Tag Archives: Maurice Harris

David Andrews Released From the Hospital, Harris, Davis to IR

Steve Balestrieri
August 27, 2019 at 7:16 am ET

The Patriots had a flurry of roster moves in the past few days, defensive lineman Mike Pennel was released, Maurice Harris and Keionta Davis were released with injury designations [reverted to IR], ST/LB Brandon King was also placed on IR and the team signed RB Robert Martin and LB/ST Scooby Wright.  But the biggest news was that center David Andrews was admitted to the hospital with a blood clot to his lung. 

The blood clot is a potentially life-threatening situation. Andrews was reportedly released from the hospital according to the Globe’s Jim McBride but he still may miss significant time. The medication to treat clots are blood-thinners which may take upward of three months to take effect. 

The anti-coagulant blood thinners [heparin, warfarin] are given by injection typically for the first five days and then the patient will take pills for the next three months. During this time, the risk for bleeding is increased and may preclude Andrews from playing football. 

Andrews was an undrafted free agent out of Georgia but has been the Patriots starting center for the past three years. He signed a contract extension that carries him through the 2020 season.  He was present for the preseason game against Carolina but hasn’t been seen at practice since. He’ll be replaced in the interim by veteran Ted Karras.

Pennel was thought to be an under-the-radar key signing at the time, as he’s known as a big, two-gapping run stuffer. But he was passed by Danny Shelton on the depth chart and as rookie Byron Cowart has progressed, Pennel was deemed replaceable and cut loose ahead of the deadline.

Harris was another Patriot signing this spring. He had a very solid spring and picked up with a very good start to training camp. But an injury during the joint practices with the Tennessee Titans put him firmly on the roster bubble with the return of Josh Gordon and Demaryius Thomas. Davis was considered a longshot to make the 53-man roster on the edge due to the depth the team has this year. He was injured in the game against the Panthers last week. Both players cleared waivers and therefore have reverted to IR. 

Martin played for the Giants in the preseason last year and was with the Patriots for all of one day and now he too was released. Wright spent 2016-17 with the Arizona Cardinals before getting released in their final cutdown of 2018. He played with the Arizona Hotshots of the very short-lived AAF this spring. He was recently engaged this past weekend. He should see some significant snaps against the Giants on Thursday.

While a real longshot to make the roster, Wright was one of the highest-rated linebackers in the AAF.

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As More Patriots WRs Go Down, It is Opportunity Time for the Remainder

Steve Balestrieri
August 15, 2019 at 7:33 am ET

At the conclusion of the first joint practice with the Titans on Tuesday, the state of the Patriots receiver corps was more notable on who wasn’t in attendance rather than who was. Julian Edelman, Demaryius Thomas, Cameron Meredith, Josh Gordon [still suspended] tight end Matt LaCosse and N’Keal Harry were not there for the beginning of practice, although Harry was in uniform, he didn’t take part in any activities and quickly moved off to work with members of the training staff. 

Then during the session, both Phillip Dorsett and Maurice Harris each left with various ailments. That left a thin wide receiver grouping even thinner. Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, and Jarrett Stidham were left with Jakobi Meyers, Braxton Berrios, Dontrelle Inman, Gunner Olszewski, Damoun Patterson, and Ryan Davis. 

It isn’t known if the dings that Dorsett and Harris took were heat-related or more serious. Dorsett was reported to have returned and rode a stationary bike at the end of the practice session. This is in addition to reports that running back Damien Harris is dealing with a wrist injury, which has limited his pass=catching ability.

But rather than looking at this as a red flag [as it would be during the regular season], this is a time of opportunity, a chance to earn more reps with the starting unit and carve out a role for themselves for the players on the field.

Meyers has been a very pleasant surprise as to how fast he’s caught on to the Patriots system as well as his versatility and production in the passing game. If there is an area where he could improve it would be in special teams. The coaches have been getting him some reps in the punt return game, which to date haven’t been all smooth. 

Berrios has thrived during joint sessions and the preseason game with the Lions and is carrying that momentum into this week in Tennessee. Berrios looked very good in the return game last week in Detroit and that alone may win him a spot among the final 53-man roster. Away from the smothering Jonathan Jones in team practices, Berrios has found room to move and made some nice plays in the passing game. 

Dontrelle Inman may be the biggest benefactor from the recent spate of injuries to the wide receivers. After a very forgettable spring, Inman found himself deep in the bowels of the depth chart at the beginning of training camp. He helped himself with some good work against the Detroit third teamers last week. 

Now he’ll get more reps with Brady and the first team unit today. If that means more playing time on Saturday night, then it is a chance to move up in the pecking order. If he can find the comfort level and chemistry with Brady that he showed late last season with Andrew Luck, he could force himself into a much better situation. Maurice Harris had a tremendous start to camp. But he had a couple of big drops in Detroit, [granted one was a clear defensive pass interference] and with him now possibly on the shelf, this allows Inman a chance to push him a bit. 

LaCosse’s ankle injury last week opened the door for the team to bring in the third-year tight end Eric Sauber that they picked up from the Falcons for a conditional 7th round draft pick. Sauber has the size, 6’5, 255 pounds and the athleticism to play special teams and to attack the seams of the defense. But the knock on him is his hands, “manos de piedra” which have precluded him from having any impact in the league.

Sauber should get more and more work in the passing game as the team tries to lighten the load on 38-year old Ben Watson. Ryan Izzo is known more as a blocker. Rookie Andrew Beck is being used more as a fullback/H-back and Stephen Anderson has seemingly become an afterthought in the passing game. 

But like anything else, opportunities arise and players have to take advantage of them. 

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Patriots Training Camp Observations 8-12, Defense Impressive Again

Steve Balestrieri
August 12, 2019 at 2:15 pm ET

The Patriots offensive players must miss Detroit. Because on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium, the defense was very, very impressive today. After struggling somewhat against this loaded secondary, the New England wide receivers had very impressive weeks in Detroit. But not so much today.

In the next to last training camp session, the defense was ball-hawking everything in sight. Tom Brady threw back-to-back INTs during individual drills but in the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 portions of the session, the defense also picked off Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham …with seven on the day total

One of the more impressive players on the field today had to be rookie Joejuan Williams. The first-year cornerback had a bit of a rough go of it early in camp but he picked up his game last week and continued his upward climb today. He had a couple of nice interceptions and had a few pass breakups as well.

The team was in full pads.

Attendance:  

Nate Ebner and Ken Webster returned to practice. Lance Kendricks returned …in a red non-contact jersey. Julian Edelman, Demaryius Thomas, and Cameron Meredith were in attendance but not in uniform. Matt LaCosse, N’Keal Harry, and D’Angelo Ross were absent from this session. 

There was also a new offensive lineman [#74] present but no word yet on who that is…possibly Cole Croston returning? 

