Tag Archives: Marcus Cannon

New England Patriots News 3-24, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
March 24, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 03-24 and AFC East Notes.
Spring to a backseat to a snowstorm that hit the area on Saturday…A sight no one was happy to see except maybe the ski slopes still operating in the area.

We’ll begin our draft profiles on players that we feel would fit the team on Monday. Also, we’re doing a special Patriots 4th and 2 podcast early this week on some of the potential fits for the team in the draft. Be sure to check for that.  

ICYMI: Our first Mock Draft 1.0 attempt at building the 2019 Patriots roster is in the books. You can recap it here: You can expect the Patriots to be very active in this one, moving around the board due to having 12 draft picks and half of them in the first 101 picks.

Quick Hitters:

Bill Belichick was in Hollywood with Linda Holliday and as the pair came out from dinner and were awaiting their car from the valet, the paparazzi descended on Bill in force. While Ms. Holliday was gracious with some of the questions, Bill in a quintessential Belichick performance didn’t say a word to the ridiculous, inane questions thrown at him by the clueless TMZ staff. Listening to those questions, undoubtedly made Bill homesick for a press conference in the Gillette media workroom….ok maybe that is a stretch. So how was your week, Bill?

Stephon Gilmore freed up $5.67 million dollars of cap space by converting $8.5 million dollars of his contract into a signing bonus, which was reported by Field Yates of ESPN. That move gives the Patriots some much-needed space and comes just at the right time as the team is supposedly in negotiations with kicker Stephen Gostkowski on a new contract.

Do you think Tom Brady is slow? Maybe on the football field, but watching Brady zip down the ski slopes in the Rockies faster than we can drive any morning on the Mass Pike was a bit disconcerting to watch…can’t imagine the team was thrilled to see that. While we’re all waiting on news of an extension for the Pats QB, he won’t sign anything until he gets back from vacation.

Ryan Allen has re-signed with the team and is coming back on a one-year deal. The veteran of six NFL seasons was just 20th in the NFL a year ago with a 45.1-average. However, Allen’s value lies in his directional punting and the ability to pin teams back inside their 20-yard line. In the Super Bowl against the Rams, he did so three times and could have been a candidate for the MVP of the game.

Malcolm Mitchell in his only NFL season

Malcolm Mitchell Forced to Call it a Career

Former Patriots WR Malcolm Mitchell had to finally come to the realization that his chronic knee woes won’t let him continue his fledgling NFL career and it was over just as it getting ready to take off. Mitchell had close to 10 surgeries on his knees between college and the NFL.

The Patriots knew his injury history when they drafted him in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He caught 32 passes for 401 yards and four touchdowns in his rookie and only season in the league. But the vast majority came in the second half of the season.

In Super Bowl LI, during the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, Mitchell caught five passes for 63 in the fourth quarter, helping the Patriots tie and then beat the Atlanta Falcons in overtime.

But another knee injury forced him to miss all of the 2017 season. When his knee didn’t respond to treatment, the Patriots released him in 2018. In January, he said he wanted to continue his football career, but sadly it was not to be. At an event at Georgia, he announced he was done with football.

After struggling with reading, he joined a women’s book club and later became an author of his own children’s book, “The Magician’s Hat”. He created the children’s literacy program, “Read with Malcolm” as well as the “Share the Magic Foundation.” Although his NFL career was painfully short, he is making a lasting impact off the field. And he’ll always have SB LI.

Expect the Patriots to Make a Tackle Selection Early in the Draft:

With the free agency losses of both Trent Brown and swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle, the tackle position on the Patriots offensive line has gotten much thinner. And with last year’s top draft choice, Isaiah Wynn (23rd overall selection) coming off of an Achilles injury, it makes things even more uncertain. That’s why we expect the Patriots to make a tackle selection early in the upcoming draft.

If Wynn is healthy and ready to go for the season, it would put he and veteran Marcus Cannon at the tackle positions. Wynn has yet to play a snap in the NFL and their backups are limited to practice squad player Cole Croston, Dan Skipper, and Ryker Matthews.

Even with the legendary Dante Scarnecchia coaching the offensive line, that leaves too much of an unknown factor in the mix. During our first mock draft, we had the Patriots taking Greg Little from Ole Miss as a tackle. He’s one of the best pass blockers in the draft and can play left or right tackle. He could be the swing tackle in 2019 and be prepared to take over for Cannon in the future if all works out well for Wynn.

Achilles injuries are different from everyone, Vince Wilfork told Mike Reiss that it took him a full year and a half before he felt right again.

Patriots Visible at Numerous Pro Day Workouts:

Bill Belichick was on hand at the recent Pro Day workouts in Alabama and Georgia getting an up-close look at several of the players who will hear their names called in the upcoming NFL Draft. Belichick, sporting an Alabama sweatshirt, no doubt courtesy of his buddy, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban seemed to be completely in his element.

Dante Scarnecchia, meanwhile, was working much closer to home, attending the workout for the Boston College players, who have several players who should be drafted next month. One player who was drawing interest from Scarnecchia is Eagles interior offensive lineman Chris Lindstrom. Lindstrom is from Dudley and parlayed an outstanding high school career at Shepherd Hill under the coaching tutelage of his father Chris who played in the NFL,  into being a four-year starter for the Eagles.

In just a month, the Patriots will begin voluntary workouts at Gillette Stadium.

Four Patriots Throw Support for Education Bill at the Statehouse:

Four of the Patriots, Devin McCourty, his brother Jason, Duron Harmon and Matthew Slater, all members of the advocacy group, the Players Coalition, testified on Friday in support of Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz’s education bill, the PROMISE Act.

The Players Coalition stated goal is to make an impact on social justice and racial equality at the federal, state and local levels through advocacy, awareness, education, and allocation of resources.

Chang-Diaz’s bill, one of several,  has been backed by teachers, parents, mayors and education advocates. And she got the blessing of four of the Patriots star players. The goal of the bill is to bridge the gap in education spending between richer and poorer communities.

“These young people have inspired us in our day-to-day lives. We know that they are the future of our region, our nation, and our world,” said Patriots safety Devin McCourty. “And we are confident that if we give them everything, we could give them a million things.”

“We are prepared to battle for our children,” said Devin McCourty.

Patriots Still Waiting on a  Gronkowski Decision:

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski still hasn’t decided whether to return for the 2019 NFL or to retire. Mike Giardi of the NFL Network said that several members of his family are worried about the long-term health of the big man, not just from the surgeries to his back, knee, and arm but also the blows to his head.

If Gronkowski does indeed retire, it would add nearly $10 million in salary cap space but also leave a tremendous hole at the tight end position. Regardless, the Patriots are expected to add the tight end position in the upcoming NFL draft where several intriguing options exist. They have to start grooming a potential successor even if he does return.

New TE Matt Lacosse was ecstatic after signing a two-year deal worth about $4.8 million last week. “It’s an honor to be here,” he said. “Great franchise, great players, great coaches. Just the history behind this franchise is unbelievable. Just to be here and to see all that happens here and to be a part of it is huge, it’s awesome.”

Lacosse will bring an immediate upgrade at the backup tight end position in the passing game as he should have little trouble passing Dwayne Allen’s 13 receptions in two years, including only 3 in 2018. However, Allen was one of the better blocking tight ends in the league. Lacosse has a long way to go there.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Continue to Add Depth:

The Buffalo Bills added a trio of players this week, signing guard Jon Feliciano from the Raiders as well as tight end Jake Fisher and linebacker Maurice Alexander as they continue to build the depth of their roster.

Feliciano is an intriguing player. Stuck on the depth charter behind center Rodney Hudson and guards Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson in Oakland, he started just eight games in four years but appeared in every one. Known as a very physical player who has a mean streak he’ll immediately vie for starting reps.

Fisher was an offensive tackle who lost some weight and converted to tight end. The former 2nd round draft pick is on a one-year contract. He’ll be used as a blocking tight end or an extra offensive lineman. Alexander came over from the Seahawks where he was a reserve safety and special teams’ contributor. He’ll probably be the “big nickel” linebacker and STs for the Bills.

