Tag Archives: N’Keal Harry

Patriots Training Camp Day 6 Observations

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

Sloppy Affair For the Offense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to observations…

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

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

Brady speaks to the media after practice. (SBalestrieri)

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

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

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

Play of the Day:

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

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Patriots Training Camp Day 5 Observations

Steve Balestrieri
July 30, 2019 at 8:00 am ET

A short but intense rainstorm slowed the festivities of the day as the Patriots always hold their in-stadium practice for season ticket holders and Foxboro residents after their annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony. 

Rodney Harrison and Leon Gray were enshrined in the Patriots Hall of Fame in the late afternoon but the sun returned and added a steamy aspect to things. But fans didn’t care and they flocked into Gillette Stadium after the ceremonies were over. 

Not Practicing – Julian Edelman and Yodny Cajuste remain on NFI, Edelman, however, was in attendance and later signed autographs after practice was over. Those on PUP remain Demaryius Thomas, Nate Ebner, Cole Croston, and Ken Webster. Croston was seen on the sidelines which may be a good sign for him returning soon. Byron Cowart and Dontrelle Inman were also not in attendance again.

Pat Chung is no longer wearing the red non-contact jersey and now seems a full participant. David Andrews and Isaiah Wynn are still limited. 

And recently acquired offensive lineman JJ Dielman has retired, the third OL to do so this spring after Jared Veldheer, and Brian Schwenke.

The practice was conducted in helmets, shorts, and shirts, with no pads and no contact. In reality, it was more of a walkthru than a spirited practice session after the past two days in full pads. Our observations included:

Demaryius Thomas was on the field, but not taking part in practice. (SBalestrieri)
Edelman and Michael Bennett sign autographs for fans. (SBalestrieri)
The Patriots offense loosens up. (SBalestrieri)
  • Danny Etling was acting as the QB for the scout team while Chung was taking snaps as the scout team running back. In his stead, Obi Melifonwu saw many of Chung’s normal reps, lining up as a deep safety.
  • Perhaps Chung’s lining up was in homage to Rodney Harrison, who Bill Belichick earlier had said that Harrison would line up anywhere in practice. Belichick then compared Harrison and Chung and spoke about how both broke arms in the Super Bowl but wouldn’t leave the field and remained with air casts on to support their teammates. 
  • Conducting practice in a half-speed, walkthru pace can mess with a QB’s timing, Jarrett Stidham badly overthrew James White who was all alone in one rep.
  • N’Keal Harry had a concentration drop on a deep ball from Tom Brady which drew groans from the crowd. 
  • Brady targeted Braxton Berrios frequently while James White joined Brandon Bolden and Damien Harris in getting a lot of reps from the backfield.
  • Dan Skipper is getting a lot of reps at left tackle as Joe Thuney returns to his normal left guard position. 
  • Bill Belichick said before practice that the team would work on Situational football as their focus Monday night and they did, conducting several down and distance scenarios during the session.
  • Among the players speaking with the media after practice were Maurice Harris, Mike Pennel, and Lawrence Guy. 
  • After the session, players signed autographs for the fans and then everyone was treated to a fireworks display inside Gillette Stadium. 

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Taking Stock of the First Week of Patriots Training Camp

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

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

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

Health Still a Concern In Some Areas:

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

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

Defense Looking Very Strong in Early Going:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wide Receiver Competition Heating Up: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bennett Puts Retirement Rumors to Rest, Dominates: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tight End Still a Work in Progress:

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

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

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

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

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

Tackle Still a Concern For Now:

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

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

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

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

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Patriots 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. 

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2019 Patriots Training Camp Day 1 Rundown: 11 Players Who Stood Out

Ian Logue
July 26, 2019 at 8:40 am ET

After a long offseason here in New England where it seemingly dragged on forever, the defending World Champs were finally back on the field for their first public practice of the 2019 Patriots Training Camp.

It was a busy day at Gillette Stadium as fans and media were on hand to get their first glimpse as the team took the practice field Thursday and here’s a full rundown of what we learned from the session.

