For the fifteenth year in a row, the Patriots and Giants ended their preseason with a game against each other and the Giants, courtesy of a last-second Kyle Lauletta touchdown pass [albeit one where the play clock ran out well before the snap], beat the Patriots 31-29, scoring 21 unanswered points in the second half.
With the preseason over, now comes the cut-down from the 90 man roster limit to the active 53-man roster by Saturday at 4:00 p.m. On Sunday at 1:00 p.m. the teams can fill out their 10 man practice squad. The Patriots actually have a waiver for an 11th player, Jakob Johnson due to his being an NFL International Player if he doesn’t make the 53.
Here are our quick observations from tonight’s game:
Tough Ending for Olszewski:
Gunner Olszewski was beaten on the final play of the game in the end zone when Lauletta launched a 14-yard touchdown to Alonzo Russell with no time left on the clock. It was a disappointing ending of what was a good night and a truly outstanding summer for the UDFA rookie from Bemidji State.
Nobody gave the Division 2 cornerback that the Patriots turned into a wide receiver much of a shot to make the team. But he’s worked hard and has been able to contribute in the kick return game and a bit offensively. He may not make the 53-man roster but he put some distance between himself and Braxton Berrios who was thought to have the inside track on the position.
On Thursday night, Olszewski returned three kicks for 77 yards, one punt for seven, and had two catches for 35 yards including a nice 29-yard reception. At the end of the game, he went back to playing defense on the Giants last possession and was at big size mismatch against Russell who beat him for the touchdown.
Olszewski has been a really nice story this summer, and there is still a shot that he’ll make the team as a returner.
Gordon, Thomas, and Edelman at WR, Who Would Have Predicted That?
Josh Gordon, Demaryius Thomas, and Julian Edelman all played in the first half, giving the Patriots a look offensively that one wouldn’t normally enjoy for the 4th preseason game. But none of them had played at all this preseason and the coaches obviously felt that they could use some live game action.
Edelman had one catch for 20-yards but landed on his injured thumb and quickly left the game, having had it checked out by the medical staff on the sideline. That tweak sent Patriots fans on social media from unbridled optimism to near panic… “Why’s he out there in a meaningless 4th preseason game, Bill!” sigh.
Thomas looked like he was moving pretty well, with no discomfort and had seven catches for 87 yards with 2 touchdowns on eight targets. It had to be a promising start for a guy who had surgery for a torn Achilles about eight months ago.
The offense and Gordon had trouble clicking as Stidham and he didn’t have their timing down. Which isn’t surprising since he was suspended since December and just began work with the team last Sunday. He was on NFI until this week. However, despite catching just two passes for 30 yards on six targets, Gordon’s night was particularly optimistic looking forward. He also drew a 35-yard pass interference penalty. Gordon showed he still has the explosiveness off the line and has the ability to stretch the field vertically which should lend itself well to the offense.
Stidham Plays the Entire Game:
This wasn’t a surprise, we felt that the Patriots would approach the game by giving the rookie QB all the work in this final tilt. Barring catastrophic injury, this should be the last meaningful game action until the 2020 preseason.
Stidham completed 18-25 for 225 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. His pick resulted from a big hit he took as he was releasing the ball causing his pass to flutter straight up where safety Sean Chandler picked it off.
But the only way for Stidham to improve is by getting game reps so that he can work on his decision making, his speed in processing plays and getting a better overall feel of the offense. He’s made very impressive strides since the first time we watched him back in minicamp. As we said in our podcast earlier this week, the Patriots should keep three QBs on the 53-man roster.
Rookie Froholdt Injured, OL Depth Takes a Hit:
The team started Hjalte Froholdt at guard tonight, the rookie from Denmark is considered a project for the offensive line this year. He’s been battling a shoulder issue but then went down with an injury in the first half, holding his right arm. After going into the blue medical tent, he was taken to the locker room where he didn’t return.
The team just made a couple of trades yesterday for tackle Korey Cunningham and guard Jermaine Eluemunor but Froholdt was still on our list for players making the 53-man roster. This injury may change that. If he’s hurt and going to be out for an extended period of time, the Patriots may opt to place him on IR, which may open the door for James Ferentz.
