Tag Archives: Michael Bennett

New England Patriots News 8-25, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
August 25, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 08-25 and AFC East notes this week. 

The Patriots have one more game left in the preseason this week against the Giants and then will have the tough task of cutting down the 90 man roster to just 53 and then filling out the remaining ten spots [11 with Jakob Johnson who is an NFL International player if he doesn’t make the 53].

While the starters won’t play much if at all on Thursday for either team, the game will still be compelling because of the roster spots that are still on the line. Several players will be playing for their jobs, some will succeed and carve out a roster spot, others will be unemployed and waiting for the phone to ring.

Check back with us frequently on PatsFans.com as we’ll continue to post daily updates on the latest news and how the roster initially shakes out. 

 Quick Hitters:

Andrew Luck – Announced his retirement yesterday. Luck has been hobbled by injuries for much of his career and it was cut short after just seven seasons. He was once thought to be the “next great one” but it never materialized for him. For a Colts team that had made major strides in building up a legit contender, this is a huge setback. Jacoby Brissette is the man for the time being again in Indy.

Tom Brady – on the learning process with Jakobi Meyers said, “I think for all of us, you play with guys that are maybe new to the offense and so forth. Sometimes they think they’re not part of the route, and then a team plays a certain coverage and they’re part of the route. Early in the season, that’s part of this time of year. We don’t have the full week to prepare. We’re kind of putting things together on the fly.”

And BTW Tom, ditch that hat…not a good look

Bill Belichick [on the play of the defense] –  You know, I thought we played competitively. We still have a lot of things to work on. There’s a lot of things we can improve on, so we’ll just go back to work this week and just keep grinding away. We’ve got a long way to go. We’re making progress.

Devin McCourty – was asked about the changes to the new pass interference rules and if the referees have done a good job of explaining it to the players. He is not a fan. “I’m never a fan of those meetings. I feel like they go however we ask the question, and then once we get in the season you might as well throw that whole meeting away. So Bill always says it the best; week-by-week. We have to go how the game is being called, and we have to adjust to it.”

Jakobi Meyers – wasn’t pleased with the way his early snaps with Brady went, but was happy to be able to persevere. He had this to say about sitting down with Brady. “Tom has played for a long time so when he wants to sit down and talk, you sit down and talk with an open ear. I am just trying to listen to everything he says, soak it up and get better.”

 Jarrett Stidham Is Ahead of His Projections And Learning His Craft:

The NFL Draft isn’t an exact science, we all know that. Some players have superstar potential and never make it. Others, aren’t very highly sought after but thru hard work, belief in themselves, and a burning desire to succeed will rise far above their projected ceiling when the draft rolls around. 

Take Tom Brady, drafted in the 6th round,199th overall in 2000. No one thought he’d amount to much. Now 20 years later, he stands alone at the absolute pinnacle of the sport. Which brings us to this year’s 4th round draft choice Jarrett Stidham, the rookie QB from Auburn. 

Stidham played in an offense at Auburn that really stunted his growth as an NFL QB. He too wasn’t highly thought of and his selection barely registered across NFL circles. He struggled in minicamp and even threw an interception in a walkthru. When training camp started, he frequently held the ball too long and struggled to make a decision. Although he throws a really nice ball, he was struggling with his reads, things that not uncommon with rookie QBs. 

But with each passing day, he was learning …and improving. He’s steadily got better and watching him on Thursday night against the Panthers it didn’t resemble anything close to the kid who struggled so badly on Day 1 of Training Camp. I reached out to Mark Schofield, who is an outstanding analyst, especially when it comes to QBs. He wrote a very nice piece on QB Development for Pro Football Weekly in the annual draft issue. He writes for Inside the Pylon and does a really good podcast on Pats Pulpit. I had spoken to Mark in the spring after the Patriots had drafted Stidham and wanted to get his take on how far he’s progressed. He had several interesting takes on the rookie.

“Progress is probably the best way to phrase this,” Schofield said. “The really interesting thing is the mental development, you saw it against the Lions… I love those ‘no-throw’ moments when the QB doesn’t throw a pass that was expected and then go back and to find out why.”

On this particular play, the Patriots were running a two-receiver set known as “Rope”, where the slot receiver runs a slant and then breaks to the outside. The outside receiver runs a route that is dependent on the coverage but is normally a go route. This play is designed to defeat a Cover 2 which is what the Lions defense was aligned in. “The QB wants to throw that route in the flat,” Schofield said. Stidham held the ball and scrambled for five yards…no big deal right? Wrong, says Schofield. 

“The Lions were running what they call a ‘Cover 5 Cougar’ which is Cover 2 man underneath trap coverage, which is specifically designed to stop this kind of play. The cornerback backpedals for just a moment with the outside vertical route, and if he sees the inside receiver run this route to the flat, he peels off the outside receiver and crashes—or “traps”—the out route. But the corner is still reading the slot receiver. even with his back to him. This tells the quarterback that the CB is bailing, but it is really just a wrinkle looking to bait the quarterback into throwing the flat route, and potentially an interception.”

“Stidham sees the coverage, drops back and begins to throw the ball but recognizes what the Lions are doing. He stops the throw and pulls down the ball and runs. It is a real heads up play for a rookie because it is a coverage that fools even veteran QBs. And when you’re seeing the progress there, going from tossing picks in a walk-thru to recognizing the coverage and reacting like this, it is huge progress.”

