Tag Archives: Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots News 8-18, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
August 18, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 08-18 and AFC East notes this week. 

The Patriots are returning home and will prepare for the upcoming preseason game against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night. The joint practices are over as is the open public portions of training camp. The media will still be allowed in but their access will be shortened as well during practices 

Check back with us frequently on PatsFans.com as we’ll continue to post daily training camp updates as well as breaking news. 

 Quick Hitters:

Derek Rivers – Tough break for the Patriots 3rd year player who has been having a very good training camp and he went down with an injury and didn’t return. Hopefully, it isn’t a serious injury this time around.

Russell Wilson – Is now a part-owner of a sports franchise, [Seattle Sounders]. One has to wonder if another QB was to purchase a portion of a professional team, say Tom Brady buys a piece of the NE Revolution that just happened to be owned his own team owner, Robert Kraft, then the internet would implode…instead, crickets.

Tom Brady – playing elsewhere or retiring in 2020? The story that just won’t die but truthfully, yes it could conceivably happen. And it could snow for the Panthers game. Brady is playing for a basic one-year deal. So are Phillip Rivers and Drew Brees. But ask yourself this, the Patriots aren’t going to saddle themselves with deferred bonus payments in 2020 and 2021 if they didn’t believe that there isn’t a very good chance of his returning. Feelings here is, depending on how 2019 goes, it gets done. 

Chase Winovich – Was chastised by Brady on Instagram. Wino posted a clip from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” Act II, Scene I where he wrote:
That lowliness is young ambition’s ladder,
Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
But when he once attains the upmost round.
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend.

Brady responded with “Study your playbook”…savage

 Josh Gordon is Back, What Are Realistic Expectations?

The NFL has allowed Josh Gordon to be conditionally reinstated back to the team after a five-game hiatus [two regular-season games, three in the playoffs]. The league has to feel that he has his mental health and substance abuse issues in order. That is a good sign, for both the player and the person.

The Patriots kept a space open for him by offering a 2nd round tender on him and that wasn’t surprising, considering Gordon was a popular teammate and a productive one on the field. But now what? Where do the Patriots go with Gordon?

It isn’t as clear cut as one would think. During the entire offseason, NFL insiders were reporting that the Patriots would welcome Gordon back but they weren’t counting on his presence. Does that change now? As they already know, those demons that Gordon has battled don’t just magically disappear. It takes a life-long struggle against them. And just one slip-up now could mean the end of Gordon’s NFL career. 

Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick have to decide whether they just fully embrace Gordon’s return and insert him in the offense and risk losing a big piece of it somewhere down the road this season, or do they ease him in and give another wide receiver a roster spot…just in case he has issues again. 

With a healthy Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, and a reacclimated Gordon at WR, all of a sudden the WR position projects to one of strength. Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers, Maurice Harris, and Braxton Berrios are there for depth. And they have both Demaryius Thomas and Cam Meredith on PUP. 

Dorsett and Harris are also banged up right now, which would thrust Meyers into a more prominent position, at least early in the season. How this plays out will be an intriguing story to watch. Everyone wants to see Gordon succeed in life first, football second, but the NFL is a business, which we’ve been told over and over. 

This development I believe means that they certainly have to keep an extra WR on the roster at cut down time. I’d also look for Gordon to be targeted as much as he merits this season. Brady has trust in him on the field, and with Edelman, Harry et al, it should prove to be a fun offense to watch. 

Brady and Vrabel Trash Talk Rooted In Deep Respect:

One of the more entertaining things about the joint practices this week with the Patriots and Titans was being able to witness the constant trash talk that emanated between Tom Brady and Titans head coach Mike Vrabel. 

The two were very close personal friends as teammates and remain so today, despite the fact that Vrabel now coaches another team. But their friendship was marked by constant playful jabs at one another. Brady is a Michigan man while Vrabel went to Ohio State. There were bets made before the ‘big game’ every year and frequently the winner of the bet would have his college jersey worn by the other. After one Ohio State win, Vrabel had his jersey hanging in Brady’s locker. 

This week was a continuation of that. It started on the first day as Brady strolled on to the practice field, Vrabel yelled at him for walking, where Brady retorted to basically mind his own business, but in more colorful language. 

Brady upped the ante on Vrabel’s birthday by handing him a small trophy inscribed with the score of last year’s game, where Tennessee ripped the Patriots 34-10, with the subliminal message that while Vrabel won the battle, the Patriots ultimately won the war with their sixth Super Bowl title. 

Brady spoke with the media after practice and couldn’t stop smiling while talking about his trash-talking with his former teammate. “I wouldn’t describe it as civil,” Brady said. “He’s been a good friend for a long time. Obviously, he’s done a great job leading his team. Proud of him and everything he’s accomplished. We all support him even though he’s coaching for another team.”

Vrabel, who had a reputation as a player who could even crack up Bill Belichick on occasion, gave Brady, even more razzing after he and Ben Watson failed on a connection in the red zone. “I never dropped one of those. Let me know if you need me to report.”

“It was fun. It brought back a lot of memories, just to be able to sit out there and have him make a play and he turns around and says, ‘Mikey, you know you better cover that. You guys need to do this,’” Vrabel said. “We had a lot of fun. We have a lot of respect for those guys and can learn a lot from them; how they practice and how they operate.”

The respect between the two is obvious, but it is also entertaining to watch those two jaw at each other constantly. The Patriots’ practices back then must have been something to behold. 

Michel, Harris Need to Factor More in the Passing Game:

The Patriots like to force opposing defenses to face an array of possibilities when they have the ball. That unpredictability was somewhat lost when Sony Michel was on the field in 2018. The Patriots ran the ball approximately 76 percent of the time when Sony was behind Brady. 

The plan this year is to get Michel and rookie Damien Harris involved more in the passing game out of the backfield. The benefit there would be two-fold. It would make the offense more unpredictable and would also boost the running game by keeping the opponent from loading up the box in an attempt to stuff the run. 

With injuries piling up at WR and TE, the running backs, a position of strength can really help in this regard. James White remains the primary 3rd-down pass-catching back but Rex Burkhead is the kind of versatile player they need in this scenario. Now Michel and Harris should begin to chip in more and more once the regular season begins. 

Part of Michel’s lack of productivity in the passing game last year was that he missed a significant amount of training camp with an injury and the coaches limited what they were putting on his plate as a rookie. That should change this year. 

Harris is an outstanding pass blocker and an underrated receiver out of the backfield. He was beginning to see more looks in the passing game in camp but has been slowed by a hand/wrist injury. 

Look for more passes going to the backs this season and for them to mix and match liberally to create matchup problems for the Patriots’ opposing defenses.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Josh Allen/Cole Beasley Connection Off and Running for the Bills:

The Buffalo Bills first-team offense looked extremely sharp in their preseason 27-14 win over the Carolina Panthers. Josh Allen was particularly impressive. In two drives, he completed 9-11 passes for 102 yards as the Bills’ offense put up 10 points. One of Allen’s two incompletions was a drop by Shady McCoy out in the flat. 

As we’ve posted here several times, Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll has decided to use Cole Beasley a lot in this offense. And he and Allen are thriving working together. On Allen’s 11 passes, five went to Beasley, all completions, for 44 yards. Beasley is loving this offense.

“I love Daboll so much, I have so much respect for him and I’m so appreciative for the opportunity and the belief that he has in his guys,” said Beasley. “You feel that and when you feel that from a coach you’re not afraid to go up to him and suggest things, give him some ideas. He likes to try things and have fun with it, and it makes it fun to come to work.”

Dolphins Rosen Gets the Start in PS Game vs Tampa Bay:

The Miami Dolphins started QB Josh Rosen over Ryan Fitzpatrick in their 16-14 loss to the Bucs on Friday night.  And while Rosen’s numbers were hardly eye-popping, 10-18 for 102 yards, they were much better than Fitzpatrick’s as the veteran was under pressure the entire time and could complete only 3-9 for 20 yards. Rosen was also the victim of several drops, including several by Preston Williams who, after shining in Week 1 was only able to make one catch for seven yards while getting starting reps. 

The offensive line struggled to protect their quarterbacks and to open holes in the running game. Rosen, and Fitzpatrick after him were under duress all game long. Fitzpatrick is slated to get the start next week against the Jaguars, but unless they get better OL play, it won’t matter who is under center.

Jets Lose LB Avery Williamson With Torn ACL For the Year:

New York Jets linebacker Avery Williamson is to undergo season-ending surgery after tearing the ACL in his right knee Thursday night against the Atlanta Falcons. This was a huge blow for the Jets defense as he was one of the team’s most consistent and durable players a year ago, playing in all but five defensive snaps.

Williamson’s injury happened on a fluke play late in the second quarter. He and CB Tevaughn Campbell were in coverage defending running back Brian Hill in the end zone. Williamson and Campbell collided, as Campbell dove into Williamson’s knee as he tried to make a play on the ball.

He called the signals last year but turned those duties over to C.J. Mosely this season as well as moved to the weak side LB position.

________________

“Well, I have a ton of respect for Mike [Vrabel] as a person, as a coach. He’s been a friend for a long time and obviously did a great job last year in the game we played him. We really got handled down here. He’s got an excellent staff and I’m sure that he’s teaching these guys a lot of football. He was a really smart player, a very fundamental player, so I’m sure that you can see those strengths in the way he coaches his team.” Bill Belichick on joint practices with the Titans –  8-14

________________

“So, how was your week?”

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

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

New England Patriots News 8-11, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
August 11, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 08-11 and AFC East notes this week. 

The Patriots return home and are off today after they played their first preseason game of the year against the Lions. They’ll be back at practice tomorrow and Tuesday and then head off to Tennessee where they’ll conduct joint practices with the Titans before preseason number 2. 

Check back with us frequently on PatsFans.com as we’ll continue to post daily training camp updates as well as breaking news. 

 Quick Hitters:

Chase Winovich – “It felt good to have it all come together,” Winovich said. “Hopefully, I made my family a little proud today.” On his first NFL action [1.5 sacks] and having his family there to see it.

Tom Brady – celebrating more for Brian Hoyer than Jarrett Stidham on Thursday? Don’t laugh, it is true. In the deep dive to find any controversy in Foxboro, we now have people analyzing his body language. 

Damien Harris – Didn’t play a down in Detroit, causing some to wildly speculate on what was the reason. I’d put money down that the coaching staff already puts him with some of the other established veterans [James White, Sony Michel] and gave him the night off. He’ll get plenty of work in Tenn. this week. 

Matt Patricia – was hearing the boo birds in Detroit on Thursday night. Entering his second season as the head coach, he’s already feeling the heat. The Lions’ fans have endured 60 years of frustration and that awful showing in the first preseason game was not a good start. 

Bill Belichick – Was in midseason form on Friday. Asked if Jerod Mayo was calling the defensive plays, Belichick refused to confirm or deny it. Pressed on it, in typical clipped Belichickian, he said, “we do what’s best for the football team and will continue to do so.” Well…all righty then.

Dan Skipper – the huge 6’9 left tackle hasn’t exactly filled the coaches and fans with optimism this summer. However, in the Thursday preseason opener, we didn’t hear his name called once as Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham worked for the most part with clean pockets. Granted, the Lions didn’t have their top starters out there. But at this point, we’ll take what we can get… A much bigger test awaits in Tenn.

Belichick Doesn’t Use New Coach’s Challenge on DPI:

There has been a ton of buzz this offseason on the new coach’s challenge for defensive and offensive pass interference and how they will change the game, especially time-wise. 

During the Patriots game with the Lions this week, there were two plays that the Patriots could have challenged during the game. Both were long passes from Jarrett Stidham to Maurice Harris. Both passes went off Harris’ hands, however, both seemed to be classic cases for the coach to throw the flag. 

Belichick didn’t choose to challenge either play although there was sufficient video evidence to suggest that both plays were DPI.  He was asked why he chose not to challenge the plays during his presser on Friday and gave a very distinct un-Belichick response to those questions. 

“It’s just… I don’t know. Maybe I’ve got to get used to the new rules.” 

Matt Patricia did challenge one play but the official call on the field stood and his challenge was denied. He had this to say after the game.

 “I think right now with the preseason, I think a lot of us, coaching-wise, we’re just trying to figure out how this is all going to be officiated,” Patricia said. I thought that maybe would be an opportunity we can see how they officiate it and we want to take that situation. It doesn’t really matter what we think of it, either way, it’s just I want to know what they’re going to look at and how they’re going to evaluate it.”

Belichick’s comment was far from the norm with him. He is always on top of changing rules and for him to say what he did was very curious, to say the least. 

Jarrett Stidham Finishes Off Good Week With An Impressive Game:

Oh my, how perceptions can change quickly. When the Patriots drafted QB Jarrett Stidham in the spring, the Auburn signal-caller wasn’t on anyone’s hot list for QBs who were designated as future starters in the league. 

But the rookie landed in a perfect place. With Head Coach Bill Belichick, Offensive Coordinator/QBs Coach Josh McDaniels, he has the right people for him to teach the system, and language of the Patriots offense. Don’t discount Asst. QBs coach Mick Lombardi. Of course, it doesn’t hurt learning on how to run the Patriots offense from Tom Brady. 

Stidham was a mixed bag in minicamp and early in training camp as he was trying to learn the system and how everything works together. Contrast that to the poised, calm demeanor we saw on Thursday in the huddle for the Patriots.

Granted it is only one game and as Belichick is sound of saying, “we have a long way to go”, but the coaching staff has to be quite pleased with how far and fast he is progressing. His deep ball accuracy is something he’s shown all summer and he delivered two passes on the money to Maurice Harris, but he dropped both. 

