Tag Archives: Nick Caserio

Patriots Training Camp Day 3 Observations, Old-Timers Day

Steve Balestrieri
July 27, 2019 at 6:09 pm ET

Apologies for the late post… sometimes life can throw us a curve, or strand you on the road with a broken-down car…

The Patriots were back on the field in full pads in near-perfect weather conditions on Saturday morning. Prior to the practice session, Nick Caserio spoke to the assembled media and announced that Sony Michel would return to the field today. Caserio was pressed several times for more information on the open GM position for the Houston Texans but he held firm and reiterated that his focus was on making this team better. 

“Look, I’m in a great position,” Caserio said. “I’ve got a great opportunity each day to come in here and serve this team and this organization, and I enjoy doing that, and that’s what I’m excited to do. I’m going to continue to do that to the best of my ability.”

For a complete look at the Caserio interview see our FB page.

Caserio did say that Michael Bennett was excused for a personal reason and that out of privacy concerns, they wouldn’t discuss it. Caserio also had a wry smile when discussing Tom Brady’s day off on Friday. 

“Every day, we do what we think is best,” Caserio said. “Tom’s fine. I wouldn’t put too much stock in that.”

Finally, he spoke with glowing terms about Ty Law and Rodney Harrison, and he said that Saturday’s practice was going to be run-heavy with a focus on the running game.

Michel and David Andrews did return to the field, although neither got too involved in the play. But it was a positive outlook nonetheless. 

Besides Troy Brown helping out with WRs, there were a host of former Patriot greats on hand today. Randy Moss had a moment with Tom Brady before the QB got up the stairs to the practice field. Later, Brady was uncorking some deep passes Moss’ way after the session was over. Rodney Harrison was on the field and on the hill with fans and media members. Rodney signed a ton of autographs for the fans and had a nice interaction with several. Rob Ninkovich, now with ESPN was there as well as Willie McGinest who shared some time with Bill Belichick after practice and with Brady as well. 

Rodney Harrison autographing footballs for fans (SBalestrieri photo)

And then there was practice.

Our practice observations included: 

  • N’Keal Harry caught a really nice touchdown pass from Brian Hoyer. He showed his athleticism by leaping over J.C. Jackson in the corner of the end zone.
  • Brady struggled in his return to action on Saturday, going 0-4 in 11-on-11 work and just 2-8 overall in the run-heavy session.
  • Danny Etling continued to practice as a wide receiver and filled in at QB in some running back drills for the depth guys. He stayed late after practice working on both WR and QB drills. 
  • Nick Caserio was on the field and tossing fade routes and quick slants in goalline situations on a side session with Ben Watson and Matt LaCosse
  • Brandon Bolden and Damien Harris were both getting a lot of reps in the running game. 
  • Braxton Berrios, Maurice Harris, and Gunner Olszewski continued to field punts and were joined by Pat Chung today (still wearing the red non-contact jersey).
  • James White took a pretty good pop on an inside run by Christian Sam. It was an audible hit that got everyone’s attention.
  • In other side sessions, Brady worked with Harry and Jakobi Meyers while Hoyer worked with James White and Damien Harris.
  • Maurice Harris continues to catch everything thrown his way. He’s off to a strong start thus far.
  • The big men had some one-on-one battles at the far end of the field. Derek Rivers beat Marcus Cannon, Mike Pennel bull-rushed Ted Karras in a good battle, James Ferentz beat both Adam Butler and Nick Thurman in good action.
  • Umfomba Kamalu appeared to beat Andrew Beck but afterward had to run a lap so he may have jumped offside.
  • Jarrett Stidham hit James Develin for an easy touchdown when someone in the secondary blew their coverage and left him all alone.
  • Stidham also hit Maurice Harris on a nice throw.
  • Stephon Gilmore and  Jackson had pass breakups 

Play of the Day:

Jackson had a beautiful pass breakup on a deep ball from Tom Brady to Phillip Dorsett. Dorsett had gotten behind him and had a step and a half lead. Brady arced a deep 40-yard pass perfectly in the bucket, but Jackson closed and tore the ball out as they tumbled to the ground. 

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

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

New England Patriots News 7-07, AFC East Notes

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

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

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

 Quick Hitters:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tedy Bruschi Suffered a Stroke on July 4:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patriots Coaches Learn The Old Fashioned Way Under Belichick:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

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

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

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

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

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

Dolphins’ Kendrick Norton Loses Arm in Horrific Car Crash:

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

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

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

Jets Hoping For a Big Year From Robby Anderson:

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

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

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

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

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

________________

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

“So, how was your week?”