“I think he’s made a huge impression on this coaching staff and his progress has been excellent, I’ve been really impressed with him,” Schofield added.

The Auburn offense wasn’t a great fit for a QB with his talents and until he hit the Senior Bowl this spring, he wasn’t considered a coveted prospect. But playing in Kyle Shanahan’s offense in Mobile was an eye-opener. “There were times, that I thought he was the best QB down there…not Daniel Jones or anybody else,” Schofield said. 

Schofield added, “when I got a chance to talk to him, I asked him what his favorite offense was, in the ones he’d run, and he said, ‘Everything this week.’”

He was a really good fit in a pro-style offense, and Schofield said that you could see him moving defenders with his eyes, and going thru reads quickly. “So the fit with him coming to New England was pretty good.”

So, the question now is, do the Patriots believe that Stidham can handle the offense if anything were to happen to Brady and part ways with Hoyer, keeping only two quarterbacks. 

“It is a really tough question because they have so many tough decisions to make at other positions… when you look at some of the players that they have at, say…wide receiver or the defensive line, the coaches could say, we have to make a choice here. But ideally, they’d find a way to keep all three. But the fact that we’re having this conversation tells you how much he’s progressed.”

“This is another example of how the Patriots approach things,” Schofield said. “They don’t concern themselves with what he can’t do, they focus on the things that he does well. They saw the arm talent, his processing speed and they liked the potential in him and he’s in a good position to learn, not just from Tom Brady but from Josh McDaniels as well. It is a great environment to learn.”

While no one is anointing him for Canton just yet or that he’s the heir apparent to Tom Brady, it at least shows the coaching staff, that they may have something in him and he’s going to get more put on his plate as they attempt to further develop him.

We’ll have the entire interview with Mark Schofield available shortly on our YouTube channel.

Patriots Defense Ahead Of Schedule This Year:

The Patriots’ defense went through a ton of changes this spring. They lost the versatile and important Trey Flowers as well as former 1st round pick Malcom Brown in free agency. But the losses on the coaching staff left the team with literally the cupboard bare. De facto DC and LBs coach Brian Flores went to Miami along with cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer, while defensive line coach Brendan Daly bolted for Kansas City. 

Greg Schiano was hired as the new Defensive Coordinator but soon after stepped down. Jerod Mayo was hired the next day as the inside linebackers coach. Bret Bielema, who was already on the staff took over the d-line. DeMarcus Covington took over the outside linebackers coaching position, while Mike Pellegrino is now the cornerbacks’ coach. Steve Belichick remains the safeties coach.

On the field, it seems like this crew has been together for years. And Bill Belichick has assembled a really deep and talented crew from top to bottom with some very experienced players mixed in with 2nd-year players and rookies that are meshing together extremely well. 

The defense last year struggled especially against the run and getting after the QB early in the year. Their slow start wasn’t anything especially new, Belichick likes to add more and more as the season goes on and build on things. By the end of the season, they had things figured out and ended the regular season and went into the playoffs with a much more aggressive, attacking mindset. The results spoke for themselves, as they held the Rams to just three points in the Super Bowl. 

That slow build-up looks to have been accelerated this season. The 2019 Patriots have the potential to be a very special group, perhaps even rivaling the 2004 team. With depth at all three levels, this group is already a confident, versatile bunch and their play on the field bears that out.

While comparing them to the 2004 unit may be a stretch at this early juncture, look at the depth and versatility at the linebacker position. A year ago it was a position of concern, now, they may have to part with some players who could contribute, not just here but with other teams as well. The cornerback group is as deep as I’ve ever remembered and has the ability to mix and match with any opponent matchups.

Last year, the team couldn’t find any takers for joint practices and they entered the regular season not as prepared as the coaching staff would have liked, not surprisingly, the defense wasn’t good as the team limped out to a 1-2 start. 

The back-to-back joint practice sessions with the Lions and Titans have this team in a much better position. But the pieces were already in place this spring. There has been a collective confidence brewing since the first OTAs with the defensive group. Since training camp has started this unit has looked really strong. The Patriots offense really struggled in the first days of training camp which led to the question, “Is it the defense being really good, or just the offense being really bad?” 

The joint practices and the preseason game with the Lions reinforced that it was indeed the defense being “that good”. The Patriots offense looked very good in Detroit while the defense stifled the Lions. During the game, they wracked up nine sacks and held the Lions to just three points. 

At home against the Panthers, they held Carolina’s offense in the first half to just 29 yards, two first downs, and 0-5 on third down. The confidence that the unit is playing with is far ahead of where they normally are at this time of year. But what was more impressive is that they liberally rotated a lot of players with the top unit. Game planning for this unit? A total of 13 players have sacks thru three games.

They even dusted off the old Bears 46 Defense with two LBs on the line of scrimmage on the strong side which resulted in a sack. That will give the Steelers’ coaches something to think about in two weeks. That’s the first real test and a very big one as Pittsburgh’s offense looks stacked once again. 

Holding for Field Goals, Why Use Punters and Not WRs?

After the missed field goal connection between Jake Bailey and Stephen Gostkowski I got a good question on Twitter this Friday, a follower asked, “Why would the Patriots [and other teams] use a punter as a holder for extra points and field goals and not a wide receiver who is used to handling the ball?”

This is a very good question and I remember thinking the same thing several years ago. So, with that in mind, a few years ago Bill Belichick was asked about that. And he always has good reasons to play Special Teams. Here are a few good reasons why teams use a punter rather than a WR. 