Coaches Test Versatility With Olszewski, Williams, Johnson:
We mentioned above that the coaching staff had Gunner Olszewski in all three phases of the game, offense, defense, and special teams. But he wasn’t alone. Jakob Johnson played fullback and in the second half was also logging snaps as an outside linebacker, and even generated some pressure on the QB. But the real story was the team moving rookie Joejuan Williams to safety.
Williams is a corner but he has the size of a safety at 6’3, 212. He has the size and physicality that is slightly reminiscent of Brandon Browner. And while this may be nothing more than to see what the rookie can handle, We view Williams as a matchup piece where the coaching staff figures to use him against bigger wide receivers and/or tight ends. But with Belichick, it is always a case of “the more you can do…”
Williams played next to Malik Gant who was injured and was carted off during the game. It was curious that Obi Melifonwu who was dressed didn’t play tonight.
So, the coaches have to make their roster cuts, one player who was just signed on Sunday, LB Scooby Wright, acquitted himself quite well. He had four tackles, two sacks and two tackles for losses. Another linebacker, Calvin Munson is making a case for himself to make the roster as well.
The Patriots’ training camp starts in just two days, it is one of our favorite times of the year. All 32 teams are beginning with a clean slate and are trying to build the best version of themselves as possible.
Today, we’re looking at the safeties and there promises to be virtually no movement at the top of the depth chart. The Patriots have been fielding the same top three safeties at the top of their depth chart for several years now.
Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, and Duron Harmon are all considered starters and all three are frequently on the field at the same time. However, after those three, competition is wide open for one, possibly two, with an outside chance of three roster spots. (In our initial 53-man roster projection, we had them keeping only four safeties.)
Special teamer Nate Ebner, Terrence Brooks, Obi Melifonwu, A.J. Howard, and rookie UDFA Malik Grant round out the position.
Check back with PatsFans.com as we’ll go thru the entire roster as our primers for training camp continue before the heavy lifting starts on July 25. And be sure to keep up with our coverage from training camp.
So, let’s take a look at the position as it unfolds as training camp begins this summer.
Current roster – Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner, Terrence Brooks, Obi Melifonwu, A.J. Howard, Malik Gant
Locks – McCourty, Chung, Harmon, Brooks
Near Locks – none
Bubble – Ebner, Melifonwu, Howard
Long Shot – Gant
Discussion – With the top three players returning, one can expect the position on Week 1 against the Steelers to look exactly the same as it has for a long time. McCourty, Chung, and Harmon are all locks for the roster and the only way we can see them not being on the field against Pittsburgh is because of injury.
However, both McCourty and Chung are on the wrong side of 30 and despite very solid play from both, it is time the team begins grooming their eventual replacements. McCourty flirted with retirement after the Super Bowl. It wouldn’t surprise me if he called it a career after the 2019 season. Chung is coming off of offseason surgery for his arm which was injured in the Super Bowl. Harmon is essentially a starter and should be around for the next couple of years. And that is where the team now stands.
Are there replacements for Chung and McCourty currently on the roster as it now is constructed? Time will tell. Here is where the competition proves to get fierce this summer.
The Patriots gave Brooks a two-year, $4 million dollar contract with a $500,000 signing bonus and $1.3 million guaranteed. So, because of his deal in 2019, it is really hard to see the Patriots letting go of the 27-year-old backup safety. Brooks led the Jets in special teams snaps in 2018 and he should a core mainstay on the Patriots ST units.
Melifonwu is perhaps the most intriguing member of the group. Easily the most athletic of the group, Melifonwu has tremendous size (6’4, 224) with elite athleticism. The Patriots picked him up in midseason last year and with a full offseason under his belt, he now knows the defense. It is unclear if the team views him as a deep safety who will compete with Harmon or an in-the-box safety behind Chung. With Chung missing minicamp, Melifonwu got a lot of reps with the top unit. He will bear watching in what could be a make-or-break season for him.
Every year we put Ebner on the bubble, you’d think by now, we’d have learned our lesson and recognize the fact that Bill Belichick loves what he’s got in the backup safety and special teams standout. But the fact that Brooks was brought in strictly for his special teams’ acumen, could be a omen that Ebner’s time is waning with the team. He is starting the year on PUP. But then I remember Belichick wearing Ebner’s rugby jersey at TC while Ebner was away representing the USA.