Dolphins Sign Fitzpatrick, Host Edge Rusher:

The Miami Dolphins solved the immediate need for a quarterback by signing veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, making Miami the third AFC East team he’s played for. He’ll be the bridge QB for the time being while the team searches for hopefully their franchise QB. Miami watched Dwayne Haskins and Drew Lock at their respective Pro Days.

Another big need is at the edge. Cameron Wake is gone, Robert Quinn is rumored to be gone also very shortly, which leaves Miami with just Charles Harris. So, the Dolphins are bringing in TCU edge rusher L.J. Collier, who is a shorter, more compact player who was considered a late-round prospect. But a good week in Mobile at the Senior Bowl may have changed the Dolphins perspective on him.

Jets Need Help At Center, Wisniewski on the Radar:

The New York Jets have struggled to run the ball the past two seasons and have given up an inordinate amount of pressure up the A-gap because of poor play at the center position. Spencer Long had a nightmarish season and was cut loose. Many expected the Jets to target Matt Paradis from Denver or Mitch Morse of the Chiefs in free agency.

While the Jets are thought to be looking for a long-term solution during the draft, they are also thought to be looking at Stefan Wisniewski who spent the last three years with the Eagles. He’d be a stop-gap measure but regardless would bring an immediate upgrade in talent at the position.

With the Jets looking to make a big step in rebuilding the team with a young QB in Sam Darnold, they can’t have running for his life every week.

So, how was your week?

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Patriots Report Card In Blowout Win Over the Chargers

Steve Balestrieri
January 15, 2019 at 7:00 am ET

Patriots Report Card In Blowout Win Over the Chargers

We said they needed to start fast and boy did the Patriots ever do that. When was the last time you saw domination like that in the playoffs? Answer… Never. No Patriots team has ever begun a playoff game with four touchdowns on their first four possessions.

This one was truly over at halftime but we’ll grade the team for the entire 60 minutes and it was something to see. This is the team that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing and unfortunately haven’t seen this year… until now.

So, check out our grades and see how the team fared in this week’s blowout win:

Quarterback: A

This week Tom Brady heard the noise, many national types were saying this week against the Chargers was the end of the Patriots dynasty, the end of Brady-Belichick. The Bolts were going to put he and Rob Gronkowski into retirement mode.

Brady was fired up but more than that, he was on top of his game all day long. He saw that the Chargers were sticking with their soft zone Cover 3 look, a defense he’s shredded for his entire career and once again he gralloched it with ease.

He completed 34-44 for 343 yards and a touchdown and looked as sharp as he’s been all year. His best pass was in the fourth quarter. Derwin James had tight coverage on Julian Edelman and Brady lasered a BB down the field that Edelman turned into a 35-yard gain. His arm strength going? Watch that throw again. And again.

Don’t try to fight a lion if you’re not one yourself.

Running Backs: A

As we mentioned above, Brady and the Patriots have played this Gus Bradley Cover 3 zone defense in the past. Shane Vereen had a big day catching the ball in the Seattle Super Bowl, 11 catches 64 yards on 12 targets. The Atlanta Super Bowl, James White roasted them, 14-110 and a TD on 16 targets. Last year more of the same 14-15 for 163 yards. White was targeted 17 times on Sunday, he caught 15 passes for 97 yards.

Sony Michel gashed the Chargers run defense for 129 yards and 3 TDs on 24 carries. He had his longest run of the season a 40-yard scamper to boot. Rex Burkhead chipped in with a 6-yard touchdown run of his own. The running backs ran for 155 yards on the ground and were targeted 19 times in the game with 17 receptions for 113 yards.

When the Patriots ran out of their “21” personnel, they averaged nearly 7.0 yards per carry on Sunday. The Chargers linebackers were banged up and they were going with a light package and had no answer.

Wide Receivers: A

Julian Edelman was arguably the player of the game for the Patriots. Something to keep in mind, Edelman hasn’t played in a playoff game since the Super Bowl against Atlanta. And yes there were even whispers that he’s lost a step.

He cranked his game up a notch…actually two, and was fantastic. He had nine catches for 151 yards and he set the tone early in the game. On a third and short. Edelman caught the pass from Brady and appeared that he’d be tackled short of the sticks. But he broke the tackle and kept driving and picked up the first down. Soon after, the Patriots were in the end zone.  

During the game, Edelman moved into the #2 spot all-time for playoff receptions behind only Jerry Rice. He also moved into the top 10 all-time in receiving yardage in the postseason. And people still try to belittle his accomplishments by calling him a “slot receiver”… Oy vey. Not bad for an undersized option quarterback.

Tight Ends: B+

Rob Gronkowski dominated in the running game. With the Patriots trying to run the ball, Gronk showed why he’s a complete tight end and he was blowing people off the ball. He helped Cannon put Melvin Ingram on roller skates on Michel’s 40-yard run and for good measure drove Hayes Pullard to the sideline.

He caught one pass for 25-yards that was classic Gronkowski. He took the pass in, broke the initial tackle attempt and then ran over the next man. He drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone and helped clear out a ton of real estate for Phillip Dorsett, who was wide open for a touchdown.

Offensive Line: A

The offensive line had arguably their best game of the season and maybe of the past two seasons. The Chargers defense was no “tomato can”, they are a top 10 unit against the run and the pass. And the Patriots offensive line absolutely dominated the point of attack all day long.

Trent Brown and Marcus Cannon absolutely dominated the matchup against Ingram and Joey Bosa, they made life hell for Lamar Jackson a week ago. On Sunday, Brady had a clean pocket all game long and was only hit a couple of times.

In the running game, not only did they fire off the ball and get a great push, but the blocking downfield was outstanding. When your offense rolls up 500 yards against a Top 10 defense, it usually means one thing for the offensive line. Total domination.

Defensive Line: A

The Patriots defensive line had another outstanding effort in Sunday’s game. They held Melvin Gordon and the Chargers backs to just 19 yards on 10 carries. And once they stuffed the run, they had Philip Rivers forced into passing situations.

In the pivotal first half, Rivers was pressured on 70 percent of his throws. Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn (who had his best game as a Patriot) each had a sack. Flowers had another taken away on a ticky-tack penalty where he was blocked into the ground and thus hit Rivers low.

Adam Butler had some good quality snaps and provided good pressure on Rivers as he saw quite a bit of work with the running game shut down.  

Linebackers: A-

The Linebacking corps was also outstanding on Sunday. They were terrific in run support, the hardest hit of the day was Elandon Roberts down by the goal line where he had a tremendous collision with Gordon that sent the running back flying backward.

Kyle Van Noy was once again all over the field and he and Dont’a Hightower were constantly moving around in the “amoeba defense” which kept the Chargers guessing to where they were coming. Hightower was used in a pass rush mode often and created great pressure all game long.

John Simon saw quite a few snaps and was impressive, getting pressure on Rivers and stuffing Gordon for a loss.

Secondary: B+

Stephon Gilmore got fooled badly on the Bolts first possession where Rivers looked him into the middle of the field and Keenan Allen blew right by him for a 43-yard touchdown. But after that, he blanketed Allen and shut him down. Allen would catch only two passes, the other with Jason McCourty covering. Gilmore picked off Rivers with a very nice play in the second half where he got body position and went up and high pointed the ball.

Rookie J.C, Jackson had a very competitive game against the impressive Mike Williams who made some terrific catches with tight coverage. Jason McCourty had a bit of a rough day and gave up several long completions to the Williamses and a 30-yarder to Allen who caught it and went down at the one-yard line.

Pat Chung and Devin McCourty were very solid all game long. Rivers padded his stats with a lot of garbage time yardage and a pair of scores, but the defense was playing much different by then.

