Tag Archives: Martellus Bennett

Martellus Bennett Released by the Patriots

Steve Balestrieri
March 7, 2018 at 5:35 pm ET

In an unsurprising move, the Patriots have released TE Martellus Bennett. Bennett had stated after the Super Bowl that he wants to continue to play football in 2018, but it won’t be, at least initially with the New England Patriots.

The Patriots released the veteran tight end on Wednesday afternoon. It is unknown whether they tried to work a deal to restructure his contract that would count for $6.2 million dollars against the salary cap. No one expected him back for that amount.

TE Martellus Bennett hauls a Brady pass in 2016 minicamp. (SBalestrieri photo)

The soon-to-be 31-year-old tight end hinted at retirement, especially after he struggled with the Packers and was bothered by a bad shoulder. In seven games, he caught just 24 passes for 233 yards with no touchdowns and was roundly criticized as the Packers showed him the door. Especially after returning to New England. He played in just two games for the Pats before going on injured reserve due to a hamstring issue as well as his previous shoulder issues.

With Bennett’s release, it would seem that either he wouldn’t consider a restructure or the Patriots expect Rob Gronkowski back …or they don’t believe that he can hold up any longer…possibly a combination of all three.

Bennett gets the benefit of being released early and he doesn’t have to wait for the feeding frenzy of free agency to sign anywhere. He can find himself a home anywhere, but it doesn’t appear to be in either New England or Green Bay in 2018.

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 3-4, & AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
March 4, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 3-4, & AFC East Notes

This week some light was finally shed on what the illness was that sidelined Patriots offensive tackle Tony Garcia last season. Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reported that Garcia suffered from blood clots in his lungs citing a source. Because of that, Garcia was placed on NFI and was lost for the season.

He was placed on blood thinners which caused him to lose 40 pounds. Supposedly, he’s back in the weight room and is expected to make a full recovery. However, his return to the field is uncertain at this time.

Some other good news is that LB Harvey Langi is expected to be a full-participant in the Patriots off-season workouts. Langi too was placed on NFI after both he and his wife were severely injured when their car was rear-ended at a traffic light in Foxboro. Langi and his wife are reportedly fully recovered and he’s expected back on the field.

Combine Fast Trackers: Things are beginning to heat up at the 2018 NFL Combine. It is always intriguing to watch some player’s stock rise or fall depending on their performance there. Although most coaches believe that the most important factors are the medicals and/or the interviews.

One player whose stock rose quickly last season was Grafton, Massachusetts native and UConn alum Obi Melifonwu who drafted by the Raiders. His first NFL season was marred by injuries and he appeared in just five games. He was placed on IR with a hip injury that required surgery. We ran into him this week, as he was back in Mass. and he’s almost fully healed now and said that he should be ready to go once the Raiders kick off their workouts.  

Patriots Receive 4th Round Compensatory Pick in the NFL Draft:
The NFL conducted the coin flip between the Raiders and the 49ers in regards to the upcoming NFL Draft and the Patriots compensation in the Jimmy Garoppolo trade is now settled. The coin flip was done at the NFL Combine and the 49ers won the toss which means they’ll get the 9th overall pick in the draft. The teams will rotate picks in the second round which means the Patriots 2nd round pick via SF will be # 43.

With the added selection, it brings their total draft picks to just six this season.
#31 (round 1)
#43 (round 2)
#63 (round 2)
#95 (round 3)
#136 (round 4)
#205 (round 6)

Deep Running Back Class May Help The Pats in Lewis/Burkhead Situation:
A lot of people are already salivating over the group of talented running backs in this year’s deep class at the NFL Draft in the event that the Patriots will lose either Dion Lewis and/or Rex Burkhead, perhaps both.

We’ve read that the free agent hype on both is heating up. It is often difficult to gauge that before free agency starts because often times it is created by the players’ agents trying to inflate the players’ worth. We aren’t saying that it the case here, just that it has happened before, we won’t really know until the official tampering period begins.

So, while the blow could definitely be softened by dipping into this class of backs that are out there in the draft if either or both Lewis and Burkhead move on, it can also work in the Patriots favor in the opposite way. It could help them retain their services.

The free agent market may not lend itself to overpaying and high bidding on running backs since the draft class is so deep. So that may work in the team’s favor if they decide to make a play to retain their services. If history is any indication, the Patriots will let the players test the market and find what their worth is, and then make a move to keep them here in Foxboro for 2018 and beyond.

Will He or Won’t He? Gronkowski Situation No Clearer:
Last week we wrote that the decision by Rob Gronkowski on whether to retire would be best served if he made it earlier rather than later. Despite reports from national media sources that they expect Gronkowski to be in uniform in 2018, his agent Drew Rosenhaus has stated that he hasn’t made his decision yet and that it was going to take some time.

Rosenhaus appeared with Mike Florio on his “ProFootballTalk Live” show and threw water on the reports that Gronkowski is all set to return. The team has decisions to make with both Martellus Bennett and Dwayne Allen, neither will be back for what their contracts are calling for but regardless, they’ll have to look to the future.

A couple of names to check out in Indianapolis include Oklahoma TE Mark Andrews, who caught 62 passes for 958 yards and eight TDs last year in Norman. South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert is an intriguing player with the Gronkowski-like style of catching and blocking. Despite being from a smaller school, he’s one of the top prospects at the position. And I’d be remiss without mentioning a Gamecock and the SC offense has a good tight end coming out, in Hayden Hurst, who is a bit older due to a baseball career as a pitcher that flamed out due to control issues but he’s a very good receiver with one drop (1) against 100 receptions.

Pats Need to Get Younger at WR This Season:
It appears that Julian Edelman is rehabbing extremely well from his preseason ACL surgery in 2017. With he and Malcolm Mitchell due back from their respective injuries, the Patriots, on paper, would be fairly set at wide receiver.

Edelman, Mitchell, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Kenny Britt return. Danny Amendola is a free agent but is expected to be at least courted to return in 2018. But age is creeping up on this group. Edelman will turn 32 in May, Amendola, 33 during the season, Britt turns 30 and Hogan will turn 31 this season. Cooks is the only youngster of the group. Dorsett is also young but he had trouble catching on with the offense a year ago and was barely used. Mitchell’s knee issues may be chronic and will be monitored moving forward. That was the big knock on him coming out of college.

One receiver to keep an eye on is NC State’s, Jaylen Samuels. Samuels is actually listed as a tight end but will probably be a slot receiver in the NFL. NESN’s Doug Kyed wrote an intriguing piece on the Wolf Pack’s Swiss Army knife. Why will he change positions? Samuels is 5’11, 223 pounds. He caught 77 passes in his final season, but he can run the ball, catch it, block and even throw it, completing 2-3 passes. He’s a guy that can do a bit of everything…even running back kicks. Bill Belichick loves versatile players and Samuels fits the bill (no pun intended) to a tee.

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Sign Davis, “the right place to be”:
The Buffalo Bills have signed FA Vontae Davis to a one-year deal that has $3.5 million in guaranteed money. Davis signed because he was released last season and was allowed to sign anywhere he chose immediately.

For Davis, the selling point was the young talent that coach Sean McDermott is assembling around Orchard Park and his belief that he can help. Davis on speaking to the media this week said although it was his first visit, his mind kept returning to Buffalo.

“They made me feel at home. As I went on my visit and kind of evaluated, it felt like I was just drawn to Buffalo because of how everybody made me feel. I feel like they run their organization with a lot of integrity. They respect their players. I just felt like it was the place to be.

“Even though Buffalo was one of my first visits, as I evaluated things, it seems like it just stuck with me throughout all my visits. It had a huge impression on me.”

The Bills also interviewed Louisville QB Lamar Jackson at the NFL Combine. It is intriguing because the system that Buffalo will use on offense, the Erhardt-Perkins system that Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll will use, is what Jackson ran at Louisville so, if the Bills do select him, he’ll fit seamlessly into it.

Dolphins Swing Big Trade to Nab Edge Rusher Robert Quinn:
The Miami Dolphins have swapped a reported fourth-round draft pick to the LA Rams for edge rusher Robert Quinn. The two teams also swapped sixth-round picks. The trade will not become official until the league year begins on March 14.