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

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

Patriots Fourth And Two Podcast: The Nick Caserio Situation

Russ Goldman
June 21, 2019 at 7:43 am ET

In this episode, we discussed the Nick Caserio situation, which involved interest from the Houston Texans, and we looked at it from many different angles. During the show we talked about the Patriots role in this situation, along with potentially Jack Easterby’s involvement, and we also analyzed the Ben Volin article. I have a strong feeling you will find our discussion very interesting.

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.

Patriots Reportedly File Tampering Charges Against Texans in Caserio Pursuit

Steve Balestrieri
June 13, 2019 at 9:30 am ET

Et Tu, Jack, Billy?

The New England Patriots have filed tampering charges against the Houston Texans for attempting to hire team executive Nick Caserio as general manager, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Wednesday.

Schefter reported that the NFL is expected to gather relevant information and open its own investigation against Houston. The league will look into this situation and try to determine whether any tampering was done and if so, what punishment is appropriate.

At the center of the controversy is former Patriots character coach Jack Easterby, who left the team this spring and is working for the Texans now. Easterby was at Robert Kraft’s home on Thursday night for the Patriots ring ceremony. It is rumored that while there, Easterby made overtures to Caserio about the Texans GM position.

The next day, the Texans fired general manager Brian Gaine after just one season on the job. Caserio, who has been New England’s director of player personnel since 2008, once again became Houston’s leading target. Houston tried to hire Caserio last spring and asked for permission to interview him, but the Patriots blocked that attempt.

Caserio is close with both Easterby and Houston head coach Bill O’Brien who was a member of the Patriots coaching staff from 2007-2011.

Pro Football Talk took it one step further stating on Twitter that:

Replying to @ProFootballTalk

Evidence of potential tampering come from photos, videos, other proof of interactions between Texans exec @JackEasterby and Caserio at last Thursday’s Patriots ring ceremony, which happened the night before the Houston G.M. job became vacant.
113
5:31 PM – Jun 12, 2019

So, if the rumors are true, how did the Patriots find out that Easterby was beginning the pursuit of Caserio again by Houston? Were they overheard? Did Caserio report it himself? (doubtful). It adds another layer to the intrigue.

The Texans have requested permission to interview Caserio for their GM job but have not been granted permission to date. And judging from the Patriots reaction, that permission isn’t forthcoming.

The NFL’s policy on tampering is stated as “Any interference by a member club with the employer-employee relationship of another club or any attempt by a club to impermissibly induce a person to seek employment with that club or with the NFL” is impermissible.

Bill Belichick has stated many times that what Caserio does is far beyond his scope as just the Director of Player Personnel.

“He’s certainly involved in all of the personnel aspects of his job, college, pro, free agent workouts, waiver, everything,” Belichick said back in 2017. “But you throw all of the coaching stuff on top of that, the week-to-week role in the press box and on the practice field. I mean, he does a tremendous amount. I can’t think of any other personnel person that would even come close to that. I don’t know who it would be. I don’t know what everybody else does, but I don’t know anybody.”

The league rules state that a team can’t block a person from interviewing for a position that is above their current level. The Patriots will take the stand that Houston’s GM position is, in essence, a lateral move, which by Caserio’s job title only, it is not.

As both Mike Reiss (ESPN) and Doug Kyed (NESN) have stated, the one way the Patriots can block this is to give Caserio a promotion and a raise that would pay Caserio to the level more consistent with the duties.  

While the Patriots as a whole tend to eschew personal job titles, (see offensive/defensive coordinator roles), this might be the perfect time to reverse that trend for Caserio, who is very deserving. And a healthy jump in pay would sweeten the pie as well.

The team can ill-afford to lose Caserio at this juncture of the season. Give him the title (as Kyed suggested) of VP of Player Personnel and a raise, which would elevate him to the level of a GM. That will keep Caserio around for the foreseeable future and create an ascendancy plan for when Belichick decides to retire.

But in terms of Easterby and O’Brien, the reception they get in Foxboro from here on out may not be as warm as before. C-ya in December.

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

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

Patriots Find Their Big Wide Receiver in N’Keal Harry

Steve Balestrieri
April 26, 2019 at 7:10 am ET

The Patriots stayed put in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft and with the 32nd selection took N’Keal Harry, WR from Arizona State.