Special Teams: A-

The only blip on the special team’s radar was the opening play of the game. James Develin flubbed the kickoff out of bounds shy of the 17-yard line, where if he let it go, it goes out of bounds and the Pats get it at the 40-yard line.

The coverage units did a pretty good job on holding Desmond King in check and Stephen Gostkowski was a perfect 7-7 on his kicks.

Albert McClellan recovered a fumble that quickly turned the game into a blowout. He’s been outstanding since coming here in mid-season. Isn’t there a dweeb on sports radio that constantly pooh-poohs Belichick signing STs guys? That’s why you sign them.

Coaching: A+

Josh McDaniels called a heck of a game. The Chargers defense was kept guessing all day long and he knew exactly how to attack it and exploit the matchups. Bill Belichick had the players ready to go and they fired out of the gate better than they’ve played all season.

And please…stop with the “what happened in the second half?” nonsense. This game was over and Bill Belichick and McDaniels weren’t going to give Andy Reid and the Chiefs any other film to watch. They put it on cruise control and put the six-guns in the holsters and milked the clock.

Belichick and Brian Flores weren’t shy about challenging the talented Chargers and bringing the heat on Rivers. It was a tremendous game plan and flawlessly executed.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as our writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

The 2018 New England Patriots On Social Media

Robert Alvarez
August 2, 2018 at 6:03 pm ET

The following list is a reference point for the 2018 New England Patriots social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and YouTube.

(NOTE: Most Snapchat account links only available within app and are not listed publicly)

Ryan Allen 

David Andrews

Ja’Whaun Bentley

Braxton Berrios

Brandon Bolden

Tom Brady

Kenny Britt

Rex Burkhead

Marcus Cannon

Patrick Chung

Adrian Clayborn

Duke Dawson

Phillip Dorsett

Eric Decker

Nate Ebner

Julian Edelman

Danny Etling

Trey Flowers

Marquis Flowers

Mike Gillislee

Stephon Gilmore

Rob Gronkowski –

Lawrence Guy

Duron Harmon

Dont’a Hightower

Jeremy Hill

Chris Hogan

Jacob Hollister

Brian Hoyer

Cyrus Jones

Jonathan Jones

Ted Karras

Harvey Langi

Brandon King

Devin Lucien

Shaq Mason

Jason and Devin McCourty

Sony Michel

Malcolm Mitchell

Cordarrelle Patterson

Derek Rivers

Elandon Roberts

Eric Rowe

Christian Sam

Danny Shelton

Joe Thuney

Vincent Valentine

Kyle Van Noy

LaAdrian Waddle

James White

Deatrich Wise

Isaiah Wynn

New England Patriots Training Camp Primer – Offensive Line

Steve Balestrieri
July 3, 2018 at 8:21 am ET

Health is the Biggest Question Mark

The Patriots head into training camp in just about three weeks now and as we’ve been saying, the competition this year at a number of positions will tell the tale on who goes and who remains. This has been a tumultuous offseason in many different ways. The Patriots lost a lot of key veteran players and all of the off-field hoopla surrounding Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski have been non-stop.

Soon that will all be behind us as the players get back on the field and we start talking about football again. In the next segment of our 2018 Patriots Training Camp primers is the Patriots Offensive Line.

The team lost left tackle Nate Solder this spring as he signed a big money contract with the Giants. He’s protected Tom Brady’s blind side for several years and done it well. Replacing a trusted veteran like Solder who was as good off the field for the team as well as on it.

So, with that in mind who are locked in and who’s on the bubble?

Roster Locks: Trent Brown, Isaiah Wynn, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon

The Patriots traded for Brown with the 49ers this spring, giving up a 3rd round draft pick in return. Although he’s played mostly right tackle in the NFL, he says he can play anywhere and the team may move him to left tackle.

Brown is a mammoth-sized human being. Listed at 6’8, 359 pounds, he’s every bit of that and possibly even bigger. But for a very large man, he has surprisingly good footwork. And he’s just 25 years old. Brown got some great kudos from Denver’s Von Miller who said this about the new Patriot:

“He’s the best right tackle in the National Football League,” Miller said of Brown. “And he may even be a top-five tackle, period, in the National Football League. There’s not another tackle who’s that tall, that big and can move the way he moves.”

The team used a 1st round draft pick (#23 overall) on Wynn and although he played left tackle for the Bulldogs, he projects to be a left guard in the NFL. Wynn is short for a tackle, 6’2, 302 but both he and Brown were competing for the left tackle spot but during the spring, they lined up next to one another with Wynn at left guard.

Andrews, Mason, and Cannon have been starters and remain solid pieces who have performed very well. The only questions with the locks revolve around health. Brown and Wynn are coming off of shoulder surgery, while Cannon was placed on IR late last season.

If this unit is the starting five on Week 1 and we believe that they will be, the team should be in a very good position for the offensive line play to start the season. Cannon’s availability physically is the only question. Will he be ready to go? Or will he begin camp on the PUP?

Near Roster Locks: Joe Thuney, LaAdrian Waddle

Thuney missed the spring minicamp with an injury and his spot was taken by Wynn. It will be interesting to note if Thuney is healthy for training camp, he may a fight on his hands to get back his starting left guard spot from the talented rookie from Georgia.

There is a possibility that Thuney will start training camp on the PUP if he’s still not ready to go. Health is the only possibility we’d see with him not making the 53-man roster.

Waddle is a valuable swing tackle who they brought back during free agency despite his getting feelers from other teams. He can play either side and has performed well when called upon. And with the long season that the team faces, he’ll be called on again this year.

On the Bubble: Cole Croston, Jason King, James Ferentz, Andrew Jelks, Ted Karras, Matt Tobin, Luke Bowanko, Ulrick John

The Patriots have several players vying for one or possibly two spots along the OL. Our feeling here is that Croston nails down one of those slots. We penciled him in for first 53-man roster projection. He’s versatile and can fill in at guard or tackle if needed.

But his spot will have to be earned so, the competition factor again will come into play. The team brought back King this spring, so that speaks highly for him. Karras has made the team as a backup and can play guard or center.

What may open the door for one or two more of these players is if Thuney or Cannon or maybe both are placed on PUP to start training camp. But with the demanding and outstanding OL coach Dante Scarnecchia back in the fold for another year, one thing is for certain. He’ll get the very best out of this group.

While as a whole, they have to improve but in pass blocking and in the running game, Coach Scar made it clear back in the spring, “I really like the guys we have here right now,” he said during the OTAs.

So physical questions aside, the Patriots offensive line may be very different, at least on the left side this year but they also have the potential to be very good and better than the 2017 unit as well.

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 5-6 & AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
May 6, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 5-6, & AFC East Notes

Quick Hitters: One of the nicer stories to see this week was about a woman in the Philadelphia area who is a huge Philadelphia Eagles fan needed a kidney transplant. She found a matched donor from the New Haven, CT area who, you guessed it is a life-long Patriots fan.

The woman, Patricia Pizzimenti,  recognized the irony of all of it, just after their transplant on March 8 and after meeting her donor, Michael Houlihan made up t-shirts that captured the humanity of the moment and the humor in it all. Well done all around.

Bill Belichick was named to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition by Donald Trump as was former Yankee great Mariano Rivera, Herschel Walker, Misty May-Treanor, Natalie Gulbis and Dr. Oz.

This is a tradition that has been going on since probably the late 1950s and of course set off quick hot takes that seek to politicize everything between “the Donald” and the Patriots ever since that “MAGA” hat was seen in a locker in Foxboro a couple of years ago. Does this mean that the Yankees have a “Trump Problem” like a well-known media outlet decried about the Patriots? How did Bill react?

“The physical fitness of children in our country is an apolitical issue that is extremely important to our future. … I was humbled to be asked and honored to accept, as I would have done for any administration.”

Belichick’s statement attempted to depoliticize this but, I guarantee this will be raised in his next press conference, not as an honor but about his political connection with #45.