Quinn, 27, had 8.5 sacks for the Rams and has two years remaining on his deal which is set to pay him approximately $24 million over the course of the deal. The Rams dealt him in essence for salary cap space.

Quinn paired with Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh, gives the Dolphins three very good pass rushers for their defense in 2018.

In a Not-so-surprising Move, the Jets Release Wilkerson:
The New York Jets released defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson on Wednesday, after a seven-year hitch that ended badly for both parties. Wilkerson was benched for the final three games of the season for being perpetually late for and sometimes skipping meetings altogether. For a player of his caliber and what he’s being paid, it was unacceptable.

The Jets cut Wilkerson before March 16 or else his $16.75 million salary for 2018 would have become fully guaranteed.

Team officials question his passion for the game once he got paid. He was the recipient of a  five-year, $86 million contract that included $37 million fully guaranteed at signing in 2016 after a career year in 2015.

Since that time, his play has gone down while his absences from team meetings have gone up.

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.

Gronkowski, Patriots Story Takes a Bad Turn, It is Decision Time

Steve Balestrieri
February 28, 2018 at 9:40 am ET

Well, file this one under unexpected developments. Apparently, the rumors about Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski possibly stepping away from the game and retiring are true after all.

NBC Sports’ Tom E. Curran unleashed a startling report on his Monday night show of “Boston Sports Tonight” that Gronkowski considered stepping away during training camp of 2017.

Despite having an outstanding season, Curran reports that Gronkowski didn’t enjoy himself during the season and was growing increasingly frustrated.

“(Gronkowski) did not have a good time despite the fact his body was in a better situation than it’s been in a long time — ever maybe. Despite the fact that he’s one of the most dominant players at any skill position, it’s starting to wear on him physically, mentally, the atmosphere in New England.”

Curran reports that during the rigors of training camp, there was a growing discontent with the training staff over the workout regimens and that Gronk was “pissed.” That could mean a variety of things but it may mean more of the Alex Guerrero saga will raise its head again. Gronkowski supposedly has been seeking out Brady’s personal body guru and there is a chance that it was a sore subject with the training staff.

If that is the case…this won’t go away easily. Curran added, “I don’t think that some of the principal players on this team were really happy with the atmosphere and the climate … they still need to have a hell of an air-clearing at Patriot Place to get these guys back.”

Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal, approached Gronkowski during the season about Gronk using the Guerrero method and that the Patriots tried to stop him from writing about the TB12 method. In the end, Gronkowski wanted to talk about it and he gave Daniels the story anyway.

It certainly would seem that there needs to be a sit-down with the veteran leaders of the team with the coaches and ownership and clear whatever bad air is still lingering over what may have been a tense atmosphere in Gillette last season.

Our original thought here over the retirement rumors was that Gronkowski was just frustrated at the way the season ended and would take stock of his situation and bounce back. It was also a nice way to get the team to sweeten the pot a little bit with a contract extension.

One could hardly argue with that line. He’s suffered a myriad of injuries in his NFL career and has grown increasingly frustrated at the one set of rules for defending him as opposed to everyone else. Opponents get away with a lot more leeway when trying to contain him, with a ton of grabbing, holding, hitting well after the five-yard limit as well as targeting. We saw what happened late in the season when he blew up against Buffalo and took out his frustrations with a cheap shot after a play that resulted in a one-game suspension.

But this is different. This changes the landscape quite a bit. Curran’s source has to be with Gronkowski himself or someone within his close circle, no doubt a member of his family. And the source of frustration goes much deeper obviously. His family has always been fiercely protective of him and they’ve always had his best interests at heart.

When talking about the Patriots offense, the three most valuable players are Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, and Gronkowski. They won the Super Bowl last year without Gronkowski but with Edelman.This year without Edelman but with Gronkowski, they went back to the Super Bowl but lost. Although it was hardly the fault of anything offensively to do with Gronkowski.

Gronkowski caught 69 passes for 1,084 and eight touchdowns and was named to his fourth First-Team All-Pro selection of his career in 2017. In the playoffs, he added 16 catches, including nine for 116 yards and two touchdowns in the Super Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles.

If Gronkowski is truly serious about retiring, then the team would probably want him to do it now rather than later this summer. The Patriots will have some serious decisions to make. With both Martellus Bennett and Dwayne Allen free agents, they may opt for both, one of which or neither to return. Those decisions may rest on if Gronkowski decides to call it a career at 28.

But make no mistake, regardless of what Gronkowski’s decision is, neither Bennett nor Allen will play for the team with what they are currently slotted to earn. That won’t change. Either or both have some serious renegotiating to do. If both aren’t brought back and Gronkowski does indeed retire, tight end becomes a huge area for an upgrade as that will leave them with Jacob Hollister and Will Tye.

No can fault Gronkowski if he’s had enough, he’s been thru a slew of surgeries, more than many players have that have played much longer than him. If this has to do with hurt feelings over his training regimen, then the parties need to sit down at Gillette and get the dialog going. The clock is ticking, and it is decision time for everyone involved.

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 Possible Cap Casualties in 2018

Steve Balestrieri
February 15, 2018 at 8:00 am ET

We’ve been posting our free agent profiles for the Patriots in the offseason of 2018 as we’re trying to come to grips who will return and who won’t. This post will look at who may not return this year.

It is interesting to note via our friend Miguel @Patscap, that the Patriots have just about $13 million dollars (13.14 to be exact) to work within the salary cap this spring. That isn’t nearly enough. So what do they do? Well for starters, they’ll approach a few players to re-do their contracts and convert some of that money into signing bonuses so that it eases up some of their cap hits on the team this season.

But they’ll also be looking to cut their ties with some players or ask them to take significant pay cuts if they want to return. In no particular order here are some Patriots players who may get released in a salary cap scenario.  

TE Martellus Bennett: Bennett carries the biggest cap hit of all of the players listed here. After he signed with Green Bay last offseason, he was suffering from a shoulder injury that required surgery and Bennett was at peace with the decision and planned on announcing his retirement.

But the Patriots called and he returned to New England where he performed very well in 2016 and was instrumental in helping the Patriots win Super Bowl LI. But soon after he hurt his hamstring and was placed on IR after just a few weeks with the Pats.

Bennett may take all the guesswork out of the equation and decide to retire. If he does not, then the Patriots can ask him to take a big pay cut or just release him. If he’s released, that will save the team, $6.1 million dollars in the salary cap.

TE Dwayne Allen: Allen came over to the team after Bennett left last year in free agency. Allen was a very good blocker, which has always been his strength but really struggled in the passing game. It wasn’t a lack of effort that slowed him but he was really laboring out there in the passing game.

His struggles were so great that it was the reason the Patriots brought back Bennett late in the year, to begin with. With Gronk healthy last year, that limited his targets but even when the big man was out, he barely registered in the passing game.

Could the team bring him back in 2018? Absolutely. But at $5,000,000? That is really doubtful. This could be a scenario where the team just decides to move in another direction and cut their ties with him. That would be another $5,000,000 in savings.

DT Alan Branch: My, oh my what a difference a year makes. Branch, since coming to New England has played some of the best football of his career. Fresh off of the win in Super Bowl LI, he was given a two-year deal and it was hoped that he’d live out that contract and give the team that immovable object inside that he’s done so well.

But when big men, such as Branch go, their game goes really quickly. Branch started the season slowly, which wasn’t unusual but he never caught on to where he was in the past. When he did play this season, he was often a shell of his former self. Granted he was dinged up for a good part of 2017, but at 33, his best days are probably behind him.

Branch was a healthy scratch for this season’s Super Bowl along with Malcolm Butler, how crazy is that after the big roles each has played. Cutting Branch would save the team $3.55 million, this move is sadly, going to happen.

LB Shea McClellin: I liked what McClellin brought to the table in 2016, he could do a little bit of everything. He could rush the passer, cover in the secondary and act as a middle linebacker and support the run when needed. His versatility was such that they asked to do several things and he did them well.