While it is far too soon to be putting him in competition with Brian Hoyer for Brady’s backup QB job [Hoyer was equally, if not more impressive Thursday night], now the doubts about his ability are being replaced with cautious optimism.

Bill Belichick chimed in on his performance during his Friday presser.

“I think there were several plays that fell into all the categories – quick throws where the read was clear and the receiver was open, and then maybe a secondary read, and then there were a couple of times where he scrambled and extended the play,” Belichick said. “Ran a couple of times and completed a pass. There was a little bit of everything there and most important thing for the quarterback is not to turn the ball over make good decisions and throw accurately. He did all those at times.”

Meyers Continues A Stellar Camp With A Big Game Performance:

For a guy who caught 92 passes a year ago, it was a bit of a surprise to not see Jakobi Meyers get drafted in April. While he didn’t test well at the NFL Combine [4.6 time in the 40], watching him play at NC State was another thing. And he’s carried that over to the Patriots now.

We’ve been singing his praises for a bit now as he constantly shows up big in practice and joint practice. He’s developing a chemistry and trust factor with Tom Brady, that we wrote about last week. But he had yet to do it in a game, which the UDFA rookie says he heard too.

 ”I was getting a lot of texts about, ‘Oh I heard you were doing great in practice,”’ Meyers said. ”It doesn’t mean anything because we didn’t have a game yet. So just the fact that I can go out there and show that I deserve to be here, for now, I’m just trying to keep pushing forward.”

In his first game action, Meyers was very impressive catching six passes for 69 yards and two TDs. And the rookie has his feet firmly on the ground, he isn’t worried about who DIDN’T draft him, but working for who did.

”I have to keep proving to my coaches that I deserve to be here,” Meyers said. ”I’m not on the team yet. I’m trying to make sure I can stay here and continue to be here. That’s who I’m trying to prove a point to, not really to people who didn’t give me the call.”

After the game, he was asked about his ability to catch on with this offense so quickly, something several established [and very productive] WRs have been unable to do. His comments were spot on.

“Because I want to be great,” he said. “I want to be in a position where they can depend on me, trust on me in tough downs, and at the same time, we’ve got a lot of great players on our team. All I have to do is listen. If I’m doing what they tell them to do, then I’ll just stick around.”

Winovich, Unlike Samson May Get to Keep His Hair:

Rookie edge player Chase Winovich has had a good productive training camp. And on Thursday night in front of a lot of hometown fans and family where he played nearby at Michigan, they got to see him perform. And he was very impressive with 1.5 sacks and displaying his non-stop motor, very good hands and bend coming around the edge.

Winovich spoke to the media after the game and made sure to downplay his own accomplishments and speak about the team, like he’d been playing for Belichick for years…

“It was cool. But it’s like anything. I’ve talked about this before, and I’ve always felt this way, and it’s definitely emphasized here,” Winovich said. “You saw me make the play, maybe on a couple of occasions today. But really, there are so many guys up front – Nick [Thurman], David [Parry], Byron [Cowart], Trent [Harris], really all the linebackers making the calls, Terez [Hall], Christian [Sam], and I could go on and on. There are so many intricacies during the game itself, just making adjustments with Coach [DeMarcus] Covington and Coach [Joe] Kim and Coach [Jerod] Mayo. I could name everybody by name. Just everything that goes into there and then goes back to all the work that we put in, staying extra at times, going over stuff, and working with Willie McGinest on technique.”

Belichick had to like his next answer when he was asked about what has he learned the most since joining the team this spring. 

“That’s probably my biggest thing, is the physicality and the moves and stuff, you improve on that stuff, but I’m just getting a lot better at my awareness and that stuff,” Winovich said. “Just trying to get better. I’m a rookie. I’ve got a lot to improve on.”

Winovich’s trademark look is his long blonde flowing locks, and one of the Patriots rookie initiations is to give them horrible haircuts. The rookie considers his hair a “source of pride and strength”

Winovich took to Instagram after the game with a picture of himself during game action. And one of his comments came from Brady himself who chimed in “Maybe you get to keep your hair.”

If Winovich keeps progressing like he is, maybe some of the players will begin sporting blonde wigs with a flowing mane under their helmets…

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Trade Eli Harold to Philly For OL Ryan Bates:

The Buffalo Bills have already had a lot of injuries to their offensive line. So, they traded DE Eli Harold to the Eagles for UDFA Ryan Bates who played both left tackle and right tackle for Penn State in 2018. 

Harold was just signed by the Bills this spring. He spent his first three seasons with the 49ers after being drafted in the 3rd Round [79th overall] in the 2015 NFL Draft and produced just five sacks. He notched four more last year with the Lions. With a base salary of just $805,000, Harold is not expensive and should benefit from playing in the aggressive scheme of Jim Schwartz. 

Bates wasn’t expected to make Philly’s roster and the OL is a position of need for Buffalo after the injury bug has hit. This move makes sense for both teams. 

Stills Doubles Down on Criticism of Dolphins Owner Ross for Trump Support:

The Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is hosting a fundraiser for his old friend Donald Trump who is running for re-election in 2020. That fact doesn’t sit well with Dolphins WR Kenny Stills who blasted the owner on social media stating, “you can’t have a non-profit with this mission statement then open your doors to Trump.”

Stills is referencing Ross’ non-profit organization the RISE Foundation which is hosting the event at Ross’ home. RISE [Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality] stands for racial equality and according to Stills, Ross is being hypocritical for hosting Trump with this event. 

Head Coach Brian Flores on Wednesday said that while he respects the veteran receiver using his platform, he was disappointed that Stills didn’t talk to Ross directly instead of airing it out over social media. Stills, after the Dolphins preseason game on Thursday, added more fuel to the fire.

“Someone has to have enough courage to let him know he can’t play both sides of this,” Stills said. “It’s something that I can look back on and say I made the right decision. … If you’re going to associate yourself with bad people, then people are going to know about it. I put it out there for everybody to see it. If you say you’re going to be about something, let’s be about it.”

Ross also stood by his friendship with the President with a statement of his own. “I always have been an active participant in the democratic process. While some prefer to sit outside of the process and criticize, I prefer to engage directly and support the things I deeply care about,” Ross said.

“I have known Donald Trump for 40 years, and while we agree on some issues, we strongly disagree on many others and I have never been bashful about expressing my opinions. I started my business with nothing and a reason for my engagement with our leaders is my deep concern for creating jobs and growing our country’s economy.

“I have been, and will continue to be, an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education and environmental sustainability, and I have and will continue to support leaders on both sides of the aisle to address these challenges.”

Stills is not expected to receive any discipline from the team over his criticism of the team’s owner and Ross has stated that he doesn’t take the comments personally. 

Quinnen Williams and Jachai Polite Quiet in Jets PS Opener:

The New York Jets played their next-door rivals, the New York Giants in preseason Week 1 this week. Top draft pick Quinnen Williams had a fairly quiet game, playing in just 11 snaps on defense but did draw a penalty, and assisted on one tackle.

Edge player Jachai Polite, the rookie edge player from Florida, who has been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism early in camp played mainly with the third-team defense and also was not as active as the coaches would have hoped. He was in on two tackles and played in 32 defensive snaps.

Sam Darnold and the offense, however, was a different story. Darnold started the game and needed only seven plays to travel 75 yards for a touchdown. Included in that were a 32-yard pass to Chris Herndon where Darnold scrambled to find him and a 28-yarder to Jamison Crowder on a check down. He later hit Crowder for a three-yard touchdown to finish off the drive.  A very good start for Adam Gase’s offense and Darnold in his second season. 

________________

“It’s a different type of preparation when both teams practice together, both teams get an equal opportunity to practice against each other, get familiar with each other instead of running plays off cards. The other teams actually do what they do and we develop a familiarity with them as well as compete against them. If you don’t do that then both teams prepare separately without that type of competitive preparation and then play the game. We got a lot of good 1-on-1 work, a lot of good individual work, and we got a lot of good teamwork for all three days.”Bill Belichick on joint practices –  8-9

“So, how was your week?”

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

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

New England Patriots News 8-04, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
August 4, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 08-04 and AFC East notes this week. 

Training Camp is in full swing and the Patriots are on the road today, heading to Canton, Ohio for a visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and then on to Detroit where they’ll begin three joint practices with the Lions before their preseason game with them on Thursday.

Check back with us frequently on PatsFans.com as we’ll continue to post training camp updates as well as breaking news. 

 Quick Hitters:

Tom Brady – celebrated his 42nd birthday yesterday and the team was given the day off. In past years, the fans at training camp serenaded Brady with Happy Birthday but didn’t get the opportunity to do so this year. In his 20th training camp, he still is going strong and the competitive fire still burns bright for him. 

Ty Law – was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last night. Some of his biggest moments came in the biggest games. No one can ever forget his playoff game against the Colts where he intercepted Peyton Manning three times or his pick-six of  Kurt Warner in the Super Bowl XXXVI win over the Rams. Well deserved.

Ed Reed – was also inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last night. We all know the mad respect that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady had on him as a player. Reed said this week that he’d love to coach again and …[This must make Ravens fans cringe], he said, “I would love for it to just be with the Patriots.”

Isaiah Wynn – is making slow but welcome progress as the team began easing him into team drills this Friday, the first such development in his return from an Achilles injury last year at this time. Perhaps he should have used deer antler spray?

Martez Ivey – The big 6’5, 315 lb offensive lineman from Florida was signed by the Patriots this week as the team waived Cole Croston. Despite 31 starts for a perennial powerhouse, Ivey’s footwork and hand placement were always an issue. He’s a longshot to make the roster but we’ve seen what Dante Scarnecchia can do 

Josh Gordon Applies For Re-instatement:

Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon has applied to the NFL for reinstatement according to Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk. Now the NFL must decide whether or not to reinstate Gordon and if he should be suspended for any further time.

The NFL suspended Gordon indefinitely late in the 2018 regular season for violating the terms of his conditional reinstatement under the league’s drug policy. Gordon last played in the NFL in Week 15 of the 2018 season against the Steelers. 

The Patriots, hopefull of a possible return by Gordon, placed a second-round tender on him this spring. In 11 games in 2018, Gordon caught 40 passes, for 720 yards and three touchdowns for the Patriots. Now we wait and see what comes out of Park Avenue.

Jakobi Meyers Enters a Big Week After An Impressive Start to Camp:

With the first eight practices in Foxboro in the books, the Patriots move on to joint practices with the Lions this week.  This is a big week for many of the players but for UDFA Jakobi Meyers it is another chance to shine. 

And shine he has thru the early stages of training camp. The former QB now wide receiver would be on the 53-man roster if the cutdown was today. That’s why this week against the Lions in practices and then on Thursday in the first preseason game is so important. Bill Belichick spoke highly of the progress Meyers has made thus far.

“He’s a smart kid and he understands, and has versatility, understands the offense,” Belichick said. “Like any rookie, any young player, there’s a lot of things he needs to work on technique-wise — recognition, route adjustments — just a lot of fine points. He basically knows what to do, but there are a lot of subtleties and nuances that all receivers need to pick up — certainly in our offense — and he’s doing that.

“There’s more that we’ve had to get down, but he’s making progress there. Whether that comes from his quarterback background, or his experience, or his intelligence, or his learning, I’m not really sure. But that’s not really an issue. He’s a smart kid, and he learns well.”

His hard work and grasp of learning the offensive playbook have earned him more reps with the starting unit and QB Tom Brady and he’s been making the most of them. Late in practices, the Patriots go to their hurry-up or two-minute offense. And Brady has developed a bit of chemistry with the rookie, going in his direction three times in the past two sessions, completing all three passes. 

Meyers made what many are calling the best play in camp so far on Thursday. Jarrett Stidham threw a jump ball to Meyers between two defenders. Meyers tipped the ball over the defender’s head to himself and hauled it in for a huge play. 

Meyers’ versatility, he can play outside or in the slot is always a welcome asset to have in New England. He’s bigger than most slot receivers at 6’2, 202 and his quarterback’s background has definitely helped his development. He understands the route concepts of the plays from the QB’s perspective which is of tremendous help in knowing the adjustments the WRs must make in the Patriots intricate system. He’s not all the way there yet, but he’s making some serious strides. 

On Friday, Brady threw to Meyers twice before he made his break, something that shows Brady already trusts him to be where he has to be when he has to be there. That level of trust isn’t easily earned from #12. Belichick was asked about his learning curve earlier this week. 

“The more you learn, the more you know, the more you can understand about what you do, what the people around you do, what the defense is doing, what the people on the other side of the ball are doing,” Belichick said. “I mean, that’s all good. That’s all eventually going to work to your advantage, the more you can understand the big picture and all of it.

“It’s hard to get everything the first time around, sometimes the third, fourth time around you hear things, or you hear things said to the guy next to you, or maybe the defender that’s across from you. You hear the coach correcting him, and it just helps you learn more about the overall of your position, the area that you’re involved in. 

“I think we have a lot of guys on our team that fall into that category, but understanding the big picture is certainly the goal, more than just memorizing an assignment. I mean, you have to know what to do, but the more you can understand the total concept of what’s going on, then really the easier it is to execute.”

Meyers developed quite a rapport with QB Ryan Finley at NC State catching 62 passes in his junior year and 92 passes last fall. It certainly seems like he’s on his way to carving out a role for himself in the Patriots offense with Brady. That’s why this week will be intriguing to watch how he does in Detroit. 

Sony Michel and Damian Harris Making Big Strides in the Passing Game:

One of the more intriguing developments over the last week of training camp has been the emergence of both Sony Michel and rookie Damien Harris in the passing game. Michel had a very good rookie season running the ball, followed by an outstanding playoff run where he gained over 330 yards and scored six touchdowns in three playoff games. James White has traditionally given the team outstanding production in the passing game. 