Did Not Participate:
Nate Ebner (PUP), Michael Bennett (Personal Absence), Deatrich Wise, David Andrews, Julian Edelman (NFI – thumb), Sony Michel (PUP), Ken Webster (PUP), Cole Croston (PUP), Demaryius Thomas (PUP), Yodni Cajuste (NFI).

Red non-contact jersey: Patrick Chung

PLAYERS WHO STOOD OUT:

N’Keal Harry – The rookie wide receiver made his presence known on Thursday, making a terrific touchdown grab close to the goal line from veteran quarterback, Tom Brady.  One of the things that seems to stand out is his athleticism, with Harry showing terrific quickness and good body control.  He went up after the football, leaping into the air and high-pointing several of Brady’s throws. He’s also a big player, with some saying that he has the build of a linebacker, which should make him a tough match-up for smaller defensive backs.  Coincidentally enough, the rookie, for now, is currently wearing #50.

Danny Etling – Etling caught the eye of fans and media primarily because of the fact the quarterback was no longer donning a red jersey and was instead working at receiver.  Etling is a pretty athletic player, but all reports seem to indicate that he’s got a lot of work to do as he looks to establish himself at a new position.  It’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could someday contribute and if he’s willing to put in the work, given the speed he showed on his 86-yard touchdown last preseason, it could be fun to see how this develops.

Isaiah Wynn – He took reps at left tackle with the first team, but reportedly came off the field during the 11-of-11 portion of the workout as the team appears to be taking their time working him back in.  It was the first action he’s seen since rupturing his Achilles’ last preseason, with Wynn taking his first steps toward trying to hopefully restablish himself on the offensive line.  In Wynn’s absence, teammate Joe Thuney got the reps, along with Dan Skipper.  Obviously, knowing how critical that position is, this will be one of the more interesting positions to keep an eye on this preseason.

J.C. Jackson – Flashed again on Thursday, breaking up several passes and really doing a great job of blanketing each of the receivers he was covering.  After a strong finish last season, it appears he’s off to a good start here in 2019.

Stephon Gilmore – He was so good on Thursday that, according to multiple reporters, none of New England’s quarterbacks attempted a throw his way.  Gilmore remains a key component of the Patriots defense and so far, he looks like he’s in terrific form early in this training camp.

Ben Watson – For a player who is 38-years old, Watson certainly didn’t show it.  He showed terrific speed, including a nice grab up the seam for a big gain.  For a player who had seemed ready to walk away, all indications seem to point to the fact he still has something left as the Patriots try and move on from Rob Gronkowski.  Watson got a fair amount of work in Thursday, including some red zone work on goal line throws with Brady on the adjacent field.

Tom Brady – For anyone looking for a drop-off in play, Brady hit the field with the same intensity he’s always had.   The veteran quarterback looked just as sharp as ever as he gets set to begin another season, picking apart the defense and spreading the football around to quite a few players.  While the defense did pick him off twice, Brady won the rest of the time and looks like a player ready to make another championship run.

Braxton Berrios – Berrios had a nice day on Thursday, showing off his speed and quickness but also saw himself lose a battle against defensive back Jonathan Jones, who out-leaped Berrios to pick off a pass attempt from Brady, and also had another pass broken up.  Berrios was also among players who also saw work returning kickoffs.

Ryan Davis – The undrafted rookie wideout had a few nice moments on Thursday, including a fantastic reception in the back corner of the end zone where he caught a perfect throw from Brady on a fade route for a touchdown.  It’s always fun to see undrafted players succeed and earn a role for themselves and while it’s still early, Davis appears to be off to a nice start.

Jonathan Jones – Jones made his presence known on Thursday, finishing the day with several pass break-ups on a day where he was blanketing his opponents and making their lives difficult.  Jones also finished the day with an interception against Brady, which came during his aforementioned match-up against Berrios.

Jakobi Meyers – Made some nice grabs during Thursday’s session, seemingly picking up where he left off back in minicamp.  Like Davis, Meyers seems poised to try and compete for a role and it will be fun to see if he can maintain this level of play over the next month.

According to the team’s website, the Patriots will hold their next session Friday morning at 9:15am.