Howard had an impressive career at Appalachian State but went undrafted. He spent time with the Cardinals and Giants before the Patriots picked him up in early January. He’s a strong safety who will try to carve out a spot for himself this summer or try to land on the Patriots practice squad.
Gant is a strong safety who plays with a chip on his shoulder. He’s a thumper in the running game and offers good size (6’2, 200) for the position. Right now, he’s a long shot to make the roster but is a great candidate for the team to develop on the practice squad. One thing to keep in mind is that with Joejuan Williams at a corner, he may be able to help cover some of the tight ends traditionally covered by the safeties.
The Patriots enter the season in very good shape at the safety position but it is time to begin developing and making plans for the eventual replacements for McCourty and Chung. There should be great competition here but again as with the cornerback position, it will take place at the back end of the depth chart.
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 05-5 although no AFC East notes this week. They’ll be back next week.
Bill Belichick is always zigging while the others in the league are zagging. Everyone (including here) thought the Patriots would take one, possibly two tight ends in the draft. Eight were taken in the Top 100 picks and 16 overall. The Patriots took zero.
Does this omission mean that the team didn’t like any of the tight ends available in this class? That they planned on picking up another in a trade? Or that the team is moving in a different direction and they plan on putting the emphasis elsewhere and going to stick with what they have?
Tom Brady’s appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel show was a must watch clip. Brady was asked about his contract which is “only paying him” to be the 20th highest paid player in the NFL this year. “I want to win,” he answered, stating that the money the team saved on him allowed them to surround him with good players. He also added, “my wife makes a lot of money.”
Brady took part in the ongoing “feud” between Kimmel and actor Matt Damon. Brady has been in LA working out on his own and was a guest on Kimmel’s show. And the two with Kimmel sidekick Guillermo went to Damon’s house where you can imagine the rest.
!– wp:paragraph –>
Three Games to Glory – the 5-hour DVD set that sets the tone for the Patriots’ three playoff games culminating in the Super Bowl victory over the Rams is available for order thru the Patriots Pro Shop.
In a video produced to promote the release had players Kyle Van Noy, Jason McCourty, Rex Burkhead, and Stephon Gilmore watch some of the videos and offer some commentary on the game.
DuJuan Daniels is leaving the Patriots “to pursue other opportunities” in the news that was first reported by ESPN’s Field Yates. Daniels joined the staff as a scouting assistant in 2006, and worked his way up to area scout and then for the past three years as a National Scout. The only member of the staff, that holds that title.
Steve DeOssie – former Patriot and Super Bowl XXV winner with the Giants took part in the annual Patriots/Patriots Alumni charity basketball game against a team from the Grafton Police Department. During the halftime break, where fans get to meet and greet current and former members of the team which included Elandon Roberts, Keion Crossen, Brandon King and local Grafton alum Obi Melifonwu, DeOssie was approached by a fan whose father played with him on that Giants SB winner.
Reyna Thompson was a reserve defensive back and Pro Bowl STs player who started the game on defense. For those who don’t remember or were too young to recall, Belichick was the defensive coordinator on the Giants and he started just two DL, three LBs and six DBs including four CBs to slow down the Bills’ offense. Belichick’s game plan now is on display in the Pro Football HOF in Canton.
DeOssie and Thompson’s son had a long conversation about his father and some memories of that Giants team. It was a very cool moment.
DeOssie and Thompson speak about the SB XXV Giants
Some Interesting Players in the 2019 Patriots UDFA Class:
The Patriots have signed several key UDFAs to the team thus far. Let’s take a quick look at each of the new members of the 2019 UDFA Class.
Jakobi Meyers, WR, NC State: Meyers was originally a QB and switched to WR in his freshman year. The last two seasons he’s had tremendous production and developed quite the chemistry factor with QB Ryan Finley.
Meyers has good size at 6’2, 203 and while not fast at all, he’s shown that he can make contested catches from the slot. He has great hands and a very high football I.Q. Last year in Raleigh, he caught 92 passes for 1047 yards with 4 TDs.
Xavier Ubosi, WR, UAB: Ubosi wasn’t on the list of signed players but we’ve heard and read from multiple media members that he intends to sign here. His route tree is a straight line…he ran go-routes, a lot of them in college. But he also averaged 23.9 yards per reception. This should prove interesting.