What is intriguing is that with an increased role in the passing game, the Patriots would have four running backs who can be viable targets that opponents must account for [Rex Burkhead, currently dinged up is the fourth]. The team was putting both Michel and Harris in motion a lot more in the past few sessions, getting them a freer release.

With a new WR corps and without Julian Edelman for the first few weeks of training camp, this development gives Tom Brady more valuable weapons in the passing game. With four very good running backs, the Patriots can mix and match and create matchup nightmare scenarios for the opposing defenses. 

Harris, a rookie from Alabama wasn’t asked to do a lot of receiving in college but has very good hands and is an excellent pass blocker. Michel only had 11 targets in his rookie season…that is about to change.

Patriots Sign WR Cameron Meredith And Immediately Place Him on PUP:

The Patriots signed former Bears and Saints WR Cameron Meredith this week after he was released with an injury designation from the Saints. The 6’3, 207 WR was signed by the Bears as an UDFA in 2015. His breakout season was 2016 when he caught 66 passes for 888 yards and four TDs. He missed all of 2017 with an injury and was with the Saints last year catching nine passes for 114 yards and a score in six games. 

The Patriots aren’t rushing him back and plan to work on him strengthening his knee as well as improving flexibility before he’ll be put on the field. Therefore, they immediately placed him on PUP. He can be removed at any time if he’s deemed healthy enough.

Per Doug Kyed of NESN, If the Patriots don’t remove Meredith from the PUP list by the Aug. 31 cutdown date, then he would revert to regular-season PUP and no longer takes a spot on the Patriots’ roster. Meredith then could begin practicing after the Patriots’ sixth regular-season game. If he didn’t begin practicing within a five-week window, he would be shut down for the rest of the season. If Meredith begins practicing within that five-week window, the Patriots would have a 21-day window to activate him to the 53-man roster.

So, Meredith can either begin practicing in the next 27 days or the team will place him on PUP where he can get healthy and possibly provide mid-season help at the position. It was a low-risk, high reward signing. 

Kyle Van Noy the 1st Guest on Patriots Off-Topic:

The Patriots website have created a new podcast called “Patriots Off-Topic” which deals with the stories of the players and their interests off the field. Hosted by Patriots social media coordinators Angelique Fisk and Mackenzie Knoop, it is a different type of podcast and their first stab at it was breaking some new ground.

Linebacker Kyle Van Noy was their very first guest who spoke about being a father, starting his Van Noy Valor Foundation and being at the ESPYs. Van Noy who was adopted spoke about his wife’s father and brother who were both adopted and their work with foster kids. 

It is slated to be a regular podcast on the team’s schedule this season. Give it a listen on the link.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Beasley, Having “ A lot More Fun for the Bills” Than in Dallas: 

When the Buffalo Bills signed slot receiver Cole Beasley, we’ve said quite a few times that Buffalo would try to carve out a role for him similar to what the Patriots do with Julian Edelman. Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll spent a few years here in New England and it seemed like a no-brainer. 

Well, after more than a week of training camp, Beasley is just loving his time in upstate New York and especially the way he’s being used in the offense. And it doesn’t sound like he’s homesick for the Cowboys.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Beasley said, on the NFL Network. “I wanted more opportunities. I wanted more options. I wanted more freedom in my routes. And [Brian] Daboll has done a great job of giving me those things and it’s created a lot of opportunity for me here. He added, “It’s been a lot more fun playing out there with the guys.”

It sounds like Daboll is incorporating a lot of the same offensive plays that the Patriots run from Daboll’s comments.

“When you’re given the freedom that I am in this offense, you have to be very definitive in the way you run your routes and your breaks,” Beasley said, in the NFL segment. “I have some routes where I can go five different directions and make a decision at the top [of the route]. I just can’t go one way and then make a decision late to go someplace else or it’s going to be an interception.

“So there is a lot of pressure on me for that, but that’s exactly how I wanted it and that’s why I came here.”

“I’m just glad to be [Buffalo] where it’s 100 percent about ball and not a show or a brand,” Beasley said last month. “It’s purer here. I’m proud to be part of something like that.”

Dolphins Pro Football Hall of Famer Buoniconti Dies at 78:

The Miami Dolphins lost a legend last week. Nick Buoniconti, an undersized, over-achieving linebacker passed away at the age of 78. Buoniconti began his career with the Boston Patriots. He was a six-time All-Star with the Patriots before moving on to Miami in 1969.

Buoniconti was an eight-time Pro Bowler and won two Super Bowl titles with the Dolphins in 1972, with the 17-0 team, and 1973. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001. He was the leader of the Dolphins “No-Name Defense.” He played for Miami from 1969-1974, and then in 1976. 

“Nick was the leader of our defense and another coach on the field,” said safety Dick Anderson. “You combine him with our defense coach, Bill Arnsparger, and you know why he always bragged that we made just 11 mental errors on defense during the entire perfect season of 1972. We just had to go where they told us to go and make the play.”

“Nick was special to me in every way. He was someone I greatly admired,” said Don Shula, Dolphins coach during his playing career.”… His groundbreaking work with The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis [after his son Marc was paralyzed playing football] has made a huge difference in the lives of so many people. I am thankful to have had Nick in my life. I will miss him.” RIP

Jets Sign Center Ryan Kalil:

The New York Jets agreed to terms with former Carolina Panther Ryan Kalil on a one-year deal worth up to $8.4 million on Thursday.

This is a big move as Kalil is a big upgrade over Jonathan Harrison. However, he did suffer a serious neck injury in 2017 and that could play a factor in his effectiveness down the road. But GM Joe Douglas has been working for nearly two months to get the veteran center to come out of retirement. 

Kalil is a five-time Pro Bowler and a two-time All-Pro at the position. But serious injuries to his shoulder and neck led to a decline in his effectiveness. Kalil was on to his second career as a Hollywood producer [worked with Will Farrell for an NFL spoof], and felt that after a year, his body was healed up enough to give the NFL one more go around.

________________

“We have a lot of things that we need to work on, in every area of the team; everything. So I don’t think I feel good about anything right now. I don’t feel necessarily bad about it. We’ll see how it is. Start to find out when we’re in competitive situations in the next couple weeks. Might not really know where we are on some things until the middle of the season. I don’t know, we’ll see.” Bill Belichick on 8-1

“So, how was your week?”

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

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

New England Patriots News 7-28, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
July 28, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 07-28 and AFC East notes this week. 

Training Camp is back and the Patriots begin their quest for “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door.”

 Quick Hitters:

Tom Brady – got a maintenance day off on Day 2 of training camp which set tongues to wagging…However, Brady was on the field and lending a hand with the QB which lent itself to Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham getting more work. Stidham has a long, long way to go, but looks pretty good so far. (more to that below)

Rodney Harrison – was trying on his red Patriots Hall of Fame jacket and spoke with the media after practice on Thursday and pooh-poohed the idea that Colts could push the Patriots in the AFC this year. 

“Everyone’s talking about the Colts,” Harrison said. “You think I’m taking Andrew Luck over Tom Brady? You think I’m taking that young, inexperienced team that went into Kansas City and got their butts kicked? No. The Patriots went up there and did their thing.

“I’m taking the veteran-laced team with the best quarterback — I don’t care what they say on TV — with the best general manager and head coach in Coach Bill Belichick. There’s no reason (they can’t win). The only thing that can stop them is complacency.”

J.J.Dielman – Was signed by the Patriots and was at practice on Friday, there was an open roster spot after Chris Schwenke abruptly retired just before training camp began. Dielman was originally a 5th round draft pick of the Bengals and spent time on their practice squad. He also spent time with the Rams and Denver, but has never appeared in an NFL game. He played right tackle and center in college.

Deatrich Wise – was on the PUP for all of one day and was removed from it and back to work on Friday. That is good news for the defense who hasn’t had Michael Bennett who was excused for the first few days at camp for personal reasons.

Player/Coaching Turnover? Not a Problem For Belichick:

With the Patriots roster, like all 32 teams, one expects that because of free agency, trades, retirement, etc. that the roster will have a healthy amount of turnover from year to year. But unless a team is making wholesale changes or hiring an entirely new staff, one doesn’t expect a large turnover in the coaching staff. But the Patriots lost a large amount of their staff this spring.

De facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores was hired by the Miami Dolphins as their new head coach and he brought a large amount of the staff with him. Is the sky falling? Panic in the streets? Maybe on sports radio where they treat every bump in the road as the iceberg heading toward the Titanic, but if you’ve been to the Patriots training camp thus far, you won’t see any difference. And that is classic Bill Belichick. 

Belichick has seen it all in his career and starting his 45 training camp. Bill puts his stamp on everything, and he ensures that nothing is different. Belichick says every spring that turnover is unavoidable but the fact that the Patriots’ practices on Day 1 of 2019 look exactly the same as they did in 2003. 

Looking at the first practice of the year on Thursday, it was as if this staff had been doing this for years. Just another one of those things that Belichick does that goes under the radar but is so, so important. 

Stidham Making Strides at QB In the Patriots System:

With training camp underway, rookie QB Jarrett Stidham has firmly entrenched himself as the #3 QB. Danny Etling has been moved to WR. What that means from the Auburn rookie is that he’ll get more reps in training camp moving forward. On Friday, the Patriots gave Tom Brady a maintenance day which allowed both Stidham and Brian Hoyer to get a lot more work in. 

Being a rookie and having to learn a new offense is a daunting task. On Thursday’s session, he had some rough moments. He struggled to make his reads in a timely fashion and frequently held the ball too long, something that rookie QBs are apt to do. Friday, however, was a different story. 

Stidham struggled a bit early, but finished strong, completing his final five passes in red-zone work and tossed three touchdowns to three different receivers, fellow rookie WR Jakobi Meyers, RB James White, and WR Phillip Dorsett. These are the small building blocks that rookie QBs have to learn from as they try to digest the offense.

Hoyer is well versed in this, having been a rookie here in 2009. “I’ve been in that position, especially in this system,” Hoyer said. “We ask a lot of the quarterback and there’s a lot on your plate. You just try to take as much as you can, digest it and keep on moving forward.”

“It’s a day-by-day thing,” Hoyer said. “You just try to focus on what you can control, focus on what’s going in that day and just keep stacking it on top of each other. The one thing is — you move on. What we did today, we probably won’t do half the plays we did today tomorrow. You just gotta cook, put them in that memory bank and someday we’re gonna come back to it and you’ve just got to be able to pick up where you left off.”

Stidham will struggle more, it is part of the learning process but these small steps are part of the journey. The good thing is, no one is expecting anything out of him in 2019. This is an extended red-shirt season where the team wants him to learn as much as possible about being able to run the offense. And having Brady and Josh McDaniels there in the room, as well as Hoyer is not the worst place for him to be. 

Bentley Poised to Return To a Meaningful Role in 2019:

Training camp is underway and the 2nd year linebacker is back after suffering a torn biceps during Week 3 of last season. Bentley had an outstanding summer in 2018 and earned himself not just a roster spot but starting reps. He played very well but his season was cut short after getting hurt in Detroit. 

On Thursday, Bentley spoke with the media after the opening day of training camp practice and he’s ready to pick right up where he left off. He spoke about trying to soak up and learn as much as possible during his injury. 

Ja’Whaun Bentley after Day of training camp. (SBalestrieri)

“I feel like one of the big ways of learning is observing, whether it’s watching film or watching how guys do things,” Bentley said. “I’m really blessed to have a lot of guys who’ve been playing for many years to learn from those guys… soaking things up, learning different techniques. It’s just good to have the kind of guys we have on this team.

“So you just find a new role on the team, whether it’s being a good observer — just being ready, period, no matter what the situation may be. You’ve just got to roll with the punches.”

Even with Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Jamie Collins on the roster, You can expect Bentley to have a sizable role this year in the defense. His fellow LBs believe that his upside is huge and has a rosy future. Van Noy was on NFL.com and raving about his potential. 

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Begin Camp, Getting All the New Offensive Pieces to Mesh: 

When the Buffalo Bills began training camp, they had a lot of new faces on offense. And in the first few days of camp, they were working on getting those players all on the same page. QB Josh Allen has a lot of new players to utilize and building trust and chemistry on the field is a process for everyone.

It was obvious in the first few days (as we’ve been reporting) that the Bills are planning of using Cole Beasley a lot in their offense. He and Allen are putting the time in trying to get their timing down. After practice on Friday, Beasley spoke with the media and said it shouldn’t take very long. “It won’t take us too long,” Beasley said. “I’d say give us about a week, man.”

Head coach Sean McDermott had a interesting observation about the Bills WR corps which isn’t the biggest in the league and he equated them with Smurfs. “I would say with all of our wide receivers, they’re kind of like Smurfs. If you ever watched the Smurfs, they live in like a small village so they can separate in small spaces,” he said.

Fitzpatrick Getting Early Reps as #1 QB at Dolphins TC:

The Miami Dolphins began training camp and thus far Ryan Fitzpatrick is getting the most reps as the starting QB. Josh Rosen and Jake Rudock are evenly split with #2 and #3 reps. Fitzpatrick’s experience is a big factor as he’s acclimated to the offense faster. But this will bear watching as the camp wears on and the preseason games begin.

The wide receiver position got a shot in the arm with the addition of Allen Hurns on Friday. This group is already deep and thus far, the group is working well together as well as with their quarterback group. Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker, and Jakeem Grant have seamlessly learned the new offense and once Albert Wilson is fully back from offseason surgery as well as adding Hurns, this should be a very good group.