Patriots Training Camp Day 1 Observations, “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door”

Steve Balestrieri
July 25, 2019 at 2:53 pm ET

Football is back, and with near-perfect weather conditions, the Patriots hit the field for the first time. The crowds were huge and boisterous, cheering everything that was completed by Tom Brady. 

Like minicamp, however, there were no pads and no contact, as per the CBA, that won’t happen until Saturday. OC David Andrews, DE Michael Bennett, OT Yodny Cajuste (NFI) were not spotted on the field

Six other players were in attendance but did not participate: WR Julian Edelman (NFI), WR Demaryius Thomas (PUP), RB Sony Michel (PUP), OT Cole Croston (PUP), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (PUP), CB Ken Webster (PUP), SS Nate Ebner (PUP).

They were all visible, working out on the lower practice fields with the training staff, shortly after practice began. 

Pat Chung was practicing but wearing a red no-contact jersey while Danny Etling was wearing a white practice jersey, not a red no-contact jersey that we are used to seeing with the QBs. For anyone keeping score, he didn’t practice with the QBs, but with the WRs.

Our practice observations included: 

  • Brandon Bolden was getting first reps with the kickoff return unit and… once the team began kicking off for real and not using the JUGGS Machine, it was Jake Bailey kicking off. Braxton Berrios, Phillip Dorsett, and Gunner Olszewski were back to return kicks during special teams’ work.
  • Isaiah Wynn was being eased into full-team drills, despite it being a glorified minicamp session, seeing him out there is a very positive sign. 
  • Joe Thuney was getting a lot of reps at LT. Ted Karras was filling in at LG while James Ferentz was taking the snaps at center.
  • In early individual drills, Tom Brady was throwing to the backs while Brian Hoyer threw to the WRs.
  • N’Keal Harry and Braxton Berrios both got extended reps with the top unit
  • Harry and Ben Watson were the players selected for a side session with Brady, Hoyer, and OC Josh McDaniels. Harry was working with McDaniels on getting a quick release off the line. 
  • Harry and Brady were working on their timing and chemistry, adjusting his breaks and high-pointing the ball at its apex. They already look better than in the spring, but this is very early in the process
  • Brady’s first pass in 2-on-2 drills was picked off on a really nice play by Jonathan Jones. Brady tried to hit Berrios on a fade and Jones undercut it and made a nice play on the ball. 
  • Brady could be heard yelling, “Get the refs out here!” when he felt Pat Chung was holding Berrios later in the drills.
  • Ryan Davis made a really nice catch on a fade from Brian Hoyer, going up for the ball and going to the ground, but held on. 
  • Berrios went all out for a quick out pass from Brady, diving for the ball, which got a fist-bump from the QB when they got back to the huddle.
  • J.C. Jackson nearly had a pick on Brady as well. He tried to hit Maurice Harris on a shallow cross and Jackson dove, breaking it up and nearly picking it off.
  • Stephen Anderson made a nice catch, snatching the ball out of the air from Jarrett Stidham. 
  • Stidham looked like a rookie QB for much of the session, taking too long to process things and holding the ball too long. That is expected for a rookie’s first real practice. But he throws a nice ball and has time to develop.
  • In very early going, Jonathan Jones was looking better than Duke Dawson in the slot. Jackson was the best corner not name Stephon Gilmore (not targeted during team drills). 
  • As is common at this stage the defense looked a bit better. The linebackers look deep and versatile. Even Brady was forced to hold the ball longer than normal. That is a testament to how deep and talented this secondary is
  • As a result, Brady hit Rex Burkhead more than anyone in full team drills.

Play of the Day:

Harry made a leaping catch from Brady in the back of the end zone. The crowd roared. Speaking of which, the crowd was so loud at one point, Brady had to cover his ears to hear Josh McDaniels call in the play. Jerod Mayo was making the defensive calls in 11s work…if anyone is keeping the score at home.

Two undrafted WRs to keep an eye on are Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski. Both made several plays this morning whenever their numbers were called. 

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What to Watch For At Patriots Training Camp

Steve Balestrieri
at 7:00 am ET

The 2019 Patriots training camp sessions begin this morning and football is finally back. Well maybe not the games that count yet, but we’ll have the Patriots and the NFL with us until Super Bowl LIV plays out in February. Hopefully, we’ll be looking at another Patriots appearance in the big game. 