Other Observations Included: 

  • Good news on the Isaiah Wynn front. He was nearly 100 percent at participation today. He took part in 11-on-11 drills for the first time in camp.
  • Lots of drops, pass breakups, and interceptions in individual drills today.
  • First real scrap today. Michael Bennett and Dan “the Weatherman” Skipper got into during 1-on-1 blocking drills. Bennett slapped him upside his helmet and Skipper responded with a double-barrelled bird flip.
  • Pat Chung made a nice interception of Brady during 7-on7s. Brady attempted to go to Braxton Berrios on a drag route but Chung read it perfectly and jumped the route.
  • Others getting picks during the team portion of the session were Gilmore with a pair, Jamie Collins, and Williams
  • Jake Bailey was doing the holding during the field goal attempts today by Stephen Gostkowski…that is Gostkowski with two “k’s” 
  • During 1-on-1s Jonathan Jones flattened Berrios with a jolting hit but the WR came back and made a really nice over the shoulder catch after almost going down again on a hit from Duke Dawson. 
  • Berrios returned punts along with Rex Burkhead, Gunner Olszewski, and Jakobi Meyers
  • Berrios continued a strong showing in the return game as he and Phillip Dorsett returned kickoffs. 
  • Jakobi Meyers continues his rise in camp. He had another nice day, making several catches including a nice back-shoulder catch on a pass from Tom Brady and another where he dove and came up with a throw from Brian Hoyer on the sideline.
  • Maurice Harris had a drop during team drills and wasn’t as sharp as we’ve seen this summer, but then made a really nice grab as he was able to wrest the ball away from Gilmore as he high-pointed it. 
  • QB turned WR Danny Etling had a tough morning. He had a drop in individual drills and was the target on both Stidham throws that were picked off. 
  • The Patriots tried a little trickery with a double pass from Meyers to James White. 
  • White also had a nice deep catch from Brady over his shoulder beating Christian Sam in coverage. 
  • Danny Shelton left practice and retreated to the lower practice fields but later returned.
  • Jon Bon Jovi was in attendance today, along with Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy who did a quick interview with 98.5 after the session

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Patriots at Lions, Preseason Game 1, What to Watch For

Steve Balestrieri
August 7, 2019 at 9:01 am ET

The Patriots are wrapping up their final joint practice with the Lions on Wednesday and then all of the attention will turn to the first preseason game of the year. With that said, we should finally get a look at the Patriots rookie players with the real numbers that they’ll be wearing this season. 

Don’t expect to see any of Tom Brady and most of the starting lineups in Thursday’s game, they’ll get eased more into the next two games. This one is usually about the rookies and the new players to the roster. Expect to see a lot of QB Jarrett Stidham in this one. 

*For you who have been going to training camp, the following are the jersey numbers of the Patriots rookies for the game, unlike the funky numbers they’ve been wearing in training camp.

#4 Jarrett Stidham QB
#7 Jake Bailey P
#9 Gunner Olszewski WR/KR
#10 N’Keal Harry WR
#16 Jakobi Meyers WR
#19 Ryan Davis WR
#33 Joejuan Williams CB
#37 Damien Harris RB
#41 D’Angelo Ross DB
#42 Nick Brossette, RB
#42 Malik Gant, S
#47 Ken Webster CB
#50 Chase Winovich Edge
#63 Martez Ivey OL
#64 Hjalte Froholdt G
#65 Yodny Cajuste T
#67 Tyler Gauthier, OL
#68 Tyree St. Louis OL
#86 Andrew Beck TE
#99 Byron Cowart DL

So, with all of the roster number hoopla out of the way, what exactly are we looking for after preseason Week 1? 

Come Back to Foxboro Healthy: 

Injuries are part of the game and we know they are inevitable, but the last thing you want to see is a player from either team going down with an injury. Just two years ago it was there in Detroit when Julian Edelman made a cut and went down with a torn ACL without being contacted. It ended his season before it began and may have cost the team down the road in Super Bowl LII. 

So, while the coaches want to see their players perform well in all three phases of the game, coming out of the game as intact as possible, health-wise will be paramount.

Watching Stidham and Young Receivers in the Passing Game:

Stidham was drafted by the Patriots with little fanfare, he was hardly thought to be one of the best QB prospects in the draft. Part of the issue was the terrible offensive system they ran at Auburn. Stidham still has a long, long way to go but has been progressing nicely in camp and had a really good day on Tuesday’s joint practice. 

Now, he’ll get to put his foot in the water for his first NFL game action. Thus far, he’s had a typical rookie spring/summer with issues holding the ball too long and trying to learn an entire new offensive system, to some sessions where he’s thrown the ball well.

And he’s got a plethora of receivers who are new to the Patriots. Unfortunately, top draft pick N’Keal Harry may not be among them. Harry tweaked a hamstring in Tuesday’s practice session, so he may be held out of this one…it will bear watching. 

But rookies Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, Ryan Davis, 2nd-year man Braxton Berrios, as well veteran newcomers Maurice Harris, and Dontrelle Inman are getting their first reps in Patriots uniforms. 

Meyers is generating a ton of buzz around his play and his early grasp of the Patriots playbook but Berrios, who had a strong spring and a frustrating beginning to camp has shown signs of life against the Lions secondary. These preseason games will tell the tale of who earns more reps and carves out a role on the roster. 

Harris and Inman are veterans but want to put forward solid contributions in preseason working against mainly vanilla coverages to earn more reps with Brady, who is doubtful to make an appearance. 

Rookie Damien Harris has shown the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield during camp sessions. It will interesting to see if the coaches decide to use him and Brandon Bolden in that capacity in their first game action of 2019. 

Running Game Can Be Hit or Miss:

The problem with trying to judge running backs, and Harris should see a ton of action along with Nick Brossette and Jakob Johnson, is that the back-up offensive lines are in the game. And it frequently occurs that the offense can sputter in running situations as the backups don’t have the reps together to work in harmony with one another. 

However, I’m intrigued to watch what Harris and Brossette can do. Brossette will have a very tough time cracking the 53-man roster as the position is loaded this year. But I liked what I saw of him in college and thus far in limited reps. He’s playing for a practice squad role. 

Brandon Bolden is one of our favorite Patriots players to watch. The reserve running back and special teams ace should also see quite a bit of action in the preseason opener both in the running and passing game. 

Special Teams Battle: 

As much as I thought Ryan Allen could have made a case for Super Bowl LIII MVP, I’ve been sold on Jake Bailey since minicamp. He has a leg that puts distance and incredible hang time into the ball which almost puts it into the outer marker for Logan. He and Allen are battling it out for the punter’s job in 2019. While Bailey has the much stronger leg, Allen’s forte is directional punting and consistency, where he has the edge over the rookie.

One thing to watch all thru the preseason is kickoffs. Bailey is adept at it as well as being an emergency field goal kicker. He’s shared duties with Stephen Gostkowski on kickoffs in camp thus far and it could make a difference in the final cutdown. 

Defense As a Whole, But Keep an Eye on the Secondary:

The Patriots defense looks to be much better, deeper and more versatile than last year’s unit.  While many of the starting members may only play sparingly, the guys that really bear watching are the new players or those fighting for roster spots. 