In selecting Harry, this is the first time the Patriots drafted a wide receiver in the first round since the days of Terry Glenn, back during the Bill Parcells era. He has long arms and uses his catch radius and body positioning to always seem to get open. He’s a threat for big yards after the catch (YAC) and while not a burner in the 4.3 range, he has good speed. He will immediately become a matchup issue for opposing defenses because of his size, physicality, and athleticism.

In our final pre-draft podcast on Patriots 4th & 2, Derek Havens and I had Harry mocked to the Patriots with the #32 pick.

The pick should have brought a big smile to the face of Patriots QB Tom Brady, he gets a big (6’2, 228) physical wide receiver who was extremely productive in college. In 37 career college games, Harry caught 213 passes for 2889 years and 22 touchdowns.P

Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio told the Patriots media after Round 1, the team was getting phone calls about moving back but decided that selecting Harry was the better option. Caserio said that Harry is, “a big, strong receiver with good hands … good with the ball after the catch.” Harry after being selected, spoke to the Patriots media and to the NFL Network and stated he thought his home state team the Arizona Cardinals would take him at #33 which may have convinced New England to stick with the pick and take him.

Nov 25, 2017; Tempe, AZ, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils wide receiver N’Keal Harry (1) catches a third quarter touchdown pass against Arizona Wildcats cornerback Jace Whittaker (17) during the Territorial Cup at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Within the Patriots system, Harry seems to be a tremendous fit. He can attack zones in the short to intermediate area and presents a big target with the ability to high point and win contested passes and those in traffic. Those quick slants that Brady likes to throw and did with Josh Gordon will quickly become a specialty with Harry. He has strong hands and is a tough run blocker.

He’s arguably one of the top three WRs in the draft and the Patriots just got him. Adding him to the mix with Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Demaryius Thomas and possibly Josh Gordon in the future just made the cupboard a lot less bare in the meantime. After Edelman, he’s already the best receiver among the WRs and TEs on the roster.

Former Patriots front office man Michael Lombardi called Harry “a beast with the ball n his hands.” Harry’s comments make him seem like a perfect Patriot. “I play with a lot of passion. Whenever that ball’s in the air, I’ll sacrifice anything to go get it,” he said to the media after being drafted. “I’ll do whatever it takes to help the team win. Anything coach wants me to do — whether it’s on special teams, offense, anything — I’ll do it.”

And it should be noted, Harry ran back a punt 92 yards last fall against USC.

New England Patriots News, 4-14, AFC East Notes

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

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 04-14 and AFC East Notes.

It is looking like it is going to be another soggy Boston Marathon this year, we’d like to wish all of the competitors the best of luck tomorrow.


As we stated last week we have begun our draft profiles on players that we feel would fit the team, our first on tight ends can be seen here:  And our follow-up post on possible wide receiver fits can be seen here: Our draft profiles on defensive tackles is here:

ICYMI: Our second Mock Draft 2.0 attempt at building the 2019 Patriots roster is in the books. You can recap it here: I believe we all expect the Patriots to be very active in this one, possibly packing some picks for a trade or perhaps moving around the board as they are very used to doing. Mock Draft 3.0 will be coming out early this week.

Derek Havens and I have been doing a special podcast highlighting the upcoming NFL Draft in addition to the regular one we do with host Russ Goldman. This week, we’re planning on having ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates with us to discuss the draft, what the Patriots may do, especially in the early rounds and about the NFL in general. Please do check that out around mid-week.

Last week did a draft mailbag podcast which can be listened to here:

Quick Hitters:

Tom Brady was on his Instagram account beginning his offseason work at his home. The interesting thing about that was he was still picking confetti from the Super Bowl out of his helmet. Speaking of which, he can no longer wear his old one and must wear the newer version which he tried a few times last year.

Chris Hogan signed a one-year deal with the Panthers. Hogan had quite a few memorable moments and catches in his three years in New England, helping the team get to three Super Bowls and winning two. But his leaving this spring is not a surprise, it seemed like a long shot for him to return.

Pat Chung has signed a one-year extension according to NFL.com, locking up the Patriots safety thru the 2021 season. Ian Rapoport was the first to report the news. Chung broke his arm in the Super Bowl but is expected to be fully healthy by training camp

Tim Tebow was in Pawtucket playing the Paw Sox for the Mets minor league affiliate and was asked about his brief time with Tom Brady. Tebow gave a long answer, gushing over the qualities of Brady as both a QB and a teammate. Then apologizing for giving an answer that was too long.  Tebow was and is always a class act.

