victim:
The Patriots release of TE Michael Williams after he missed all of 2016 after tearing his ACL last spring wasn’t really a big surprise. He didn’t fit into their plans in 2017 and this will give him a chance to catch on with a new club.

Williams, 6’6, and 305 pounds, appeared in 15 games in the 2015 season with nine starts. He was competing for the third tight end spot a year ago before being injured. He is more of a blocking tight end and extra tackle than a receiving threat.

He was just a victim of the numbers game as the Patriots will enter OTAs and mini-camp with six tight ends on the roster. Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, James O’Shaughnessy, Matt Lengel, Rob Housler, and Jacob Hollister.

Brandin Cooks on Pats, “A New Journey”:
In an interview with the media this week, new Patriots wide receiver Brandin Cooks showed that he’s focusing on looking forward not backward with his new team. Cooks was asked about not asking Jimmy Garoppolo for the #10, what Cooks wore in New Orleans. Cooks claimed he didn’t even ask for it.

No, I didn’t even try,” Cooks told reporters. “I didn’t even think about asking him. (It’s) a new journey, new opportunity, so I wanted something different.”

Cooks wore #7 at Oregon State and said he’s going a throwback look …kind of. “I was (No.) 7 in college,” said Cooks, “So the way that I like to think about it is double-7.”

After a couple of solid seasons with over 1100 yards receiving in New Orleans, expectations are high for the 23-year old WR. He’ll join an eclectic group of receivers including Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell, tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen, and running backs James White and Dion Lewis.

Gillette Stadium, Upgrades to the Most Technologically Advanced Field Turf:
The Patriots have upgraded the Gillette Stadium surface with the most up-to-date field turf. The synthetic turf surface upgrade has been completed and will make its debut when the New England Revolution play Real Salt Lake on May 13.

From the Patriots website:

Gillette Stadium’s new field will feature FieldTurf’s revolutionary new premium system, featuring the industry’s highest-performing monofilament fiber that makes the surface player-friendly, resilient and durable. Along with the most innovative fiber technology in the industry, this state-of-the-art turf system features FieldTurf’s proprietary heavy infill system, which is critical to performance and playability. The result is a surface that plays soft, feels real, looks great and hangs tough.

“We are excited to upgrade our game field to the latest FieldTurf technology” said Jim Nolan, Senior Vice President of Gillette Stadium. “It is our goal each year to provide the highest quality surface for the both the New England Patriots and New England Revolution, and we were eager to take advantage of FieldTurf’s latest innovations for the 2017 season.”

“Keeping in line with our commitment to ensure that the Patriots and Revolution consistently have the latest in synthetic field technology, we are pleased to have been selected once again by Gillette Stadium,” said Eric Daliere, President of Tarkett Sports. “It is an honor and a testimony to the quality of our products that such prestigious organizations continue to put their trust in our company. We look forward to continuing this longstanding relationship with the Patriots, Revolution and Gillette Stadium for many years to come.”

Now that the FieldTurf is complete, can they do something to fix the awful WiFi Connection in the stadium and Patriots’ Place?

Trying to Make Sense of the Blount Situation:
Patriots FA running back LeGarrette Blount’s free agency status took a very weird twist on Tuesday as the Patriots made the rarely used tactic of placing a tender at 110 percent of his 2016 salary ($1.1 million dollars) on him.

The timing of this bizarro twist means that the Patriots could still receive compensation in the form of a compensatory pick in the 2018 draft if Blount signs elsewhere. He’s been rumored to be in talks with both the Giants and Ravens.

The timing also means that if Blount doesn’t sign with another team by July 22, his only hope of playing this season is signing his tender with New England. In order to receive a compensatory pick, Blount would have to produce with his new team.

The tender, with a $1.1 million base salary, $110,000 signing bonus and $1 million in incentives could add up to a $2.2 million-dollar payday for Blount if he signs his tender, returns and plays well.

But with the signing of Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead this offseason, the writing was on the wall that the Patriots were moving on from Blount. That’s why Tuesday’s move was a pretty ruthless business decision by the Patriots.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Hire Brandon Beane as new GM:
The Buffalo Bills finally have a new regime in place for 2017. New GM Brandon Beane met with the media on Friday morning. He’ll join new coach Sean McDermott in an attempt to bring the Bills back to the postseason, something they haven’t done since 1999.

Both worked together in Carolina and have a built-in trust factor. They will share personnel responsibilities but Beane has the final say on the 53-man roster. Beane also stated that he is a big believer in the running game so the Bills offense will be sure to feature a lot of LeSean McCoy next season.

Miami’s Revamped Offensive Line Structure a Key to Watch for in 2017:
The Miami Dolphins made some moves in the offseason to bring more stability to their offensive line, which was a key point in their turnaround in 2016. The Dolphins running game was much improved as was their pass protection for the quarterbacks. But rather than standing pat, the Fins are making some changes to their OL in 2017.