But… as Bill Belichick likes to say, “we have a long way to go.” The spring is a teaching camp and in actuality, the first two days of training camp will be a continuation of that. No pads, no hitting and there is really no way to gauge the play of the interior linemen or the running game yet.  

We won’t be able to really gauge any of that stuff until Saturday when the pads come on for the first time. However, there are some things we are excited about watching this summer at training camp. 

Isaiah Wynn and the LT Position: Wynn was the Patriots top draft pick a year ago and before we really got a sense of knowing how he could handle himself as a left tackle in the NFL, he was hurt. Trent Brown had taken over the position, pretty much from Day 1 and there was never that feeling that they were competing for the top spot. 

Now Brown is gone, after signing a big-money deal with the Raiders. Wynn is coming off of that Achilles injury and missed all of the spring. Third-round pick Yodny Cajuste, someone we’re really high on here, is beginning camp on PUP after offseason quad surgery. Cole Croston is also on PUP, so I would expect to see more of Joe Thuney at left tackle this summer. 

But make no mistake about it, this is Wynn’s position to win or lose. It is going to be a must-watch area when he takes part in the one-on-one battles with the edge players. Unfortunately, those are always as far away from the crowd as humanly possible. 

With Sony Michel Out, Watch Damien Harris: I thought getting Harris in the third round of the draft was an absolute steal. At the time, I chalked it up to the Patriots just recognizing a good player who was too good to pass up. Now, that move looks brilliant.

Michel had a knee scope in the spring and it was supposed to be a minor thing. He missed all of minicamp and is now starting on PUP. Harris got a lot of reps in the spring and looked as good as advertised. 

Harris is a good runner between the tackles, gets yards after contact, is an outstanding pass blocker and is an underrated pass receiver with very soft hands. Even with a healthy Michel, I expect Harris to see a lot of action this season. With Michel out, at least for now, look for him to accelerate that learning curve. 

No Julian Edelman is Good News For the Other WRs: Edelman is Tom Brady’s best friend and most trusted receiver on the team. That brace on his thumb looks to be a minor issue and not something that should linger long. But him not being there just elevates everyone behind him on the depth chart to get reps with #12. And you know what? That is a good thing. 

N’Keal Harry had a good spring, some solid moments mixed in with typical rookie moments. That is expected…from anyone. Harry has a reputation as a very hard worker and since the minicamp ended, I wouldn’t be surprised if he looks like a different guy this week. I would go all-in that he spent that off time getting deep into the playbook. 

Braxton Berrios is another guy who could really benefit from Edelman’s absence. Berrios has never caught a pass from Brady in team drills, one can expect that dubious distinction to end very soon. Berrios has to stay healthy and on the field this summer. He had a pretty impressive spring and everything is falling in place for him to carve out a nice niche for himself in the offense. He could fit in the Danny Amendola role in 2019. 

Jakobi Meyers is my dark-horse to make the 53-man roster at wide receiver. With Josh Gordon suspended for who knows how long and Demaryius Thomas on PUP, Meyers may be able to carve out a role in the offense. He’s a former QB and a big (6’2, 204) slot receiver. One thing that stood out during minicamp was that Meyers was invited to the side session with Brady, Hoyer, Josh McDaniels, and Harry. While it may not mean much, we believe that anything that goes down in Foxboro has a motive. It’ll be up to him to show us right or wrong. 

Front Seven Play and How the Reps are Divided: The Patriots run defense was awful early in the season. It was especially bad along the defensive line. Eventually, the Patriots tightened that up and the run defense was a strength in the postseason. The Patriots lost former 1st round pick Malcom Brown in free agency. But they brought in Mike Pennel, someone we were lobbying for when free agency started. He and Lawrence Guy should be a very stout early run-stuffing pair. 

But the players on the edge are an intriguing bunch. Michael Bennett still has gas left in the tank …and plays with arguably the smallest shoulder pads on the team. Deatrich Wise starts on PUP which opens the door for more reps for John Simon, rookie Chase Winovich and some guys who are on the bubble. Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis, Trent Harris are all guys who are looking to carve out a roster spot. Another guy to watch is Shalique Calhoun. 