RIP Forrest Gregg the longtime Packer great offensive lineman who passed away at age 85 this week. Gregg set a record (since broken) of playing in 188 straight games and later became the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, and Green Bay Packers. Vince Lombardi called Gregg, “the greatest player I ever coached.”

The Patriots were supposedly interested in making a trade for NY Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepherd, but for the second year in a row, the Giants when they found out there was interest in their player (OBJ last year), gave the player a fat extension. In Shepherd’s case a 4-year, $41 million dollar extension.

Seferian-Jenkins Is Excited to Play in New England:

With the signing of TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins this week, it was a move we immediately pegged as a win but then turned around and stated that he probably would not be a #1 tight end here. And we’ll double down on that. The move was for the veterans’ minimum salary with just a $50,000 signing bonus and incentive bonuses totaling only another $40,000. That is peanuts; so the outlay of cash and risk for the team is very minimal.

Seferian-Jenkins could….could step into a #1 role for the Patriots, but they don’t obviously think that is so or they would’ve enticed him earlier with more money. It will be interesting to see how he works out with the team in the spring. And if he can stay healthy and on the field.

A best-case scenario for the team would be for them to get one of the top TEs in the draft (which is still a big need) and have Seferian-Jenkins step into the #2 role as a complementary receiver.

Jenkins took to social media posting a picture of the original Pat the Patriot (he immediately got high marks from here) and thanked the Patriots and stated “I am ready to go to work.” And why wouldn’t he be? Look at the QBs he’s played with and he’s never been on a playoff team.

Belichick Praises Caserio, Scouting Dept. Ahead of the Draft:

Bill Belichick held a pre-draft press conference at Gillette on Weds. and opened with nearly a 7-minute statement praising the work of Nick Caserio, the Pats Director of Player Personnel.

With a big turnover in the coaching staff, Belichick said that there was less scouting of college prospects by the coaching staff than in previous years. But he raved about the job that Caserio and the Director of College Scouting Monte Ossenfort and Pro player Scouting Dave Zigler have done. With the absence of so many coaches, Zigler and his staff jumped in to help with the process.

“So it gives us a tremendous opportunity for him to connect with the coaches and understand the schematics of what’s going on with the coaching side of it, and to try to integrate and correlate the players we’re evaluating on all different levels,” Belichick said of Caserio.

Belichick added that the goal, as always is to come away “as good a predictor as possible as to how the player will fit in and perform on our team, and in our system, (emphasis mine),  in New England regardless of what the league value is for the player. It’s really what the player can do for us is what the final evaluation goal we’re trying to achieve.”

Patriots and Titans Will Hold Joint Practices This Summer:

The Patriots always try to conduct joint practices during training camp and this season will be no exception. Prior to their Week 2 preseason game against the Tennessee Titans, the two teams will conduct joint practices against one another at the Titans’ facility.

“Sure, we are going to practice against the Patriots,” Vrabel said on Friday.

“They’re going to come down here, and it’ll be great for our fans to come out here and see a lot of great players, the team that won the Super Bowl last year. And they’ll be able to watch those practices and see our work and see how we compete against each other and try to improve.”

That immediately set off a lot of good-natured trash talking between old friends and former Patriot Logan Ryan, Devin McCourty, and Pat Chung. Ryan said he was going to play one snap at WR to burn the McCourty Twins. He tweeted, “Easy money, he getting old.”  Which immediately got a response from Devin where he answered, “Which one? I guess it don’t matter, I don’t like you vs anyone!” Chung jumped in with “I mean damn, Let’s do it!…LOL.”

The two teams will meet there in Nashville during the week of August 12. If fans are looking for a nice vacation trip…Nashville is nice any time of the year.

Seahawks and Patriots Trading for #21 Pick in the Draft?

The Seattle Seahawks are expected to be trading back from the #21 pick in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft. And depending upon how the board plays out, the Patriots with a plethora of draft picks could be in a prime position to move up if one of the tight ends they covet are there or perhaps one of the premier edge guys like Clelin Ferrell.

Seattle has only four picks in the upcoming draft, (1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Rounds) so creating a few more would seem to be the order of the day for Pete Carroll. According to the Draft Value Chart, Seattle’s pick at #21 is worth an even 800 points. So to give them adequate compensation, the Patriots could package their first round pick at #32 (590 points) and #73 (225 points) to give Seattle a slight perceived edge or you could delve really deep and package #32, and some of the Patriots mid-to-later round picks for the Seahawks #21 and one of their mid-round picks.