Punters, kickers, and long-snappers can work all week on their delivery and timing of kicks. While the WRs will be working on another part of the game plan. That allows them to dedicate nearly all of their time to this when a WR may not have as much.

Punters have good hands and have to handle the ball quickly and seamlessly. Any bobble will result in a blocked punt. And punters are used to working under pressure. Imagine a slew of big defensive linemen rushing at you and everything depends on handling the ball quickly and letting a kick go. 

Plus, punters aren’t injured nearly as much as wide receivers are so the continuity factor is always there.

Replacing Chung Is No Easy Task in the Secondary:

Patriots safety Pat Chung is facing arraignment for possession of cocaine charges in New Hampshire this coming week. He may not actually see his court case heard until next year. So, any suspension from the NFL may not come until next year. But depending upon the circumstances of his case, the league could act sooner. 

Chung, however, may still not play in the season opener as he’s missed the entire preseason and has worn a red non-contact jersey all through training camp as he’s been recovering from a broken arm suffered in the Super Bowl as well as off-season shoulder surgery. So, who steps up and plays his role against the Steelers if he isn’t ready to go?

We may see a mixture of Duron Harmon and Terrence Brooks if he’s out. Brooks was mainly a special teams’ contributor with the Jets but this summer, he’s gotten a lot of reps with the top defensive unit. Harmon has been used more as another deep safety. Brooks accounted well for himself in joint practices and the preseason and could step into the role, but Chung does so much it is no easy task. 

Chung plays the in-the-box safety run support role, a linebacker in dime coverage, at times even playing in the slot as well as providing backup support as a third punt returner for special teams when needed. One other player to watch may be rookie corner Joejuan Williams who can be asked to cover the tight ends with his size. 

Hopefully, Chung will be ready to go against Pittsburgh and in uniform that night. But if he isn’t, it would be expected his place would be taken not by one player but multiple ones.

Due to the longer than normal [nearly 3000 words] Patriots notes this week, we are not running our AFC East Notes this Sunday, but they’ll be back next week for sure.

________________

“I think Jarrett’s pocket presence is good. I think there’s a lot of room for improvement. Certainly, when you’re comparing him to the other two quarterbacks on our roster, guys who have played a lot of football in this league, it’s quite a gap in experience. I’m sure those are things that Jarrett will get better at. [It is] probably about what you would think it would be given the difference in experience that you’re comparing him to – to players in our offense running the same plays that he does. So, it’s hard to compare one quarterback in one system to a quarterback in a completely different system, but in our case, we have three quarterbacks all in the same system. It’s an obvious comparison. He’s getting better. I think he does a good job, but there’s room for improvement, certainly.”
Bill Belichick on how Jarrett Stidham’s pocket presence has improved 8-23

________________

“So, how was your week?”

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

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

Patriots Defense Looks Ready For 2019 With 10-3 Win Over Carolina

Steve Balestrieri
August 23, 2019 at 7:30 am ET

The Patriots improved to 3-0 in the preseason with a 10-3 win over the Carolina Panthers at Gillette Stadium on Thursday night. 

As we’ve seen during the first two preseason games with mainly the backup defense, the starting unit played for the first time and was dominating, holding Carolina to just 29 yards in five first-half drives. The Panthers could only manage two first downs and were 0-5 on third downs, managing just 1.7 yards per play. 

Once again, despite not having “a dominant pass rusher” the unit hounded Cam Newton for a few series before he left with a foot injury after being sacked by Adam Butler. Newton played in his first preseason action after offseason surgery. 

The starting unit registered three sacks with Butler, Michael Bennett, and Kyle Van Noy taking down the Panthers’ QB. Ufombra Kamalu had the Patriots other sack. Carolina only had a total of 99 yards of offense with 48 passing and 51 rushing and could only muster seven first downs in the entire game.

Other observations include:

Brady Looks Sharp In Preseason Debut:

Tom Brady and much of the first unit offense were in for three series and scored one touchdown, with the other two drives wiped out by penalties. With no Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Demaryius Thomas, Maurice Harris, Braxton Berrios, and Josh Gordon [NFI] in the lineup, Brady was targeting mainly Phillip Dorsett [5 targets, 5 catches for 41 yards] and rookie Jakobi Meyers.

Meyers got off to a rough start with Brady. He stopped running on a deep route, had a drop on a drag route where the pass was slightly behind him and had another pass batted away by cornerback James Bradberry. 

Brady ended up 8-12 for 75 yards, his two best throws were an 18-yard laser down the seam to Ryan Izzo and a nicely zipped pass on the outside to Dorsett. He looks ready to go. 

Dorsett and Michel Shine in Early Action: 

Dorsett was targeted five times by Brady and twice by Stidham and hauled in all seven passes thrown his way.  He looked quick off the line and sure-handed as he and Brady were locked in one another. It was a good veteran performance as he stepped up with all of the other players missing and with Harris missing, Dorsett has solidified his grip on a roster spot. Many have him neck and neck with Harris. He didn’t hurt his chances with a solid game tonight.

Michel looked quick to the hole, decisive and elusive. He made people miss with some outstanding, explosive cuts and looks absolutely ready for the regular season. While he had just 36 yards on 10 carries, those numbers are skewed somewhat as he had two runs including a really nice 30-yard run wiped out by a holding penalty downfield, [Meyers] and was stuffed on the goal line twice, once where the TE [Saubert] missed his block.  