Chase Winovich has stepped up his game in the practices with the Lions, it promises to be intriguing to see A. How they use him and B. How well he does in his first game action. The rookie from Michigan looks to be a very promising player. Shilique Calhoun, we wrote the other day is having a very solid camp. He continued his strong play against the Lions and has a chance to earn more reps as camp progresses. 

Other edge players on the bubble and bear watching are Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis, Trent Harris, Ufomba Kamalu, and Nick Thurman. All of them have played well so far but need to step it up during the next four weeks. 

In the secondary, with Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, and Jason McCourty known quantities, the guys we really want to see are new 2nd round pick Joejuan Williams, Duke Dawson, Keion Crossen and D’Angelo Ross at cornerback. 

At safety, Terrence Brooks, Obi Melifonwu, and Malik Gant are all vying for roster spots behind Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, and Duron Harmon. Both Brooks and Melifonwu have played well and have gotten reps with the starting unit. 

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

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New England Patriots 53-man Roster Projection 2.0

Steve Balestrieri
August 5, 2019 at 8:30 am ET

With the Patriots first ten days of training camp over, it is time to take another crack at our New England Patriots 53-man roster projection. With eight practices in, several of them fully padded, we’ll look at the early risers and whose falling. We’ll revisit this after a week with the Detroit Lions and their first preseason game.

Offense –
Quarterbacks: (3)

Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham
Out: Danny Etling

The Patriots will continue to go with three QBs as Brady, Hoyer, and Jarrett Stidham will man the position this year. It will be interesting to see if Stidham shows enough in the upcoming preseason games to push Hoyer as Brady’s backup in case of emergency.

Running backs: (6)

Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden, James Develin
Out: Nick Brosette, Jakob Johnson* [NFL International Player]

Sony Michel looks good, now that he is back on the field and he and Damien Harris are getting more frequent looks in the passing game. James White looks as good as ever while Brandon Bolden isn’t going anywhere, he’s a good depth guy and outstanding on STs. Develin could easily be posted with the tight ends as he practices with them frequently. If the Patriots decide five is enough would that make Burkhead expendable? Possibly, but for now, he sticks.

Brosette is a victim of the numbers and lands on the practice squad. Ditto for Johnson who is automatically granted an extra spot on the PS due to his NFL International status

Tight ends: (2)
Matt Lacosse, Ryan Izzo, **Ben Watson Suspended**
Out: Lance Kendricks, Stephen Anderson, Andrew Beck

The Patriots have Lacosse being the receiving tight end with Izzo as the blocker who nudges out Anderson, the move tight end thus far. Ben Watson will return after the first month which means they’ll have to make another cut somewhere.

Beck got a fair amount of guaranteed money and could become another fullback option if Develin gets hurt, he’ll be a practice squad candidate.

Wide Receivers: (5)
Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris, Jakobi Meyers
Out: Braxton Berrios, Dontrelle Inman, Damoun Patterson, Ryan Davis, Gunner Olszewski, **Josh Gordon Suspended** Demaryius Thomas [PUP], Cameron Meredith [PUP]

Edelman, Harry, and Dorsett are the top three, Dorsett is still an intriguing case. He has all of the tools to be a very productive receiver but only produces in short flashes. But given the cuts, he’s the only viable kick returner on the roster unless the coaches want to push Edelman or Michel back out there. 

Harris has been the most consistent receiver on the field thus far and Meyers is already beginning to develop the chemistry with Brady that will be needed. Thomas has yet to see the field so no one knows if he has anything left in the tank. Gordon has applied for reinstatement by the league so we’ll be watching to see how that unfolds.  

Berrios can’t get any separation and after a strong showing in the spring, has taken a step back. This coming week with the Lions will be huge for him. Inman has been largely invisible but just began making progress this week. Patterson, Davis, and Olszewski are practice squad candidates.

However, Berrios and/or Olszewski could carve out a role in the return game. Preseason will tell the tale.

Offensive line: (8)
Isaiah Wynn, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Joe Thuney, James Ferentz, Ted Karras, Hjalte Froholdt
Out: Yodny Cajuste [NFI], Dan Skipper, Cedric Lang, Tyree St. Louis, Martez Ivey

Hmm, depth at tackle remains a dicey situation with Isaiah Wynn still not a full go at practice. At this point, they need to start getting him real reps and not a walk-thru if he’s going to be ready for the regular season. The team is giving Dan Skipper every opportunity to win a roster spot but he’s shown that even against the 2nd tier guys, he’s getting beat. Not good for a left tackle.

Cajuste is still on NFI and the longer it drags on, the more it seems that he won’t be ready until midseason. The answer for the short term? Joe Thuney at LT, Karras at LG and now it makes more sense to keep Ferentz. 

Defense –

Edge Players: (4)
Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise, John Simon, Chase Winovich
Out: Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis, Trent Harris, Nick Thurman, Ufomba Kamalu

Bennett and Wise are your defensive ends in a base 3-4, which they’ve run a lot of this spring/summer. Simon and Winovich could easily be lumped in with the linebackers. It is curious if they do run a 3-4, Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler could be 3-4 DEs as well. Rivers has looked good so far, but Winovich is looking just a strong right now and would, IMO get the nod. 

Nobody is closing the door on Davis, Harris, Thurman, or Kamalu at this point. All of them have had good moments in camp. Plenty can happen in the next few weeks, but as of today, they’re on the wrong side of the numbers crunch.

Interior Defensive Line: (4)

Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler

Out: Bryon Cowart, David Parry

Guy and Pennel should be the Week 1 starting combination inside. Shelton returns, as the backup nose tackle. Guy and Butler offer versatility in either inside DL in a 4-3 or as 3-4 DEs playing a five-technique. This is a solid group and Mike Pennel should be an immediate early downs producer. 

Cowart and Parry have some ground to make up but are for the time being, outside looking in. 

Linebacker: (6)

Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Elandon Roberts, Brandon King
Out: Christian Sam. Terez Hall, Calvin Munson, Shalique Calhoun

Linebacker is a position of strength and the Patriots could still play Winovich and Simon here as well. If they were to add another roster spot for extra depth, Sam, who is having an under the radar camp or Calhoun who has played well in limited reps could find their way on the roster. 

Hightower, Bentley, and Roberts will handle the inside duties while the others will play outside, but moving players around seems like a given this year. 

Cornerback: (7)
Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, Jonathan Jones, Duke Dawson, Keion Crossen
Out: Ken Webster, D’Angelo Ross

You can never have enough talented corners…right? Gilmore, McCourty, and Jackson give the team three very good to excellent boundary corners. Jones and Dawson will handle the slot. Williams is a big corner (6’4) that allows him to play against the bigger WRs or matchup with tight ends. 

The versatility and depth of this group give the Patriots their deepest part of the roster. Both Ross and Webster are candidates for the practice squad.