Of course, they won’t be alone. Everyone knows that Seattle may be looking to trade back and that means the Seahawks brass will be looking for the best deal for them. That’s what makes this time of year so interesting.

______________

Speaking of the draft, I was talking about Boston College OL Chris Lindstrom to a high school coach that coached against him in school last week and he remembered how impressive the former Shepherd Hill OL was back then. “They ran those tight formations (Double Wing) and watching him pull out and road grade thru the defenses was impressive,” he said.  “Back then he was about 270 (pounds) and he was still one of the faster players on the field. You could tell he was going to a really special player.”

We say that because don’t go to sleep on a player like Lindstrom. He played right tackle for the Eagles, but projects to be an interior OL at the next level. But he has the versatility to maybe do both.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Looking For A Big Draft to Upgrade Offensive Weapons:

The Buffalo Bills were very active in free agency and signed six offensive linemen as well as two wide receivers during the early going of free agency. Don’t expect the Bills to stop there. Buffalo has 10 picks in the upcoming draft and they have the flexibility to move around the draft to search for the weapons to surround 2nd year QB Josh Allen with the talent he needs to succeed.

The Bills OLwas a mess in 2018 and they signed three guards, two tackles and one excellent center to help protect their franchise QB. They also added WRs John Brown, Cole Beasley and TE Tyler Kroft to the mix.

But now they are poised to make some noise in the draft. With the #9 pick in the draft, ESPN’s Mel Kiper has them taking Iowa T.J. Hockenson and then adding Arizona State WR N’Keal Harry with their 40th pick. The Bills just had the other Iowa TE Noah Fant in for a visit.  Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll doesn’t need to see Alabama TE Irv Smith up close for a visit, he coached him with the Tide.

The Bills also signed FA DE/OLB Eli Harold this week. Harold played two seasons for the 49ers and last year with Detroit where he had eight tackles, four sacks and a pass deflected in 13 games for the Lions.

Dolphins To Pass on Early QBs in the Draft? Quite Possible:

The Miami Dolphins and new head coach Brian Flores have a lot of holes to fill in the 2019 roster. After the jettisoning of Ryan Tannehill and the signing of journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, most experts believe the Dolphins may reach early for the next potential franchise QB at #13 in the draft. Not so fast…

If someone they like is still around at #13 could Miami pounce on them, but with big holes to fill at DE, the offensive line, running back and corner, they Dolphins may wait to select a QB they can develop in the middle rounds.

Fans may scream given Fitzpatrick’s track record as a starter, but with Brian Flores coming from the Belichick regime, they may be looking at the long-term best solution first rather than trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, which is how they ended up in this predicament.

Jets Ink Montgomery, Maybe the End of the Line for Powell:

The New York Jets signed RB/WR/KR Ty Montgomery this week to back up Le’Veon Bell. The former Ravens player was also reportedly being courted by the Miami Dolphins. A talented kick returner, Montgomery was cut by Green Bay after an ill-advised return at the end of a game with the Rams. Montgomery was told to take a knee and returned it out of the end zone and then fumbled.

He was dealt to the Ravens where in six games he rushed for 83 yards on 15 carries, with no touchdowns. He also caught 10 passes for 65 yards. He began his career as a WR and switched to RB with the Packers. It is expected that head coach Adam Gase will try to find a niche role for him behind Bell.

But that news is probably the end of Bilal Powell’s time as a New York Jet. He suffered a neck injury last season but was thought to be able to continue his career fully. In his eight seasons with the Jets, the 30-year old Powell rushed for 3,446 yards and 15 touchdowns, while catching 204 for 1,567 yards and five touchdowns. He was never the Jets #1 running back but led them in scrimmage yards in both 2013 and 2016.

___________________

We’ve all seen those commercials “Want to Get Away?” When someone does something silly or just plain dumb… How about the editorial staff on Sportsnaut? This week they published a piece on “NFL stars about to fade in 2019” and who leads off the list? Danny Amendola. Okay you say, that could happen, but what? Danny Amendola of the New England Patriots.

“This veteran receiver will likely see an uptick in targets next season now that Rob Gronkowski has retired. In no way does this mean the 33-year-old Amendola is going to be as efficient as we’ve seen in the past.” Ouch. Ummm Amendola hasn’t been with the Patriots since 2017, having spent the 2018 season with Miami and now with Detroit.

The facts checker took the day off it seems. Want to get away? …

“Is it time for the Draft yet? 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.