At linebacker, the Patriots have plenty of depth and a slimmed-down Dont’a Hightower, the return of Jamie Collins and the playmaking ability of Kyle Van Noy lends itself to the idea that the defense will continue to postseason trend of being very aggressive. 

J.C. Jackson and Duke Dawson Have Big Year 2 Expectations: Jackson had a meteoric rise in 2018. But Bill Belichick tried to possibly send a message to him by giving most of the first-team reps to Jason McCourty this spring. Many people expect Jackson to be an even better player than Stephon Gilmore somewhere down the line. So, a lot of people will be watching him closely. 

Dawson didn’t play at all in 2018 after coming off IR late in the year. Jonathan Jones cemented the slot role down and he and Dawson will be vying for that starting slot corner role. Rookie Joejuan Williams is a big corner in the Brandon Browner mold and is hoped to be a matchup piece in a ridiculously deep cornerback grouping. 

Training camp is always chalked full of action with 90 players competing all over the field. One area we neglected to mention was the punting battle between Ryan Allen and Jake Bailey. This promises to be another intriguing positional battle.

Don’t expect too much in those first two days which are like minicamp with the lack of hitting and pads, But come Saturday morning, the fun should really begin. 

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 2019 Training Camp Guide – Wide Receivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Locks – Edelman, Dorsett, Harry, Slater

Bubble – Berrios, Thomas, Harris, Inman, Meyers

Long Shot – Patterson, Davis, Olszewski, Gordon 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

VIDEO: Watch Tom Brady Work Out With Josh Gordon

Robert Alvarez
June 19, 2019 at 4:55 pm ET

On Wednesday, Tom Brady shared .gif footage of himself working out with wide receiver Josh Gordon over Instagram.

The .gif, which only shows Gordon’s backside, ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss confirms is in fact him.

The posting shows Gordon catching passes and running routes.

“Practice Makes Perfect”, Brady wrote in an accompanying caption.

View this post on Instagram

Practice makes perfect.

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

Since December 20th 2018, Gordon has been indefinitely suspended from the NFL, he violated the terms of his conditional reinstatement under the league’s substance abuse policy.

Gordon signed his restricted tender back in April ensuring he’d be a Patriot in 2019 when and if he’s reinstated.

Reiss reached out to the league for an update on Gordon’s status Wednesday, but an NFL Spokesman provided no new information.

Brady’s Instagram story also shared some photos from the workout session.

Gordon becomes the third receiver spotted having private workouts with Brady away from the team. He joins Julian Edelman and rookie N’Keal Harry this offseason.

PatsFans.com Patriots 53-man Roster Projection 1.0

Steve Balestrieri
June 11, 2019 at 6:00 am ET

With the Patriots mandatory mini-camp over, it is time to a very early look at a New England Patriots 53-man roster projection. We were fortunate enough to be there for the entire three days this season. While there was no contact and no pads, it gave a good if albeit premature look at how the 2019 roster could play out.

Later this summer, we’ll post primers for each position but here is our first crack at a  workable 53-man roster.

Offense –
Quarterbacks: (3)

Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham

The Patriots will once again go with three quarterbacks this summer. Hoyer is entrenched as the #2 for now and in minicamp the rookie Stidham was taking all of the #3 reps, at times on the final day, he even got #2 reps before Hoyer so the coaches could get a look at what he can do in the offense. He has a long way to go, but he’s clearly got the coaches intrigued with his down-the-road potential.

Bad news for Danny Etling who was working as the personal protector during minicamp. Oh and that Brady kid from Michigan? He’ll be okay and should stick….

Running backs: (6)

Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden, James Develin

Sony Michel missed all of mini-camp which raises the question if he’s hurt. With the drafting of the impressive rookie Harris, he and Burkhead can spell Michel if he’s out for a while. James White isn’t going anywhere and the team brought back Bolden for STs and to fill in if needed. Develin is invaluable as the fullback who can block and catch the odd pass here or there.