True to form, Brian Flores’ defense will be multiple just like he ran with the Patriots. The Dolphins are asking several players, including Minkah Fitzpatrick, Reshad Jones, and T.J. McDonald to play varied roles. And training camp is the time where the coaches see what they do best and put them in positions to succeed. Then they’ll have to find ways to get them all on the field at the same time. 

Jets Quinnen Williams Signs Contract and Misses Just 1 Practice:

The New York Jets signed top draft pick Quinnen Williams who missed only one day of training camp as his agent and the Jets worked out some details of his contract. And now he’s in the fold and itching to get to work.

“It was a huge relief just to be back with my brothers, be back with my team, be back in New York, New Jersey,” Williams said, just after he signed his contract. “It’s just an amazing feeling to get everything done and get everything situated so I can focus on football and ball out with my team. It’s just a blessing, an amazing feeling, to be out here and be able to sweat and grind with your brothers again.”

Williams, widely considered the best overall player in the draft this spring was on-hand on Friday and passed his conditioning run, but head coach Adam Gase is planning on easing him into camp and that was the extent of his participation on Friday. Williams first practice was the full-pads practice on Saturday.

The Jets plan on moving the 300-pounder both inside and outside to present matchup problems for the opponent.  “He’s in the backfield a lot. He’s a good player,” Gase said. “[His intelligence] just helps him. That helps get another extra step outside of his athletic ability. You look at the guys that have a lot of success like Aaron Donald – he’s smart and he’s a freak athletically. If you put those two things together, it makes it tough to stop.”

________________

“I think that we’ll continue to try to look at ourselves in the mirror and see where we can do a better job, maybe where we can improve the process. But I think the fundamentals of the process will remain the same.” Bill Belichick

“So, how was your week?”

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

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

New England Patriots News, 7-21, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
July 21, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 07-21 and AFC East notes this week. 

Just 4 more days until the hard work begins for “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door.”

 Quick Hitters:

Tony Romo- was effusive in his praise of Bill Belichick this week while doing an interview on 105.3 the Fan in Dallas. Romo called the Patriots Super Bowl LIII game plan as “one of the greatest defensive performances I have ever seen in football.”

“He genuinely is not scared to go outside the box,” Romo said. “And I find in the NFL very few teams vary from what they do. So what he does then, is he drafts people that he believes can adapt from week-to-week.”

Patriots Cheerleaders – were doing their annual calendar shoot in St. Lucia this week, catch up on that on Patriots.com

Tom Brady – was cliff diving with his daughter in Costa Rica, then went horseback riding with his wife Gisele in his last family getaway before training camp starts next week. But his shot at Max Kellerman was the stuff of gold…

Mike Lombardi – Former Patriots front office person and friend of Bill Belichick was a guest on VSIN’s “A Number’s Game” and said he believes the Patriots defense will be better than the 2018 version.

“I think they are better on defense,” Lombardi said. “I think New England is better on defense this year. I think Jamie Collins wanted to come back to New England. He wanted to play. I think he will make them a better team and allow (Dont’a) Hightower to play more on the edge, which is what he’s more suited for than playing in the base. Then, there’s Kyle Van Noy. I think Michael Bennett still has some gas left in the tank, so I do think they will be better on defense. I think the guy that is coaching the defense is a Hall of Fame defensive coach — forget the fact that he’s a Hall of Fame head coach. I do think they will be better.”

Gordon Not In Patriots Plans, But Would Be Welcomed Back:

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network and NFL.com was on WEEI this week and addressed the Josh Gordon situation with the Patriots. He stated that the team would most certainly welcome the troubled but very talented wide receiver back, but that they were not counting on him in 2019 and have no idea when or if he’ll even be reinstated. 

“Josh Gordon, I don’t know,” Rapoport said. “It’s not a guy who’s in their plans right now. I think that they would certainly welcome him back if he showed that he’s going to be a better version — as a person, I’m talking about — a better version of the one they got last year. I just don’t know that he’s actually going to get reinstated, prove to the Patriots that he has turned the corner, that he’s a different person, show that he’s in the right frame of mind.”

“As always with Josh Gordon, the talent is incredible. We’ve seen probably one-tenth of it, honestly,” Rapoport added. “But there’s always so much that goes into it. I think the Patriots know better than to say this is a guy we’re counting on for next season.”

Hill Situation Highlights Lack of Consistency with NFL:

The NFL decided that Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill will not be disciplined under the league’s personal conduct policy. Whenever an NFL player is accused of off-field wrongdoing, the conduct policy is detailed in Article 46 of the league’s collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the National Football League Players’ Association is brought into play. 

Back in March Hill’s son who is just three years old suffered a broken arm and was removed from the home of Hill and fiancee Crystal Espinal by the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF). 

The District Attorney declined to press charges against either which prompted Hill’s attorneys to write the NFL that it was an accident and that he played no role in his son’s injuries.

After doing an investigation, Park Avenue decided not to punish Hill saying it “cannot conclude” that Hill, whom the Chiefs ordered to stay away from the team pending the NFL’s investigation, violated the personal conduct policy. 

This is the same Hill who still proclaims his innocence of beating Espinal while she was pregnant four years ago. He pleaded guilty to domestic assault and battery charges that he hit Espinal in the face and stomach while she was eight weeks pregnant. He also strangled her. Despite his repeated claims of innocence of those charges, he admitted to them in court. 

Then there is the taped phone conversation. In it, Espinal says their son is terrified of his father, Hill responds with a threat.

“A 3-year-old is not going to lie about what happened to his arm,” Crystal Espinal tells Hill in the recording, adding, “He is terrified of you.”

Hill responds, “You need to be terrified of me, too, dumb bitch.”

So while the NFL says that the child’s safety is their priority, it rings with insincerity. 

It cannot conclude Hill caused the child’s injuries…Really? The same man who punched his pregnant girlfriend in the face and stomach, strangled her and threatens her on the phone. Someone broke the child’s arm. So, they have to consider that Espinal is guilty?

The utter lack of consistency is plain to see. Less than a year ago, the NFL suspended Ravens CB Jimmy Smith for threatening and abusive behavior. 

New England fans began to harp on this latest fiasco from Park Ave. Of course, this entailed some people stating it doesn’t apply. to this case. To that, we reply… respectfully, “Bull excrement”. 

The NFL in the Wells report, (Pg 228) it stated that the league couldn’t conclude with certainty that anyone did or did not tamper with a football, but their analysis is “dependent on assumptions and information that is not certain.”  There was a total lack of evidence that anyone even attempted to deflate a football, when in fact a reasonable scientific explanation was right at hand.

But in this case, a player with a history of abuse suddenly has a child with a broken arm and threatens his fiancee openly. And … nada. “There isn’t evidence?” It never stopped them before. One has to conclude that the child’s safety takes a backseat to the fantasy points that will be generated by Hill in the highest-scoring offense in the league. 

“You do not have to be convicted or even charged of a crime to be able to demonstrate that you’ve violated a personal conduct policy, and reflect poorly not only on themselves, but all of their teammates, every NFL player in the league, and everyone associated with the NFL.” Roger Goodell

Joe Thuney Enters Pivotal Contract Year:

Joe Thuney 62) during minicamp a few summers ago SBalestrieri photo

With training camp set to begin later this week, one player who will be garnering a lot of attention this season will be guard Joe Thuney. Thuney is entering a contract year and is part of arguably the best guard tandem in the league with Shaq Mason. 

He is slotted to make about $2 million dollars in 2019 in the final year of his rookie contract and is in line to make much more in 2020. Will it be with the Patriots? Time will tell, but if he plays it out until free agency, the chances of him making significantly more cash will be available to him. The Patriots locked up center David Andrews this spring with a three-year $9 million dollar deal. Last summer, Mason signed a five-year contract worth a total of $50 million with $23.5 million of it guaranteed. Will the Patriots make Thuney as big an offer as he’ll get on the open market? Doubtful. 

Thuney’s versatility, he can play anywhere along the offensive line was apparent this spring. With both Isaiah Wynn and Yodny Cajuste out of minicamp due to offseason surgery, Thuney was taking all of the first-team reps at left tackle. If for any reason Wynn and Cajuste aren’t ready for training camp, look for Thuney to continue to fill in. That will further drive up his already considerable …and growing value. 

He has been remarkably durable, not only playing in all 48 games of his NFL career but in every one of the Patriots 1119 offensive snaps in 2018. Since entering the league, he’s been constantly improving under the tutelage of Dante Scarnecchia. Last year he was the NFL’s 7th rated guard by Pro Football Focus (PFF). 

If you make it down to training camp this week, be sure to check out big #63. It may just be his last season in a Patriots uniform. And he’s been one of their better performers. 

Patriots Players Needing to Rebound in 2019:

Training camp is the time for the young players to show what they can do to earn a roster spot. It is also time for some of the veterans to show that they can still perform at a high level. Here are a couple of players who will be looking to ignite their production in 2019 on the eve of training camp.

Demaryius Thomas – The former Broncos and Texans wide receiver was once one of the most productive WRs in the game but his game has been in steady decline for several years. He’s gone from 1619, 1304,1083, 949 to 677 in the past five years. Then he tore his Achilles with the Texans late last season. 

Thomas may not even be ready for training camp, having not taken part in any activities this spring. He may begin camp (and we suspect he will) on the PUP list. While no one expects him to return to his glory years with Denver, there is some hope that he can still be a viable target in the Patriots offense…time will tell. 

Derek Rivers – We already identified 2019 as a make or break season for the Patriots top draft pick in 2017. He tore his ACL in preseason of his rookie season but was still not looking 100 percent last year. While he did make the team in 2018, he played very sparingly in six games and registered just two tackles and one sack. That isn’t the kind of production the team was looking for out of him. 

He’ll get the opportunity to show what he’s got this summer and he’ll have to shine. With a much more crowded front seven this year, we currently have Rivers on the outside looking in. He’ll have to leapfrog some players and show he can produce at the NFL level. 

Ryan Allen – If it seems strange to you for a player who could’ve been named the MVP of the Super Bowl to need “to rebound” in 2019, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, it is true. The 2018 season wasn’t the most consistent of Allen’s career. But he did turn it on for the playoffs and in the Super Bowl, he was outstanding, out-punting the Rams Johnny Hekker who is among the best in the game.

But for the second year in a row, the Patriots have brought in competition for Allen. This year they moved up in the draft to take Jake Bailey from Stanford. The reports about the strength of Bailey’s leg are well-founded. After watching him at minicamp he puts an absolute charge into the ball. Plus he’s more versatile and can kickoff as well as fill in as a field goal kicker in an emergency. His issue has been consistency as well. 

But with the Patriots possibly relying more on the running game this year, especially early in the year, they may be looking for a punter with more range and hang time in the event they’re punting more from their own side of the field and deeper than in year’s past. Allen will be on watch this summer. 

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Cole Beasley Looks to Be the Top Target in Bills Passing Game: 

When the Buffalo Bills throw the ball this season, they will have a new and revamped passing attack. When we wrote about the changes forthcoming here a while back, we mentioned that Brian Daboll who used to be on the Patriots staff could be looking to replicate a lot of what the Patriots do with Julian Edelman. And that player on Buffalo would be Cole Beasley.

Beasley left Dallas and complained that he wasn’t getting enough looks in the passing game. And he’d have a point. In 2016, he led the Cowboys with 75 catches, 833 yards, and 5 TDs. The Cowboys went 13-3. In 2017, Dallas’ offense went away from Beasley, in 15 games he had just 36 catches for 314 yards and 4TDs. Dallas went 9-7. Last year, he was second on the team with 65 catches for 672 yards and 3 TDs, with Dallas going 10-6. But once Amari Cooper came onboard, Beasley’s numbers and targets went down. In the playoff loss to the Rams in the Divisional Round, he was targeted just twice.

With Buffalo and Daboll as the Offensive Coordinator, he has a chance to be the safety blanket, the chains mover and 2nd-year QB Josh Allen’s favorite target. Like Edelman, he excels in the short-area quickness part of the field. Buffalo threw the ball down the field too often in 2018. Look for them to utilize the short areas of the field more this year. And with the sure-handed Beasley in the mix, he should be the boon of his QB’s throws, especially on a team that had more than their share of drops.

Rosen or Fitzpatrick? The Dolphins TC Will Answer That:

The Miami Dolphins have (finally) moved away from QB Ryan Tannehill, who got more than a fair shake as their team’s QB. Now with a new coach and staff, new QBs and a fresh attitude, they’re going to attempt to turn things around.

With a full rebuild going on, no one is expecting Miami to be very competitive this season for a playoff spot. But with new coach Brian Flores and new signal callers under center, the Fins will be intriguing to watch. 

After signing Ryan Fitzpatrick as their bridge QB, Miami swooped after the Arizona Cardinals simply had to have QB Kyler Murray after drafting Josh Rosen with a Top 10 pick just a year ago. This could prove to be highway robbery. 

While no one knows how this will play out, Flores is going to let the players decide on who starts and who sits. But at some point, he’ll have to let Rosen show what he can do so that they can either stick with him as a potential franchise quarterback or that they have to address the situation next year in the NFL Draft. 

Our money here is on Rosen; he was awful last year, but he was a rookie saddled with an even more awful team. It was a total lose-lose situation. The games in the AFC East this year within the division are much more compelling with all of the new quarterbacks in place. 

Jets Williams Still Unsigned, May Miss the Beginning of Training Camp:

The New York Jets rookie players were scheduled to report for training camp on Friday. Quinnen Williams was not to be one of them. Williams still hasn’t signed his contract, making it the second year in a row that the team has had its top draft pick not show up on time for training camp. Last year, Sam Darnold missed the first three days of training camp while getting his deal finalized. 

Williams took part in all of the Jets’ spring workouts and the hold on his contract isn’t about his salary, which is mandated by the league. The Jets took Williams with the #3 pick in the NFL Draft this spring. What the holdup is, probably centers around offsets and cash flow. 