McDaniels is Staying and the Succession Plan for the Patriots is in Place

Steve Balestrieri
February 7, 2018 at 8:24 am ET

The silver lining from the Patriots Super Bowl loss on Sunday night, while painful has a good…no a great bit of news. Josh McDaniels has spurned the Indianapolis Colts offer to be their next head coach and is staying in New England as the Offensive Coordinator.

McDaniels reportedly had dinner with Patriots owner Robert Kraft and the deal was struck to keep him in place and then? The succession to the throne had to be addressed. Bill Belichick has made it clear that he wasn’t planning on coaching into his 70s and he wanted to establish his son’s coaching careers before moving on.

McDaniels had plenty of reasons to stay. And not the least of which is his family. His wife is from the area and his kids go to an exclusive private school in Walpole. His family has roots here and he doesn’t want to leave. His wife and kids most definitely don’t want to go to the mid-West. Never underestimate the family side of the equation.

Josh McDaniels, here with Jimmy Garoppolo at June minicamp will remain as the Patriots Offensive Coordinator. (SBalestrieri photo)

Now McDaniels will remain and the Patriots get to keep not one but two coordinators. Joe Judge, the Special Teams coordinator was slated to go to Indianapolis with McDaniels and now he’ll more than likely remain as well.

And the bigger piece of the puzzle that no one is mentioning is Nick Caserio. He will remain after getting some feelers once again for GM positions in the offseason. Caserio will remain in his position as the Director of Player Personnel but he does much more. He’s the guy doing all the leg work for the draft, works with the players in practices and serves as the de facto GM.  Which means when Bill Belichick decides to step down possibly in a year or two, the next coach and GM are already in place.

With all of the flak coming at Kraft and McDaniels since yesterday, one has to wonder, aren’t the same people who are complaining that there was no succession plan in place with Tom Brady, now giving the Patriots the business for addressing life after Belichick? Isn’t it the exact same thing?

What will the staff look like in 2018? McDaniels will remain as the Offensive Coordinator. Judge will remain as the STs coach. Chad O’Shea is put on hold as the OC in waiting, once McDaniels takes the reins. Greg Schiano’s name keeps coming up as the Defensive Coordinator, which may mean that Brian Flores is still getting consideration elsewhere.

I’d look for Stephen Belichick who has been the safeties coach to move this season to another position. Brian Belichick may be a positional coach this year as Bill tries to groom his sons for bigger and better things once he retires.

The offense now, won’t miss a beat. Brady and McDaniels have a long relationship and they have the mutual trust and respect to get the job done. There will have to be decisions made on several players who are free agents but this is a team when it has all of its weapons that is loaded.

McDaniels has grown from the coach who failed in Denver. He learned from his mistakes and has a much better feel for the game and his personnel than he did a few back. The young coach who was too stubborn to adjust in Super Bowl XLII ten years later faced an even better defense under Jim Schwartz and took them to the woodshed.

Now he, Belichick and Caserio have to find a young QB for them to groom to take over the reins for Brady when he too rides off into the sunset. The Patriots can be many things…boring is never one of them.

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

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

Patriots Spotlight is Now On Cannon, Scarnecchia

Steve Balestrieri
August 23, 2016 at 7:27 am ET

Marcus Cannon has been a lightning rod for criticism the past few years from Patriots fans and members of the media. The 2016 season won’t be any different. Whether you’re talking about his contract or that awful AFC Championship Game in Denver, folks tend to expect the worst when it comes to the 6th year tackle from TCU. And one of the things the team should have addressed this spring was finding a right tackle of the future. But they didn’t.

With the news that Sebastian Vollmer is going to go on IR for a myriad of shoulder and hip issues, shouldn’t be surprising. Vollmer is a good, tough right tackle who has been banged up with a variety of back and knee woes for quite a while now. And at age 32, those don’t get better with big interior linemen. The writing was on the wall with Seabass and now with him being a free agent in 2017, he’s probably going to be moving on next year regardless if he’s able to come back this season or not.

Marcus-Cannon

We’re not going to go overboard and jump on Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio the way some do around the Boston area and with good reason. Show me another team that consistently fields a team that wins double-digit games every season in the NFL and every season takes a team deep into the playoffs.

It doesn’t exist outside of Foxboro and the two guys at the helm always seem to find a great mix of players that buy in, work hard, and invariably get the job done. It is always easy to sit up in the cheap seats and point out flaws in what went wrong after the fact.