Ryan Davis, WR, Auburn: Davis was the Auburn slot machine the past two years. He set a school record for receptions in 2017 and led the team again last year. He’s not big, (5’10, 189) but is quick enough to be a good addition to the slot. He also returned punts which could get him a roster spot.
Andrew Beck, TE, Texas: Beck was originally a LB who converted to TE. He’s got good size (6’4, 260) and is known primarily as a blocking tight end. He’s average athletically and in the passing game, he can function reliably as a safety valve underneath.
Nick Brossette, RB, LSU: Brossette had a big year in 2018 at LSU, as he led the team with 240 carries, 1,039 yards, and 14 touchdowns. He has a compact muscular frame and excels at short-yardage. He doesn’t have much of a burst but is solid, reliable and gets better as the game wears on. Keep an eye on him this summer if anyone shows up hurt in training camp.
Malik Gant, SS, Marshall: Gant is a good sized (6’0, 209) very physical strong safety. He thrives in the box where he loves and seeks out contact. He wasn’t tested much in coverage against top competition. But he could provide a favorable matchup against tight ends and running backs. He would be a candidate for the Patriots “Big Nickel” role.
Terez Hall, LB, Missouri: Hall is an undersized, aggressive, downhill linebacker who could provide depth and special teams production. He’s tough and plays with good speed but his aggression frequently caught him out of position. With some coaching and discipline, he has the speed and athleticism to be a good defender in coverage.
D’Angelo Ross, CB, New Mexico: Was a productive corner for the Lobos despite measuring at just 5’8, 185. He is an uber-athletic player who ran a 4.32 at his Pro Day with a 39” vertical leap. He led the Lobos with 54 tackles and 15 passes defensed, but his size…or lack of it will bear watching.
Tyler Gauthier, OL, Miami: Gauthier was the starting center for the last two years at Miami and has good size at 6’5, 300. He is considered very solid in pass protection and allowed no sacks in 2018. He has the versatility to move over to guard.
Calvin Anderson, OT, Texas: Anderson played three years at Rice and graduated before transferring to Texas to get a masters in economics. He’s a bit raw and undersized (6’5, 292). He has good quickness and mirroring skills but requires time to get more strength and power at the NFL level.
Tyree St. Louis, OT, Miami: St. Louis has the size at 6’5, 314 to play in the NFL but is probably just a right tackle at the next level. He started in 34 straight games, so his experience level is excellent. But he’s not the most athletic player and a move inside could be in his future. It will be interesting to see how these last three prospects work out with Dante Scarnecchia.
Winovich is Arguably the Most Intriguing Additions to NE:
Chase Winovich was one of the Patriots’ selections in the 3rd Round (77th overall) of the 2019 NFL Draft. And he is one of the more intriguing characters they selected. He plays with a non-stop motor on the field and exhibits just as much passion off of it.
Don Brown, a Central Mass. native and Michigan’s Defensive Coordinator spoke with the Boston Herald early last week and had several very interesting quotes about Winovich and how he feels he’ll fit in the Patriots system.
“He’s a trip, no question, but he’s a very serious football player,” Brown said. “He’s one of those guys who love the game and plays the game the right way all the time. You never have to worry about his effort. He’s going to give you everything he’s got . . . I think him going into Coach Belichick’s system, this is probably a match made in heaven for him.”
In Michigan’s system, Winovich was asked to rush the QB from the edge but Brown believes he’s capable of much more and thinks the Patriots will use him in multiple ways.
“We stood him up as an outside linebacker. His primary goal was to go hunt the quarterback. But there’s no question, he can drop back and cover,” Brown said. “He has tight end in his background. He has good hands, he can catch. This offseason, getting ready for the combine, he trained a lot standing up, dropping into the flat, playing coverage, working on his hands. So he can do those things. We just didn’t ask him. The priority for us was to get him around the quarterback. But he can do it all. There’s no doubt about that.”
Pro Football Focus had Winovich as their 29th highest rated player going into the draft, so the Pats bringing him in at #77 is pretty good value. It was interesting to see how the board played out. The Jets were picking at #68 and reportedly looking for help on the edge. But they opted for Jachai Polite from Florida and Winovich was there for the Patriots to take at #77.
Here is his phone call from Bill Belichick telling him he’s going to New England.