Is it a big worry? No, but the team never likes having their top draft pick miss any time during his first training camp. This is something that should be worked out fairly quickly and then Williams, who is considered one of the top picks in the draft, should be ready to go. 

________________

“I no longer listen to what people say, I just watch what they do. Behavior never lies” Winston Churchill

“So, how was your week?”

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

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

New England Patriots News 7-14, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
July 14, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 07-14 and AFC East notes this week. 

Just 11 more days until the hard work begins for “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door.”

Patriots Football is back in 11 days

 Quick Hitters:

Devin & Jason McCourty- continue their work in the community. The twins spent time with both We Belong and the Peace Unit, which are initiatives dedicated to helping the youth and young adults of the area.

Rob Gronkowski – was honored at the ESPYs in LA this week and spoke about being a good teammate. “When I look back on my career, what I look back on, what I’m most proud of was the teammate I am,” he said. “My teammates knew I would do anything for them, and I knew they’d do anything for me. I know the relationships we formed will stay with us for the rest of our lives, so thank you to all the guys I played with and thank you for making the ride so much more fun and so much more memorable.”

Melvin Gordon – the Chargers running back will be the latest RB to test market for RB value. Gordon has informed the team that he wants a new contract or be traded. Gordon is scheduled to make $5.605 million this year but is looking for much more or he won’t report to training camp. His agent said it could sit into the regular season 

Allen Bailey – Former NFL GM Gil Brandt wrote on the NFL.com site that the Patriots are still the best landing spot for the free-agent DL. Bailey, 30, visited the Patriots on March 14 and reportedly had contract discussions. But he left without signing anything. The former Chiefs’ DL also visited with the Panthers, Falcons, and Seahawks.

Nick Caserio – was back in the news for the wrong reason. The Texans, who have been pursuing him for their GM job for two years, announced they aren’t going to have a GM for the 2019 season. The plan is to share the responsibilities between several men including Jack Easterby, who is now on the outs with the Krafts. All signs point to them coming hard after Caserio again in 2020 when his current deal expires. It may be time to give the man a title and pay him to keep him around…if he wants to remain.

Brady NFL Best at Throws 10+ Yards Downfield:

Pro Football Focus (PFF) Steve Palazzolo put out some startling stats on Friday which got social media aflame, especially those who consider Tom Brady a “dink and dunk” QB. According to the stats that Palazzolo posted, not only did Brady have the best percentage of passes completed of 10+ yards downfield, he attempted the most in the past three seasons. 

Of course, this ignited the troll population who then wanted to know who led the league in short passes. Well, Palazzolo’s stats showed that Brady wasn’t even in the Top 10 of passes thrown at or behind the line of scrimmage. 


This won’t stop the Brady-haters who were already flooding Palazzolo’s mentions about his data being biased, but it was funny to watch the questions spew forth and answered. Well, it isn’t “dink and dunk”, it must be that dreaded Patriots “system”…

18 Game Schedule? This is a Ridiculous Scenario:

We were thinking that this was a satire piece when we first saw it but unfortunately that was not the case and someone at the NFL front office actually believes this to be a good idea. The NFL has been pushing an 18-game schedule for quite some time now, that isn’t new, but what they’re proposing is…

The league is proposing that there will be only two exhibition games and expand the regular season slate to 18 games. But the kicker is, that the league knowing the NFLPA (NFL Players Association) will certain dig their heels in over this, wants to limit each player can only dress for 16 of those games. 

I have no idea what is on the menu at Park Avenue, but please feel free to share some. 

Fans will not be happy, imagine a fan from another city knowing that say the Patriots or Chiefs are coming to town, shelling out big money for tickets only to find out that Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes is sitting this week? 

This one doesn’t even sound good on paper, it will never pass with the NFLPA but just shows two things. The owners aren’t going to stop pushing for an 18-game schedule and the bargaining agreement with the league and NFLPA is not going to be pretty.

Gronk and Brady Play Catch While Social Media Melts Down :

Slow your roll folks, there is no reason to lose your mind over a game of catch between Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. And no, it does not point to Gronkowski coming back in mid-season this year. 

Gronkowski was in LA for the Monster Energy $50K Charity Challenge Celebrity Basketball Game Monday night at UCLA. So, once he found out Brady was doing a private workout at UCLA with his personal trainer Alex Guererro it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the two would link up. 

“He saw I was in town for this basketball game,” Gronkowski said in an interview on Monday. “He was like, ‘Yo, Gronk, man, yo, Gronk, come throw with me in the morning.’ So I was like, ‘No problem. It’ll give me a warm-up to this basketball game tonight.’”

Getting together in shorts and tossing the football around is hardly proof he’s returning. It had more to do with good friends taking advantage of being in close proximity to one another when each has a busy, demanding schedule. 

This week I went to a shooting range with an old Special Forces buddy to catch up. It doesn’t mean Mrs. Balestrieri’s bouncing baby boy is heading to Afghanistan anytime this century. 

Elandon Roberts Traffic Stop Wasn’t About Race, Sheriff Says:

Patriots linebacker Elandon Roberts was pulled over by Sheriff’s Deputies back on March 10 in the Pecan Grove neighborhood of Richmond, Texas outside of Houston. Roberts has charged that the deputy in question acted unprofessionally because of Roberts’ race. 

The sheriff’s deputy, Adam Watkins tried to pull over Roberts for doing 59 mph in a 35 mph zone, but things went south from there. Roberts assertation that he was harassed “because he is a big black guy” (Deputy’s words), was frightening and unprofessional. 

Roberts tried to exit his vehicle with his hands up and was ordered back into the vehicle. Roberts tried to tell the deputy that he lived there. The deputy called for backup because he had “ a large black guy who wouldn’t obey his commands.” 

Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls said that the stop wasn’t based on race but that his deputy didn’t act as professionally as he should and received a verbal reprimand. Roberts received citations for speeding and not having proof of insurance (Roberts couldn’t find it during the stop).

The sheriff’s comments and the entire traffic stop video can be seen here:

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Hoping Kroft Is Ready For Camp: 

When the Buffalo Bills were looking to revamp their tight end position during free agency, they gambled that Tyler Kroft was destined for big things in their offense in 2019. They paid Kroft handsomely, with a three-year, $18.75 million dollar deal. Outside of 2017, when he filled in for the oft-injured Tyler Eifert, Kroft has just 25 catches over three seasons. It was in 2017, that Bills are hoping for when he caught 42 passes. In 2018, he played only five games before breaking his foot.

But in the first practices this spring Kroft broke his foot and that leaves them with questions. They drafted Dawson Knox in the third round of the draft and Tommy Sweeney in the 7th round. Knox has good size and is athletic but has suspect hands. The knock on him in college was he was always double catching passes. Sweeney is a very physical presence and a good blocker but limited athletically and in the passing game.

Jason Croom was the lone holdover from the 2018 Bills, catching 22 passes for 259 yards and one touchdown. Which was more than starter Charles Clay who was let go. Croom isn’t a lock for the roster but if Kroft is out for the beginning of camp he will get a chance to carve out a nice role for himself. 

Lee Smith who spent the first four years of his career in Buffalo was also brought back this spring.

Dolphins Norton Cited For Crash That Cost Him His Arm:

The Miami Dolphins Kendrick Norton was cited for the accident last week that caused emergency personnel to amputate his left arm at the scene, police officials said this week.

Norton, according to the Florida Highway Patrol, made an improper lane change prior to the two-car crash on State Road 836 near Miami in the early morning hours of July 4. Police officials said his black 2017 Ford F250 cut off a gray 2015 Maserati Quattroporte, driven by Jessie Pena and sideswiped the vehicle.

Neither Norton, nor his passenger, identified as Shakira Williams were wearing seatbelts. Williams wasn’t hurt. Norton however, was focusing on the positive rather than what he has lost.

“I am alive,” he said. “To be here, I am alive. One thing keeps me going and that is that I am still able to be here. Seeing my family is so important. It is very good that I have this support system. It keeps me strong and it keeps me tall.

“But I realize that I will not be able to play for anyone. We are working past that, you know. That reality is sinking in. I am alive and I am grateful. Now I want to organize a blood drive.”

Jets Herndon Suspended for First Four Games of 2019:

The New York Jets TE Chris Herndon will be suspended for the first four games of their 2019 season in the aftermath of a DUI arrest. The Jets first four games are at home against the Bills and the Browns; on the road at New England against the Patriots and Week 5 in Philadelphia against the Eagles. The Jets have a bye week early in Week 4 this season. 

Herndon developed very good chemistry with QB Sam Darnold in 2018 and was second on the team with 39 catches for 502 yards and four touchdowns. He is expected to be an even more important piece of the offense in 2019.

With Herndon out, the Jets have journeymen Daniel Brown, Eric Tomlinson, and rookie Trevon Wesco on the roster.

________________

“There is an old saying about the strength of the wolf is the pack, and I think there is a lot of truth to that. On a football team, it’s not the strength of the individual players, but it is the strength of the unit and how they all function together.” Bill Belichick

“So, how was your week?”

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

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

New England Patriots News 7-07, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
July 7, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 07-07 and AFC East notes this week. 

We hope that everyone had a happy and safe Independence Day celebration. Just 18 more days until the hard work begins for “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door.”

 Quick Hitters:

Bernard Pollard – is the latest, “look at me” ex-player who is trying to get himself a gig on television or radio. If you think otherwise, you’re kidding yourself, but there is never a shortage of people who feed the monster and fall all over themselves giving these hot take artists their air time. 

Rob Gronkowski – told Rich Eisen in an interview this week, that he reserves the right to change his mind about returning to the NFL once the season starts. In the interview, Gronkowski said this will be the first August in 15 years that he won’t be playing football. But judging from his leaned out frame recently, I still say that the chances of the big guy returning this year are remote.

Jerod Mayo – may not be calling the defensive plays just yet for the Patriots this year. Jeff Howe of the Athletic wrote that Bill Belichick will be calling the plays. Mayo who was seen calling the plays in minicamp this June. 

N’Keal Harry – leads the Patriots rookies with a 74 grade on Madden 2019 that was released recently. Cornerback Jojuan Williams was second with a score of 70 while Damien Harris and Chase Winovich were next, tied with a grade of 69.

Tom Brady – is preparing for training camp and continues to defy Father Time. He posted a video of his workouts where he was running sprints. While Brady will never be considered remotely anything close to a sprinter, he did, however, beat his own time at the NFL Combine, which is pretty impressive for a player about to be 42 in less than a month from now. 

Tom Brady Pt2 – With all of the talk centering around Brady from the hot take artists every summer, one has to dig thru many oysters to find a pearl. Or in this case, I didn’t have to do anything at all since it was handed to me. Our good bud, @PatriotsSBLIII has always shared great stuff with us, and he never fails to use common sense in a frequently senseless debate when it comes to #12. He sent me this a few weeks ago but right now seems a perfect time to share this.

Tom Brady’s last 16 playoff games (2013-18)
13-3 (.813) 3SBs
452/702 (64.4%)
5,230 yards
7.45 Y/A
43.9* Att/gm @CSimmsQB
31 TD
12 INT
94.4 PR

Only 3 players in NFL history have had a 16-game regular season on this level. (Brady, Brees 2011; Manning 2013)

And for those anti-Brady types out there, not one of those games was against any team from the AFC East but all against playoff teams in the Divisional Round and beyond which makes those numbers even more impressive. Thanks again to @PatriotsSBLIII for the always great stuff and being a sounding board for constructive criticism. 

Tedy Bruschi Suffered a Stroke on July 4:

The former Patriots linebacker who has been a regular on ESPN was just given a promotion this week, being added to their pregame broadcast. It was reported that Bruschi, who had a stroke after the Super Bowl in Feb. 2005, recognized his own symptoms and reported it right away. Robert Kraft and the Patriots released the following statement:

“While shocked to hear of his recent stroke … we are relieved to learn that he recognized the early symptoms and immediately sought and received treatment,” the statement says. “On behalf of the entire Patriots organization, we extend our love, thoughts and prays to Tedy and the Bruschi family while we wish him godspeed in a complete recovery.”

Bruschi created a runners club called Tedy’s Team to raise awareness for the American Stroke Association. He has run the Boston Marathon three times, including in this spring. He is expected to make a complete recovery.

Damien Harris Could Be a Big Contributor For the Offense in 2019:

We were quite excited with the possibilities for the offense after the selection of Damien Harris in the 3rd round of the draft this spring by the Patriots. Harris was locked up for four years with a $3.6 million dollar deal. 

Harris should fit in extremely well in the Patriots running back by committee positional group. While in Alabama, he played with a multitude of very talented running backs that are now in the NFL. Alabama also played with RB committee under Nick Saban and Harris played with the likes of Derrick Henry, Bo Scarborough, Kenyan Drake, Najee Harris, and Josh Jacobs while with the Tide.  

With Sony Michel coming off of a minor but another knee procedure, Harris can more than fit the bill for the Patriots penchant for running the ball between the tackles. A couple of key numbers should be remembered when thinking about Harris:

  • 2 (Two) The number of fumbles Harris had in 477 career carries at Alabama. Bill Belichick loves sure-handed running backs and Harris is definitely that.
  • 6.4 – The average yards per carry Harris had at Alabama. That kind of average always puts the offense in a position to succeed. 
  • 3.2 – Yards Harris averaged after contact. This number can’t be overstated and when the offense needs to pick up those 3rd and 4th and short-yardage situations, it helps to have a back that can easily do that.