However, this is one of those times that they should have perhaps taken a look at where they’ve addressed their offensive line in the past few years and perhaps moved their focus to the outside. In the past three years, the team added centers, Bryan Stork and David Andrews. At guard, a year ago, they drafted Shaq Mason and Tre’ Jackson. This season, the Patriots traded for guard Jonathan Cooper then drafted guards Joe Thuney and Ted Karras.

So we get that the offensive line was beaten up last year and that former coach Dave DeGuglielmo may not have been able to reach the players that Dante Scarnecchia had. That’s why Scar was brought back into the fold and was tasked with re-energizing this unit in 2016 so that we don’t witness a retake of the debacle that Tom Brady’s protection was down the stretch a year ago.

Scarnecchia and Belichick have always loved Cannon, seeing the potential that many of us don’t see on a day-to-day basis. Belichick in his Monday press conference went into detail praising Cannon’s work in the Chicago preseason game. To his credit, Cannon has been good this summer. Especially in the running game where he’s been able to get a consistent push up front and has pancaked quite a few would-be tacklers.

He’s moved better as well in pass protection, part of it Cannon credits to slimming down, eating right and working on his quickness. When he was drafted by the team in the 5th round of the 2011 draft, he tipped the scales at 358 pounds. He’s now listed at 335. Also a year ago, he was dealing with a toe issue which definitely would affect his mobility. But given the injury situation to the team a year ago, anyone that could walk was going to play.

Cannon’s biggest knock has been consistency. He’s played well in stretches but hasn’t been able to put anything together for any length of time. Scarnecchia, who has always been in his corner will go about trying to change that aspect of his game. With Vollmer out, for perhaps the entire season, the job is his now as it has been since Day 1 of spring OTAs and minicamp.

Scarnecchia can bring out the best on anyone, that’s why he’s been in the league for so long. He’ll bring out the good in Cannon. Because Cannon can be a good tackle in the NFL. But the Patriots, who have been on top of the heap for more than a decade don’t deal in “good” when protecting the best QB in the game.

They should have been looking for better than good this spring. Ultimately, we’ll learn how they fare once the games begin in earnest. Because the real tests for the offensive line and Cannon will be not in the preseason but once the team hits the desert of Arizona.

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

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

New England Patriots News 5-15, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
May 15, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 5-15 notes and what’s happening around the AFC East.

Edelman Has Another Surgery on Injured Foot:
Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman had another surgical procedure on the foot that he broke against the Giants last season and this latest one was classified as a “cleanup procedure” but reportedly involved putting an additional screw in his foot.

Despite this latest surgery, the Patriots are stating that Edelman should be ready to go once training camp begins in late July…Don’t bet on that.

Edelman will probably start camp on the PUP list along with RB Dion Lewis who is recovering from ACL surgery. This will be an area to monitor not only this summer but as the season goes along. Many of these foot injuries tend to be on the chronic side.

Cardona May Play After All:
Patriots LS and Navy Ensign Joe Cardona may end up in a Patriots uniform after all in the 2016 season. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus a few days ago told Dan Patrick on his show that he has granted approval for both Cardona and 2016 Navy Academy graduate Keenan Reynolds permission to play in the NFL this season.

This came just a short time after Mabus said that the Patriots would probably have to play without Cardona in 2016 due to his naval commitments. Service academy graduates incur a minimum five-year service obligation after graduation.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter will make the final call, balancing the needs of the service over these two players’ NFL careers and the resultant recruitment potential they would bring in their playing professional football.

Cardona Ebner

Rookies Got the Memo, Toting the Patriot Line Already:
The Patriots introduced the 2016 rookie class to the media this week and if there is a common theme that could be drawn from any of the comments from any of the newcomers is that they’re all already toting the party line.

Not much could have gleamed from any of the players comments but a healthy dose of “learning the system”, “wanting to work hard” and “fitting in” was the order of the day. Which must have been music to the ears of Bill Belichick who likes his players’ comments bland?

Perhaps the best comments came from the Patriots biggest questioned draft pick, Vincent Valentine the 6’3, 329-pound DT who answered questions about his work ethic and whether he was a reach at #96 when many had him projected as a late round pick or a UDFA.

“It’s their opinion, but they can’t stop me from putting in work every day and bettering myself,” Valentine said. “I kind of tune that out and not pay attention to that as much. I’m in the position I’m at right now for a reason — it didn’t just happen, it didn’t just fall out of the sky. But I’m just excited to be here.”