Robert Kraft was courtside at the Celtics Game 2 against the 76ers with recently freed rapper Meek Mill, and Gucci Mane (Mane is a C’s Fan and a friend of Jaylen Brown) and the three were seen having an animated discussion. Chalk that one up to something you would have never dreamed as a possible scenario a few months ago.

So, on to the news this week, but first …

The Culture of Winning, the Biggest Cause of Tension in the Patriots Locker Room:
After hearing ad nauseum the latest daily dose of the “tension in the Patriots” between the coach and two of his star players as everyone becomes an amateur profiler from watching “Criminal Minds” and are psychoanalyzing Gronk’s tweets, and Brady’s body language and piecing together the subliminal messages that may have passed between all three…please.

Is there tension in Foxboro? You betcha there is. Is it new or anything more so than they’ve ever had before? No. So why is there so much tension there?

It is called a culture of winning. Bill Belichick knows and has witnessed, in his 35+ years in the NFL, the first thing that will destroy a great football team is being self-satisfied and complacent. The “we’re the best” and we’ve earned it” smug attitude will get a team knocked off their perch faster than a speeding bullet.

And this isn’t anything new or unique, as I pointed out in a recent Patriots 4th and 2 podcast, while I was never a professional athlete, I spent more than a dozen years as a Green Beret in the U.S. Army Special Forces. If there is a bigger testosterone-driven, Type A personality atmosphere bigger than a professional sports team, that is it.

After everything we did, we’d do an After-Action Review, (Hot washes, we’d call them) and they were very critical of every minutia of the operation. If you had a thin skin, you wouldn’t last long. There was tension every day. That is what made us so close to one another. It is also what made the unit so great.  

So, how does Belichick stop the Patriots from falling into this trap, and has succeeded far beyond any of his contemporaries? He doesn’t allow any complacency or self-satisfaction. As Brady said in the Jim Gray interview, if anyone bothered to watch the entire thing, besides the “I PLEAD THE FIFTH,” comment, Brady explained how Belichick would constantly harp in film studies on the things the team did wrong to keep them sharp, even during an 18-0 run during the 2007 season.

Brady did a pretty good Belichick impression and then followed it up with saying, “Humble pie was served,” adding “it was a very grounding force for all of us.” And this isn’t anything new, the Patriots and Belichick have always been known as the never satisfied bunch because Belichick is always working on keeping the players moving forward.

Because once a player or a team is satisfied, they stop growing and will start losing. Is it a difficult environment to play in, feeling like you’re constantly on the cusp of being cut and having to prove yourself day after day. Of course, it is. Do players, even great ones like Brady and Gronkowski chafe at that treatment? No doubt. But while they’ll chafe at it, they know, they won’t reach their full potential without it.

The Patriots have won at least 10 games for 15 years in a row. No one else in this era can come close to touching that. Russ Goldman, our host of the “4th and 2” podcast did a soccer show recently where he interviewed one of the top goaltenders of the English premier league, Asmir Begovic who won a championship and is coincidentally a die-hard Patriots fan. He asked Begovic if he’s had tension in a locker room in the EPL (English Premier League) and he laughed. He told him every day there is tension and it comes from trying to win championships.

Hopefully, Russ will schedule Begovic on our podcast again soon and we can revisit that conversation for our listeners. Much rather do that than to respond to quotes from the ultracrepidarianism that seem to be rampant on certain sports talk radio shows.

Matt Ryan’s Contract Is Testament on How Difficult it is to Find a Franchise QB:
The Falcons have given QB Matt Ryan a mammoth five-year, $100 million dollar deal with $94.5 million of it fully guaranteed. The other $5.5million is guaranteed for injury only. Ryan’s contract will pay him $30 million dollars this season. He is now the highest paid QB in the NFL. For comparison purposes, Tom Brady will make $20.5 million in 2018.

Ryan has always been a good but not great quarterback in his 10-year NFL career since coming out of Boston College. That changed in 2016 when he had a career year and led the Falcons to the Super Bowl where they narrowly lost to the Patriots in the first overtime game in NFL history.

But it is telling on how hard it is to find…and keep franchise QBs in the league. Of the top five paid NFL QBs in 2018, (Ryan, Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo, Matthew Stafford and Derek Carr) only Ryan has a playoff win (4-6 career record in the postseason). Carr and Garoppolo have yet to appear in the postseason and the other two are 0-4.

Aaron Rodgers has to be looking at this and smiling as he’s soon due for a new contract and will most certainly command more money than any of those five. Brady at $20.5 million? Is an absolute bargain

Patriots Decline Options on Shelton, Brown, Dorsett for 2019:
More than a few eyebrows were raised this week when the Patriots declined their fifth-year options on defensive tackles, Danny Shelton, Malcolm Brown, and Phillip Dorsett.

On the Wednesday deadline, the Patriots are betting on the market for the defensive tackles being less than the $7.1 million that would be their financial boon in the final year of their rookie deals. And call it what it is. This is a financial decision, not one based on performance.

Brown has been generally good for the Patriots on the field and Shelton hasn’t played a down yet. The team still has the option of signing one or both with extensions during the regular season. Dorsett, on the other hand, is more of an open and shut case. He’s hardly a lock for even making the roster at this point with a crowded field during the upcoming training camp. Dorsett had trouble getting in tune with Tom Brady and the offense in 2017. He had only 12 catches on the season.

Reps are going to be hard to come by in the Patriots offense next season. With Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell back, Chris Hogan healthy, and Rob Gronkowski back in the fold, reps will be earned. My player to watch is Jordan Matthews for the wide receivers, but we shall see who earns the looks this summer.

Spring Reps at Tackle Will Be Interesting to Chart:
Right now, on paper, the Patriots have a ton of depth at tackle. Tackles like cornerbacks is something you can never have too many of. But when the OTAs and minicamp begins, don’t expect to hear of too many of them being on the field.

Although Tony Garcia was supposedly given a clean bill of health after his blood clot issues in his lungs, expect the Patriots to be particularly cautious with him in the spring and allow him to acclimate back into playing shape.

Ditto for top draft pick Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown who the team recently drafted in the 1st round and then traded for soon after. Both had shoulder surgery in the winter and while they both claim to be healthy, the team will probably take things slow with both. And Marcus Cannon, the team’s starting right tackle from 2017?

He was placed on IR due to a foot/ankle injury late last season and isn’t expected to be ready until June, which probably puts everything thru the team’s minicamp out of the question.

The first time we’ll probably see all of these players on the field at the same time will be training camp. That will give them time to carve out roles for themselves. But at the same time, the other players on the roster, who will be fighting for reps/roster spots will get a leg up on the competition.

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Hire Dan Morgan as Director of Player Personnel:
The Buffalo Bills have made a solid hire with the signing of Dan Morgan who will head up Buffalo’s scouting department.  Morgan was an All-Pro linebacker for the Carolina Panthers during his seven-year playing career.

He became a scouting intern for the Seattle Seahawks and worked his way up through the ranks as a pro scout and was eventually promoted to Assistant Director of Pro Personnel in 2013, and the Director of Pro Personnel in 2015.

He takes the place of Brian Gaine who left to become the Houston Texans General Manager. Bills GM Brandon Beane spoke to the media about Morgan and believes he is prepared for the job.

“The great thing about Seattle is they allowed him to get out on the road some. So even though he was doing pro, he was on the road doing college stuff. His main background is on the pro side, but he’s touched college as well and that makes him a good fit for the role.”

Dolphins Claim QB Bryce Petty Off Waivers From the Jets:
The Miami Dolphins didn’t wait long to snag QB Bryce Petty after he was released by the New York Jets. Petty was without a team less than 24 hours when he was scooped up by Miami.

Many had the Dolphins targeting a QB early in the 2018 NFL, but they eschewed that and didn’t even take a developmental one. Instead, turning their picks in the first two rounds into DB Minkah Fitzpatrick and TE Mike Gesicki

Petty has started in seven career games while with the Jets going 1-6 and completing just 53 percent of his passes. With Ryan Tannehill expected to be fully healthy this summer after missing all of 2017, Petty will be battling Brock Osweiler and David Fales for backup QB duties.