Safety: (4)
Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, Duron Harmon, Terrence Brooks
Out: Obi Melifonwu, Malik Gant, Nate Ebner [PUP], AJ Howard

Brooks has been seeing a lot of reps on defense with the top unit and the veteran ST’s ace edges out Obi Melifonwu right now. Obi has had a good camp and has gotten a lot of reps himself with the top unit. His size and athleticism make this one a tough choice. But the competition continues. 

Ebner is on PUP for now and Gant is a candidate for the practice squad.

Specialists: (4)
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Jake Bailey, long-snapper Joe Cardona, Gunner Matthew Slater
Out: Ryan Allen

Gostkowski and  Cardona aren’t facing any competition in camp and other than Brady, perhaps, these two should rest easiest in training camp. Bailey the strong-legged punter and Allen are locked in a good camp battle. Bailey has a booming leg with incredible hang time while Allen is the steady vet. But Bailey can also kickoff and fill in for Gostkowski on FGs if need be. Slater practices hard on his own all session long with a staff member, working on his gunner skills. 

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 and game analysis.

Cliffs, Turnover, Age… Tom Brady Remains Resolute

Steve Balestrieri
August 1, 2019 at 10:07 am ET

The Patriots training camp is seven days and six practices [the seventh practice will begin as this posts] into the 2019 campaign. And the Patriots are blessed to have the same coach and quarterback combination on hand for the 20th consecutive year.  Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have been a constant in the league that every year suffers a huge amount of turnover. 

Brady’s first training camp stands in stark contrast with this one. Back then he was an unheralded, late 6th round draft choice from Michigan who many believed had no shot at a long career in the NFL. But he had an incredible work ethic, a huge chip on his shoulder because of his draft position [which remains], and absolute faith in himself. He introduced himself to Robert Kraft that summer and Kraft recalled, “he looked at me with laser-focus and said, ‘I’m best decision this organization ever made.’”

After 18 years as a starter, Brady has led the Patriots to nine Super Bowl appearances and six wins. He stands in rarified air, no one in the Super Bowl era can come close to those numbers. And every year since his knee injury in 2008, Brady has faced the same questions it seems every summer. Is this the year where he shows his age? Where Brady and the Patriots fall from the heights and re-join the pack of Super Bowl afterthoughts instead of front-runners? Will Brady… fall off a cliff? “Tom Brady is going to be a bum in short order,” Max Kellerman pronounced early in 2016. In the past three years, the Patriots have been to three straight Super Bowls, winning two. But still, the questions remain. 

While he claims to ignore the noise… and the trolls on the national beat, we know better. He uses them for an incentive to work harder than his already famous work ethic. He approaches every day and every practice as if he’s that late 6th rounder trying to make the team, instead of a six-time Super Bowl champion. 

Tom Brady speaks to the media after practice on 7/31

On Wednesday, he wasn’t scheduled to speak with the media but felt like he should after the offense had a very sloppy, unproductive session. He walked over and told the horde of media that quickly surrounded him to “Fire Away.”

He was quickly asked about his contract status. He’s entering the final year of his deal and was questioned as to he’s comfortable working on a one-year deal. He answered as that 6th round rookie would. 

 “We’re all day-to-day if you think about it,” he answered. “None of us are really promised anything. So, I’m trying to do the best I can today and just let those [contracts] things sort themselves out… so, we’ll see how it goes.”

Asked about if he’s still having fun out there, even in the stifling heat and humidity yesterday he said, “ Yeah, absolutely. I have a great time, I mean football is – I love the sport. I’ve loved playing it since I was a kid. You know, it’s hard for me to imagine doing anything else in life. I love playing ball, so to still be out here at 41 – soon to be 42 – it’s a pretty great thing for me.”

Brady also addressed the balancing of family time with his preparation and commitment to football, giving a tremendous amount of credit to his wife, Gisele.

“The last couple of years, it’s been great for me to spend the off-seasons with them, and really fill up that bucket and give them the time, support, and love that they need. When I’m here doing my thing, my wife’s got to hold down the fort and she has put a lot on hold over the years to support my dreams. I feel like it’s my responsibility as a husband to do the same for her. She’s happy when I get back to football because she knows how happy I am. It was a great off-season, but now it’s time for football, and I think everyone in our family is prepared for that.”

Brady addressed the turnover of players and coaches and said that it takes a total team effort to get everyone pulling together. 

“Well, there’s a lot of turnover every year and you deal with the turnover, and there’s a lot of new guys trying to assimilate into what we’ve done here for a long time. It’s really up to them to get up to speed, and everyone here has got to help them get there. Between the coaches, the veteran players, the leaders – it’s our responsibility to get everyone on the same page, doing the right thing and trying to help us in whatever way they can help us move the ball down the field and score some points.”

Asked about a contract extension and if he’s earned one, Brady poked fun at NBC Sports Boston with all of the polls they’ve conducted during the offseason. 

“I don’t know. That’s up for talk show debate. What do you guys think? Should we take a poll? Talk to Mr. Kraft, come on.” Chuckling, he added, “No, like I said, we’ve got a great relationship so we’ll see how it goes.”

So, while the hot-take artists continue to predict the demise of the Patriots and Brady, he remains steadfast in his preparation, commitment to the game and his extremely competitive nature on the field. 

Having been at nearly every training camp practice for the past decade, every year I watch him go thru his progressions and throwing motion with my binos looking for the cracks that every hot-take artist claims to be there [and never steps foot in Foxboro] and I don’t see it. If anything, his throwing mechanics are even better than they were a decade ago. He may be in even better shape physically than he was then. 

The Patriots offense may struggle early in the 2019 season with the turnover at wide receiver and tight end, but as long as Brady is under center, there is no doubt that they’ll find a way to figure it out. Those national hot take artists will continue the drivel every summer ad nauseam and when he finally does retire or fall off, they’ll celebrate like they had it right all along. Brady has made them all look foolish for a long time. He’s the classic man in the arena that a former President wrote about 67 years before he was born. 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

The Patriots get back to practice this morning and look for Brady to be looking to get the offense moving forward right off the bat… It’s inevitable.

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Patriots Training Camp Day 6 Observations

Steve Balestrieri
July 31, 2019 at 5:25 pm ET

Sloppy Affair For the Offense

The Patriots conducted their sixth practice of training camp and their third in full pads on the fields behind Gillette Stadium on a very hot, humid Wednesday morning. It was perhaps the worst showing of the summer by the offense who were plagued by dropped passes. Between the heat, humidity and the Patriots defense, the offense had a rough session. They never looked in sync and had a hard time stringing any plays together.  

Not Practicing – Julian Edelman and Yodny Cajuste remain on NFI, Demaryius Thomas is still on PUP along with Nate Ebner and Ken Webster.

Byron Cowart and Dontrelle Inman returned after missing three practices and two respectively. Cowart worked on conditioning while Inman jumped right back into team drills. After warmups and stretching, Rex Burkhead retreated to the lower practice fields for work with the training staff. About halfway thru practice, Lance Kendricks left with a member of the training staff, which could have been a heat issue. 