Harris isn’t a threat to take the ball to the house on every carry, he doesn’t have that breakaway speed but he is a perfect fit for the Patriots offense. He hits the hole quickly and has very good vision and will follow his blockers thru the point of attack. He then shows the ability and confidence to make a cut and go.

With a thickly built lower body, he’s tough to bring down, will get the yards after contact and has little wear on his tires after playing in a similar committee approach at ‘Bama. He’s a very good and willing pass blocker, something the Patriots insist on for their backs. And he is a good if underrated pass catcher out of the backfield with soft hands and the ability to move outside into the slot if needed. 

With Michel out of the picture during minicamp, Harris and Brandon Bolden got quite a few snaps in the running game. Look for that to continue thru training camp and into the preseason. He could be a very valuable addition to the offense as a rookie. 

Patriots Coaches Learn The Old Fashioned Way Under Belichick:

One of the ways that Bill Belichick likes to fill out his coaching staff is by hiring young coaching assistants. Then molding, training and develop them by increasing their responsibility by putting more and more on their plates.

This is the way everyone is trained, including Nick Caserio, Josh McDaniels, and Joe Judge who started at the bottom and worked their way up. It also includes his two sons who it seems always get mentioned it seems as benefits of nepotism more so than hard work. If one can remember back to the early days of Belichick’s reign as head coach in New England, they’ll see his sons on the sideline, charting plays and soaking in the experience, very much like Belichick learned from his father at Navy. 

And one of the things at all of the young coaches get tasked to do is to learn by “padding games.” So, what the heck is “padding games” and what does it entail, you ask? Nothing nefarious (sorry BB haters). 

Padding of games for Bill Belichick is about not only learning the game inside and out but more importantly for the assistants, it is learning the game thru the prism of the head coach’s eye. They learn the way that Belichick views the game and therefore they’ll be able to better support him in his game planning. That includes his sons.

Steve Belichick, the Patriots safeties coach, calls it his father’s “Football 101.”

Belichick will assign young assistants one or several games of an upcoming opponent. Then, watching the All-22 coaches tape, they will chart every snap on paper. The assistants have to chart the movement of every single player on the offense and defense on separate pieces of paper.

They must identify each player’s responsibility as well as formations, splits, routes from receivers, protection schemes and what each team is attempting to accomplish on each given play. Given that the length of games will involve so many plays, padding a single game will take from several hours (for someone who has been doing it) to several days for one game. 

McDaniels, in an interview during Super Bowl week with Yahoo cited padding games for three years as instrumental in learning the intricacies of the game. “I think the most important thing young people have got to understand is, it’s not punishment,” McDaniels said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to learn how important everything is at this level.”

Thus, the assistants learn what concepts, both offensive and defensively will work against an opponent. The younger Belichick has charted hundreds of games by his own account and sees the value in it. 

“You get to learn about football, different schemes, different styles of play. You understand how different and creative you can be to win … I used to get excited to pad the good teams and I learned what not to do from the bad teams.”

This is the way the assistants learn how Belichick breaks down tape and how they all get on the same sheet of music. Bill’s famous attention to detail will invariably entail numerous sticky notes on each page, identifying things missed or wrong and what the assistant has gotten right. 

It is the way that the younger coaches grow and develop and gives them the attention to detail and exhaustiveness that Bill Belichick demands from himself and his assistants. There is no secret formula, it is just hard work…and doing your job.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Sticking With McCoy (for now) as Starting RB: 

When the Buffalo Bills entered the offseason, many thought RB Shady McCoy had played his last game in a Bills uniform. After suffering his worst season as a pro, on the wrong side of 30 and with a lot of wear on his tires, it seemed McCoy’s days were numbered for Buffalo. 

The Bills then brought in the ageless Frank Gore, to go along with T.J. Yeldon and rookie Devin Singletary and fullback Patrick DeMarco. And things seemed, on the surface that McCoy was soon to be phased out. But not so fast…

GM Brandon Beane has stated all spring that entering the season, McCoy was the starting running back. Something McCoy has been quick to echo. 

Perhaps with a move to the quick passing game utilizing Cole Beasley, the Bills are hoping with the addition of Gore, Yeldon, and Singletary that McCoy, with less work will rediscover his game. Holding onto him for trade value doesn’t make much sense at this point. Training camp will be interesting to watch this summer.

Dolphins’ Kendrick Norton Loses Arm in Horrific Car Crash:

The Miami Dolphins defensive lineman Kendrick Norton was seriously injured in a car crash early Thursday morning when his pickup truck crashed into a concrete barrier and ended up on its roof. 

EMTs reportedly had to amputate Norton’s arm before taking him to the hospital. He also reportedly suffered head injuries but while the damage to him was very serious, he is expected to survive. His condition was upgraded to good on Saturday morning. Norton was a 7th round draft pick of the Panthers in 2018, Miami scooped him off of Carolina’s practice squad last year and was expected to compete for a roster spot with Miami in training camp.

Sources from Norton’s family said on social media that another driver, behind the wheel of a 2015 Maserati cut off Norton and caused the accident. But that hasn’t been confirmed from the Florida Highway Patrol. They have yet to issue a report. That driver who has been identified as Jessie Pena, 30, was not injured in the crash.  And her car sustained minor damage.

Jets Hoping For a Big Year From Robby Anderson:

The New York Jets are hoping for bigger things from 2nd year QB Sam Darnold this fall. Adding RB LeVeon Bell to the Jets stable should definitely help take some of the pressure off of him. But beyond that, they’ll need better production from their wide receivers in 2019. 

The Jets current WR depth chart includes Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, Jamison Crowder, Josh Bellamy, Charone Peake, Deontay Burnett, Greg Dortch, Valentine Holmes, Quadree Henderson, J.J. Jones, Jeff Smith, Tim White, and Deonte Thompson.

The first three players are locks to make the roster and they’ll need those and some of the latter wideouts to step it up this year. Barring a trade or a signing for an established wide receiver, these players, especially Robby Anderson will have to increase their production.

Both Anderson and Enunwa suffered injuries last year but should be fine come the beginning of training camp. One area where Anderson is expected to increase his production is in his usage. The Jets have used him as a deep threat mainly, however that is expected to change under Adam Gase. 

With Crowder and Enunwa’s injury history, depth may be an issue, but the biggest question this summer will be, can Anderson produce in a contract year and stay out of trouble? As the #1, he’ll draw the opponent’s often best cover corner. 

________________

“There are no shortcuts to building a team each season. You build the foundation brick by brick.”Bill Belichick

“So, how was your week?”

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

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

New England Patriots News 6-16, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
June 16, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 06-16 and AFC East notes this week. And a Happy Father’s Day to all the great dads out there.

While anyone can become a father, the word Dad means so much more. My own Dad never gave me much advice but the way he conducted himself every day and the way he treated everyone around him was all the example that was ever needed.

Quick Hitters:

Bill Belichick – decided to cancel the final two days of OTAs last week and on the first day, took the players out to a team-building exercise…a paintball range. Belichick supposedly took out Kyle Van Noy with a headshot, the linebacker told Dont’a Hightower his tooth hurt where Bill nailed him. In cooler weather, those tend to hurt even more.

Michael Roberts – the Patriots traded for the Lions tight end on Thursday, but he failed his physical on Friday and the trade was voided. He was placed on IR last year for a shoulder injury. Upon reverting back to the Lions, Roberts was released.

Tom Brady – heard about a high school senior who missed his graduation while in the hospital and Brady sent him a video message. Shaun Patterson was suffering from a congenital heart defect and was the recipient of a heart transplant. Brady heard about it and sent the Missouri teen a message. You can watch the clip here:

Zdeno Chara – While the Bruins Game 7 loss to St. Louis will sting all summer long, the Bruins captain was as tough and gritty as they come. It was revealed later that Chara’s jaw was fractured in two places when he was hit by a puck in Game 4. He tried to return that night but doctors wouldn’t clear him but did return and play in Games 5-7. At 42 years old, he’s no longer the Bruins best defenseman but he’s what being a captain is all about. Get well soon Big Z.

Pat Bowlen – RIP to the Broncos long-time owner who passed away on Friday at age 75. He turned around the franchise and brought them a winner.

Training Camp to Begin around July 25.

Thoughts on the Caserio Mess With Houston:

In the end, the Houston Texans declined to pursue any further contact with Nick Caserio and the Patriots have removed their charges of tampering against the Texans. John McClain of the Houston Chronicle was the first to report the development that there is a clause in Caserio’s contract that would stop other teams from pursuing him.

The Texans released a statement from Texans owner Carl McNair.

“When we started the process to interview Nick Caserio for our EVP/GM position, we consulted the League office on numerous occasions, followed the procedures outlined in the League’s rules and believed we were in full compliance,” McNair said. “We have now been made aware of certain terms in Nick’s contract with the Patriots,” McNair added in the statement. “Once we were made aware of these contract terms, I informed Mr. Kraft that we would stop pursuing Nick.”

Nick Caserio

The pursuing of Caserio reportedly began at the Patriots ring ceremony at Robert Kraft’s home. Jack Easterby, the former Patriots character coach and now part of the Texans organization (Executive VP for Team Development) had allegedly made overtures toward Caserio. He reportedly did so before the Texans asked the Patriots permission to interview for their GM position.

The interesting thing is the timing. The next morning, that Friday, Houston fired their GM Brian Gaine after one season. Gaine went 11-5 in his only season at the helm of the Texans and had just completed the NFL Draft. It has also been reported that Gaine was targeting and firing black employees of the staff, which will be looked at as well.

Houston tried last year to interview Caserio after then-GM Rick Smith stepped away to be with his wife during her cancer treatments. The Patriots rebuffed that approach and denied them the opportunity to interview Caserio.

The statement by McNair answered one of the questions surrounding this entire mess.

Other Questions About Caserio Matter:

“How could the Patriots allow this to happen, possibly losing Caserio?” Well, with the language inserted in there, it certainly seems like they have protected themselves against this scenario. But in reality, this entire mess could have easily been avoided.

Had the Patriots given Caserio the title of an equivalent position, (former Patriot front office man Scott Pioli was the VP of Player Development) and a raise, this entire situation never comes to fruition.

“Did the Texans knowingly tamper with Caserio?” Again, no one knows for sure. It is strictly innuendo. However, if Easterby did, in fact, make overtures to Caserio at Kraft’s house, as was implied, before asking the team permission, then yes they did. Another interesting tidbit is the fact that Easterby and Caserio share the same agent. Wouldn’t the Texans know that there is language inserted in his contract that would preclude him from being pursued? Especially given how close Caserio is with both Easterby and O’Brien?

One would think so. And in Houston, Caserio wouldn’t have the final say in the formation of the 53-man roster. That rests with O’Brien.

“Do the Patriots Have Their Succession Plan in Place?” Another good question. The answer is yes and no. It would seem like Josh McDaniels is the next head coach in waiting for the Patriots when Bill Belichick finally decides to retire. Caserio would be the obvious choice for the GM position. But he’s only signed thru the 2020 season. That will have to be rectified…and soon. He previously was interviewed for the Miami and San Francisco GM positions.

Caserio has a unique job in that he wears many hats for the team. While officially the Director of Player Personnel, he has a direct line during game days …to McDaniels in the headsets and advises him on situations unfolding during games. That is unheard of for a man with his title.

He has held many positions in his years with the team, personnel assistant, offensive coaching assistant, area scout, director of pro personnel, wide receivers coach as well as his current position. During minicamp, he was throwing passes to wide receivers.

Bill Belichick has said on numerous occasions that Caserio does much more than his job description states.

“Nick does a great job,” Belichick said last winter. “He does a lot of different things for us. I’m sure he does more than anybody in the league at his position in terms of his interaction with the team, the coaching staff, and the college and pro scouting. He’s involved in a lot of different things and does a great job at all of them. His job description would be several pages.”

One thing is for certain. There is no way the Patriots could have afforded to lose Caserio this summer. With all of the other losses of the coaching staff, this would have been a huge blow. Now they need to lock him up long-term for the future regime. Stay tuned.

Michael Bennett Could Be An Under-the-Radar Addition in 2019:

The Patriots lost Trey Flowers in free agency to the Lions this spring when he signed a monster deal that he wasn’t going to get in Foxboro. But they traded just a fifth-round draft choice for Michael Bennett and a seventh rounder. And although Bennett turned 33 in November he had nine sacks for the Eagles in 2018 plus another one in their two playoff games.

So while the production from last season is about the same as Flowers, it was the versatility of Flowers that will be missed. He could line up all over the formation and play any number of roles that the defense would ask of him.

Super Bowl XLIX:

Rewind the tape to Super Bowl XLIX, on the Patriots first four offensive snaps, Bennett lined up at four different positions, left defensive end, left defensive tackle, right defensive end, and right defensive tackle. And he pressured Tom Brady on three of those plays.

Bennett is at the age where most edge rushers (emphasis on most), seem to begin to lose their ability to produce. We didn’t see anything, however, from Bennett last year that he was approaching that level, despite his age. In fact, one could make the argument that he was the Eagles best pass rusher down the stretch last year.

The fire still burns bright for him as he is hungry for another championship. It is tough to gauge the big men on the offensive and defensive lines in minicamp. The real test for them begins with training camp begins.

But one area that Bill Belichick has always had a high percentage of hitting on is his ability to recognize and identify veteran players who can fill important roles for far less money and cap space. We believe Bennett will be another case of that.

Patriots-Lions Teaming Up for Joint Practices This Summer:

The Patriots are set to begin training camp around the July 25 timeframe, and prior to the first preseason game against the Detroit Lions, the two teams are going to conduct three joint practices. Former Pats DC Matt Patricia, like his mentor Bill Belichick, has a healthy respect for the value of joint practices and it seemed like a no-brainer that the two teams would hook up this summer.