Todd Bowles Cracks Up Media After First Jets Rookie Practice:
The New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles is usually a quiet, presence on the podium during the Jets press conferences. After Sam Darnold’s first rookie practice on the Jets, the media rushed to ask Bowles his first impressions of the Jets rookie QB.

Bowles, having fun with the moment, came out of character for a bit and in mock enthusiasm, slammed his open hand on the podium and shouted, “He was great! I want him to play right now!”

That cracked up the media members who have to ask these questions but it also diffused the questions for a bit…at least. As Bowles was saying, Darnold has a long way to go to learn the Jets offense and it is going to take time. But they won’t hold him back, they want him to progress at his own rate.

Darnold said all the right things, calling himself a naive rookie just trying to fit in, but in truth he’s anything but. Expectations are thru the roof with him, whether he wants it or is ready. The team will have patience but Darnold knows all eyes will be on him all summer.

“It’s just really cool how excited they are about me being here,” he said. “It’s really awesome to have that feeling, that you feel wanted. Whether I’m wanted or not, I’m going to come in here and do my thing.”

For now, Josh McCown is the starter and Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater and Christian Hackenberg will be all in the mix, but once he’s deemed ready, the job will be his to lose. Jets fans, hungry for a franchise QB since the days of Joe Namath, are expecting much, much more.  

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.

Top Areas That the Patriots Must Address in Free Agency

Steve Balestrieri
March 7, 2018 at 8:30 am ET

Everyone was planted in front of a television over the weekend listening to Mike Mayock do his thing talking about the hundreds of NFL prospects over the weekend. And frankly, there is no one better. He puts an incredible amount of time preparing for the Combine and Draft and he and Rich Eisen are fantastic at what they do.

But before we get all gaga about players getting drafted and who going to get picked when and where free agency will have the most to say about what their true needs are to be addressed in the draft. Because free agency, or at least the vast majority of it will be done before the draft rolls around.

Then we’ll have a good idea of how Bill Belichick, Nick Caserio, and the staff will proceed. So, in a perfect world, the Patriots would get the majority of their problems worked out in free agency and then add pieces and depth during the draft and with undrafted free agents.

So when the league year opens at 4 pm on March 14. The Top 51 Rule takes effect and they’ll have to be under the salary cap and here are what we believe are the top few areas of need that they’ll have to address.

Resign Nate Solder and Add Another Tackle: This is numero uno, the big enchilada, the Patriots have to bring Solder back in the fold for at least 2018 but preferably for two years. Right now they have three of their top four tackles who are free agents. Solder, Cameron Fleming, and LaAdrian Waddle. Marcus Cannon remains on the roster but is coming off of IR in 2017.

Solder has been a very good left tackle and could continue to be on for the next couple of years. He’s had some injury and illness concerns but frankly, he’s the best option out there in free agency. The pickings are slim in free agency and it isn’t a great year for tackles in the draft. Solder is their best option out there and he won’t be cheap.

The depth the Patriots had at tackle served them well last year. Solder, Cannon, Fleming, and Waddle all played significant snaps. Waddle, in my opinion, is the better swing tackle than Fleming but he suffered a couple of injuries and Fleming’s performance in the Super Bowl may get him a nice payday. So if they can do it, the team should bring back Solder and one of the two. I was asked if Solder walked could they make do with Fleming, Waddle, and Cannon. I like their swing tackles but not as 16-game starters

They also have Cole Croston and Andrew Jelks who they kept around last year. The big question now is centered around Tony Garcia. They drafted him to be the possible successor to Solder but he suffered an illness that cost him 40 pounds and the entire season. Will he be ready to go, fully back to strength this summer? No one knows yet.

Extend Brady and Gronkowski to Keep Their Cap Hits Lower: The Patriots have a tad over $14 million in salary cap space as it now stands. They can generate some room by cutting a few players or re-doing their contracts. Alan Branch, Dwayne Allen, and Martellus Bennett are three players who will either be cut outright or have their deals done to limit their cap hit. But reworking the deals for Tom Brady especially and Rob Gronkowski if he decides to keep playing, will happen sooner rather than later.

They could get their salary cap up into the $30+ million dollar range with those moves, of which Solder will take up close to have of it (estimate? $12-13 million). That would still allow them to chase a medium priced free agent or two and still leave some room to sign their draft picks and leave some capital on the books for the invariable injuries which occur during the season.

And hopefully, in doing so, they can possibly lower the salary cap hits on Brady and Gronkowski for this year a little bit.

Get the Tight End Situation Sorted Out: As it stands right now, Gronkowski is contemplating retirement. Dwayne Allen is on the books for $5 million and Martellus Bennett is owed $6.2 million with a $2 million dollar roster bonus due on March 16. None of these scenarios are what the Patriots need to have right now.

According to Drew Rosenhaus, Gronk’s agent, he hasn’t made a decision one way or another about returning or retiring yet. Hopefully, that decision will come sooner rather than later as they can base their decisions, at least partly on whether or not to move on from Bennett or Allen or bring them back.

Regardless, neither of them will return for what they are owed right now. Both will have to take a big pay cut to remain on the team. I think they’ll cut ties completely with Allen and then make a decision on Bennett. Allen never became a factor in the passing game at all and they’ll look to move on. The Bennett situation will bear closer scrutiny.

The team has Jacob Hollister who showed good hands and the ability to stretch the seams of the defense a little bit but he’ll have to improve in the offense as well as a blocker too. The team also has Will Tye who has caught 95 passes in the NFL. He’ll get a longer look this summer.

Re-Sign Danny Amendola to a 2-Year Deal: This one is kind of a no-brainer. Amendola isn’t going to light the world on fire and catch 100 passes, or anything close. But when it comes to crunch time, he’s absolute money. His moniker of “Playoff Danny” has been well-earned. In the 2017 playoffs, he caught 26 passes for 348 yards in three games which averages out to 8.7 catches a game for 116 yards. That is pretty elite territory.

Amendola has the best hands on the team and always can be counted on the make the most difficult catches when games are on the line. He’s versatile and can also return punts and kickoffs if the need arises. And with Cyrus Jones being placed on IR along with Julian Edelman this past preseason, the need arose.

He won’t break the bank to keep around, but he has the absolute trust of Brady, something that can’t be overstated. The “circle of trust” is something very real with Brady and he was included in the offseason work with Edelman that was included in the “Tom vs Time” docuseries last season. The three went Brady’s body coach Alex Guerrero to Montana before training camp to work on their timing and chemistry.

Replace Dion Lewis in the Patriots Backfield: As more time passes, it seems Lewis is less and less likely to return in 2018. The Patriots set a low bar on what they pay their running backs and it quite possible that a team will pay Lewis more than the Patriots will spend. It is being tossed around that he’ll be garnering in the neighborhood of $6.5 million a year in 2018. If that is the case, color Lewis gone.

The Patriots will want to replace him with a back that can not only run but catch the ball out of the backfield, something that hamstrung Mike Gillislee last season. Gillislee ran well but could never break into the passing game. Opponents quickly learned that Gillislee would either run or pass block. With Lewis, Rex Burkhead and James White, they had to play a guessing game, making the offense much more difficult to stop.

Burkhead is also a free agent although one would have to assume that his asking price will be much more affordable than Lewis’ at this point. He has a much better chance at being retained at this point.

We heard thru the grapevine (a reliable grapevine) that with the Broncos expected to release C.J. Anderson soon, that the Patriots may make a move for him. Although it is doubtful, he commands any less than Lewis would. But that’s what we heard so, we’ll assume that it would be the case. A quick look at their numbers from 2017:
Lewis    – 180 carries,  896 yards, 5.0 avg. 6 TDs, 32 catches 214 yards, 3 TDs
Anderson – 245 carries, 1007 yards, 4.1 avg. 3 TDs, 28 catches 224 yards, 1 TD

I think this one could be nominally filled by resigning Burkhead and then drafting a young back who can catch and carry the ball. That is the Patriots usual M.O. The majority of the free agent running back class are filled with names that I don’t believe the team being interested in. But we shall see.