Ben Watson speaks after practice on 7-31. (SBalestrieri)

The practice was conducted in full pads. Our observations included:

  • Once again a big part of the focus on Wednesday was the running game. Early in the session, James White was leading the way 
  • N’Keal Harry had a rough go of it, the worst of his career with four (4) drops one of which irritated Brady and he let the rookie know it. 
  • Braxton Berrios didn’t have a great session either, he had a drop from Brady and another from Hoyer. 

On the subject of Berrios, with Edelman out, he was expected to really compete and get work with the top unit on offense. After a really solid spring, things haven’t worked out. He hasn’t stood out at all. And worse yet, he isn’t getting any separation from the corners and he’s been mainly going against the second-tier guys. 

Maybe in the preseason, they’ll scheme up something to get him open more. Right now, I thought he’d be rapidly becoming the Amendola option to this offense. Although there is still a long, long way to go, right now, I’d put him on the outside looking in. 

Back to observations…

  • Jakobi Meyers is having a pretty impressive camp along with Maurice Harris. While he isn’t getting the reps that Harris is, whenever he’s being called, he is producing. He used his height to outleap Keion Crosson and brought down a pass from Stidham. I’d put him over Berrios…right now.
  • During the first 7-on-7 period, the offense struggled with drops on three plays. Berrios dropped a pass from Stidham, then he dropped one from Brady as the ball sailed right thru his hands. 
  • Harry dropped one on a quick drag route close to the line of scrimmage. 
  • Harry then ran a nice comeback route as Brady gunned the ball to his back shoulder. The rookie made the nice difficult catch on that one. 
  • During 11-on-11, Harry dropped a quick slant where Brady put the ball right in his hands. 
  • Brady just missed hitting Ben Watson with Devin McCourty providing tight coverage. The window was tight and he just missed him.
  • When Brian Hoyer came in, he tried to hook up with Phillip Dorsett but Jason McCourty did a nice job of breaking up the pass.
  • Stidham hit Damoun Patterson on a drag route close to the line of scrimmage. Then he threw behind Patterson on the next snap. 
  • During the final 11-on-11 which looked to be a hurry-up offensive series Brady laid out a deep seam pass for Harry but he dropped it. This was one of the only plays of the summer where Gilmore was beaten clearly.
  • Jonathan Jones made a really nice play of breaking up a pass intended for Berrios. Jones is having an outstanding camp thus far. Perhaps only Gilmore is playing better in the secondary right now.
  • Hoyer attempted to split double coverage with a deep seam pass to Watson. Terrence Brooks got a piece of it and Duron Harmon picked it off. 
  • Joejuan Williams had his best day of camp and broke up another pass to Watson. He had a couple on nice breakups today. 
  • Dan Skipper was getting the majority of first-team reps at left tackle but in the 1-on-1 drills he was beaten cleanly by Shalique Calhoun, who quietly is having a good camp and later was pancaked by Ufomba Kamalu. Not a good sign.
  • David Andrews and Joe Thuney held their own in the drills with good, solid stops. 
  • Backup defensive lineman Nick Thurman looked impressive in his individual 1-on-1 against Tyree St. Louis. 
  • New offensive lineman Martez Ivey was in uniform and has a long, long way to go with his conditioning.  Forced to run a penalty lap, he was so slow that the trainers came out to check on him….time to hit the hills. 
  • Punt returners today were Chung, Berrios, Olszewski, and Dorsett. 
  • Jake Bailey did a good job both on hanging his punts high in the air and on holding for Stephen Gostkowski’s field goals….hmmm.

The next practice session is slated for Thursday morning at 9:15 a.m.

Brady speaks to the media after practice. (SBalestrieri)

Brady, Watson, James White, and Dont’a Hightower all spoke with the media after practice. Brady spoke about the difficulties working against this defense and getting the new players up to speed.

“They’re all new players, so we’ve got to figure out how to get them up to speed to what our expectations are, the level of competition on a daily basis,” Brady said after practice. “We have a very good defense this year. Those guys are challenging us on every day. It’s hard to complete passes on our secondary. That’s just the reality. So, it’s actually great work for our offense to see how we measure up against a very good defense.

“Days like today are frustrating for us and we’ve got to learn from the corrections and try to come out and have a better day tomorrow.”

Play of the Day:

Okay, now that we got Harry’s struggles covered, he also had the play of the day, so that his day wasn’t a total loss. One play after dropping an easy catch, Harry made the very difficult one. He attacked the seam and was facing tight coverage from Jason McCourty . He went up and made an incredible leaping catch where he came down hard on his back. He was shaken up for a few seconds but quickly returned to the huddle and continued. 

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

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Taking Stock of the First Week of Patriots Training Camp

Steve Balestrieri
July 29, 2019 at 8:18 am ET

A shortened week is now complete with two padded and two unpadded practices for the Patriots as they began their 2019 training camp. This week, they’ll begin by enshrining Rodney Harrison and Leon Gray into the team’s Hall of Fame and then conduct their in-stadium practice on Monday night. Unlike the other training camp practices, this one is open only to season ticket holders and I believe Foxboro residents.

So let’s take a look at the first practices and get some of the highlights of the camp thus far and how the team is shaping up in the early going. 

Health Still a Concern In Some Areas:

Julian Edelman and Yodny Cajuste are still on the NFI. Cole Croston, Demaryius Thomas, Nate Ebner, and Ken Webster are on PUP. Sony Michel, Isaiah Wynn, and David Andrews have returned to practice in a limited way while Dontrelle Inman and Bryon Cowart missed the last sessions. 

With Cajuste and Croston out and Wynn limited, it has been pushing the depth at tackle, especially left tackle…more to that below. 

Defense Looking Very Strong in Early Going:

The Patriots defense thus far in the camp has been very impressive. As is the norm in training camp, the defense begins usually slightly ahead of the offense. And this year is no exception. They look better (at this point) than the team that took the field for the Super Bowl in February. 

Deep, Talented Secondary – We’ve been writing that all spring long and they’ve been giving the receivers a tough time. Stephon Gilmore has continued right where he left off in the Super Bowl. He’s only been targeted twice that we’ve seen in team drills and hasn’t given up a reception. J.C. Jackson is steadily improving over his very solid rookie season and will push to be the starter opposite Gilmore. Jonathan Jones is quietly having a very good camp, something he’s used to, he’s rarely if ever mentioned as one of the better slot corners in the league, but he is and appears entrenched as a starter thus far. 

The safeties are deep with Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, and Duron Harmon all returning and on the field, although Chung is still wearing a red no-contact jersey. But the competition behind them is getting intriguing to watch. Terrence Brooks is the next man on the depth chart, he was given a nice contract with $1.3 million guaranteed, he’s a special teams ace who can fill in on defense. He’s battling with Obi Melifonwu who has stood out in limited action with three interceptions thus far. With Ebner on PUP, Melifonwu got some extended looks with the STs units. Something to monitor. 