The Lions announced on their website the dates and times for the joint practices:

The Detroit Lions 2019 Training Camp presented by Rocket Mortgage will open at the team’s headquarters and training facility in Allen Park for a 13th-straight year beginning July 25. There will be three practices exclusive to season ticket members and eight practices free and accessible to all fans. This year’s camp will also feature three joint practices with the New England Patriots prior to the Preseason Week 1 matchup at Ford Field (Thursday, Aug. 8; 7:30 p.m. ET).

With the three joint practices will take place at their Allen Park training facility on Monday-Weds. August 5,6, and 7 with practice beginning at 9:30 a.m. on each day. The gates will open at 8:30 a.m. Any Patriots fans looking to see the preseason game can plan their trip accordingly.  

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Buck Trend And Remain Traveling For Training Camp:

The Buffalo Bills are one of the teams that remains convinced that traveling away to training camp is the right way to go. They believe that their team-building and the opportunity for players to become the best versions of themselves are best served while going away for camp.

One can make the argument for or against such a move, but both head coach Sean McDermott and GM Brandon Beane are both on-board with that decision. On the Bills website, they both spelled out their reasoning behind the decision.

“First and foremost, we love going up to Rochester,” McDermott said. “We love going to Fisher. I think it’s a great venue for an NFL training camp. I think that the people and staff are first class. I’ve been around before when you go to a campus when you’re wanted contractually but not wanted maybe once you’re there. They open up their home to us. We love going up there. I love my early morning runs up there.”

Seating a challenge:

“The challenge a little bit is some of the location and the fields as it relates to the public practices,” McDermott added. “We’d love to make everything public, quite honestly. We’re just not able to do that necessarily with the physical location of things and trying to rotate fields and space.”

“It’s just when you go to that other field, that’s not the main one, it’s not conducive for the fans,” Beane said in reference to the grass field behind the St. John Fisher Fieldhouse. “It’s just hard to do that. It’s not fair for us to advertise — they don’t know which fields. We wouldn’t want someone driving multiple hours, bring kids and there’s no seating.”

Flores Changing the Dolphins Culture A Piece at a Time:

The Miami Dolphins have a new sheriff in town named Brian Flores and he knows that the rebuilding process takes time. But he also knows that the ownership group isn’t going to be overly generous with the time it takes to build a winner. They’re frustrated through years of mediocrity and are hungry for a winning team and attitude.

Flores saw what he perceives as a loose ship in South Beach and is trying to emulate the workman-like culture he was a part of in New England. And he didn’t waste any time in bringing that attitude to Miami.

Takes No Talent:

Flores trademark is the T.N.T. mantra (Takes No Talent), to build a winning attitude. The core values are hard work, discipline, and respect. It is easy to see some of the Patriot-way infused in Flores’ beliefs, but he’s put his own spin on it.

“I tell my players this — I can go out there and get conditioned if I just go out there and run every day. I’m not going to do that, not like they do; but I could do that,” Flores said, in a piece on ESPN.

“Any of us in here can do that. That really takes no talent; it just takes hard work, effort,” Flores said. “Everybody talks about, ‘This guy is talented; that guy is talented.’ The talent on the team and a lot of things in this game come down to focus, execution, not making a bad penalty. Really, that’s not a talent issue. It’s a focus issue; it’s a mindset issue. I try to, and us as a staff, we try to make an emphasis on those specific things. Things that take no talent, I think those are the details that help you win games.”

Little by little, Flores is putting his own stamp on things in Miami. By changing their work habits, discipline, and the overall culture, Flores is trying to speed up the rebuilding process.

Jets DC Williams Looking To Aggressively Use His Star Players:

The new defensive coordinator of the New York Jets, Gregg Williams has had seven different stops as defensive coordinator and one stint as a head coach, with the Buffalo Bills. And his units are always aggressive. And with a core of special players on defense, he has with Leonard Williams, Jamal Adams, and C.J. Mosely, the Jets will no doubt be aggressive again in 2019. And by adding arguably the best player in the draft in Quinnen Williams at DT, the Jets defense can be very tough this season.

Speaking of Mosely who the Jets signed as a free agent this spring, Williams raved about his play.

Leads by Example:

“He’s a really good leader and he leads by example first. All the great leaders that I’ve ever been a part of, have to show great example before you open your mouth, so he’s always doing that,” Williams said of Mosely.

“He’s always done that, he’s not an extremely highly vocal guy but he sets the example by how he goes about doing his job and he understands the routine of being a pro, being a real pro. Williams is excited about the flexibility now of all a sudden even being more of a quarterback of the defense and having the checks and the audible systems and the things that we teach. He’s been very good and it will be fun.”

In regard to Leonard Williams, his new DC is licking his chops at unleashing him on the competition. “I’m really looking forward to cutting him loose and he was high on my list to get a chance to draft,” he said to Jets.com.

“There is a drastic difference in just the philosophy of how we play up front and he’s had some really great springs, can’t wait to get him in pads and ready to go,” Williams said of the 25-year old. “But he’s another one I’m excited about the opportunity to help him be as good as he can be.”

________________

“It is a wise father that knows his own child.” William Shakespeare

“So, how was your week?”

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

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

New England Patriots News 06-02, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
June 2, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 06-02 and AFC East notes this week.

We can hardly wait for Tuesday when the mandatory mini-camp begins for the team and we’ll get our first look at the 2019 Patriots team on the field. Although it will be sans pads, it will be our first live look at football since the Super Bowl, so yes we’re psyched to be going down to the practice fields.

Quick Hitters:

Tom Brady – was at Harvard Stadium on Friday night for his annual Best Buddies charity touch football game. It is Brady’s signature charity and was attended by current teammates Julian Edelman, James White, Brian Hoyer, Ted Karras, Marcus Cannon, Joe Thuney and Joe Cardona. Retired Patriots included Troy Brown, Dan Koppen, and Christian Fauria.

Brady QBs for both teams and the kids, including his own and adults on the field always have a memorable evening.

Bill Belichick – Was quoted by former Arizona State head coach Todd Graham as being thrilled that WR N’Keal Harry was still available at #32 in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Graham who was replaced by Herm Edwards as head coach in 2018, spoke with Jeff Howe of the Athletic and  “When I talked to coach Belichick the night that he drafted N’Keal, he (Belichick) told me, ‘Man, we were so fortunate that he was still there,’ ” Graham said to Howe. “They were so glad he was still available. They had him graded a lot higher than where he was taken in the first round.

Brady Pt.2 – Can we all (okay, certain people) just stop with the hand-wringing over Brady skipping OTAs again this year? Granted it is spring and there isn’t a lot to write/talk about for the most part but this is a tired storyline.

And please, pretty please don’t tell me how the offense struggled in the first quarter of the season. It had nothing to do with Brady not being there for seven practices. Edelman was suspended, Gronk was hobbled and they had injuries all over the place. The offense struggling had nothing to do with Brady missing OTAs, nada, zilch, nicht.

Fast forward to the Super Bowl parade in February, was anyone talking about Brady’s absence then? Well, maybe someone did… My worries about him being ready to go in September based on OTAs? Less than zero.

Boston Bruins – Not Patriots related, but there was an awful lot of flap over a towel this week before the Bruins Stanley Cup Finals Game 2. And it reached the point of being ridiculous with the comments being tossed about.

Whether you are a fan of BarStool Sports or not, they are a major force in online readership today. Besides, we’re talking about a towel here folks. Sometimes I think people stay up at night wondering what the next thing they can find to be outraged at.

BarStool saw a chance to do some advertising and the Bruins took them up on it. I don’t remember anyone in Boston being so put out when Matt Patricia wore a Stoolie t-shirt after a Super Bowl win…but it is what it is.

Gerald McCoy – The free agent DL was thought to be on the Patriots radar after his release by the Bucs but now is seemingly headed to either Cleveland or the Ravens according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport.

Those two teams are considered the favorites to land the six-time Pro Bowler with Carolina being a distant third in the potential for landing him. It seems like the Patriots, who were interested initially, were priced out of the competition.

Andy Hart – The longtime writer for Patriots Football Weekly and a regular on the “Patriots Unfiltered” podcast by PFW is leaving for WEEI. Hart will be an on-air personality for the struggling radio station, where it is hoped that he’ll breathe some fresh air and a boost for their ratings. He’ll be missed at Unfiltered, where his constant jabs at Paul Perillo especially were always a highlight of the show.

Questions for This Week’s Mini-camp and Beyond:

As we mentioned above, the Patriots begin their mandatory mini-camp this week, June 4-6 at the Gillette Stadium practice fields. And we’re looking forward to getting our first look at what the team looks like in 2019, albeit without pads or contact. And of course, seeing several of the new players that have been welcomed on the team this year.

As we all know with Bill Belichick, roster building is a process and the OTAs and mini-camps are teaching tools for the team. The evaluation won’t begin in earnest until training camp comes in late July.

There are, however, several questions that we have as the team begins their quest for “Knockin on Seven’s Door” in September.

What is the Status at Tackle – The Patriots lost left tackle Trent Brown in free agency. They drafted Isaiah Wynn with their first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft to be their left tackle of the future, but he was lost for the year after tearing an Achilles in training camp. Marcus Cannon remains entrenched on the right side.

The Patriots drafted T Yodny Cajuste who could be their swing tackle this year and possibly their RT is Cannon moves on in free agency in 2020. But Cajuste had off-season surgery on his quad and isn’t expected to be ready until training camp. Then, they signed free tackle Jared Veldheer as an insurance policy, but he abruptly retired last week.

With both Wynn and Cajuste coming off of injuries/surgery, there is an awful lot of uncertainty there that we really won’t know the answers to until training camp and preseason games begin. Could the team make another foray into free agency? Possibly, especially with the aging but still solid Donald Penn available.

Production at Tight End – We touched on this a couple of times recently. While there is no replacing Rob Gronkowski, they have to find some relief with the production that Gronkowski provided the offense.

While no one is expecting Ben Watson (who’ll miss the first four games), Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Matt LaCosse, et al. to replace the big man alone, they will no doubt ask them to combine to replace a lot of Gronk’s production.

And they’ll no doubt lean on the running backs more in the passing game as well as the wide receivers to ease some of the burden. But in essence, the position is wide open for competition this summer. And it will be definitely one to watch.

Running Back By Committee, How the Rotation Spins – We also know Belichick has always liked to have a RB by committee approach. The 2019 season should be no exception. The Patriots running backs hit their stride down the stretch once everyone got healthy and they had Sony Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead to keep opponents off-balance. But early in the season with Michel dinged up and Burkhead on IR, their depth was thinned.

This spring they brought back depth RB and STs ace Brandon Bolden and then, somewhat surprisingly drafted a very intriguing prospect Damien Harris from Alabama. Harris is a three-down back who excels at yards after contact and short yardage. He’s very good at running between the tackles, an outstanding pass blocker, and an underrated pass receiver with soft hands. Look for Michel and Harris to get increased looks in the passing game.

With a 1-2-3 punch with Michel, Harris, and Burkhead running the ball and White as the designated third-down back, the combinations that OC Josh McDaniels can throw at opponents is going to be interesting when the Patriots line up in their “21-personnel” grouping (2RBs, 1 TE, 2 WR). This week we’ll watch for any signs of this playing out.

N’Keal Harry, Intriguing Potential, But Let’s Pump the Brakes a Bit:

The Patriots drafted N’Keal Harry with the #32 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and fans are excited. Heck, we’re all excited. He’s done everything right since being drafted to hit all the high notes. His family story and being raised here by his grandmother was one of those must-read pieces.

He was very well spoken on being drafted, and his openness on learning from Julian Edelman on route running in the Patriots system every day certainly hit the right chords. He was then invited for a photo-op with Edelman and Brady for a workout/glorified catch at Brady’s home. The team made sure to publish the fact as the three worked out together. That set tongues to wagging non-stop. Even Bill Belichick, he of the normally low-key, clipped answer, didn’t give the standard, “he and all the players have a long way to go” response had this to say about Harry: “It’s been good, he’s worked hard. He’s smart and works hard,” Belichick said. That is some heady praise indeed.

But let’s all remember, Harry is a rookie WR and we all know that rookie WRs, as well as many veterans, have struggled in their first season in Foxboro. Yes, there have been exceptions to the rule, but he’s learning a new offense and terminology and trying to find where his best fit is. That’s something that he and the coaching staff will work on all summer and into the regular season.

If Harry doesn’t catch 75-80 passes for 1000 yards and double-digit touchdowns in 2019, I’m not going to worry about and neither should you. Let him find his comfort zone and begin his learning curve. That being said…Can’t wait to see him on the field on Tuesday.

Joejuan Williams Creates Matchup Wins for the Secondary:

The Patriots drafted CB Joejuan Williams in the 2nd round of the draft only 13 picks after N’Keal Harry.  And the very first thing that stood out was his size. At 6’4, 211, many fans and media members began to recall the 2014 acquisition of CB Brandon Browner. And while it is early, those thoughts may not be far off.

The two are remarkably close in physical make-up and playing styles. Earlier this week, I got to speak with Evan Lazar on a podcast and he was discussing the similarities between the two players. Lazar always does a super job of breaking down film and players at CLNS Media. He wrote about Williams’ possible role here:

With Stephon Gilmore locking down the opposite side (a la Revis in 2014), the Patriots can become creative with an opponent’s bigger WRs or tight ends. If he’s a smaller shiftier player, that could fall to Jonathan Jones, Duke Dawson or Jason McCourty. But that distinction could fall to Williams or J.C. Jackson.

With a plethora of good corners, the Patriots defense, on paper, for now, has the potential to be as good, or better than the 2014 version. Williams could be much like Browner, with the ability to cover the opponent’s bigger WR or TE. In the case of WRs, with his lack of top end speed, he’d have over the top safety help.