Starting Offensive Line Play Encouraging, Backups…Not So Much:

The Patriots starting unit did a good job of protecting Brady and other than some holding penalties that have to be cleaned up, did a nice job of opening holes for Michel and the running game. And this was against a very good Carolina front seven. 

The starting unit of Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, and Marcus Cannon was solid overall. Wynn, other than a whiff on a screen to Dorsett once again appears to be well on his way after his injury last summer that wiped out his rookie season.

The backup offensive linemen had a rougher evening. Carolina sacked Jarrett Stidham five times and registered eight QB hits. While two of the sacks were the result of the rookie QB holding the ball too long, this wasn’t a great night for the backups.

Injuries Pile Up:

There were several players who didn’t suit up on Thursday night. N’Keal Harry, Maurice Harris, Josh Gordon [NFI], Cam Meredith [PUP], Braxton Berrios, Matthew Slater, Obi Melifonwu, Patrick Chung, Trent Harris, Martez Ivey, Yodny Cajuste [NFI], Matt LaCosse, Shalique Calhoun, and Derek Rivers. Edelman, James White, and Demaryius Thomas dressed but didn’t play.

During the game, Kyle Van Noy, Nate Ebner, Damien Harris, Ben Watson, Gunner Olszewski, Lance Kendricks, and Stephen Anderson all left with injuries. Van Noy and Ebner returned, the rest did not. Brandon King was carted off with what appeared to be a serious leg injury. 

Quick Hitters:

Jarrett Stidham – once again appeared good, not as good as last week but his protection wasn’t nearly as strong. Belichick made the decision to replace Brady not with Brian Hoyer, but with the rookie. This was a chance to see what the rookie can do against the better players who will be there in the fall. They know what they have in Hoyer, so he sat. Stidham completed 15-19 for 134 yards. He hit some tight windows.

Gunner Olszewski – had a really good night in the punt return game. He called for a fair catch on his first where it appeared he had plenty of room to run, but after that he had four returns for 63 yards. He caught one pass for 15 yards from Stidham and it was then that he was injured and didn’t return.

Stephen Gostkowski – missed a field goal for the third straight game although this one was firmly on the hands of rookie Jake Bailey who put the ball down with the laces facing the kicker….”laces out Dan!” This will have to be cleaned up moving forward.

Jake Bailey – Speaking of the rookie, despite his gaffe holding for the field goal, he was outstanding in his punting, averaging 48 yards in his four attempts, putting two inside the 20-yard line and with excellent hang time. The Panthers had just five yards on three punt returns, because of how long the ball was in the air. 

Calvin Munson – continues his strong summer. He appears quick and is all over the field. He had four tackles, one for a loss, plays special teams and with King down, may just crack the 53-man roster.

Jakobi Meyers – After an inauspicious start with Brady, the rookie WR settled down with Stidham and made seven catches 74 yards. He’s shown good chemistry with Brady during joint practices, he’ll have to learn from this and shake it off. 

Penalties – The yellow flags continue to pile up against the Patriots, this has to be a very sore spot with Belichick and the coaching staff. Last week they got flagged numerous times for hands to the face, tonight it was holding. However, the Panthers did challenge two non-call Defensive Pass Interference plays and both were upheld.

The Giants come in a week from tonight for the final preseason tilt. 

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.

What to Watch For, Preseason Week 3 Patriots vs Panthers

Steve Balestrieri
August 22, 2019 at 7:30 am ET

The Patriots are taking on the Carolina Panthers tonight in Foxboro for the third preseason game for both teams. This is the week that the starters traditionally see a lot of game action. But I have always disliked the term “dress rehearsal”, so for the eighth year in a row here at PatsFans.com, I’ll use my favorite quote from Willie Nelson. My wife and I spent time back and onstage with Willie at one venue and partied on his bus with him at others. [Those are stories for a different time.] But Willie’s words ring true.

“There are no dress rehearsals, we are professionals and this IS the big time”

So, both teams’ starters should see about a half of work and maybe a series in the second half to get acclimated to the entire process. This will be Cam Newton’s first game action this year after off-season shoulder surgery. So, he may not be as apt as he’s shown in the past about tucking the ball away and running with it. This will also be Tom Brady’s first preseason action this summer.

So, what are we looking for from a Patriots perspective tonight? 

Can Brady and the New Faces Click on Offense?

Julian Edelman came off of NFI on Monday, Demaryius Thomas was removed from PUP on Tuesday. I don’t imagine either will play. Josh Gordon is still on NFI and has already been ruled out of tonight’s game. N’Keal Harry just returned to practice this week and may not play either. 

So, this will be a really big test for Jakobi Meyers, going against the top Carolina defense as Brady’s go-to receiver. Phillip Dorsett and Braxton Berrios should also get a lot of snaps with the first unit. 

This should be a good time to see how Sony Michel and Damien Harris are used out of the backfield in the passing game, something they’ve worked on this summer. We know James White’s value there, but the coaches made a concerted effort to by more unpredictable this summer. Michel and Harris should handle the bulk of the work in the running game. Isaiah Wynn’s workload should increase this week and we want to see how he handles this as well as how he holds up against a stout Panthers defense.

Matt LaCosse is back on the field after being injured in Detroit, and this is his opportunity to shine. No one has really stepped up at tight end this summer, so this a big chance to carve out a role with the team. 