But he suffered a concussion, a pretty severe one in training camp and was placed on IR at the beginning of the season. The team brought him back midway thru the year and while practicing during his 3-week return window, he suffered a setback and was lost for the year with yet another concussion.

With a lack of pass rushers, the Patriots could opt to let him come back and work his way back into the lineup. But long-term health concerns for the player trump the team’s needs. They should just encourage McClellin to get on with retirement and enjoy life. If they cut McClellin, they’d save. $2.1 million in cap space.

LB David Harris: Harris was released by the Jets and the Patriots scooped him up last year. Harris was the consummate professional and approached every day like he was the starter and worked hard.  But he obviously lost more than a step and couldn’t keep up with the flow of the game any longer.

Harris played very sparingly (180 snaps) for the season while appearing in 10 games. With the lack of depth at linebacker, that had to be crushing for the proud veteran. He only appeared against run-heavy teams on early downs but did show he still brought a pop in the trenches.

But his lack of speed was the reason he too was a healthy scratch for the Super Bowl. If Harris is cut, the savings for the team will count $2.1 million against the salary cap.

RB Mike Gillislee: Gillislee came over from the Buffalo Bills last season and began the season as the Patriots’ lead back. While most look upon his year as a bust, it didn’t have to do with his success as a runner as much as it did his lack of skills in the passing game. Once the team decided to go with Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead, Gillislee was pushed into being a healthy scratch.

Lewis and Burkhead gave the team the run/pass option whereas Gillislee was basically a threat just to run so the coaches decided on a switch. And the offense was much more difficult to stop. Cutting Gillislee would save the team $2.1 million in salary cap savings.

But both Lewis, Burkhead and backup Brandon Bolden are all free agents. That leaves Gillislee and James White as the only pure running backs on the roster. They could opt to hold onto him for that reason. Or they could cut him and use the saved money to bring back Lewis or Burkhead.

These cap savings would push the Patriots up to the $30,000,000 dollar salary cap cushion, due to the Top 51 players rule in the salary cap. But that scenario is a much better one than say $13.14 million.

And of course, for every player cut, another has to be there to take his place. Two young players who we saw very little a year ago are top draft choice Derek Rivers and UDFA Harvey Langi. It will be interesting to see if they can carve out a role for themselves this year in camp. We’ll have more on them and others in the upcoming weeks.

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

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

New England Patriots 2017: The Year in Review

Steve Balestrieri
December 30, 2017 at 11:18 am ET

While we’re waiting for the Jets game on Sunday to round out the regular season, it will also mark the end of the calendar year 2017. And it has been quite a year for the Patriots. One thing that can be said about this team is that they can be many things, but boring is never one of them. The year began with a tough divisional win over Houston, to the crushing of the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game, to the epic comeback in the Super Bowl over the Falcons. And that was just the beginning of the year.

Free agency, the 2017 NFL Draft, Mini-camp and Training Camp set the table for a very exciting year. The slow start out of the gates made for intriguing storylines but in the end, the team has won 12 games with one still left to play. The legacy of this team has yet to be written, and that won’t begin for another two weeks. In a perfect world, the team would have four games remaining to play.

So here is our list for some of the big moments of 2017:
Best Moment:
James White’s touchdown to win the Super Bowl. What seemed like a pipedream in the third quarter came to fruition as Tom Brady and the Patriots offense cruised down the field in overtime with an epic drive to win the game. Watching White dive across the goal line was a surreal moment that will be an iconic moment in team history right up there with the Malcolm Butler interception.

Honorable Mention: Julian Edelman’s catch to keep the tying drive alive in the SB. It was a tremendous effort that seemed crazy at the time and was caught perfectly by the cameras as frame by frame, it was an obvious catch.

There was a couple of others, Cooks winning TD catch against the Texans and Harmon’s game-clinching INT vs Pittsburgh were great moments for the team.

Worst Moment:
Seeing Julian Edelman go down in the preseason. It was the beginning of an epidemic of injuries this year. After the year Edelman had in 2016, especially with the Super Bowl, confidence was high in 2017. It wasn’t to be.

Dis-Honorable Mention: Just about anytime Brady has an off-game, we’re subjected to all of these hot takes “Is this the beginning of the end?” yada, yada…stop. No Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Martellus Bennett, Chris Hogan, James White, Rex Burkhead and others and he puts up an MVP-type season? Who else does that? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? This nonsense gets old. A week ago without all those weapons, the Patriots put up 37 points against a pretty good defense and what was a playoff team. And he had a bad game?

The trade of Jimmy Garoppolo is still incomplete at the moment. While no one wanted to see him leave the Pats, his success so far isn’t an immediate ticket to Canton and an automatic Super Bowl bid just yet. We’ll see how he does when teams have a lot of tape to watch on him. But right now, the results are very impressive.

Best Addition- Veteran:
Brandin Cooks came in and logged 1000 yards receiving with a game to play. From the beginning of mini-camp, we’ve watched this guy turn on the jets (no pun intended) and just imagine how effective he’d be if the other guys were all healthy. Has he been perfect? No, but he’s brought a dynamic to this offense that was sorely needed.

Honorable Mentions: Rex Burkhead and Stephon Gilmore. Burkhead hasn’t been able to stay healthy this season, but when he’s in the lineup the offense is very difficult to slow down. Gilmore despite being the whipping boy for the fans and media due to his contract has been the better starting corner overall.

Best Addition – Rookie
Deatrich Wise has had an under-the-radar solid season where he’s put up similar numbers to Chandler Jones’ rookie season while logging far fewer snaps. Wise had a very solid training camp where he appeared much more mature and seasoned than a guy entering his first NFL training camp. The moment was never too big for him and he’s had a solid rookie campaign.

Honorable Mention: Adam Butler was a guy few if any, gave any shot at making the team in July. But he worked hard and made a few splash plays every day in training camp. He’s become a nice rotational piece for the defensive line.

Biggest Loss:
This one is a tie between Chris Long, Rob Ninkovich and Dont’a Hightower since we listed Edelman above. I loved what Chris Long brought to the defense and when he left via free agency, I thought it was going to hurt. And seeing what he’s doing in Philly has not changed my opinion at all. Losing Long and Jabaal Sheard in free agency was a big loss on the edge.

Chris Long (left) was a key member of the defense in 2016

But the team added Kony Ealy in a trade and drafted Derek Rivers and Wise in April. Rivers was an intriguing piece, who had just begun to catch on when he was lost for the year due to injury. But the team still had the veteran Ninkovich for one more season…they thought.

Ninkovich’s abrupt retirement during training camp coupled with Ealy’s inability to catch on and Rivers’ injury really left the team strapped on the edge. It has been an issue since Week 1 of the season. Ninkovich was never going to be listed as the most talented guy at his position but when the games were on the line he was at his best.

Hightower was the one guy this defense could ill-afford to lose. The talented, physical but oft-injured linebacker/edge player from Alabama re-signed to New England in the offseason and can do a multitude of different things; play MLB, OLB, DE and be an effective blitzer as well. If the team falls short of its goal this postseason, Hightower’s absence will no doubt play a huge factor.

Biggest Surprise:
Dion Lewis has taken over the Patriots backfield in the second half of the season and has been simply outstanding in doing so. With a very crowded backfield during training camp, many had Lewis in not even making the roster. Early in the season, the Patriots were going more with Mike Gillislee and James White and Lewis’ snaps were virtually non-existent. This led many to believe that Lewis would be gone by the trade deadline.

Thankfully that didn’t happen. He’s been outstanding in the running game and is averaging more yards after contact than any back in the NFL. He had his best game as a pro last week and the arrow is continuing to point up.

Honorable mention: While I can’t really say I was surprised by Burkhead’s success, we all thought he was a great fit for the Patriots, but the way he worked himself in as an integral part of the offense WAS a surprise, taking away reps from James White.

Biggest Disappointment:
Derek Rivers injury was a huge disappointment here. While many will point to his just being a rookie and coming from a small program at Youngstown State, I was intrigued by his measurables and watched him closely at training camp and it seemed the light had gone on and he was going to be an impressive guy to watch. Hopefully, he’ll be ready to go in 2018.