Linebackers Are Stacked – The Patriots return Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Elandon Roberts from their playoff run, but they added Jamie Collins and got back impressive 2nd-year player Ja’Whaun Bentley from IR and appear even better heading into 2019. 

The depth allows them to move Collins, Hightower, and Van Noy around to attack favorable matchups and be more aggressive. How they plan on utilizing Collins should be a fun thing to watch. Unheralded Calvin Munson, a long-shot to make the roster is quietly having a good camp in the early going. 

D-Line Much Better Suited to Stopping the Run – When free agency rolled around, we were touting that the Patriots needed to sign Mike Pennel, the run-stuffing nose tackle from the Jets. That met with a lot of “who?”, even from our own podcast. But Pennel and Lawrence Guy appear to be a solid tandem in the middle. During goal-line drills on Sunday, Pennel blew up one play, pushing into the backfield and stopping Brandon Bolden for a loss. 

The edge players got a boost from the arrival of Michael Bennett on Sunday, who flew straight from Hawaii to Boston and came straight to practice to dominate, jet-lagged and all on the field. Deatrich Wise is still not 100 percent but veterans Derek Rivers, John Simon, and rookie Chase Winovich have all looked good thus far.

Wide Receiver Competition Heating Up: 

With Julian Edelman on NFI, this opened the door for some of the other wide receivers to get more playing time with Tom Brady and carve out a role. Rookie N’Keal Harry has been getting outstanding tutelage from former Patriot Troy Brown as well as the daily side sessions with Brady and McDaniels. 

Maurice Harris has been the best, most consistent player on the field, he catches just about everything thrown his way and would appear to be well on his way to earning not just a roster spot but a nice role in the offense as well. Phillip Dorsett still appears to be an enigma. He has all the tools, and when called on, usually produces. But one would think he’d be a bigger go-to guy by now. 

Braxton Berrios is still with the second tier of receivers in the early going. After a nice spring, there was hope that he’d use the Edelman downtime more to his advantage. Two undrafted rookie WRs to monitor are Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski. Meyers is a big, (6,2, 200) slot receiver who is a converted QB. Because he knows the responsibilities of the players on the field, he knows where the soft spots are in the coverages. His number hasn’t been called a lot, but he’s producing when it is and could be that next undrafted free agent to make the team. Plus, he’s been a frequent participant in the side sessions with Brady and McDaniels.

Olszewski is the undersized, underdog who is scrapping his way into work every day. He competes hard in drills and returns kicks and punts and is giving the coaches a reason every day to keep him around. 

Biggest disappointment thus far is Dontrelle Inman. He had a very quiet spring followed by some forgettable practices in camp and then on Sunday was a no-show. He hasn’t improved his bubble position and may find himself in a weaker position now.

But the one constant is the deep running back position, even with Sony Michel just getting back to work and Tom Brady. The backs, especially Brandon Bolden and impressive rookie Damien Harris are getting a lot of reps in the running game.

Brady looks … like Brady. Forget about the age talk and the endless “cliff” nonsense. He looks as good, if not better than he did a decade ago. Nuff said. Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham are getting the back up work while Danny Etling is being transitioned to wide receiver.

Bennett Puts Retirement Rumors to Rest, Dominates: 

Michael Bennett was excused from the Patriots first three practices due to a family situation. Bennett said, he saw the retirement rumors at home and laughed at those. He said he’s never quit at anything, even checkers with his daughter.

Bill Belichick allowed him the time to take care of his situation. After practice on Sunday, Bennett was effusive in his praise of Belichick for allowing that time.

“It’s nice when you have a coach that sees you as a human, sees you as a human being, not just a number and you’re able to go talk to him, tell him what’s going on, and you’re able to go take care of it,” Bennett said to the media. “That just makes you want to play harder for a coach. When he believes in you, and lets you take care of your family first.”

Belichick had to love Bennett’s comments about training camp, not as a necessary evil but as an opportunity to learn and show his teammates what he can bring to the table. 

“I think it’s important,” he said. “Training camp is always fun. It’s another time to get a chance to work with young guys, and you get a chance to work on your skills and prove yourself every day.”

Bennett cracked a joke and said that he told linebackers coach (and defensive signal-caller) Jerod Mayo that he wasn’t going to listen to him, “because we’re the same age.” The two have known each other for some time and worked out together in the offseason in the past. 

“It’s nice to have a young guy who knows the plays, who lived the defense, and he just knows,” Bennett said. “You trust the way that he plays because he played in the game and you know he knows the call. He was the leader before, so to have him in the huddle every single time, you can’t let him down because he’s been in the game.”

Bennett acted like a guy who has been here all along and was a dominant force in one-on-one battles and in team drills. Like his predecessor Trey Flowers, the Patriots plan on using him inside and outside and Sunday was just the tip of the iceberg.

Tight End Still a Work in Progress:

The Patriots have totally revamped the tight end position, with Gronk retired, Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister no longer with the team. Matt LaCosse had a strong spring and is trying to parlay that into getting some meaningful reps come September. So far, that looks like the case.

Ben Watson, doesn’t look like a 38-year old guy who contemplated retirement this spring. He’s moving like someone ten years younger. But with his upcoming 4-game suspension looming, that opens the door for other players to carve out their own roles in the offense. Watson has been a frequent side session participant with Brady and McDaniels. They were working on red zone opportunities on Saturday.   

Move tight end Stephen Anderson, Ryan Izzo, and UDFA Andrew Beck are all in the mix for a roster spot. It is pretty much a wide-open competition right now with no one having firm control over anything. Just before camp began the Patriots signed Lance Kendricks, the former Packer tight end was an afterthought in the Green Bay offense the past two years but may see an uptick in looks if everything works out. 

“This is a special place, obviously,” Kendricks said after Day 3. “This is a championship team. They know how to play football. They know how to win games. They know how to do it the right way, so it’s a no-brainer.”

So far, he’s gotten some work in but despite his veteran pedigree, he’s in no better position than anyone else right now, he’ll have to earn his spot. 

Tackle Still a Concern For Now:

With Trent Brown now a Raider (and an extremely well-paid one), the depth at tackle is concerning. The Patriots are set at right tackle with Marcus Cannon but the left and swing tackle positions are still areas of concern with depth and availability issues. 

Isaiah Wynn is still being eased into the mix after recovering from last year’s Achilles surgery. Third round draft pick Yodny Cajuste is on NFI recovering from offseason quad surgery and has yet to appear. Jared Veldheer retired before training camp. Cole Croston is on PUP.

With these issues, the Patriots have moved Joe Thuney over to left tackle throughout the spring and early camp practice sessions. That put Ted Karras at left guard. On Sunday, the Patriots gave 6’9 tackle Dan Skipper and Cedric Lang reps with the first team. Neither fared well. Skipper, despite his size, failed to generate any push in the running game and both struggled with pass protection. 

This will bear watching as we move forward. However, if history is any indication, and it is… Dante Scarnecchia will get things sorted out. 