How Well the Front Seven [Starters] can Create Pressure:

We’ve seen the top guys dominate in workouts and joint practices. The second and third-tier guys have looked really good in preseason games, but now the starters get to show their stuff. And they get a good test against a Panthers team that has given them problems in the past.

With players like Micheal Bennett, Dont’a Hightower, and Kyle Van Noy getting into their first game action of the year, mixing in Jamie Collins, Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, and John Simon, we’ll get a better idea on how they are planning on using these players. In particular, will the coaches continue to be aggressive and we’ll be wanting to see the personnel groupings that they will rollout.

This front seven looks deep and versatile, with guys like Chase Winovich, Shalique Calhoun, and Derek Rivers coming on later to spell the starters, the 2019 front seven is as deep a unit the Patriots have had since the 2003-2004 teams.

Watching the Starting Secondary Gel On the Field:

This secondary unit of the Patriots is one of the more stronger ones in the league and arguably the deepest secondary unit that Bill Belichick has coached since he took over the reins of the Patriots in 2000.

Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, and Jason McCourty give the team their top three boundary corners. Jonathan Jones has easily bested former 2nd round pick Duke Dawson for the top slot corner. Now watching the starters and their communication with Devin McCourty and Pat Chung at safety is a step. This unit hasn’t played together in a game since the Super Bowl. This is a big week of preparation for the season. Many of them probably won’t play next week. 

Dawson should see plenty of reps in the second half as he’s one of the guys who is fighting for a roster spot. Joejuan Williams, the rookie 2nd round CB, who has improved markedly since training camp began and Keion Crossen should also see a lot of work in the second half.

Special Teams Get Ready For Week 1:

With the release of Ryan Allen, Jake Bailey has won the starting punting position. But the pressure doesn’t let up now, it just gets even tougher. He’s replacing a very popular player with the fanbase and this will be his first game action in Foxboro. He’ll also be tasked with holding on field goal and extra-point attempts. It will be important for him to get off to a good, clean start.

Stephen Gostkowski has missed field goals in each of the first two games, whether that was all on him or something in the exchange between Joe Cardona and his new holder Bailey will bear watching. For all of the fans who would like to see the third most accurate kicker in NFL history replaced, who is out there and most importantly available? Other than the Ravens’ Justin Tucker, Gostkowski is right up there with the best kickers in the game. With a better career accuracy average than the guy he replaced 14 years ago.

The kick return game will bear particular watching tonight. Braxton Berrios or Gunner Olszewski’s roster spot may depend on how well they produce in the kick return game. 

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

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

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?”

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Postcards From the Edge – Patriots Front Seven Primed For 2019

Steve Balestrieri
August 17, 2019 at 7:30 am ET

What a difference a year makes. Last season at this time, there were major questions about the depth of their linebacking corps and who…besides Trey Flowers could rush the passer. Now, they enter their second preseason game and the front seven has depth galore and an entirely new outlook on things. 

Flowers was tough to see leave, he did so much and a lot of it under the radar for the Patriots. But the team addressed it in several ways this year. The big men in the middle Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Adam Butler, and Danny Shelton look better than they were a year ago inside. Rookie Byron Cowart is still a long shot for the roster but has come on after missing time early with an injury. He had a half-sack and a QB pressure last week in Detroit. 

Although Michael Bennett is 33 years old, as of today, he shows no sign of slowing down and has been dominant in our limited look at him so far. And Bennett is flashing some of the same versatility, lining up inside, outside and even over the nose.

He’s embracing his role and the defensive scheme and seems to have a healthy respect for the coaching staff. Deatrich Wise hasn’t been 100 percent yet but should now see some action. Consistency is the key for him in 2019.

Chase Winovich was picked up this spring in the third round of the draft and he’s been “exactly who we thought he was.” He has an incredible motor that goes non-stop, excellent hands [which will only get better with pass-rush consultant Joe Kim]. Winovich has looked terrific in his opportunities which included a 1.5 sack performance against the Lions last week. 

Derek Rivers keeps trending up. He too had a big game against Detroit [2 sacks], and put constant pressure on the QBs last week, both in practice and in the game. After being a total non-factor for his first two years, is he a shoo-in? No, but the way he’s playing has to be a huge confidence boost for not only him but the coaches. 

Shalique Calhoun is quickly becoming a steal. The veteran that came over from the Raiders this spring barely registered on the radar [here as well….], however, it seems like he’s another guy that wasn’t considered a nice pickup and who can pay big dividends for the team. His play was such that he was given reps with the starters. He responded in Detroit with a sack and a tackle for loss. 

And we haven’t even got to the linebackers. John Simon was the under the radar pickup last year.  He does a terrific job of setting the edge and had an interception last week. Jamie Collins was dynamic last week and has been a beast throughout training camp. He has the athleticism to be a movable chess piece anywhere they sense a mismatch to their advantage. He had a sack last week…. Are we sensing a pattern here?

Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy are the linchpins for the front seven. They can rush off the edge or up in the A-gaps.  Hightower dropped weight this offseason and looks faster and a bit more athletic. He looked good back in his home state this week.

Van Noy was another Belichick highway robbery when they snatched him away from the Lions. He can do everything that Belichick and Mayo will ask of him. Elandon Roberts and Ja’Whaun Bentley hold down the middle. Two guys outside looking in are Calvin Munson and Christian Sam.  Munson has put back-to-back solid weeks together.

Last week, the Patriots had 17 QB pressures and nine sacks against the woefully unprepared Lions. This week against a better team, the front seven hounded Titans’ QBs in the joint practices. Can they do it again in the game on Saturday night? 