Honorable Mentions: The accident suffered by Harvey Langi and his wife was a scary reminder that these things can happen to anyone. Langi and his wife were stopped at a red light in Foxboro when another vehicle slammed them at close to 50 mph. Both had to be cut out of the vehicle with the jaws of life. He’s another guy that the defense could have used this year. Hopefully, both are recovered fully by now. Kony Ealy…. Coulda, shoulda, woulda…

Here’s hoping that 2018 gets off to an even better start. Happy New Year.

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

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

New England Patriots News 12-3, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
December 3, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 11-26, & AFC East Notes.

The Patriots and Bills game today marks the 115th time the two teams have met. And while the crowd at Orchard Park is loud and boisterous, the Patriots and specifically Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski have had great success there. In the Bill Belichick era, the Patriots have owned the Bills in Buffalo, winning the last five meetings and 12 of their last 13 up there. It will be interesting to see if they can get out to fast start today that they’ve been doing well, especially in the last month.

Buffalo has been outscored in every quarter but the fourth, coincidentally, the Patriots have outscored their opponents in every quarter but the fourth, so something has to give… right?

To Remove Brady Early in Blowouts? Belichick Doesn’t Think So:
With the Patriots seemingly comfortably ahead in the win over Miami, questions naturally were being asked, if it was time to remove Brady and not risk him to injury. Dan Fouts even mentioned it on the telecast. So, after the game is over, the media did its job and asked Bill Belichick if he thought about taking Brady out. Belichick, already not happy with the somewhat at times the sloppy performance of the team, got snarky with the reporter, in this case, Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald. It went down like this:

Guregian: “Did you have any thoughts about taking Tom Brady out of the game late with the score out of hand?”
Belichick: “What, on the kneel-downs? What difference does it make?”
Guregian: “What about before that?”
Belichick: “No. I mean it’s easy for you to sit there and say the game is out of hand. I mean, if you watch games in the National Football League, a lot can change in a hurry. The only time I think the game is in hand is when they’re not going to have enough possessions to get the number of points that they need. Sorry, we just see that one totally differently.”

There are certainly cases where removing Brady from the game is a good idea. And while there have been times that I’d be inclined to agree, Sunday wasn’t one of them. When Miami scored with 11 minutes to go, the score of the game was still close enough to warrant Brady remaining in. But it was a legitimate question and Guregian, was within her rights to ask. She isn’t one of those reporters who is looking to pick at anything negative. She’s one of the good guys/gals who put the work in every day at Gillette. To her credit, she asked her questions and didn’t make a big deal of it, unlike some other writers who did later.

Could Belichick have handled that question better? No doubt. One has to think he was still salty about the way the team had played in his mind as he wasn’t looking like a coach whose team had just won by 18 points. Or perhaps the way the Dolphins were playing as they seemed intent on taking as many cheap shots as they could in the second half. But wouldn’t that lend itself to removing Brady from the line of fire?

Injuries Piling Up for the Patriots in 2017:
With both Martellus Bennett and Nate Ebner being placed on IR this week, that brings the total of players on IR or on the non-Football Injury/Illness list to 13 players. Bennett’s loss was not entirely unexpected, the team knew they were taking a risk when he was released from Green Bay with his shoulder that required surgery. It was hoped that he’d be able to play thru it, and he gave them two games but it was too much to bear.

Besides the players on IR, the team has eight questionable players for the Buffalo game this week. If we saw one thing that can derail this team’s chances, it is injuries. In both 2013 and 2015, the team was beset by injuries and that had a big hand in their undoing.

They haven’t reached that tipping point yet but Sunday’s win was a costly one with Ebner, Trey Flowers, Kyle Van Noy, Marquis Flowers, LaAdrian Waddle and Trevor Reilly all leaving via injuries. We’ll see today if those losses last week factor into the game in Orchard Park.

Ebner Loss Difficult to Replace: Bill Belichick wasn’t at a loss for words when describing the value he, and the team placed on Nate Ebner and his role on Special Teams. Ebner was lost for the season after injuring his knee on a fake punt in the first quarter of the Miami game last Sunday.
Ebner’s role as the “personal protector” of the punter. Belichick said, was one of the most difficult spots to play.

“It’s kind of like playing quarterback,” Belichick said. “But you play quarterback for, you call 60 plays a game, 70 plays a game. You only punt five to 10 times. Somewhere in there. But there’s a lot of different variables, … a good personal protector takes all those into consideration, just like a quarterback does. A: Protect the punter. B: He’s the last line of defense. “So a lot of times, even if your protection is not right on the front, if that guy gets the right guy and does the right thing, you still could possibly save a blocked punt by just him doing the right thing, even though somebody else has made a mistake in the front of it.”

“It’s not an easy job at all if you want to do it right and get the most out of it.”

With Ebner out for the season, that job has fallen to Jordan Richards who fulfilled it on Sunday. Pat Chung has also played that position in the past.

Van Noy’s Role Has Evolved to be a Key Member of NE Defense:
Kyle Van Noy is a player that seems like a typical New England Patriots pickup. A former high draft pick that didn’t pan out with his former team, Bill Belichick picks him up in a low-key move and finds a role for the player to be successful.

Kyle Van Noy has become one of the most versatile pieces of the Patriots defense. (SBalestrieri photo)

But in Van Noy’s case, he’s morphed into much more than just a role player in the Patriots defense. Because of injuries to Dont’a Hightower, Shea McClellin, Derek Rivers and Harvey Langi and the retirement of Rob Ninkovich, he’s been moved all over the place. And to his credit, he’s responded well no matter where he’s been asked to play. He’s been the coverage linebacker, the middle linebacker calling the signals as well as the outside rush player on the edge.

“Kyle’s a smart guy,” Belichick said. “Something maybe a little bit different this week. He’s a good communicator, so he’s good at getting other people around him coordinated and in the run spot or when we need to make a call, he’ll make the call, and he’s decisive. He’ll make it with good judgment but also make it decisively so everyone has the confidence to be able to execute it. “So, he does a good job of that. That’s one of the advantages of having him in different positions. And since he’s played other spots, he understands what that person needs to know and maybe what the stress is on.”

Belichick loves players who are versatile and can do multiple things, and while Van Noy may not have been the team’s first to do certain things, [MLB, Ninkovich’s role on the edge], he’s thriving. It was thought that Rivers was going to be groomed to take over that role after being drafted by the team with their first pick in the draft. But a training camp injury sidelined him for the duration of the season. Van Noy still doesn’t get much love around the league’s media types, but Belichick sees his value and that is all that matters,

“Everybody doesn’t have to be able to do 11 different things,” Belichick said. “It’s good to have the guys who can do one thing really well. That’s great, but somewhere along the line with the variety of offenses we see and different formations … for someone to be able to have some versatility to help us handle those multiple situations, it’s a lot easier than having to send guys on and off the field and try to get them matched up and so forth. “If you can just move one or two players around to do that. Guys like Kyle and Pat Chung, Devin [McCourty], guys who give us linebacker to safety, linebacker to defensive end, those kinds of comparable spots, dependent on what we’re facing, there’s a lot of value to that.”

With Ninkovich, Hightower, McClellin, Rivers, and Langi gone, if the Patriots are going to have postseason success in 2017, they’re going to need Van Noy to step up. And he’s shown that he’s been equal to the task.

Belichick- “I’m Really Happy When We Score”:  The Patriots’ Bill Belichick was miked up last week for the Dolphins game and one of the funnier scenes is the reaction of the Patriots bench when the Patriots scored all five of their touchdowns. As the players all celebrate, with the radio call of Bob Socci on the play-by-play nails down the exact time of the scores, Belichick remained stoic. He was asked (jokingly) if he was happy when the team scored.

Belichick’s response was classic Bill, “Yeah, I don’t know,” Belichick said. “I mean, I’m happy when we score. I’m really happy when we score, but there’s a decision to be made on the next play, and the next play and the next series.”