Tight ends: (3)
Matt Lacosse, Ryan Izzo, Stephen Anderson **Ben Watson Suspended**

The Patriots have Lacosse as the clear #1 heading into the season with Watson suspended for the first month of the season unless they make a trade. Izzo is the blocking (read Dwayne Allen) tight end who nudges out Andrew Beck while Anderson is the “move” tight end who may be on the block once Watson is eligible to return.

The position has been totally revamped since last season and it may take some time to gel once the regular season starts. Training camp will be invaluable for this group

Wide Receivers: (5)
Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris, Jakobi Meyers
**Josh Gordon Suspended** ***Demaryius Thomas PUP***

Edelman, Harry, and Dorsett are roster locks…barring injury. Meyers with his size and hands makes it yet another year with a UDFA making the roster out of training camp.

Thomas and Gordon (if reinstated), give the team some intriguing options. Berrios had a good spring and looks the part in the slot, he and Meyers will battle it out for the spot. Dontrelle Inman has a lot of ground to make up. He didn’t catch a single pass in team drills during mini-camp. Ryan Davis and Gunner Olszewski are practice squad candidates.

Offensive line: (8)
Isaiah Wynn, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Joe Thuney, Yodny Cajuste, Ted Karras, Hjalte Froholdt

The state of the offensive line centers around health. Wynn missed all of last year with an Achilles injury. He was at mini-camp but was held out of team drills. Cajuste who they drafted this spring had off-season surgery and it is hoped he’ll be ready to go by September.

In the meantime, Joe Thuney played left tackle this spring. Expect him to get some work there this summer, even if Wynn is a full go for training camp. Left tackle and swing tackle are the two question marks. Cole Croston heads to the practice squad. After that, the offensive line is solid.

Defense –

Edge Players: (4)
Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise, John Simon, Chase Winovich

After losing Trey Flowers, the Patriots brought in Bennett. Wise is a solid if unspectacular veteran now and Simon played very well for them last season. They’re hoping Winovich can step in and play as advertised. I like his motor and relentlessness. This could be the end of the line for Derek Rivers this summer. He is going to be given an opportunity to show what he can do. He got reps with the 1st personnel grouping last week. Keionta Davis and Trent Harris may still be able to step up in case of an injury.  

Interior Defensive Line: (4)

Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler

Guy and Pennel should be the Week 1 starting combination inside. Shelton returns, as the backup big man inside. Butler is the best pass rusher of the group. David Parry and Byron Cowart are on the outside but will have to turn some heads in August.

Linebacker: (6)

Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Elandon Roberts, Brandon King

Linebacker is a position of strength heading into training camp this summer. Hightower has slimmed down, gotten more pliable, and is moving well. Van Noy has been a jack of all trades, but the biggest surprise (pleasant) of the spring has been the play of Collins. He has been all over the field disrupting plays at the line and playing solid coverage

Roberts, coming off of a solid postseason and Bentley who shined early in 2018 before ending on IR, gives the group really good depth.

Cornerback: (6)
Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, Jonathan Jones, Duke Dawson

Gilmore and Jackson are the starters for Week 1. But this group is really deep and very talented. Jones and Dawson (who beats out Crossen) can play in the slot and McCourty can play safety, outside or inside. Williams is a big corner (6’4) that allows him to play against the bigger WRs or even tight ends. The versatility of this group provides them with the matchups they can roll against nearly every opponent.

Safety: (4)
Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner

Ebner beats out Terrence Brooks …on paper for now. Brooks has superior defensive skills but Ebner is a Belichick favorite on Special Teams. Obi Melifonwu played STs and has the size and athleticism but seems far back on the depth chart right now. He’ll need a big summer to push Ebner and Brooks off the roster. Malik Grant is a candidate for the practice squad.

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

Gostkowski returns and has no camp competition. He and long snapper Joe Cardona are both locks for the 53-man roster. The big competition is at punter. The team brought back the steady Ryan Allen on a one-year deal but they moved up to draft Jake Bailey, the big-legged punter and kick off specialist from Stanford. By now you’ve no doubt heard about the charge he puts into the ball. If he gets his consistency down, he’ll make the roster.

Slater isn’t going anywhere. Watching him race up and down the field this spring, practicing his moves on his own shows the fire still burns very bright for him.

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.