We shall see. But things are trending up for this defense in 2019. In about three weeks will be the first real test when they take on the Steelers in the season opener. Pittsburgh has one of the better offensive lines in the league. And this time around, there is growing confidence in the front seven.  

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New England Patriots 53-man Roster Projection 2.0

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

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

Offense –
Quarterbacks: (3)

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

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

Running backs: (6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defense –

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

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

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

Interior Defensive Line: (4)

Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler

Out: Bryon Cowart, David Parry

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

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

Linebacker: (6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taking Stock of the First Week of Patriots Training Camp

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

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

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

Health Still a Concern In Some Areas:

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

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

Defense Looking Very Strong in Early Going:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wide Receiver Competition Heating Up: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bennett Puts Retirement Rumors to Rest, Dominates: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tight End Still a Work in Progress:

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

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

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

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

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

Tackle Still a Concern For Now:

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

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

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

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

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

Patriots 2019 Training Camp Guide – Defensive Line

Steve Balestrieri
July 19, 2019 at 8:30 am ET

Less Than a Week Before the Patriots are “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door” 

The Patriots lost a couple of their key starters on the defensive line from last year’s Super Bowl team. Trey Flowers was their biggest loss, he was versatile, and could play on the edge as well as kick inside as an interior pass rusher. The team also lost former 1st round pick Malcom Brown who signed with the Saints in free agency. Adrian Clayborn left in free agency as well.

But the team didn’t stand pat and signed former Jets DL Mike Pennel, the big nose tackle is a space-eater and can two-gap over the ball and take on double teams. Pennel’s signing is one of the most under-the-radar and underrated signings of the spring. The team also re-signed Danny Shelton for the interior of the line. David Parry and rookie Byron Cowart will be fighting for a roster spot. 

Pennel after minicamp session. SBalestrieri photo

Bill Belichick also swung a trade with Philadelphia, just a few hours after Flowers signed with Detroit. The Patriots gave up a 5th round draft pick for Michael Bennett and a 7th. While Bennett’s best days are behind him, he’s still a very viable pass rusher. He notched nine sacks for the Eagles last year, which would have led the Patriots. They also addressed the pass rush by drafting Michigan’s Chase Winovich in the third round. 

The very good and underrated Lawrence Guy returns as does Deatrich Wise, and Adam Butler on the interior line. This is a big year for former top draft pick Derek Rivers. He’ll be fighting for a roster spot with Keionta Davis, Trent Harris, Ufomba Kamalu, and Nick Thurman on the edge. 

With the breakdown of personnel that the team has this year, we could see more multiple looks and the team switching between a 4-3 and 3-4 defensive fronts. We’ll get more to that below. 

Check back with PatsFans.com as we’ll go thru the entire roster as our primers for training camp continue before the heavy lifting starts on July 25. And be sure to keep up with our coverage from training camp. 

Current roster – 

Interior DL – Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler, David Parry, Byron Cowart

Locks – Guy, Pennel, Butler

Near Locks –  none

Bubble – Shelton, Parry, Cowart

Long Shot – none

Edge Players – Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise, Chase Winovich, John Simon, Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis, Trent Harris, Ufomba Kamalu, Nick Thurman

Locks – Bennett, Wise, Winovich, Simon

Near Locks –  none

Bubble – Rivers, Davis, Harris, Kamalu, Thurman

Long Shot – none

Discussion – We’ll start with the interior big men. Pennel, Guy, and Butler are all locks for the roster. Pennel is a perfect fit with what the Patriots ask for their big men over the nose. Standing at 6’4, 332 pounds, Pennel is a very thick, powerful man with a huge lower body that is built for eating up two gaps. Guy has been a very nice addition to the Patriots since he arrived from Baltimore. Butler is a 300-pound penetrator who provides the team a nice interior pass rush on passing downs. 

Vying for the fourth spot on the interior DL is Danny Shelton, the former 1st round pick who the Patriots brought over from Cleveland last year. He suffered thru a lapse of poor play where he sat and was a healthy scratch a few times. But he elevated his game down the stretch and played better in the playoffs. David Parry is a four-year veteran who played for the Colts, Saints, and Vikings. Byron Cowart is a rookie out of Maryland who flashed a bit in his senior season and is a dark horse to make the roster. However, some analysts believe that he’s just coming into his own and could make some noise this summer. 

Essentially, the trio of Shelton, Parry, and Cowart may very well be vying for one roster spot unless they decide to keep five interior players, which is doubtful. Cowart has practice squad eligibility, which could come into play. 

On the edge, the Patriots have Bennett, Wise, Winovich (by virtue of his draft stock), and Simon as locks. Bennett is still a very good pass rusher and should continue to be very productive in the Patriots system. Wise is coming off a decent if a slightly inconsistent year with 4.5 sacks. Simon was cut loose by the Colts last year and the Patriots wasted little time in signing him. His role increased down the stretch and showed he could get after the QB, set the edge and drop into coverage a bit. The Patriots gave him a two-year deal worth $4 million with $1.65 million guaranteed. 

Winovich is a wild card here this season. The Patriots drafted him with a third-round pick and he’s a guy who plays with his hair on fire, going all out on every snap. His non-stop motor and excellent hands should see him logging some significant snaps. 