Bill Belichick addresses the media before practice. (SBalestrieri photo)

“So we have a lot of fans that come to the game,” he added. “They cheer. They do a great job. I feel like a big part of my job is decision making and planning ahead for the next play, the next series, the next situation. There is sometimes a little bit of time between a score and the kickoff when you go out on defense or how you’re going to kick the ball off or so forth that I feel like I need to do a good job at that. I don’t want to let the team down in the responsibilities that I have.”

Manning the Least of the Giants Worries: Look, there are a lot of ways to take the Eli Manning benching for the Giants. If his level of play were so awful or he completely lost the team in the huddle, then you’re forced to make a move. But his offensive line has been a sieve. The play-calling by McAdoo has been awful and their playmakers are either hurt, not producing or not utilized right.

If New York had a young QB, like a Patrick Mahomes for example, making a move now makes sense. You’re 2-9 and not going anywhere and you can see what you have in the youngster. But Geno Smith? Are there any illusions about Smith at this point? Does McAdoo really think Smith gives the G-Men a better chance of winning than Manning? Bad move Giants. One can see the entire regime being cleaned out of there as soon as this season is over.

Who Do You Like This Week NFL Week 13:
Last week 11-5 mark. Season Total: 113-63.

This week’s Thursday games I went with Washington (0-1). Now for the rest of the slate:
Vikings at Falcons – Atlanta
Texans at Titans – Tennessee
Chiefs at Jets – Kansas City

Broncos at Dolphins – Miami
Colts at Jaguars – Jacksonville
Buccaneers at Packers – Green Bay
Lions at Ravens – Baltimore
Patriots at Bills – New England
49ers at Bears – San Francisco
Browns at Chargers – Los Angeles

Giants at Raiders – Oakland
Panthers at Saints – New Orleans

Rams at Cardinals – Los Angeles

SNF Eagles at Seahawks – Philadelphia

MNF Steelers at Bengals – Pittsburgh

Next Thursday New Orleans over the Atlanta

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Have to Limit Gronkowski on Defense:

The Buffalo Bills are going to try to reverse the trend of the Patriots dominating on the Bills home turf and to do so, they’ll need a complete team effort. And part of that is the play of the defense covering tight end Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots big man has been at his best when playing before his former hometown. Last year, Gronkowski torched Buffalo for 109 yards and a touchdown on five catches in Orchard Park.

To slow down the big man will take a collective effort between the linebackers and the safeties, the Bills don’t have anyone that can cover Gronk 1-on-1. Preston Brown, on the Bills website, spoke about the difficulty covering Gronkowski.

“When you are matched up against him just try to get some pass breakups and no run after the catch,” Brown said. He always seems like he’s dragging people down the field and people are jumping on his back and he’s still running for 10 yards. No yards after the catch.”

Brown may draw Gronkowski off the line and knows he’ll need to get a good jam to slow him down. “He does everything to get open. He has the speed to get by people. He’s just a good tight end,” Brown said. “You have to find ways to slow him up any way you can. Sometimes you have to double team him. Sometimes you have a safety over top. Anything you can do to slow him down because he’s going to try and make plays, especially coming back home.”

Is Cameron Wake Going to Chase a Ring? Nope, He’s Staying with the Dolphins:

The Miami Dolphins reached the playoff last season with a 10-6 record. But the season of promise in 2017 where they thought they’d make the next step has evaporated. The team is 4-7 and not going anywhere. Not this year. While some players have plenty of time to get a shot at a ring, Cameron Wake doesn’t.

Wake will soon be 36 years old and although the sack specialist is still productive, he needs two sacks to reach his fifth season with 10 or more sacks, he knows he’s closer to the end of his career than he is to the beginning or even the middle.

So, the question that was posed to him by the Miami Herald this week, would he consider leaving South Beach for a winner?  The short answer was no but sometimes these situations take a life of their own. Wake was keeping his eyes on the present for the time being.

“Another team has not crossed my mind for years,” Wake said. “Legacy hasn’t. Again, I’m a laser-focused guy. I’ve got blinders on. That’s way out of left field. I couldn’t care less about that right now.”

So he isn’t considering leaving despite Miami’s lack of success, but he remains optimistic. “Every time’s a little different,” Wake said. “Last time I came back it was because obviously, I felt a tremendous amount of comfort and history here and this organization. I have belief in the players, belief in the coaching staff. The city, fans, all of the above. For me to go somewhere else it would have to be a dramatically different opportunity, and I feel like the best opportunity is right here in Miami.”

Revis Returns to NY, This Time to Face the Jets in a Chiefs Uniform:

The New York Jets face a desperate team in Kansas City today that has been free-falling after a red-hot start. The Chiefs started 5-0 and have since five of their last six. But this week, at least at the start of the game, all eyes will be on the Chiefs newest player, cornerback Darrelle Revis.

Revis was released by the Jets after the 2016 season and has been looking for a team all year. So the injury-bitten Chiefs signed him, hoping he can help their defense regain their winning ways and hold onto a division lead that has suddenly tightened up. For Revis though, returning to New Jersey holds no special motivation.

“I don’t think it’s any extra motivation,” said Revis, to ESPN. “For me throughout my career, it’s always been about timing. I just felt where I was at in my training that I was fit and ready to come back and play football.”

So, Revis was asked, is there any ill-will towards his former team?

“We have a long history … I had an awesome time there. Most of my legacy was with the Jets, so I don’t think it’s anything [personal]. I’m just on another team. This is my fourth ball club throughout my career, and now I’m focused on our team goals and what we’re trying to do as a team and accomplish.”

“For me personally, I don’t think there’s any ill will or anything to take a stab at or get back at the Jets for any reason.” His welcome may not be too warm, however.

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.

Podcast: Patriots Squish The Fish At Gillette Stadium

Russ Goldman
November 29, 2017 at 12:24 pm ET

In this episode, we looked back at the Patriots victory against the Dolphins. Later on, we previewed the upcoming game for the Patriots against the Bills.

Patriots  Week 12  Report Card, Patriots Run Over Miami Again

Steve Balestrieri
November 28, 2017 at 10:30 am ET

Wash, rinse, repeat. The Patriots used a familiar formula to beat the Miami Dolphins in Foxboro where Miami has struggled to win in the last decade. They were the more physical team and controlled the line of scrimmage, they were smarter and refused to partake in the increasingly chippy, cheap-shot play that is always the Miami M.O. when they fall behind. The result was a 35-17 win where the Patriots didn’t bring their A-game to the table but were sufficiently better than their opponents.

The running game and passing games were very evenly balanced in this one and the defense allowed only 10 points while notching seven sacks. All in all, it was a game where Bill Belichick and the coaches will find plenty to critique but at the same time, they had to like what they saw. Scoring 35 points on a day where you aren’t clicking on all cylinders is pretty impressive

So, we’ll start with the offense and the players can come forward to pick up their grade sheets.

Quarterback: B+

Tom Brady wasn’t as sharp as he’d been the previous two weeks but he still finished with four touchdown passes and a 114.1 passer rating on the day. He started off uncharacteristically off with two back-to-back poor throws on the first series but then quickly went about his business of dismantling the Dolphins defense.

As the game went on, Miami’s pass rush was getting more and more pressure on him, but Brady kept his eyes downfield and delivered. He got knocked flat on his back but delivered a 15-yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski.Brady also recognized mismatches and delivered easy scoring throws to Rex Burkhead and Gronkowski again.

But he made an uncharacteristic poor decision by trying to squeeze a pass into too tight a window which Bobby McClain picked off. He also bobbled a shotgun snap that caused him to end up getting sacked by Cameron Wake.

But the feeling here was, the Patriots found big holes in the secondary and if they had to, they could have exploited them even more, they decided to go the conservative route in the second half.

Running Backs: A

The Patriots continue to ride Dion Lewis’ hot hand and he rewarded them with a career-high 112 yards on 15 carries on the ground. Lewis is an elusive back as you will find, Chris Price equated trying to tackle Lewis as trying to tackle a puff of smoke. But some of his most impressive runs were the ones of the shorter variety. Hit behind or at the line, he’d spin and show good power and drag a defender for a short gain, making something out of nothing.