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Patriots 2019 Training Camp Guide – Wide Receivers

Steve Balestrieri
July 16, 2019 at 8:00 am ET

The Patriots have many questions heading into the 2019 season at wide receiver. Julian Edelman returns, the Super Bowl LIII MVP is still at the top of his game but at 33, one has to wonder how much longer he can perform at a high level. 

After him, the situation gets murkier. Phillip Dorsett has been fine whenever his number has been called but his production really could use an increase. Demaryius Thomas’s numbers have been steadily going down the past several years and now he’s coming off of an Achilles injury. Josh Gordon is suspended indefinitely and no one knows if he’ll be allowed to play this year. 

The Patriots drafted N’Keal Harry in the first round of the draft this spring and expectations with him are high. But rookie wide receivers have struggled to make an impact here in the past. Braxton Berrios had a very strong spring but spent his entire rookie season on IR. Maurice Harris and Dontrelle Inman are coming on to try to carve out roles for themselves after playing for the Redskins and Colts respectively. 

So, the opportunities are there for several players to carve out roles for themselves once training camp opens. There are 12 players that should be vying for reps, and possibly 13 if Thomas is ready to go. Gordon is forbidden to enter the facility or work out with the team during his suspension. Let’s take a look at who is in good shape and who has a lot of work to do at the wide receiver position

Check back with PatsFans.com as we’ll go thru the entire roster as our primers for training camp continue before the heavy lifting starts on July 25.

Current roster – Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, N’Keal Harry, Matthew Slater, Demaryius Thomas, Braxton Berrios, Maurice Harris, Dontrelle Inman, Damoun Patterson, Jakobi Meyers, Ryan Davis, Gunner Olszewski, Josh Gordon (suspended)

Locks – Edelman, Dorsett, Harry, Slater

Bubble – Berrios, Thomas, Harris, Inman, Meyers

Long Shot – Patterson, Davis, Olszewski, Gordon 

Discussion – Edelman, Dorsett, Slater, and Harry are all locks. Obviously, the conversation starts with Julian Edelman. Yes, Edelman is 33 but if you watched him in the Super Bowl he was uncoverable. The Rams threw several different defensive backs on him and nobody could lock him down. I watched him thru all three days of minicamp and he looks ready to go again. 

Dorsett was getting plenty of reps early last year but lost those after Gordon was brought in. The hope here is that he’ll be able to replicate what he did last year, and with an additional year in the system, be able to add to it. 

Slater is a WR in name only but is a Special Teams’ captain and one of the best at what he does both on and off the field. Harry is a first-round draft pick who has incredible upside but is just a rookie. With a first-round draft pedigree, he’s automatically on the 53-man roster. 

This is where it gets interesting. Berrios had a very strong spring but is in no way a lock at this point. He has a long way to go but is definitely trending in the right direction. The smaller but quick slot receiver recognizes the opportunity in front of him. Mike Reiss of ESPN has written that Berrios has already reported into camp. The hope is that he could fit into that Danny Amendola role in the Patriots offense.

Harris likewise had a very strong spring, catching nearly everything thrown his way with a few nice highlight-reel catches during minicamp. Can he do it again when the secondary players are allowed contact? Inman, on the other hand, didn’t have a good week at minicamp. He didn’t catch a single pass in team drills during the three sessions. He has a lot of ground to make up. 

Meyers is an interesting addition. A former QB turned WR, Meyers has good size for the position, (6’2, 203) with very good hands, tight route-running and the willingness to go into contested areas. He doesn’t have great top-end speed but could be an oversized slot receiver. What was intriguing about him was that during a side session with Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, and Josh McDaniels, during minicamp, Meyers was brought in with Harry to work on route selection. May end being nothing, but it could mean they have a plan in mind for him.

Patterson was on the practice squad a year ago but along with Davis, and Olszewski are all facing long odds of making the roster. 

In a perfect world, Gordon would get reinstated and Thomas would come back better than new. But we don’t live in a perfect world and the fact is, the Patriots can’t rely on Gordon being reinstated any time soon, if at all. And Thomas may end up on PUP to begin the season. That means other players will have to step up….Questions, questions. This will make training camp and the preseason so compelling this summer.

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New England Patriots News 6-09, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
June 9, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Football is a great deal like life in that it teaches that work, sacrifice, perseverance, competitive drive, selflessness and respect for authority is the price that each and every one of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.
Vince Lombardi

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 06-09 and AFC East notes this week.

The Patriots mandatory three-day minicamp is in the books and there was plenty of interesting things to see and take note of during the practices. Bill Belichick commented on how he believed that they accomplished a lot during the three days. With the teaching camp in the books, the evaluation will commence once training camp begins.

Quick Hitters:

The 2018 Patriots – got together for the final time at Robert Kraft’s house, and in a celebration with pomp and ceremony, the team received their Super Bowl rings. The sheer size of them now lends itself to question the term “ring” and despite the over-the-top gaudiness of them, there are 31 other teams that wished that was them on Thursday night. Very impressive pieces of jewelry.

The Patriots put up a big photo gallery of the night here:

Joe Cardona – the Patriots long-snapper was promoted inside Gillette Stadium on Thursday morning to Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve prior to the minicamp practice. Tom Brady spoke about how Cardona epitomizes “commitment to our team and to our country” later in the day. And it happened on the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy. A very cool moment

Tom Brady – Looked in mid-season form for the three days of minicamp. His mechanics are always flawless. Every year I take pics of him throwing and compare them to the years before and you could lay them on top of one another and couldn’t tell the difference.

Brady “deuxième partie” – Brady and Josh McDaniels conducted a side session with rookies Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry on Thursday. They were trying to get their timing and chemistry down, in terms of how they want routes run, where the breaks should happen, the angle of the cuts and ball placement. Fascinating stuff to watch. The work they do in June and July pays dividends in January and February.

Ivan Fears – The Patriots running back coach is beginning his 21st consecutive year with the Patriots, he also had an earlier stint with the team. Fears is one of our favorite guys to watch and listen to during the practices. We got a chance to chat with him before practice briefly on Thursday. After mentioning that the running backs looked good so far but that we’re sure he’d find areas to critique them, Fears got a big grin and said, “Oh I’ll always find ways to critique them.” Asked about Brandon Bolden’s return, he said how Bolden brings energy to the field and his teammates every day.

Troy Brown/Deion Branch – Excellent seeing the two of them work so closely with Joe Judge the Patriots STs Coordinator/WRs Coach and the players this week. Both of them know what it takes to be successful in the Patriots passing game and the two former players lending themselves to teaching the young players was intriguing to watch.

Mini-camp Wrap, Final Thoughts:

In their quest for “Knockin on Seven’s Door” that begins in September, the Patriots started the process with OTAs and their mandatory minicamp. Watching it all for three days, albeit without pads or contact was interesting as the coaches try to mold the 2019 version of the team. Here are some of the things that were intriguing to watch and will bear further consideration moving forward.