Brandon Albert was dealt to Jacksonville for a 2018 7th round draft pick. They signed free agents Ted Larsen and Avery Young to offseason deals and then drafted Isaac Asiata in the 5th round of the NFL draft two weeks ago.

With last year’s first-round pick Laremy Tunsil moving from left guard to left tackle, there will be some growing pains associated with this unit but the coaching staff believes that they can be much better.

One area they’ll have to cut down on is penalties. That was an issue that plagued the offense as a whole all season. The Dolphins were in the middle of the pack in terms of yards rushing and passing but Miami’s offense had the least amount of snaps of any unit in the NFL in 2016 averaging just 57.6 snaps per game.

One reason? Penalties. It is an issue that they’ll have to cut down on, which is why it is curious that they brought in the solid but penalty prone Larsen in this spring. The key for the offense was third down where the Dolphins clicked at just 36.7 percent, the eighth-worst mark in the NFL last season.

Journey for Jets Adams Starts with Father’s Injury:
The New York Jets drafted the safety Jamal Adams with the 6th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and he’s one of the top safeties in his class. But a weird twist of fate may have changed his path to the NFL.

His father George was a first-round pick of the Giants back in 1986 and was thought to be the next big back in the Giants’ offense that won the Super Bowl that season. But a broken pelvis changed everything for his dad, who was never the same.

So when his son was in high school, George changed Jamal’s position to safety and everything changed for the young star. Now he’s a first-round pick.

Check out the excellent piece by ESPN’s Rich Cimini 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 myself 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.

New England Patriots News 5-7, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
May 7, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 5-7, & AFC East Notes.

Not that it will have any effect on the Patriots LS Joe Cardona, but the military did an about face on the issue on whether to allow US military service academies to pursue a professional sports career right out of school.

The Defense Department released a memo that states: “The Military Service Academies or Senior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) programs exist to develop future officers who enhance the readiness and lethality of our military services,” the memo says.

This is the second change that the Pentagon has enacted in the past two years and now the athletes graduating cannot defer their service obligations and will have to spend a minimum of two years as a military officer before heading off to the professional athletic career. This mostly affected Air Force WR Jalen Robinette who was expected to be a mid-round draft choice last weekend. Instead, he went undrafted.

Last year Cardona and Keenan Reynolds were allowed to enter the Ready Reserve or in Cardona’s case, he was assigned to the Naval Preparatory Academy in Newport, RI. Unfortunately, in Robinette’s case, he found out just hours before the NFL Draft began that he’d no longer be eligible for the deferment.

Butler Desperate to Get Paid, Not Traded:
A lot of people took a comment by CSNNE’s Mike Giardi and ran with it, in a case of 1+1 =4. Giardi, in a report on the Malcolm Butler developments this week, stated that Butler “desperately wanted to get traded to New Orleans.”

That set off a social media storm that drew the ire of a lot of fans and some of the sites that cover the team. Pump the brakes on that one folks. Butler desperately “wants to get paid” and if that is in New Orleans, New England or Timbuktu, so be it. He feels like he’s earned it and realizes that his career is as short as one play away.

Butler did the “good soldier” routine this week, [he’s been that for his entire career] and showed up for the “voluntary” off-season workouts at Gillette. It is hard to find fault with Butler and his feelings on this. Now the question is, with a lot of cap space left, do the Patriots extend him for 3-4 years and bump his pay into the $7-8 million range? It won’t be Gilmore money but could go a long way in mending fences.

Lifting the Veil on Tom Brady’s Personal Trainer, Alex Guerrero:
Julian Edelman calls him Mr. Miyagi, Danny Amendola calls him a wizard but Alex Guerrero is Tom Brady’s personal fitness guru and as much as many in the media would love to portray him as some kind of charlatan, many professional athletes have trusted their livelihoods to Guerrero including Brady, Wes Welker, and LaDainian Tomlinson.

His methods are unconventional but since Brady tore his ACL in the 2008 season opener, he’s been sold. Guerrero got him back in game shape in record time and he’s part of the TB12 clinic in Foxboro next to Gillette Stadium.

In this piece for Men’s Journal, the author who had crushed his heel in a rock climbing fall, seeks out Guerrero for treatment. It is an intriguing behind-the-scenes look at both Guerrero and the TB12 clinic. To read the entire article from Men’s Journal, click here:

Turning Tragedy into a Positive:
In a terrible, heartbreaking accident, former Ravens’ TE Todd Heap lost his daughter when he accidentally struck and killed his daughter, who would have turned 4 last week when moving his truck in their driveway.