Rex Burkhead continues to shine and shows that his signing was indeed a bargain move. He rushed for 50 tough yards on the ground and scored a touchdown on both a run and a pass, a mismatch that Brady recognized and hit him for an easy score.

James White’s snap counts are down right now but don’t despair, the team will need him before the season is finished and he’s an integral part of things. With Josh McDaniels, it is all about the matchups and they’re riding the hot hands right now.

James Develin was solid as always at fullback and played about 20 snaps. Mike Gillislee was inactive for the third week in a row.

Wide Receivers: B

Brandin Cooks once again was the big gainer for the offense in the passing game, catching six passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. His score was on a glorified handoff flip from Brady on a Jet sweep where Cooks turned on his afterburners and raced for the pylon and then rode Rob Gronkowski like a racehorse off the field. On a third and 13, Cooks toasted Miami for a 37 yard gain where he was wide open. Those dreaded communication breakdowns…

Phillip Dorsett did the same thing where the Dolphins blew the coverage and Brady hit Dorsett for a 39 yard gain. Good to see him getting involved a bit. He’s been working hard but hasn’t had much to show for it.

Danny Amendola had a quiet day catching just one pass for 15 yards. He and Bobby McCain got tangled up after a running play and McCain threw a punch and got tossed as a result.

Tight Ends: A

Rob Gronkowski was a mismatch that we pinpointed in our pregame matchup piece and the Dolphins just don’t have anyone that they can put on him. He beat Reshad Jones on his first touchdown, using his size and strength, bodying Jones away for an easy TD from Brady. On his second, he was too fast for Kiko Alonso and easily beat him to the sideline. He ended up with five catches for 82 yards and a pair of scores. And to show that he’s an equal opportunity scorcher, he smoked safety T.J. McDonald selling a block and shooting past him for a 21-yard gain.

Dwayne Allen continues his strong play of late and was very good in the running game with some excellent blocking. He also caught one pass for just two yards. He and Gronkowski both made excellent blocks on Cooks touchdown.

Jacob Hollister played less than five snaps on offense and Martellus Bennett was a scratch and has been placed on IR.

Offensive Line: C+

The offensive line was missing two starters again, right tackle Marcus Cannon and center David Andrews but this time, they got pushed around in pass protection. Although they allowed just one sack, Brady was harassed for most of the afternoon and hit hard eight times. And each lineman got beat at different times. Ted Karras subbing for David Andrews snapped a ball too soon while Brady was still checking the defense and the ball was recovered for a Miami touchdown.

The running game was a different story. Taking advantage of Miami’s aggressiveness, the Patriots rushed for 200 yards, taken back to 196 because of Brady kneel downs. That was impressive and they opened up big holes for the backs to exploit. So while the pass protection was bad across the board, the run support was outstanding.

Defensive Line: A-

Yes, Virginia, the Patriots do have a pass rush. The Patriots defensive line took advantage of having a big lead and the Dolphins abandoning their running game and teed off. They were in straight attack mode in the second half and the sacks came in bunches. Miami’s offensive line was overmatched at the point of attack and it showed.

Trey Flowers had his best game this month, getting a pair of sacks, a few QB hits and two tackles for a loss behind the line. He also forced a fumble.

Malcom Brown returned from an injury and looked stout at the point of attack. Ditto for Alan Branch and Lawrence Guy. The Pats even got a good push from the interior of the line which was a plus.

Rookie Eric Lee in his first NFL game got about 20 snaps due to the situation and showed what he could do. He got his first NFL sack on a nicely designed twist and a QB hit. The Dolphins rushed for only 67 yards on Sunday, while part of that had to do with the score, that is the kind of day, the coaches were looking for.

Linebackers: B+

Elandon Roberts had arguably his best game as a Patriot on Sunday. Matt Patricia knows he’s at his best as an attacking downhill player and Roberts utilizing the Hightower/Collins A-gap blitz was very effective. He showed good patience and waited for the line to part and exploded up the middle throwing down Matt Moore for one sack and used his speed to chase him down on another.

Kyle Van Noy playing a mix of LB/edge rusher had a sack as well as a pair of quarterback hits before he left with an injury. Roberts and Van Noy were outstanding on Sunday. David Harris had a mixed day, missing on a couple of tackles he normally makes but providing good thumping depth inside. Trevor Reilly and Marquis Flowers continue to provide good serviceable depth at linebacker although each was injured in the game.

Secondary: A

Stephon Gilmore had an outstanding day. He drew DeVante Parker one-on-one and held him to one catch for five yards. At the end of the first half, he came up with a huge play, perfectly covering Parker on a fade and then reacting well to the ball in the air, snatching it away for an interception. He should have had another on the Dolphins final play of the day, again in perfect position, but Duron Harmon snatched the ball away from him.

Jonathan Jones had a very solid day. The Dolphins decided to pick on him with Jarvis Landry and while Landry had a solid day, Jones was feisty, stuck to his man and limited the YAC (yards after the catch). The more he plays the more confidence he’s playing with.

Malcolm Butler had a mixed day, intermingling some great plays with some not-so great. He took a brutal 34-yard penalty on Kenny Stills where if he turned around, he had an easy interception. Stills, however, while not “getting in Tom Brady’s head” with his sidelines trash talking, was invisible until the second half when the game was out of reach. The same for tight end Julius Thomas, who at first glance, had a solid day, five catches for 52 yards. But all of it came in garbage time. Pat Chung had a solid game as did Devin McCourty. Duron Harmon’s snaps were limited this week as the Pats went with three corners. Jordan Richards got about a dozen snaps late.

Special Teams: B

The Special Teams got off to a great start with Nate Ebner taking a fake punt on the Patriots first possession and racing for a first down. Great call and superb execution, with a tremendous block by Brandon Bolden to free him…Hulk Smash. Unfortunately, Ebner was injured on the play and was placed on IR. Losing Ebner, Reilly, and Flowers on the ST units hurt their coverage, which was just ok.

Ryan Allen missed an opportunity to pin Miami deep and put just his third punt of the year into the end zone. Stephen Gostkowski’s kickoffs were spot on, forcing Miami to run them out and was perfect on all five extra points.

Coaches: A

Bill Belichick eased back the workload this week after a long two-week road trip and although the execution wasn’t as sharp on Sunday, the team was ready to play and showed good restraint, not getting drawn into the cheap shot game that Miami has been doing for years. The biggest difference between the two teams, (other than QB) is the self-discipline, the Patriots have it and Miami has little of it. And it shows.

Josh McDaniels had a great game plan, taking advantage of a leaky Miami run defense and keeping Miami off balance all day long. They recognized mismatches all over the field and McDaniels made them pay. The Patriots were 5-5 in the red zone.

Matt Patricia’s defense is getting better and better and as they become more comfortable in their roles, he’s opening things up more and more. We saw A-gap blitzes, corner blitzes, safety blitzes. They’re not predictable and it is going to give opponents something to think about in the weeks ahead. Miami was 2-11 on third down and in the past five games, Patriots opponents are averaging just 217.2 yards passing per game and just 13.1 points.

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 11-26, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
November 26, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 11-26, & AFC East Notes.

We hope that all of our readers had a happy and safe Thanksgiving with their families this week. And from all of us here, we’re thankful for all of you, our readers make it all possible here.

Gone too soon: Condolences go out to the family of former Patriots WR Terry Glenn who died tragically in a car accident this week. Glenn was a very talented, speedy wide receiver who the Patriots selected in the first round (7th overall) of the 1996 NFL Draft.

Robert Kraft spoke about Glenn on the Patriots website:

“We were shocked and deeply saddened by today’s news that Terry Glenn died in an auto accident,” Kraft said. “Terry was one of the most gifted receivers we have ever had.”
“One of my favorite memories came when we hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional playoff game. It was my first home playoff game as an owner and just the second home playoff game in our history. It will always be remembered for the fog that filled Foxboro Stadium that day. Yet, on the first play from scrimmage, Drew Bledsoe threw a deep pass that disappeared in the fog and reappeared 53 yards downfield in Terry Glenn’s hands. We scored on the next play and ended up winning 28-3. Our thoughts and prayers are with Terry’s family, his former teammates, and friends who mourn his loss.”