Adding Some Veteran Help on the Edge: The team should get back Dont’a Hightower, Derek Rivers, and Harvey Langi this season from Injured Reserve, That alone should help the play on the edge. Although in the case of last season’s rookies, Rivers, and Langi, the team really doesn’t know what they have in them yet.

What Bill Belichick likes to do is bring in established veterans. Guys who can set the edge, get after the passer a bit and not break the bank. They aren’t going after the high priced, high profile free agents. But a guy who can do these things and isn’t a “name” everyone clamors for. Who would this be?

Connor Barwin is an established veteran who has played well with the Eagles, Texans, and last season with Rams. He could step in, help the defense and still has some juice left in the tank. He’s the kind of player that the team may look at once free agency begins.

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.

The Patriots Should Bring Back Both LaAdrian Waddle, Cameron Fleming

Steve Balestrieri
February 24, 2018 at 8:00 am ET

Like the old saying goes…you can never have enough tackles or cornerbacks. And the Patriots were indeed fortunate to have the depth they enjoyed in 2017. They started the season with starters Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon in place. They drafted what they hope to be their left tackle of the future with Tony Garcia.

And they had returning swing tackle backups LaAdrian Waddle and Cam Fleming in place. It turned out all of those returning pieces were needed. Cannon was injured and placed on IR. Waddle stepped in and played very well. So well in fact, that they hardly missed a beat. He gave up a grand total of zero sacks on the season and seven QB hits in just under 350 offensive snaps this season.

Then Waddle got hurt and in stepped Fleming. He played very well in the playoffs and against the Eagles in the Super Bowl, he and Solder had very strong games. All four tackles played meaningful snaps during the season. And all, thanks to the superb coaching by Dante Scarnecchia, were very solid.

One need only look at some of the teams that struggled during the regular season, their offensive lines, particularly the tackle play was frequently a major issue. The Patriots not only used four but all of them did a good job overall during the season. They also have Cole Croston and Andrew Jelks who the team has high hopes for in the future as well as Garcia. Garcia, it turned out never took the field, he was on NFI list all season with an illness and we’ve read that he lost upwards of 40 pounds during the season.

Free Agency is Key to Continuity: Now three of those tackles are free agents. Solder, Waddle, and Fleming are all unrestricted free agents this spring. So the depth that they currently enjoy will be severely tested this spring.

We’ve already posted on how we feel about resigning Solder and what it may entail. You can re-read that here: In a perfect world, the Patriots would sign all three and enter the 2018 season intact again across the offensive line.

But they have to deal with the realistic scenario that Solder may either not return to the Patriots or retire this spring. Either could conceivably happen and if it does, then they have some decisions that they’ll be forced to make.

OL Cameron Fleming shares a laugh after practice. (SBalestrieri photo)

While both Waddle and Fleming have played well as spot starters, do they want them playing on the edge for 16+ games as starters? Probably not. Then they’d be forced to look at free agency (not a great crop) or the NFL draft to find his replacement. Why? Garcia is still an unknown commodity. They haven’t seen him play yet. Compounded with his current medical condition, he’s a big question mark right now. And then they’d be looking at how to deal with the talented duo of swing tackle backups.  

Why Waddle and Fleming Will Resign:  The Patriots will probably try to resign both Waddle and Fleming. As last year showed, they were both needed and they each showed themselves valuable enough to play an important if limited role in their success.

Neither probably has a large enough body of work to be seriously considered for a starting position on another team. Would another team tempt either away with enough cash and an opportunity to start? The odds are against it but never say never. As we mentioned above, the tackle play around the league varied, and some teams were just awful.

It probably won’t break the bank with guaranteed money to bring back either. Both have familiarity with the system and coaches and like it here (much to the chagrin of Lane Johnson).

The absence of a bunch of guaranteed money will still allow the trio of Jelks, Croston, and Garcia to develop but leaves the team in a very good position in the event that there are the inevitable injuries.

They may decide on just one and let the other walk,  and deciding that either Jelks, Croston or Garcia is worthy of backup snaps with a chance to start down the road. In which case it would be a difficult decision. While Waddle has played the better of the two, his injury history this season may give the team some pause.

But the key from a Patriots’ perspective begins with getting Solder back in the fold. If they are able to do that, then getting their swing tackles back will be a nice addition. I think it is a no-brainer that they’ll try to bring back at least one and possibly both Waddle and Fleming.

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 Free Agent Profile Nate Solder

Steve Balestrieri
February 14, 2018 at 8:00 am ET

The Patriots will enter the beginning of the 2018 league season with several important decisions to make in regards to free agency. Among the veterans looking for a new deal are Nate Solder, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Butler, Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, Nate Ebner and Matthew Slater.  There are other veterans such as Brandon Bolden, James Harrison, LaAdrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming who have played significant roles at times and have been limited in others.

While the team has a limited amount of cap space, right now… they should be retooling a few contracts or cutting their ties with some players soon which will create more cap space.

We’ll be doing profiles on each of the free agents in the upcoming days and give you our take on whether they return or move on. One of the key players facing free agency is left tackle Nate Solder.

This is where things begin to get very interesting. Solder, and backup tackles LaAdrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming are all free agents this spring. That means three out of the four tackles utilized by the team in 2017 could conceivably be gone in 2018.

The Patriots thought they drafted their left tackle of the future last spring when they took Antonio Garcia in the draft. But Garcia never stepped foot on the field and spent the season on the NFI (non-football injury list) as a result of an illness. Garcia is down to only about 260 pounds right now, so not only is there uncertainty about his playing ability because they really don’t know what they have in him yet but medically as well. Will he even be ready to go this summer? That is a lot of question marks pertaining to the guy who must protect Tom Brady’s blind side.

Why Solder Will Return: The Patriots drafted Solder in the first round, (17th overall) in 2011. He’s started 95 of 98 games he’s appeared in and has been pretty durable, playing thru a variety of ailments including testicular cancer a few years ago. He did have a torn bicep in 2015, where he missed the last 11 games.

The Patriots need Solder this upcoming season. They have capable backups in Waddle and Fleming, who can fill in for a game or two, but as starting left tackles? No. And with the dearth of tackles in free agency this season, they know they can’t lowball Solder’s offer too much or risk losing him.  

Solder is still a very good left tackle, there was some thought that he may opt for retirement but he probably has one or possibly two years left before he decides to hang it up. With questions regarding his heir apparent, the team will either have to draft another tackle (a definite possibility) or retain Solder for one more year. Solder has played in four Super Bowls protecting Tom Brady’s blindside and has the big game experience that the team wants. He’s a proven performer and the Patriots will probably be able to retain his services for about the same amount of cash he earned in 2017.

At 30 years old this fall, Solder still has plenty of tread left on the tires.

Why Solder Won’t Return: There are a couple of considerations to think about here. One is Solder was contemplating retirement according to some rumors this fall. His own health issues coupled with the return of cancer to his young son, reportedly had him thinking about possibly hanging it up. If so, that would be the one situation where he’d be adamant about not returning.

As we mentioned above, there is a lack of quality tackles hitting free agency this season. With Solder just about to turn 30 in April, he could command some very decent offers. One team in dire need of a tackle is the Denver Broncos, and Solder played his college football in Colorado. They’d love to steal Solder away from New England.

The Patriots aren’t in a great position salary cap wise, so they won’t be able to overspend for Solder or anyone else this spring unless they start cutting other players or redoing some of the other contracts out there.

Bottom Line: The Patriots would like to have Solder back this season and truth be told, much like Josh McDaniels, family considerations may play a very large part in Nate Solder’s decision to remain in New England or to leave either in free agency or retirement.