With possibly two more roster spots remaining,  the competition gets fierce here. Derek Rivers is in a make-or-break season. He’ll be competing with Keionta Davis, Ufomba Kamalu, Nick Thurman, and Trent Harris for the remaining edge roster spots. Another guy who could factor into the edge is a fourth-year linebacker, Shilique Calhoun.

Looking at this defensive line and the way it is constructed, it would lend itself to being more of a 3-4 unit than a 4-3. Pennel and Shelton are prototypical nose tackles. Lawrence Guy was a 3-4 DE with Baltimore and guys like Deatrich Wise, Kamalu, and Thurman are best suited for a 5-technique role. 

Bennett, Winovich, and Simon would then revert to edge-rushing OLBs. We know Bill Belichick hates to categorize it one way or the other. And they’ll stay multiple and mix and match their personnel depending upon the opponent. Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Jamie Collins could all see some work along the edge as well, depending on the opponent and the front in which they line up. 

With a lot of the talk this spring and early summer being that the defensive line will be weaker this season, I wouldn’t be so sure about that. While losing Flowers will definitely be a blow, gaining Bennett and Winovich is a nice way to address it. Pennel, in my opinion, will more than makeup for the loss of Brown. But we’ll have to see. That’s what makes the watching of training camp and preseason so intriguing.

With training camp starting next week, the competition among the defensive linemen should be extremely fun to watch. 

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 06-30, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
June 30, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 06-30 and AFC East notes this week. 

 Quick Hitters:

Jared Veldheer – retired shortly after signing with the Patriots on May 13. He recently came out and stated why in an interview he did earlier last week with MLive.

“It was easy (decision) because of knowing what my body was telling me, but it was hard because I was leaving a very good situation being with the Patriots,” Veldheer said. “(Belichick) understood, and everyone in the NFL building understands that the sport can do a number on your body and different guys have different timelines on how long they can make it through.”

Veldheer said that his hips, “Particularly my left one, was in pretty bad shape (after the season).”

DeAngelo Hall – former NFL DB was a guest on Good Morning Football and stated that Tom Brady was the best QB he ever faced and added that he didn’t have many regrets in his NFL career but one was not signing with the Patriots when they offered him a good deal but less money than he eventually signed for. The Patriots offered him 3 years and $27 million and the Redskins offered 3 years and $30 million. Hall said he now regrets not taking a little less and having a chance at a Super Bowl.

Isaiah Wynn – Is running at full speed and should be ready for training camp according to Jeff Howe of the Athletic. He reported that Wynn should be a full go at training camp which is a very good sign for the 23rd player selected in 2018 NFL Draft. And the Pats offensive line. 

Patriots Charitable Foundation – Patriot Place and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care are teaming up to build an adaptive home for an American veteran. Chelsea resident Brandon Korona lost a leg to an IED in Afghanistan. On Friday morning, the Patriots invited Korona and his family to Patriot Place to break the news that the three organizations will donate $50,000 to adapt his home for his needs. WCVB Channel 5 was the first to break the news.

Rob Gronkowski – has really trimmed down since announcing his retirement from the NFL. After seeing pictures of him recently, anyone harboring hopes of a comeback from the big guy and not being realistic. And any thoughts of him joining the WWE seem far-fetched as well.

Jonah Williams – Tough to see arguably, the best OL in this year’s draft go down with an injury before training camp starts and be lost for the season. Williams tore the labrum in his shoulder and required surgery which will sideline him for the entire 2019 season. The Bengals drafted Williams in the 1st round, 11th overall in the recent draft.

Julian Edelman’s Story Goes to Showtime:

The documentary “100% Julian Edelman” went live on Showtime on Friday night and was mostly filmed during the 2017-2018 timeframe when the Patriots WR was rehabbing from his ACL surgery.

There is a lot of humor in the hour-plus long video but some serious items as well. Edelman grew up terrified of his dad, who was a demanding taskmaster of a coach and demanded the best out of his son every day. The story goes over some of the drills that his father made him perform and they weren’t easy and were designed to make him tougher mentally. 

There is also a bit where Edelman talked about only being five feet tall until his senior year of high school, where he went thru a growth spurt where he grew eight inches and his football career, thanks to the hard work with his father paid off.

It delves into some interesting subjects like his PED suspension where he and his Dad didn’t speak for 81 days. Edelman says the pair speak every day and the two disagreed over how it was handled. 

Edelman – Welker, Is it Really Necessary to Compare?:

We realize that it is the summer doldrums where there isn’t much shaking…news-wise for the Patriots and these things are just exercises for discussion. We get it but there comes a time when it really doesn’t do either player justice when comparing players and their production to the team. 

Which brings us to the Julian Edelman – Wes Welker debate that is all over social media.  Edelman, is an icon in New England now, after playing a huge roll in the last three Super Bowl wins, including Super Bowl MVP honors for SB LIII. He’s Tom Brady’s best friend and most trusted receiver. 

Welker is now, unfairly remembered mostly for the one that got away. The SB XLVI catch that could have closed out the Giants. And the fact that the Patriots didn’t re-sign him in 2013 and he bolted for Denver to play for the Broncos and Peyton Manning while wearing that ginormous “Dark Helmet” piece of headgear. 

But in his six years in New England, Welker was beyond productive catching 112, 111, 123, 86, 122, and 118 passes. The only season he didn’t catch over 100 passes was the 2010 season, where after tearing his ACL in January in a game against the Texans, he returned in September and still put up very good numbers; 86 passes, 848 yards with seven touchdowns. 