Colts Finding the Right Players with Ballard/Decker:
One other AFC team that has drafted much better recently is the Indianapolis Colts. While new GM Chris Ballard is the guy who will (and should) get most of the credit, one name that won’t get much airspace is Brian Decker. But Decker is the guy ensuring that the Colts not only draft good players but the right ones.
Decker was hired by Ballard right off and is the Colts Director of Player Development. If you’ve never heard of him, you should. Analytics are becoming more and more important across all of sports and Decker has a unique career path. While Ballard and the staff scout football players, Decker’s job is finding the right ones.
A few years ago Decker was a Green Beret major and was tasked to find out why there was a marked increase in the number of candidates that were washing out of Green Beret training.
He totally revamped the system on how the Army, identifies, assesses, and evaluates prospective Green Berets. He then took his system of evaluating the “right people” with the NFL. In speaking with the Colts.com, he said it simply about finding character among the successful Special Forces candidates and NFL people.
“When you take the sport away and you look at the mindset of the people we’re dealing with, they’re the same people.”
What the Colts are doing now is what the Patriots under Belichick have done for the past two decades. They’re building a team and no longer just trying to collect talent. And from the gist of things, it would seem like the Colts draft board is much smaller these days much like New England’s.
“We try to learn as much as we can about a player by answering five questions,” he said. And those questions are:
Does he have a favorable development profile
Does he have a favorable profile that will predict performance under pressure
Does he have an intellectual profile that will allow him to learn and make decisions on the field
Background data, does his background pose any risks to his development
Selecting people who are a good fit with what the team is trying to do. Character matters, players have to buy in.
Under Decker’s watch, his system identified potential Green Berets and now Colts players by learning that each successful candidate responded to stress in their lives with a heightened sense of motivation.
The biggest character trait he looks for is desire. “Desire is the one thing, you can’t coach and can’t teach,” he said. “It is the desire that ultimately fuels the motivation.” He pointed out that desire will make a prospect develop great work habits that lend itself to great performance on the field.
They are trying to implement a system where they identify smart players who thrive in a pressure-packed environment. The successful player won’t be looking for external solutions to problems but internally within the group. They’ll have excellent work habits, be mentally and physically tough, have confidence which comes from practice and preparation and the optimism and belief that they can achieve anything together.
Keep your eye on the Colts this season and moving forward. Right now, I’d put them as the #2 team in the AFC and they’re getting an identity.
Two years ago, I did a couple of interviews with Decker for SpecialOperations.com and spoke about the process of identifying, assessing and evaluating Green Berets, but the same process applies equally.
The NFL is revamping the overtime rule to allow each team a possession. It is expected to pass when the league brings it up for a vote. Of course, this is because the Patriots defeated the Chiefs in O.T. during the AFC Championship Game where the Chiefs never touched the ball.
Cowboys C.O.O. Stephen Jones was firmly behind the Chiefs’ proposal.
“I certainly tend to lean toward the new rule,” Jones said. “I certainly watched every play of that Kansas City-New England game, and you kind of would have liked to have seen what would have happened if Kansas City got another shot at it, and then how the thing would have ended up. It was football, in my mind, the game at its best. I certainly don’t have a problem with guaranteeing each team a shot at it. … It’s certainly something that had some traction there in the room, and certainly saw some people who were very interested in it. But we’ll get on a call there, take a long, hard look at it, and I’m sure membership’s gonna get to see it.”
One has to truly wonder if Jones would have wanted to see the rule changed if the opposite had happened or wanted to see Brady get a chance at the ball.
This just reeks of sour grapes. Kansas City had the Patriots at third and long three times in that overtime drive. They didn’t stop them, hold them to a FG or even bothered to use one of their timeouts when their atrocious defense was obviously gassed in OT.
Are you surprised? You should be. Let’s look at some of the other New England rules after playoffs and Super Bowl wins.
“Point of emphasis” on contact with WRs
No more leaping FG or extra point blocks
No more tricky formations with ineligible WRs
Medical Spotters added in case a player is concussed
PSI checks, that went the way of the dinosaur quickly
Catch rules (which happened to be changed in the SB LII
But what happens when the Patriots have one of these rules work in their favor? “Put an asterisk on that one!” Child please.
“Rob Gronkowski was a presenter at the Billboard Music Awards last week and confirmed he was retired…then left the door open for a return. Hmm. So, how was your week?”