With his son going thru another bout of chemotherapy, he and wife may want to keep their family close to the doctors that have treated his son Hudson at Boston Children’s Hospital. They have trust in the staff there and tied to them in the community as well.

He’s a very well respected member of the team by both the players and coaches. The 6’8, the 320-pound left tackle has been very good since entering the NFL. He’s sure to generate plenty of interest from other teams. And a few may opt to throw big money dollars in his direction. There is a stipulation in his contract that he can’t be franchised, so, that option is off the table.

Our feeling here is that he will return to New England or retire. While we may be way off on this one (not like we are batting 1.000 on these things), that is how we see it playing out. I think if the Patriots offer him close to what he earned in 2017, then the chances of Solder returning are much better and seeing him in a Patriots uniform in 2018.

We feel that the chances of him returning to New England are better than 50/50 this summer. Somewhere around 60/40 in favor of him playing at least one more season protecting Brady. Now the question remains, who else (Waddle or Fleming) will the Patriots resign and will Garica be able to resume his football career, which means working himself back up to weight and gaining the 40-50 pounds he lost?

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 Training Camp Primer Offensive Line

Steve Balestrieri
July 16, 2017 at 12:00 pm ET

Continuity and Preparing for 2018 are Keys

The Patriots head into training camp in less than two weeks and there should be no shortage of competition at a number of spots. As a lead-in to the beginning of camp, we’ll break down the positions and give our take on who is a lock, a near lock for the 53-man roster and who is on the bubble. Next up is the Offensive Line position.

Bill Belichick likes to say that the spring’s OTAs and Minicamp is a learning exercise and that the real competition begins in training camp. With a roster of 90 players and no cuts needed before the final 53-man roster cut down, there will be plenty of time for evaluation.

So we’re going to take a look at the Patriots Offensive Line. One of the keys to the 2016 success and part of the struggle down the stretch in 2015 had to do with continuity. The Patriots five starters played together nearly wire-to-wire last year and their performance showed. In 2015 injuries decimated the unit and the team couldn’t get any kind of cohesiveness going.

The good news is that five starters return as well as some of their top backups. But the team didn’t neglect their offensive line this offseason. With an eye to the future, they drafted two tackles in the 2017 NFL Draft, Tony Garcia, and Connor McDermott. Garcia in particular looks to have been drafted with 2018 and beyond in mind.

Although the team lost RT Sebastian Vollmer to retirement this spring, he missed the entire 2016 season with an injury and with the ascendance of Marcus Cannon, the team looks to be in good shape there.
So, with that in mind who is locked in and who’s on the bubble?

Roster Locks: Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Tony Garcia
The starting five returns, seem to be healthy and are locked on the roster this summer. Solder returned from IR in 2015 to play very solidly last year. He’s in the last year of his contract and with that in mind, the team has drafted two possible replacements.

Moving up and using multiple picks to draft Garcia, he’s obviously someone who Dante Scarnecchia feels can be a left tackle of the future. With Solder in place for at least 2017, there is no pressure on Garcia to produce early. This will be a red-shirt type of year for him to learn the system and develop under the tutelage of Coach Scar.

Cannon came out of the doghouse to play very well in 2016. Guards Mason and Thuney are young and physical and should only improve. Andrews is an undersized but smart center and he’s not going anywhere.

Unless there is an injury somewhere, I see no changes happening along the starting lineup for the Patriots offensive line in 2017.

Near Roster Locks: Cameron Fleming, Ted Karras
Last season both Fleming and Karras were the top backups for the tackles and the interior line last year. They both have the inside track for the top backup positions again as well. Karras has the versatility to play either guard or back-up the center David Andrews. He’s not the most athletic guy but he’s physical and tough.

Fleming was the swing tackle last year and will be trying to hold off the rookies Garcia and McDermott from taking that job away from him. He’s versatile and can fill in at either left or right tackle, something that is easier said than done.

On the Bubble: LaAdrian Waddle, Conor McDermott, Cole Croston, Andrew Jelks, Max Rich, Jamil Douglas, Chase Farris, Jason King, James Ferentz
The Patriots have plenty of depth at the backup positions and these players are likely to be fighting for reps in training camp and a most likely only one or two slots.

Waddle has been a backup tackle and a blocking tight end but with the depth, at that position, he’ll be pushed hard for a roster spot. McDermott is another intriguing prospect. He’s a guy that the Patriots used a pair of picks to get, albeit in the sixth round of the draft. Would he pass thru waivers if the team tries to stash him on the practice squad? That would seem to be his best bet to make the roster, at least this summer, unless the inevitable injuries occur.

With a lot of bodies in camp, this will be an intriguing group to watch. They’ll have the entire preseason to make a case for sticking, so staying healthy and on the field, will be of primary importance.

Our next primer will have the Patriots defensive line… stay tuned.

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

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

Daily Notebook: Monday Patriots News and Notes 5/1

Ian Logue
May 1, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

After a busy weekend, here’s a look at this morning’s top stories:

Quality over Quantity In the 2017 Draft For the Patriots – The NFL Draft is typically one of the biggest weekends of the year for most Patriots fans who follow it intently, but given how few picks New England finished with in terms of selections (4), it will certainly go down as one of the most memorable due to how few they walked away with.

As Mike Reiss of ESPN pointed out on Sunday the four selections tied the 1995 San Francisco 49ers for the fewest draft picks by a defending Super Bowl champion, but New England seemingly made the most of the players they came away with.

They grabbed two offensive linemen and two defensive ends this weekend, infusing youth into two important positions for this team.

In Antonio Garcia and Conor McDermott the Patriots have two young players they can begin grooming for the tackle position on the offensive line, whether it’s for an eventual replacement for Nate Solder or simply to add quality depth in case of injury to either Solder or Marcus Cannon.  Protecting Brady is obviously a priority as the quarterback turns 40 and after losing right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who seems appears poised to retire, it’s a wise move for a team that is lacking depth behind their two starters.

In Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise Jr. the Patriots have two young defensive ends to help boost their pass rush, which is certainly good news for a team that has had their share of trouble getting to the quarterback.  Rob Ninkovich has played a lot of snaps over his career and at 33 may not have many seasons left, so developing players behind him is a good move.  Should either player emerge into a role player in 2017, it will only be that much better.

Overall, it’s not a bad draft for a team that was already in good shape thanks to what has been a pretty strong offseason. Thanks to this weekend, they’ve grabbed some terrific young pieces for the future, which if they pan out, will be another reminder of the quality of work that continues to be done by Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio and New England’s scouting department.


Conor McDermott brings versatility to New England.

McDermott Has Versatility, NFL Pedigree Working For Him – While we spotlighted Wise Jr. on Sunday and the fact his father is a former NFL player, recently drafted tackle Conor McDermott also falls into that category.

His brother, Kevin, is a long-snapper for the Vikings, which is a skill that McDermott claims is also in his arsenal, as well as the fact he’s had plenty of experience as a tight end.

“I used to long snap in high school,” said McDermott during his conference call on Saturday.  “And I did some back up during my college career.”

He also said that he was a tight end for his entire life prior to moving over to tackle in college.

“I was a tight end my whole life and then when I got to UCLA they moved me right to tackle, and then I did some tackle-tight end formations and some goal line and short-yardage for my first two years before I became a full-time left-tackle starter,” he said.

McDermott went on to say that he’s familiar with Nate Solder after having studied him in college, and he admitted he’s “been a fan of his for a while”.  He also went on to say he’s looking forward to meeting him.

The rookie also said that there’s some good chemistry between he and fellow draft pick Antonio Garcia, with the two having spent time working together at the Senior Bowl.

“We spent a good amount of time together,” said McDermott. “We were on the same team and practiced together every day, watched film together in meetings. He’s just a great guy. I’m happy for him and excited to work together.”

Needless to say, he sounds like a great fit and another great addition to the defending champs.

Patriots Add 17 Undrafted Free Agents – One part of the offseason that has become more of a focus in recent years has been keeping an eye on undrafted free agents, which has been fun to watch thanks to the players who have emerged from those ranks over the years for the Patriots.