Valentine went on to state, “The past is the past. I’m going to use that as motivation. I’ve got a lot of things to do out here. But the past is the past. I’m trying to put the whole thing at Nebraska behind me and just become as good as I can here. I’m not really worried about how things went at Nebraska … I know things could have been better … but I’m in a good spot now and I think the coaches are ready to bring me along and I’m ready to be as good as I can.”

Nick Caserio’s comments didn’t exactly put the matter to rest when he stated, “(Valentine) is a massive guy. We’ll get him in here, try to get him going early, get him in shape (highlighted text is mine), and try to take advantage of the things he does well.”

Shouldn’t a 3rd round draft pick already be in shape? He will be interesting to watch, on one hand he squatted nearly 750 pounds but in the 225-pound bench press, he did fewer reps than 186-pound CB Jonathan Jones.

Iosefa Never Left Town, back on the team:
The Patriots waived RB/FB Joey Iosefa last Friday but he was informed that the team needed to juggle the roster some and that, if he cleared waivers, that the team would be looking to bring him back on the roster. This was first reported by Mike Reiss of ESPN.

Iosefa remained put in the area and turned down some offers to work out and sign elsewhere. His loyalty and trust were rewarded when the Patriots indeed signed him back on the 90-man roster following LB Tony Steward’s release.

The entire episode begs the question of why the team and Bill Belichick chose to release him in the first place if they were just going to release someone else a few days later and then bring back Iosefa. Why not keep in the first place?

The 6’0, 240-pound back played in only two games last year but was elevated to instant cult-like status when he bulldozed the Titans’ Coty Sensabaugh during a game in Foxboro in late December.

“Summer of Gronk” Begins, Big TE will grace cover of GQ, Madden 17:
Pats TE Rob Gronkowski has had a busy week. First were pictures of his cover shoot for GQ magazine where it showed the Patriots most visible player frolicking in the surf naked with a supermodel.

Then later in the week, it was announced that Gronkowski would be the first member of the Patriots and the first tight end to grace the cover of the video game Madden NFL 17.

Yesterday was Gronk’s 27th birthday and since he entered the league in 2010, no one has scored more touchdowns (66) than the big TE and he’s already #3 all-time on the TE touchdown list.

Gronk GQ cover

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Dolphins Set to Sign DE Jason Jones:
The Dolphins are reportedly flying in free agent DE Jason Jones today and announce his signing tomorrow on a one-year deal according to ESPN’s Josina Anderson.

Jones is a 29-year old run stuffing defensive end who will immediately add depth to a unit that struggled to stop the run in 2015. With Cameron Wake coming off of an Achilles injury and newcomer Mario Williams, Jones can be expected to play a significant role along with Andre Branch.

He had a very productive 2015 season for the Lions with 4.5 sacks and 31 tackles while starting 15 games. He also played one season in Seattle and four in Tennessee. Jones has notched 175 career tackles, with 28 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.

Jets’ Decker in Fitz’s Corner, “Surprised they took a QB:
Jets WR Eric Decker has been vocal in his support for QB Ryan Fitzpatrick this offseason. And while accepting an honor in NYC this week, reiterated his support for the Jets 2015 starting QB and now a free agent.

“I was a little surprised, to be honest with you,” Decker said while being honored by the United Way of NYC. “But Mike [Maccagnan,Jets GM] and his scouts do their research and homework for a reason and they saw something special with him. I guess they wanted him earlier than later.”

With a veteran team built to win now, Decker is firmly on the side of Fitzpatrick in his contract negotiations with the Jets. ” I think he definitely is the right man for the type of team we have now,” Decker said.

“It’s a team that’s ready to win now, and we need someone with a veteran presence at the quarterback position. My job is to catch the ball, but obviously, I want what’s best for the team.”

Bills sign 5th Round Draft Pick, RB Jonathan Williams:
The Bills got a steal in the 5th round with running back Jonathan Williams out of Arkansas. The big, 5’11, 220-pound back dropped so low because he had surgery on his foot that caused him to miss the entire 2015 season.

But he was a productive big back for the Razorbacks, notching 22 touchdowns and rushing for more than 2,300 yards while averaging 5.7 yards per carry. He posted a single-season career high 1,190 rushing yards and forced 44 missed tackles in 2014.

He has light, quick feet for a big man and appears fully back to health, running a 4.59 time in the 40-yard dash with a Short shuttle time of 4.29 seconds, and a  3-cone time of 6.97 seconds

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