Left Tackle Status – Without Isaiah Wynn and Yodny Cajuste taking part in team drills this week, the Patriots moved left guard Joe Thuney into the left tackle position. He was getting nearly all of the first personnel grouping’s reps. And he was practicing with the tackles as well.

The good news, however, is that Wynn was on the field and taking part in individual drills and exhibits no sign of being limited at all after his Achilles surgery. Which lends itself to believe that he should be ready to go by training camp.

Tight End Production – With the release of Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Ben Watson suspended for the first four games of the season, it puts the ball squarely in the corner of Matt Lacosse. Lacosse looked good in the workouts this week, moving well and displaying nice hands, catching everything thrown his way.

We were on hand when Lacosse spoke to the media after Wednesday’s practice session. Which can be seen here:

Ryan Izzo, Andrew Beck seem to be both competing for the blocking tight end role while Stephen Anderson is looking to carve out a role as the “move” tight end.

Brady nixed suggestions that the Patriots are going to diminish the tight end role in the offense. “That has to be a position of strength, even if it’s not one player but multiple players doing different roles,” Brady said. “There were times in my career before that where we’ve had similar approaches.” He finished his thoughts on an upbeat note.

“The tight end position is a big part of our offense and those guys are going to have to do a great job for us.”

Jamie Collins Return, Seems Like a Bigger Development…for Now – We were against the addition of Collins this spring on these pages, remembering the reasons why they jettisoned him in the first place. However, if minicamp is any indication, the Patriots coaches, especially LBs coach Jerod Mayo have bigger plans for Collins.

This week, at least Collins wearing #8, for now, was playing a big role for the defense in their alignments. And, again without pads on, he was asserting his will against the offense during team drills.

Even Mike Reiss was on-board with this train of thought calling Collins “active and looking like key cog” in the defense. Surprising. Another thing to watch for in training camp when that kicks off in about 5-6 weeks.

Maurice Harris Looking Good – Another mild surprise here. Harris was given little chance to make the roster when he was picked up this spring. Well…after the three-day mini-camp, Harris did nothing to hurt his chances of not only making the roster but carving out a role for himself.

We’ve gotten DMs, phone calls, and e-mails about Harris, “He’s a JAG!”, “He’s not going to make the rostah!” Well…you have to report on what you see. And for three days, Harris caught everything thrown his way. On the flip side, I didn’t see Dontrelle Inman catch a single pass in team drills…maybe I missed some or even one. But we’ve seen this film before. One is trending up, the other down.

Cornerbacks are Looking Deep and Talented – The Patriots have a plethora of corners on this team and every one of them can play. That isn’t hype or hyperbole but a fact. This is arguably the team’s biggest strength heading into training camp.

Stephon Gilmore blanketed everyone thrown at him all week. J.C. Jackson looked very solid for the first two days before missing Thursday’s practice session. Those two are the two starters, that we expect to see in Week 1. Some people feel Jackson may someday supplant Gilmore as the #1 corner on the team…

However,  behind them are several more talented players. Jonathan Jones has already been a starting slot corner. Jason McCourty has started both outside and in the slot. Rounding out this talented group is Duke Dawson, Joejuan Williams, Ken Webster, and D’Angelo Ross. The cornerback group can mix and match with just about everyone and it is going to be intriguing to see how the defense aligns this year depending on the opponent.

The Punting Competition Will Be a Key One to Watch – Once again this summer, Ryan Allen will be battling for his job. Last year, he bested Corey Bojorquez and then was arguably one of the players that could have won the MVP of the Super Bowl with the way he pinned the Rams deep all game long.

This year, Allen will take on rookie Jake Bailey from Stanford who possesses a massive leg. Bailey was putting the ball into the ozone all week, getting some tremendous height and hang time on his punts.

It will be a battle of consistency over strength. Allen was his usual consistent self all week, while Bailey, even when booming most of his punts all week, had a few that were off the mark. Stay tuned.

Edelman Turns In Solid Week Performance-wise and Mentoring:

The Patriots drafted N’Keal Harry with the #32 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and he’s sure to feel the heat of fans and the media’s expectations this fall. The Patriots drafted Braxton Berrios in the 6th round in 2018. But he didn’t see the field in 2018. Two different players with different backgrounds. But they have a constant voice that is always there for them.

Julian Edelman was the Super Bowl MVP last year who came to the Patriots via Kent State and was a college QB who made the transition to NFL WR who, after Tom Brady is arguably the most valuable Patriot on the offense. In his 11th season, Edelman is not only Brady’s most trusted receiver, but he’s also now taking on the role as a mentor for these younger players on the roster. It is something he feels strongly about.  

Julian Edelman, wearing a Bruins jersey and Jamie Collins before practice on Weds

“I had teammates that help you, and then you had teammates that didn’t,” Edelman said after practice on Wednesday. “I like to be known as a guy that helped you. I like to give little pointers here and there, because the better we all are, the better the team is going to be. I like going out and trying to give information if they want information from me and go from there. It’s part of my job, I guess.”

Edelman recalled Fred Taylor in his rookie season as a veteran who helped him out immensely and he said that he would try to do the same with Harry. Berrios, also after practice on Tuesday, mentioned that Edelman has been a constant source of mentoring for him. He’s looked quick and skilled thus far in minicamp.

Edelman will be looked to for a lot of production this season in the Patriots offense. If the contributions of Harry and Berrios this season are any indication, then Edelman can chalk up mentoring among his accomplishments this year as well.

Gunner Olszewski Is a Player to Watch For This Summer:

The Patriots brought in the undrafted cornerback from tiny Division II Bemidji State and are trying to convert him to a wide receiver. That alone should put him in the long-shot category for making the roster. But not so fast…Julian Edelman, who knows a thing or two about converting to wide receiver at the pro level is high on the youngster.

“I love that guy,” Edelman said. “If he’s got a question, I’m here to help try to answer it to the best of my ability. I feel that’s part of my role on the team, being here so long. He’s working hard. He’s definitely a tough kid. I love the chip on his shoulder, and I like working with him, that’s for sure. He definitely works his tail off, and I like having him around.”

One of the things going for Olszewski, who is generously listed as 6’0, 170, is the fact that he can return kicks and punts. But make no mistake, he doesn’t appear lost out there or like a duck out of water. While the path won’t be an easy one, he can do it.

The Patriots always seem to have undrafted free agents make the roster. With a name like Gunner Olszewski, you can’t help but root for him.

No AFC East Notes This Week:

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With the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion this week, it is important that we remember the American, British, Canadian and Free French soldiers who stormed the beaches of Normandy not to conquer but to free the world of Nazism.

“At the core, the American citizen soldiers knew the difference between right and wrong, and they didn’t want to live in a world in which wrong prevailed. So they fought, and won, and we all of us, living and yet to be born, must be forever profoundly grateful.”

–Author Stephen Ambrose

Can’t end the piece without another look at the entire ring ceremony once more.

“So, how was your week?”

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Photos: Author