New England loaded up with 17 undrafted players, although there may be changes still yet to come prior to when camp opens in a couple of months due to the roster shuffling that will likely take place between now and then.

One interesting story is the fact New England added a pair of twin brothers to the mix in Cody Hollister (WR, Arkansas) and Jacob Hollister (TE, Wyoming), which will likely be a fun story to follow later this summer as the two were recently profiled by FoxSports.com.

I was such a cute baby (on the right haha)

A post shared by Cody Hollister (@codyhollister) on

According to published reports, here is a list of the other additions from this weekend:

  1. LeShun Daniels Jr. (RB, Iowa)
  2. Jason King (OL, Perdue)
  3. Harvey Langi (LB, Brigham Young)
  4. Josh Augusta (OT, Missouri)
  5. Corey Vereen (DE, Tennessee)
  6. Austin Carr (WR, Northwestern)
  7. Dwayne Thomas (CB, LSU)
  8. Kenny Moore (CB, Valdosta State)
  9. Max Rich (OT, Harvard)
  10. David Jones (S, Richmond)
  11. Damarius Travis (S, Minnesota)
  12. Adam Butler (DL, Vanderbilt)
  13. D.J. Killings (CB, Central Florida)
  14. Cole Croston (OT, Iowa)
  15. Jason Thompson (S, Utah)

As for who will be the next Malcolm Butler (2014), David Andrews (2015) or Ryan Allen (2013), among plenty of other past standouts, that remains to be seen.  But if history is any indication, it will certainly be an area to keep an eye on during training camp to see if any one of these players ends up being this year’s surprise heading into this season.


Kirk Minihane of WEEI called Edelman “Essentially Brain Dead” Friday.

WEEI’s Minihane: Edelman a “Dummy” and “Essentially Brain Dead”, Brady’s Charity “Shady” – If you listened to WEEI on Friday, Kirk Minihane of “Kirk and Callahan” dropped some disturbing comments about Julian Edelman along with questionable remarks toward quarterback Tom Brady.

The topic of discussion came about surrounding the fact Brady and Edelman are taking part in an upcoming “Wealth and Success Summit” on June 8th in Boston with motivational speaker Tony Robbins.

While Minihane and Callahan disagreed with the two players being part of the event, Minihane went over the top with his criticism and had choice words in particular for Edelman.

“What I would say is, again, it gives you an insight into how empty Brady is,” said Minihane of the fact the quarterback is appearing at the event.

“He’s not empty, just because he has different priorities than you…” responded Callahan.

“If you think Tony Robbins, that crap he’s peddling is real, you are as dumb as the day is long,” said Minihane to Callahan.  “That’s what I would say.”

From there they played a clip from one of Robbins’ appearances, and that only infuriated Minhane further, which sparked one of his usual rants.

“I mean, really, and Brady will be sitting there with his notebook taking notes while this idiot [referring to Robbins] talks and slings his crap,” said Minihane.

“Julian Edelman, who is essentially brain-dead,” Minihane continued, “really is going to sit there and … ”

“Julian Edelman?” responded Callahan.  “You’re going to pay $6000 to hear Julian Edelman? …”

“Talk?” barked Minihane.  “I don’t want to listen to him talk here at the station for free every week.”

If you listen to Minihane with any regularity, you’ll notice a pattern of ripping someone, and then coming back with “I like that person … “.  He took same approach with Brady as the segment continued.

“So Brady has only so much time, according to Gerry [Callahan], for Best Buddies but he can take a day with Anthony Robbins, a full day, right?  O.K., just want to get that straight,” said Minihane.

“This is frightening, this seriously creeps me out.  I like Brady, he’s a nice guy, our interactions with him, he’s always been a good guy with us.  I know he does a lot of charity work.  I like the guy.  I’m actually worried about him.  I want to go there, I’ll pay the $6000, I’m going to throw a net over Brady and bring him somewhere and try and bring him back to reality because his mind has snapped.  It’s snapped, he’s snapped.”

“This is so below Brady.  This is so minor league.  This is Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback ever, the greatest football player who ever lived, a king in this town, he’s married to Gisele [Bundchen], the two of them are worth about $600 million and he’s going to schlepp to some hotel with Anthony Robbins and that dummy, Edelman?  For this talk?  Am I the only one who thinks this is utter madness?  Evidently.”

Speaking about Minihane’s praise for Brady’s charity work, he was singing a different tune earlier in the week.  Minihane went after the quarterback following the Globe (a newspaper he’s openly admitted he can’t stand and has a strong dislike for editor Joe Sullivan) releasing the piece about Brady’s charity, Best Buddies, last weekend, questioning where the money was being allocated.  Minihane surprisingly took the newspaper’s side and claimed Brady and the charity weren’t being transparent.


Minihane accused Brady of not being transparent with his charity last week using the word “shady.”

“So a charity that never disclosed it, gives $500,000 a year for his charity and what Brady does with it is things like, $250,000, if you donate to Best Buddies, there’s a chance that money is going to his high school in San Mateo, they get $250,000,” said Minihane.  “If you give Best Buddies $100, if you’re a guy making $35,000 a year, you give Best Buddies $100 because you love Brady, just know, there’s a chance it’s going to Santa Monica Catholic Community, or the TB12 Foundation, a charity formed by Brady in 2015 to support clients of his Foxboro-based TB12 Fitness and Nutrition company.  That’s in the world of shady to me right there.  I’ll say it.”

“Ohio State University, $50,000, in honor of Ed Razek, that’s where your money may be going, a former Victoria Secret executive who is said to have helped launch Brady’s romance with Gisele, in 2006.  $50,000 Michigan, obviously Dana Farber, Mission of Hope Haiti, Navy Seal Foundation, a charity for Tom Martinez, Brady’s coach who died five years ago. $30,000 went to a nursing facility in Minnesota that cared for Brady’s grandfather before he died in 2016.”

He then argued with Mut Mutnanski about if giving to the nursing facility was a good cause (again, Brady’s grandfather was cared for there which obviously holds a special place in the heart of the quarterback) and proceeded to argue with Mutnanski about whether or not Brady’s own foundation was also good cause.

“You think the TB12 Foundation is a good cause?” barked Minihane.  “Based on what?”

From there, Minihane claimed Brady and Best Buddies weren’t being transparent about where the money was going, which Mutnanski tried in vain to explain to him that the information is there if Minihane just “does the work” and looks for it, which it is.  Co-host Gerry Callahan also tried to reason with him, but failed as well.

Minihane, who joined the show a few years ago and has injected some life back into WEEI’s morning show, has played an important part in the station taking back the lead in the ratings over 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher and Rich.  But some of his bizarre rants seemingly are said (one can only hope) without him really thinking them through and certainly must test the incredible patience shown by his co-host, along with the two terrific producers WEEI has for that show in Chris Curtis and Ken Laird.

Brady and Edelman both appear weekly on the radio station during the regular season, with Brady being the only one of the two who conducts a weekly interview with Kirk & Callahan’s show every Monday during the season.  Edelman usually appears in the afternoon with Ordway, Merloni and Fauria and since WEEI owns the rights to Patriots Monday, that’s the primary reason why those two players appear on there each week.

Needless to say it would be great if Minihane could tone it down and stick to the things he does really well, like interviews like these, instead of these rants that likely wouldn’t be received positively with either player if they were made aware of them.

It’s been a rough road for Minihane, who has faced multiple suspensions over the years and last season cost the station weekly interviews with Mike Lombardi and has alienated others.  One would believe that costing the station a weekly interview with a player like Brady – or Edelman for that matter – likely wouldn’t be something that would go over too well with the station.

Brady’s said in the past he’s a very positive person and tries to avoid negative situations.  Despite that, it’s safe to say the veteran quarterback wouldn’t be feeling overly positive about Minihane’s comments.  Knowing Minihane, who already predicted Brady’s impending demise two seasons ago, there will most likely be more to come.