Patriots Face the Dolphins Twice in 3 Weeks: The Patriots game today against the Dolphins will be the first of two meetings between the two teams in just three weeks. Due to a scheduling quirk, the two teams will meet again in Miami on Monday Night Football, December 11th.

That situation, playing an opponent twice so close together has only happened once before since Bill Belichick became the head coach. And it was against the Colts in his first season in 2000.

Marsh Release, Prompts the Inevitable Questions About Belichick the GM:
Raise your hand if you’ve heard this one before. This spring everyone was raving about the terrific offseason the Patriots were having. And after the release of Kony Ealy and Cassius Marsh, now the same people that were openly predicting the Patriots were going 19-0 are now doing the backstroke and saying, “hold the fort here, maybe Belichick had a terrible spring after all.”

Well, to that, I say horse hockey… actually, I’d use a more fitting description but this being a family site, you get the idea. The second biggest myth surrounding the Patriots besides that “Brady is a system quarterback”, is the old—- “Belichick the GM is hurting Belichick the coach.”

Let’s take a look at the signings and trades that the team has done since the offseason began back in March to include signing some of their own free agents.

Trades: Dwayne Allen (Indy), Brandin Cooks (NO), Kony Ealy (Carolina), Marquis Flowers (Cincy), Cassius Marsh (Seattle), Johnson Bademosi (Detroit), Phillip Dorsett (Indy)
Free agents: Stephon Gilmore, Lawrence Guy, Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee, restricted FAs Brandon Bolden, Duron Harmon, Dont’a Hightower, Alan Branch, Cameron Fleming, Brandon King, Malcolm Butler, David Harris, Ricky Jean-Francois, Martellus Bennett, Brian Hoyer, Eric Lee

Draft: Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise, Tony Garcia, Connor McDermott

UDFA: Adam Butler, Cole Croston, Jacob Hollister, Cody Hollister, Andrew Jelks, David Jones, Harvey Langi, Keionta Davis

The trade for Allen seemed like a total bust, he was invisible in the passing game and wasn’t doing his normal solid blocking job either. Then the team the brought back Bennett and either the light finally came on or it lit a fire under him. File under: Still could go either way. Ealy and Marsh were both clearly misses. But the Patriots gave up very little for Ealy, sliding back eight slots in the draft so it was worth the risk.

Cooks has been everything advertised since Day 1 of Minicamp. Anyone telling you different might be watching the games but not seeing them. Bademosi and Dorsett were both hits. Each came in and have done exactly what’s been asked of them. In Bademosi’s case even more so. He was deemed a Special Teams guy only and has stepped in and played some good, productive snaps at corner.

In the case of the free agents, Gilmore, Guy, and Burkhead have all played integral parts of the team all season. Gilmore and Burkhead were banged up and missed time but there is no doubt about their worth. Gilmore had his struggles in the first month of the season but no more. Burkhead is valuable as a runner, pass receiver and on STs.

Bringing back their own free agents was a no-brainer especially looking at Hightower, Harmon and Branch and Butler. David Harris has been getting more and more work now that Hightower is on IR. Bennett immediately paid dividends as he’s familiar with this offense. Lee may see some action this today so we’ll see how it plays out. He starts with a clean slate.

In regards to the draft, the Patriots drafted Rivers and Wise to replace the departed Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard. The thought was for Wise to be on the edge and Rivers to be a hybrid, edge rusher, and OLB at times with one more season of having Rob Ninkovich. If Belichick is to blame for not seeing Ninkovich retire in camp and Rivers getting hurt …so be it. Ditto for Tony Garcia who it was thought would challenge Fleming and/or Waddle for the top backup tackle position. Croston was brought in for future potential, same as Jelks and Davis who was an impressive edge rusher in college.

The UDFAs made the team out of training camp which always seems to happen each summer. Langi’s season was cut short as a result of an auto accident.

So taking a look at the overall picture, they had a couple of misses (Ealy and Marsh) and two others that could go that way (Allen, Gillislee) but for the rest, Belichick, like always assembles a team, not a fantasy football squad. The Patriots beginning to hit their stride now in late-November tied for the best record in the AFC is proof once again that he’s doing the right things. And yet every year we hear the same criticisms. After 17 years of solid decision making, and unparalleled success, one would think that he’d be given the benefit of the doubt.  

Touchdown Celebrations? They’re Getting Lamer By the Week:
The Patriots have yet to (thankfully) done one of those lame, ridiculous touchdown celebrations that are becoming the rage of the NFL. With each game, teams are trying to outdo each other with the over-the-top celebrations that are quickly resembling the reason that the league banned them in the first place.

It is only a matter of time before a player on the opposition is going to take offense at one of these canned celebrations and chaos will ensue.

Mark us down for good spontaneous celebrations, a Gronk spike or the like. But these take all of the spontaneity out of the celebration. As for the Patriots, again, thankfully we haven’t seen any of that stuff, as they’re taking the old adage of “act like you’ve been there” to heart. Of course, it may have something to do with Bill Belichick. Asked earlier this week about the celebrations across the league, he gave a typical Bill response.

Yeah, we’re really focused more on trying to keep the other team out of the end zone and trying to get into the end zone,” Belichick said. “We haven’t really spent a lot of time on the halftime show.”

Jerry Jones Finds, Like Kraft, the Other Owners Aren’t Biting:
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones now knows what it felt like to be Robert Kraft. During the Deflategate saga, Kraft tried to get the other owners on-board in bucking the system, and Commissioner Roger Goodell’s authority to punish Tom Brady when there was no credible evidence to suggest he or the Patriots did anything wrong.

During that time, Jones, jealous of the success of New England, practically rubbed his hands with glee and gushed over what a great job of Goodell was doing. Now with the shoe on the other foot and Cowboys’ running back Ezekiel Elliott in much the same predicament and getting a six-game suspension from the Commish, Jones is crying foul worse than a seventh-grade girl stood up at the Junior High Prom.

Jones wanted someone other than Goodell in the chair and wanted to abolish the compensation committee and have all 32 owners input on the compensation for Goodell. But Jones learned a cruel truth that Kraft found out two years ago. The other owners aren’t interested in rocking the boat while they are all raking in the dough with a very successful NFL product.

Jones made some comments about Kraft that were uncalled for, calling the Patriots owner “a pussy” because he backed down from his threat of a lawsuit while threatening to go to the mattresses against Goodell. I’m sure Jones doesn’t want to be reminded of that just now.

Who Do You Like This Week NFL Week 12:
Last week 8-6 mark. Season Total: 102-58.

This week’s Thursday games I went with Detroit, Dallas, and Washington (1-2). Now for the rest of the slate:
Bills at Chiefs – Kansas City
Jaguars at Browns – Jacksonville
Titans at Colts – Tennessee
Browns at Bengals – Cincinnati
Buccaneers at Falcons – Atlanta
Dolphins at Patriots – New England
Bears at Eagles – Philadelphia
Panthers at Jets – Carolina
Seahawks  at 49ers- Seattle
Saints at Rams – New Orleans
Jaguars at Cardinals – Jacksonville
Broncos at Raiders-  Oakland
SNF Packers  at Steelers – Pittsburgh
MNF Texans at Ravens – Baltimore

Next Thursday Washington over the Cowboys

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Both Bills and Chiefs Struggling, the Time is Now For One to Step Up:

The Buffalo Bills are reeling. Losers of three straight blow-out games, they now have to travel to one of the tougher venues in the NFL in Arrowhead Stadium to take on the Kansas City Chiefs.

But the Chiefs are struggling as well and after a torrid start to the season, they’ve dropped four of their last five games. The Chiefs’ offense has cooled down quite a bit and their run defense is struggling, something the Bills have the power to take advantage of.

Both teams are still in the thick of the hunt in terms of playoff seeding, the Chiefs still own the lead in the AFC West and the Bills are in the wild-card hunt but a loss this week for either team could be disastrous, especially for the Bills. They have two games upcoming against the Patriots in four weeks and they have fared poorly against Tom Brady since 2001.