He started the Hugs From Holly Day and the support from around the country and the NFL began. A total of 28 of the 32 NFL teams tweeted out their support for the Heap Family in their hour of need, including many of Heap’s former teammates.

Patriots “Three Games to Glory V” Released on DVD:
The Patriots are Super Bowl champions for the fifth time and their fifth in a series of behind the scenes videos “Three Games to Glory V” is now available for immediate purchase.

From the Patriots website, “fans can purchase “3 Games to Glory V” at the Patriots ProShop at Patriot Place in Foxborough, Mass. or online here. Blu-ray discs will be sold for $49.99 while DVDs are available for $39.99. It will also be sold via digital download.”

Digital downloads straight from I-Tunes cost $12.99. And they are the must-see films for any Patriots fan. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gift idea? Free advertising from us to the Patriots…LOL. But seriously, you won’t be sorry.

Kraft Unloads on Other Owners ‘Envy and Jealously’ in Deflategate Rant:
Patriots owner Robert Kraft ire was directed at his fellow owners this week rather than Roger Goodell.  He called the Deflategate investigation and punishment “nonsense and foolishness” and vowed to never forget, calling out his fellow owners.

“Envy and jealousy are incurable diseases”, Kraft said via an interview on “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” in an interview with Andrea Kremer via USA TODAY. “I’m going into my 24th season as an owner. I’m passionate about owning a football team in my hometown.”

“If I hadn’t won, I would be so angry at our folks and thinking about what we’d have to do [to win a title]. So, our competitors, I understand how they brought pressure on the league office to be very strong and [lobbied] not to compromise on an issue that was nonsense and foolishness.”

CBS Sports, “Patriots Won Draft Before It Even Began”:
An interesting piece concerning the Patriots was written by Will Brinson this week as to their approach to the 2017 NFL Draft. Brinson thought that Bill Belichick had done a great job before the draft had even begun.

The Pats strolled into the NFL Draft late in the second day, not even making a pick until the third round. But don’t let that fool you into believing that Belichick and Co. weren’t active. They just took a different approach to “drafting” players, which might become a more common thing in a copycat league. It might be Moneyball, if indeed acquiring talented young veterans for upcoming draft choices is an inefficiency.

That contrasts sharply with the way that some media members from Boston lambasted Belichick’s approach. But that isn’t anything new there. Brinson’s entire piece can be read here:

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Decline 5th Year Option on Watkins, Interview Brown for GM:
The Buffalo Bills have declined the 5th year option on talented but oft-injured Sammy Watkins which may open the door for him to play his way right out of Buffalo.

The Bills gave up a lot to draft Watkins, but he’s battled injuries his entire career. Now they’re basically daring him to stay healthy and have the kind of monster season that was forecast for him since he entered the league. He could still conceivably return to Buffalo in 2018, but the cost will be much higher.

The Bills are also interviewing former Patriots scouting assistant Trey Brown for the vacant GM job. Brown spent four years with New England and Philly as a scout before becoming the Eagles Director of College Scouting in 2016.

Gase Believes Miami is Better Now, In the 2nd Year of his System:
The Miami Dolphins made some nice moves in the draft and during free agency but as for Adam Gase, his belief that the Dolphins are better now than a year ago stems from a different reason.

In a piece by Armando Salguero for the Miami Herald Gase spelled it out for the media.

“But I think the different feel for myself and a lot of the guys in the building — even the players — is you know our routine a little bit. And there’s a little different swagger about what our guys have right now in a positive way. There’s no indecision about what they’re supposed to do, how they’re supposed to do it, what they’re responsible for. Guys can get from Point A to Point B kind of quick. There’s no issue with gray in our building right now. Guys are wired in to what we want to do. That’s not what you want to hear, but there’s a different feel with what we’ve got going on right now, day in and day out.”

This is just the kind of small, under the radar reason why it makes you think that the Dolphins got it right this time.

ArDarius Stewart Brings “Awesomeness” to the Jets:
The New York Jets drafted the talented ArDarius Stewart from Alabama with the 82nd pick in the 3rd Round of the NFL Draft last weekend. And the rookie certainly doesn’t suffer from a lack of confidence. When he conducted a conference call with the Jets media, he didn’t hold back.

“I’m bringing a load of, you know, awesomeness,” Stewart said. “That’s all I can tell you.”

Coach Todd Bowles gushed about Stewart as well. “When I went to see him work out, his route running was a lot better than it showed on film because they only did certain things,” Bowles said. “He’s tough, he brings a lot of attitude to the game and he plays it the right way. We really thought he could help us.”

The Jets will be looking for Stewart to take a big role this season. With Brandon Marshall gone and Eric Decker trying to come back from two serious injuries, the opportunities will be there for Stewart to have a big impact in 2017.

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