In today’s NFL, you can never have enough good corners. And the Patriots have several of them. Williams adds another chess piece for the defense to counter any threats by the opposition.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills “Rallied Around Josh Allen” – Alexander:

The Buffalo Bills made a lot of very good moves this offseason, both in free agency and in the draft. But if the Bills are going to make the jump to contenders, they are going to need 2nd year QB Josh Allen to play like the franchise QB he was drafted to be.

While the jury is still out on Allen, with many established analysts on both sides of the coin, Allen is gaining the trust and confidence of his teammates. And one of the more established and respected members of the Bills’ locker room, Lorenzo Alexander believes Allen is ready to make the next step.

“I think the team started rallying around Allen and we want to obviously use some of that juice we finished the season off with and transition it to next year,” Alexander said while guesting on the Jim Rome Show. That’s the first big hurdle, expectations are high for the Bills in 2019.

Flores High on Dolphins Edge Player Charles Harris:

The Miami Dolphins new head coach Brian Flores is incorporating a Patriots “multiple” defensive mindset in the Dolphins defense in 2019. Players are going to move around and have multiple responsibilities and have to know what other players are doing on the field at the same time. But one of Miami’s biggest lacks is at edge rusher and 3rd-year player Charles Harris is at a crossroads. But he has a believer in Flores.

Harris was drafted in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft and was supposed to be one of the Fins’ designated pass rushers. But thru two NFL seasons, Harris has just three sacks to his credit, which is leading many to place the “bust” label on him. But not Flores.

In speaking with ESPN, Flores raved about Harris, despite the edge rusher not being fully healthy with an injured wrist.

“I can’t say enough good things about him,” Flores said. “He’s the kind of guy we want in the building. Honestly, I don’t care about his past. I care about right now. That’s where I’m at. … He’s really doing a good job for us in the classroom, on the field. He’s smart. He’s hard-working. He’s got a lot of ability.”

Flores is reportedly going to place Harris more in space, giving him a chance to become more of a difference maker than on the DL where he got swallowed up in the running game at times.  

Jets Dysfunction Played Out in Detail By Mehta:

Patriots fans are well familiar with Manish Mehta. With his over-the-top predictions, he calls for every New York Jets coach or player signing as being the death knell to the Patriots dynasty.  Just a few weeks ago, he trolled Twitter with his “Top AFC East QBs for 2019” and placed Sam Darnold at the top of the heap.

But he wrote a scathing report about the Jets dysfunction this week which detailed the inner workings of a team where the owner is making moves without the general manager having the slightest clue.

If even a quarter of this is accurate, it is a pretty damning picture of the Jets front office and that starts with Chris Johnson. You can read it in its entirety here:

________________

One final thought about the Patriots’ “easiest schedule” talk, if you look from just before Halloween to early December, New England has Cleveland at home, Baltimore away on SNF, followed by a game at Philadelphia, home against Dallas, at Houston in another prime time game and home against Kansas City. Six tough games in a row, against five teams who made the postseason in 2018. Sound easy?

“So, how was your week?”

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

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

New England Patriots News 5-19, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
May 19, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 05-19 and AFC East notes this week.

Quick Hitters:

Patriots Plane Makeover – The Patriots team plane got a makeover recently and the results were pretty impressive. The tail now has six Lombardi trophies on it while the fuselage sports the “6X Champions” lettering.

Hardly subtle, but the fans of the team will love the new look for the “AirKraft 767”. At this rate, the painters for the Patriots plane and Bill Belichick’s boat are going to get put on a full-time basis. See the pics below, courtesy of the Patriots.

Brandon King was the recipient of a 2-year contract extension this week. Although he practices with the linebackers, King hasn’t played a snap of defense in his career. The Special Teams stalwart should be pretty much a lock for the roster now. King has had the most STs snaps beside Nate Ebner

Scott Pioli, the former Patriot front-office exec and the assistant GM in Atlanta, resigned his position “to pursue other opportunities”. One potential suitor could be the Jets now that their GM position is semi-open. Adam Gase was named the interim GM as well as holding down the head coach position….more below.

N’Keal Harry and Damien Harris, are representing the Patriots at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere this weekend. According to the NFLPA press release, the rookie premiere is the first major business and marketing event featuring NFL players since becoming professionals. The 40 rookies that are there can get a jump start on their endorsement careers by meeting and signing on with some big-name brands for marketing purposes.

Speaking of N’Keal Harry, he signed his first professional contract this week. Harry is been signed to a 4-year, $10,098,348 deal that includes a $5,364,252 signing bonus, per Adam Schefter

After the NBA Draft Lottery situation played out, many people are now clamoring for an NFL Draft Lottery. Count me totally out on that. Don’t need it, don’t want it. The NFL has already turned everything into an event. Now we’ll have non-stop coverage of the pre-Draft Lottery? No thanks, the current system works just fine.

Jamie Collins Contract Low-Risk Move By the Patriots:

The Patriots have brought linebacker, Jamie Collins, back in the fold, but they hardly threw down the gauntlet of a ton of money to bring the former 2nd round draft pick back. The actual guaranteed money amount is rather small. The team-friendly deal was reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

The total amount of guaranteed money is just $250,000 and a base salary of only $1.05 million dollars. Collins has bonuses tied up with incentives and he’d receive $500,000 for making either the Pro Bowl or an All-Pro. He can also earn $100,000 in workout bonuses and $850,000 in roster bonuses.

Collins can make an additional $250,000 for playing 50 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, another $250,000 for playing 60 percent, another $250,000 for playing 70 percent, and another $250,000 for playing 80 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. He can make another $500,000 by playing 91 percent, and then another $500,000 by playing 95 percent of the Patriots defensive snaps.

Last season, as a member of the Cleveland Browns, Collins was on the field for nearly 91 percent of the Browns defensive snaps. He registered 104 total tackles, four sacks, seven quarterback hits, one interception, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.

Collins cap number is $3,000,000 with a maximum possible cap number of $5 million. It is a low-risk, possibly high reward scenario by the Patriots who also have Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, and Ja’Whaun Bentley at linebacker from last year. Christian Sam was on IR, and they also have Terez Hall and Calvin Munson. John Simon and 3rd round draft pick Chase Winovich can play both DE or OLB. So the depth is very high at the position. Which makes competition at training camp something to watch.

Running Back Position is Strong and Will Play A Bigger Role:

In typical fashion, while we were all lamenting the lack of depth at wide receiver and tight end this spring, Bill Belichick went out and found another running back. The Patriots selected Alabama running back Damien Harris in the 3rd round. A classic case of zigging while the rest of us were zagging.

Now, the team did go out and draft WR N’Keal Harry in the first round and signed Demaryius Thomas, and Dominique Inman at wide receiver and Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Ben Watson at tight end but the selection of Harris was a very intriguing one.

Harris and second-year back Sony Michel are both very good at running the ball between the tackles. And the Patriots at the end of the 2018 season made a decision to put an emphasis on running the ball. In the Patriots’ three playoff games they rushed for 485 yards or an average of 161.6 yards per game against the Chargers, Chiefs, and Rams. It was after the Pittsburgh game that the team made their choice to lean more on the running game and if you add in those two games, in the team’s final five games of the season, they averaged 177.8 yards per game.

With Shaq Mason, David Andrews, and Joe Thuney inside, the Patriots running game has thrived. Add in the devastating blocking of fullback James Devlin and they are set up well for success again. They will miss the outstanding blocking of Rob Gronkowski who retired, however.

When Michel ran the ball between the tackles in 2018, he averaged more yards per carry than both Ezekial Elliot and Todd Gurley. Harris will certainly add to that. He and Michel can be a very effective 1-2 punch in the running game. Harris is also an underrated pass catcher with good hands and is a very good pass blocker.

But the backfield also has James White and Rex Burkhead who can run as well but are both very good out of the backfield in the passing game. With Gronkowski retired, look for the offense to place White and Burkhead out wide more often to put pressure on the linebackers with mismatches.

The NFL and the Patriots are still pass-first offensively. However, look for the team to be even more balanced between pass and run in 2019.

The Decision to Remain With the Patriots, A No-Brainer for Gostkowski:

For Stephen Gostkowski, the decision to remain with the Patriots in free agency wasn’t that hard.  The 13-year vet was brought in when Adam Vinatieri left in 2006 and has spent his entire career with the Patriots. He re-signed with New England this spring on a two-year deal worth a reported $8.5 million dollars, numbers he could have probably bettered by going elsewhere. But to hear the 35-year old tell it, he’s quite content here.

“To be able to have a chance to do it on one of the most high-pressure teams in the history of sports and have a chance to continue to do it — I think it would be tough to go somewhere else,” Gostkowski said. “The grass might seem greener on the other side, but it’s not always that way. I kind of like the challenge of being here, the bad weather, the pressure of the big games.”

Gostkowski has converted on better than 87 percent of his field goals in his career, third-best in NFL history. He’s also appeared in six Super Bowls, the most for any kicker in league history. After Justin Tucker, it is easy to make the argument that Gostkowski is the best kicker in the league. Last year he converted 49 of 50 extra point attempts and 27 of 32 field goal attempts.

He has been named to four Pro Bowls and twice been named All-Pro.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Gaining Momentum With Pundits for a Playoff Berth:

The Buffalo Bills, as we wrote here earlier weren’t getting a lot of love from ESPN in their preseason rankings, putting the over/under for wins at 6.5, which is pretty low. However, the same piece put the Patriots win total over/under at 10.5 and some of the media are looking at them in a much more positive light.

Adam Schein said he’d take the over for the Bills at 8.5 if it were that high. NFL.com’s senior analyst and former scout and VP of player personnel Gil Brandt thinks that Buffalo had the 3rd best offseason in the league this spring. Brandt wrote:

All of Buffalo’s moves, combined with rebuilding projects going on with the Dolphins and Jets, mean anything less than a playoff appearance will count as a disappointment.

Also at NFL.com Michael Robinson puts the Bills at 11-5 and slotted as a Wildcard participant in the 2019 season. Pete Prisco from CBS said on the Pick Six podcast that the Bills will earn a Wildcard berth this year with better things happening in 2020.

“They’re not gonna win the division this year,” said Prisco. “They’re gonna push for a Wild Card spot (this season), but in 2020 the Buffalo Bills will finally take over and win that division. How about that?”

Prisco was then asked if he believed that Tom Brady would still be playing?

“Yeah, but the Bills are gonna take the division next year.”

Dolphins Have to go With Rosen This Year:

The Miami Dolphins made a huge splash by trading for QB Josh Rosen for a 2nd round draft pick (#62 overall) during this year’s NFL Draft. Rosen was selected with the #10 overall pick in the 2018 draft by the Cardinals.

It was a shrewd move by Miami where nearly all of Rosen’s guaranteed cash was already paid and they can see what they have in Rosen before deciding to move on or put their trust in him as their franchise QB. But he needs to be the man starting in Week 1. Miami signed journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick as a stop-gap measure after trading Ryan Tannehill earlier this spring. Fitzpatrick is a known commodity, he’s fully capable of lighting it up for a number of games but then being dreadful right behind it. The time to evaluate Rosen should begin right away.

Head coach Brian Flores is saying all the right things, stating before the recent rookie minicamp that the QB position is an open competition, a may-the-best-man-win scenario. But that isn’t really what’s in the best interest for the team in the short or long term. They need to see if Rosen is going to be the man for Miami and if they decide that he is not, then they’ll have plenty of opportunities to move on from him next spring.

With Miami in a complete makeover with a new regime in Flores this year, handing the keys to Fitzpatrick doesn’t really make any sense. They have to know if Rosen can indeed be their franchise QB and the best way to see that is on the field.

The worst-case scenario for Miami is to sit Rosen while going with Fitzpatrick and then having Fitzy go on one of his hot streaks garnering enough wins to knock the Dolphins out of a prime drafting spot. Then they’ll still not know what they have.

Jets – What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been:

The New York Jets have had a coup in the palace and the new head coach Adam Gase has won. GM Mike Maccagnan is out. Just months after hiring the new head coach, the inner workings of the Jets showed that they are a disjointed, hot mess. Right from ownership on down, this is truly the gang green that can’t shoot straight.

After hiring Gase, Maccagnan didn’t want Gase’s input on players that the scouting department was looking at. According to reports from Jets media, Gase wanted (and rightfully so) to give his take on players that he feels will fit his philosophy for playing on the field.

Not having the scouts on the same page with the head coach is a ludicrous exercise in futility for the scouting department. That is the fault with the GM, but Chris Johnson, the head of football operations was ready to fire Maccagnan in January but didn’t feel he or his staff could handle finding a new coach and GM. Wow.

So, Gase distanced himself from the draft process by moving his chair from next to the owner in the draft room to the corner where he was out of camera sight. Gase was apparently PO’d that ownership overpaid for Le’Veon Bell, in essence bidding against themselves.

So after the draft, Gase put a word in the owners’ ear and Maccagnan is out. Gase and Johnson will work on bringing in a GM (Pioli?) who they’ll both agree is a better fit for Gase’s philosophies. After the upheaval at the palace, the pressure, already and always high in New York will be magnified x 10.

And later reports (made up?) began surfacing that the Jets are pursuing Peyton Manning for the vacant GM job. Of course, it may all be a bunch of hooey but nothing would ignite the Jets fan base and some of the more hysterical media members than throwing another Manning in NY.

“Sometimes the lights are shining on me….other times I can barely see.”

________________

The Patriots roster looks really loaded so training camp competition should be excellent this summer before the Patriots begin “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door”. Can’t wait.

“So, how was your week?”

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