If there was a knock on Welker, it is that his post-season numbers didn’t quite match up to his regular season excellence. But make no mistake, the numbers were still very good. But if one cares to recall, the Patriots were perhaps, too reliant on Welker, something Bill Belichick himself was recorded as saying on the sidelines. Welker in reality, despite the one pass in Super Bowl XLVI, had better hands than Edelman.

Edelman has upped his game in the post-season, especially in the Super Bowl. His three games, 9-109 and the game-winning touchdown against Seattle, in addition to that mammoth hit he took from Kam Chancellor down the middle, was the stuff of legend. 

Against the Falcons, he had five catches for 87 yards, including that incredible catch in traffic at crunch time where he snagged the ball just before it hit the turf. It is one of the more iconic Super Bowl catches ever, up there with the Lynn Swann catch of the 70s.

And of course, the SB MVP game against the Rams (10 catches, 141 yards) where he was basically uncoverable the entire game. The Rams tried everyone to slow him down and no one could. For a guy who doesn’t fit the poster image as a dominant wide receiver, it was one of the most dominant wide receiver performances in the history of the Super Bowl. 

Welker should receive his red jacket and his rightful place in the Hall soon. If you don’t remember how good he was, play back his very first game in a Patriots uniform. Belichick was called out by the bobos on talk radio for giving up multiple draft picks for a guy who couldn’t hack it with the Dolphins and Bolts. That first game against the Jets answered all of those questions. You could see it happening right before your eyes. 

Do we really have to go thru these mental gymnastics that are all the rage over, “Is so-and-so the best ever?” Be thankful we had both, and a seamless transition between when Welker left and Edelman truly took over. The offense was different then, it evolved and has become even better than it was then. In a big game, give me either in his prime and I’m confident that I’ll win.

Attention Belichick GM Haters…PFF Has the Patriots With the Best Roster in the NFL:

The site Pro Football Focus (PFF) is bound to be taking heat amongst the Bill Belichick haters, especially among the ones that are always beating the drum that “GM Bill is hurting, Coach Bill” and that “Belichick can’t draft.” Sound familiar?

PFF put together a piece for ESPN where they compared every roster in the NFL and despite losing Trey Flowers, Trent Brown, and Adrian Clayborn in free agency and Rob Gronkowski to retirement, the Patriots still have the best roster in the league. 

PFF cited the Pats strength down the middle and it begins with QB Tom Brady. Brady, according to PFF had his fourth “elite” season in a row, (oopsie to the Simms, Kellerman trolls).

Despite always picking at the bottom of every round in the NFL Draft, Belichick has put together the top roster of the league. The Rams, Saints, and Eagles round out the Top 4. PFF listed, not tight end but the pass rush as a potential weak spot…more below.

Is the Patriots Pass Rush a Worrisome Spot? Not Presently: 

In the ESPN piece that was referenced above, as we said the Patriots pass rush was listed as a potential problem spot. After losing Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn during free agency, the Patriots who finished 31st in sacks in 2018 could be conceivably on the short end of the pass rush totals again this season. 

Trey Flowers had 7.5 sacks but was very versatile, fulfilling a variety of roles for the defense. Clayborn had just 2.5 sacks during the regular season but upped his play in the post-season. 

The post-season was a different story. The Patriots were much more aggressive and after logging just 30 sacks in 16 regular season games, they logged 10 in just three playoff tilts. And it wasn’t from one player, they got contributions from everyone. Kyle Van Noy led the team with three, while Dont’a Hightower and Flowers each had two apiece. 

In the Super Bowl, quite a difference from the year before, the pass rush hounded Jared Goff all game long. The defense had 13 QB hurries, eight QB hits, and four sacks. One of the pressures on Goff resulted in Stephon Gillmore’s interception at the end of the game.

But the team didn’t stand pat and signed free agent Michael Bennett from the Eagles and then drafted Chase Winovich in the 3rd round. And if the spring workouts with the unpadded workouts and no contact are any indication, LB Jamie Collins should be in-line for some quality playing time.  

Bennett, despite being 33 is still a quality pass rusher and like Flowers, has the ability to move inside and bring pressure up the middle. Winovich was somewhat of a steal, with the Patriots snagging him with the 77th overall pick. While neither has played a snap with pads on yet, this isn’t to suggest that either is a cure-all but the cupboard isn’t bare either. 

Deatrich Wise can kick inside and will have to up his play this season, while John Simon, Hightower, and Van Noy all have shown the ability to rush the QB on occasion. Collins is the wild card, having had a very good spring. Will the Patriots ever reap any reward out of Derek Rivers? He lost his rookie year to a torn ACL. Last year, he didn’t show much and will be under the microscope in Year 3. 

So, this will be an area to watch for sure during training camp, especially when the one-on-one battles take place between the OL and the DL. But the scheme will play a huge role as well. Will the defense continue their aggressive ways after a very successful playoff run in 2018-19? 

We aren’t predicting a Top 5 sack season, but we aren’t looking for them being near the bottom either. As always, the defense will no doubt start off slowly.  Bill Belichick, as always, adds elements to it as the year progresses. A weakness? Not right now it isn’t. But like every year, we’ll have to watch for injuries and players to step up first. Our view here is that the 2019 version of the defense should be much better in the pass rush department….we’ll see.

AFC East Notes will return soon….

________________

Julian Edelman’s motto for 2019? “Just got to keep it going.” That is a good motto for the team as they try to keep “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door.”

“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.