The key for Buffalo is to get the running game untracked with LeSean McCoy which would open up play-action passing by Tyrod Taylor who returns to the starting quarterback role after the debacle last week of Nathan Peterman.

Landry Keeps the Mindset that the Dolphins Will Sweep New England:

Jarvis Landry made the bold prediction this spring that the Miami Dolphins would sweep the Patriots in 2017. The Dolphins, fresh off of a playoff appearance were confident about taking the next step. Landry wasn’t trying to be cocky or arrogant, just alluding to the confidence that one needs to be a success in the NFL. And despite things having gone south for Miami this season, Landry feels that this may be the week they turn things around and save their season.

“Honestly, it’s a pride thing and also, it’s something for us, a mindset,” Landry said. “I spoke about it. They’re a team that I have great respect for always. I know guys over there, Tom. It’s nothing against them. It’s just something that, as a competitor, you want to win. Just like every game, I approach it the same, and that’s the mindset.”

The Miami Herald asked Landry if he was he surprised that those his remarks were being rebroadcast this week?

“Of course,” Landry said. “Of course. I knew you guys wouldn’t let that die. … I’m just excited about the opportunity, excited about the challenge with these guys. We have the opportunity to go up there and compete, just like every week.”

It is going to be tough sledding for the Dolphins. They haven’t won in New England since 2008 in the Wildcat game, but that was against Matt Cassel. The last time they beat New England in Foxboro with Brady at the helm was back in 2005 on the last day of the season. Brady started by sat after throwing just eight passes. Matt Cassel again was the QB who played the majority of that game. Doug Flutie kicked a drop kick an extra point in that one.

Asked if the Jets Must Win Out for Playoffs, Bowles Answers with a Gem:

The New York Jets have over-achieved in 2017 and entering Week 11 are still in the playoff hunt. Yes, the Jets are still very much alive for a playoff berth, which is surprising considering that many people picked them to finish winless.

So when the Jets media asked coach Todd Bowles, if the 4-6 Jets have to win-out to realistically have a shot at the postseason, Bowles gave an obvious if hilarious response that no one was expecting.

“Excuse the language, but that’s probably a no-s–t statement,” Bowles said as he shrugged as he takes it to be a no-brainer. “We’re trying to win every game.”

Veteran Morris Claiborne liked what he heard from the coach. “I agree totally,” Claiborne said. “We need to take advantage of all these games that are coming up.”

“As a team, we’re still together. We know what’s going on right now. We know that we’re still in this thing,” Claiborne said. “We just got to take care of our business on Sunday and the weeks after that.”

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

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

Patriots – Dolphins Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge

Steve Balestrieri
November 24, 2017 at 9:16 am ET

The Patriots return home for one game this week against the Miami Dolphins before heading back out on the road for a three-game road trip. In a weird quirk in the NFL’s scheduling, the Patriots and Dolphins meet twice in three weeks.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, November 19 at 1:05 p.m. and can be seen on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Dan Fouts as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work from the sidelines.The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello

The Patriots (8-2) are coming off a very successful two-game road trip with blowout wins coming against the Denver Broncos 41-16 and last week in Mexico City against the Oakland Raiders 33-8. Tom Brady continues his torrid pace in 2017 and the defense for the sixth game in a row allowed 17 points or less.

The Dolphins (4-6) have lost four in a row and in danger of falling out of the playoff race after entering the season with so much hope of earning back to back playoff berths.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2017 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Dolphins history has been a streaky one with Miami holding an overall 53-50 lead all-time in the teams’ rivalry. However, the Patriots have won 11 of the past 14 meetings including the last eight at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots swept the series last season, 31-24 in Week 2 with Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett at the helm and in the regular season finale 35-14 in Miami.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Dolphins Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game has been improving with Dion Lewis taking over the bulk of the running game with Rex Burkhead getting the complimentary carries and James White just a few here and there. Mike Gillislee has been a healthy scratch for two weeks in a row. The Patriots haven’t run the ball a ton lately because they’ve been so adept at passing it but this week could see more emphasis on the running game.

Miami for the first month of the season looked vastly improved in the running game. But during their losing streak, they’ve been getting gashed by the run. Having released Rey Maualuga at middle linebacker won’t help matters as he was impressive as a run stuffer.

Look for the Patriots to mix things up quite a bit this week. Miami’s defensive ends will be looking to influence the passing game by teeing off, so they’ll attempt to run right at them on Sunday.

Patriots WRs vs Dolphins Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game is averaging over 300 yards per game, tops in the NFL. Tom Brady has been brilliant about spreading the ball around to a plethora of different receivers and they’re continually able to find mismatches. With their wide receivers banged up, they haven’t missed a beat.

Miami’s pass defense is allowing just 229 yards per game but opposing QBs are completing nearly 70 percent of their throws and have an average passer rating of 104.3 which is second worst in the league.

Look for Brady to work the tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett as well as the running backs, James White and Rex Burkhead heavily into the mix this week. The Dolphins pass rush has had issues getting to the QB, and if Brady has time, he’ll carve them up in death by 1000 cuts.

Next up the Dolphins offense:

Dolphins RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Miami

The Dolphins traded their top running back Jay Ajayi to the Eagles earlier in the season and now are going with Damien Williams and the intriguing Kenyan Drake who’s averaging about 5.5 yards per carry. The Dolphins have been struggling to run averaging just 80.4 yards per game and score, with just one rushing touchdown on the season.

The Patriots run defense has struggled in 2017, with Malcom Brown injured and Vincent Valentine and Dont’a Hightower on IR, the middle of the line has been suspect. Coupled with less than stellar play that we’ve come to expect from Alan Branch, it is an issue. The Raiders ran the ball effectively last week but the Patriots jumped out to such a big lead they were forced to abandon it.

Look for Miami to feature Drake more this week. Williams has been the de facto starter since Ajayi left but that may change as they are looking for answers to get their offense untracked. And we feel here, Drake will have a solid day on the ground.

Dolphins WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England

Miami’s passing game has been mired in mediocrity since Ryan Tannehill went down in camp. The team signed Jay Cutler and he hasn’t gotten it done. With the targets he has in the passing game with Jarvis Landry (3rd in the NFL with 67 catches), Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker, Julius Thomas at tight end and the running backs, the Dolphins passing game should be its strength.

The Patriots pass defense is playing much better since a nightmarish start to the season. Stephon Gilmore and Malcolm Butler did a fine job on the duo of Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper last week. Landry is their go-to guy to move the sticks but Stills is the Miami big play guy and if Eric Rowe isn’t ready to go, that will fall to Jonathan Jones, who has played well this year.

Cutler was in concussion protocol this week but did return to practice, albeit in a limited fashion on Thursday, which means he probably passed. If so, he’ll probably get the start but one has to wonder if the Dolphins would be better suited to go with the steady if unspectacular Matt Moore in there.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski was the AFC STs Player of the Week after booting a pair of 50+ yard field goals (62 and 51) in a 4-4 day against the Raiders. His short kickoffs coupled with outstanding coverage has put the Patriots in great advantageous position. Ryan Allen’s punting has been steadily improving and it seems like every week the Patriots are getting big plays from their STs units.

The Dolphins Special teams have been playing very well. Their own coverage units are very solid and they have a pair of very good kickers but their return game hasn’t had a big impact. With the way New England’s STs units are playing right now, they get the nod.

Next up, who wins and why…


This one will be an intriguing one to keep an eye on. The Patriots will want to get off to a fast start and see if Miami, who has dropped four in a row answer the bell or pack it in. Two of their four losses in the last month have been blowouts. The Patriots secondary has been much, much better the past month and I look for them to continue that trend this week. It is a much different atmosphere for the Dolphins when they play at Foxboro. They haven’t won in New England since the Wildcat game in 2008 when Matt Cassel was the QB for New England.

Look for Tom Brady to spread the Dolphins out and find the mismatches underneath. Getting T.J. McDonald back from an eight game suspension should help in defending the tight ends, but he and Reshad Jones can only do so much. The running backs in the passing game may open up some down the field options for Brandin Cooks.

The Patriots hold serve at home with another big win and head to Buffalo at 9-2.  Patriots 34-16

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.