Tag Archives: Patriots edge rushers

New England Patriots Training Camp Primer: Defensive Line

Steve Balestrieri
July 17, 2017 at 6:30 am ET

Versatility and Physicality Mark The Pats DL

The Patriots head into training camp in ten days and there should be no shortage of competition at a number of spots. As a lead-in to the beginning of camp, we’ll break down the positions and give our take on who is a lock, a near lock for the 53-man roster and who is on the bubble. Next up on our primers is the Defensive Line position.

Bill Belichick likes to say that the spring’s OTAs and Minicamp is a learning exercise and that the real competition begins in training camp. With a roster of 90 players and no cuts needed before the final 53-man roster cut down, there will be plenty of time for evaluation.

So, we’re going to look at the Patriots Defensive Line and how they shake out. There is much versatility here and that what makes the Patriots defense so effective. In a sack driven league, they’re rather pedestrian at them despite leading the league in points against in 2016.

DL Malcom Brown will be expected to be more consistent in 2017. (SBalestrieri photo)

It wasn’t smoke and mirrors, the team uses a variety of different looks and squeezes offenses from running the ball and then with their pass rushers, do not let opponents out of the pocket where big plays tend to happen. They demand their edge players set the edge first, they’re not and have never been a “sell-out” pass rush team.

The team lost defensive ends, Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long, this spring but drafted two younger guys in Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise while picking up Kony Ealy from the Panthers in a steal of a trade, during the NFL Draft. The team also picked up the versatile and underrated Lawrence Guy from Baltimore. Trey Flowers was arguably their best DL down the stretch and into the playoffs and Alan Branch was outstanding all season.

Roster Locks: Trey Flowers, Kony Ealy, Rob Ninkovich, Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise, Alan Branch, Malcom Brown
Everything starts with the big men in the middle and Branch and Brown were very good in 2016. Branch frequently plays over the center and is outstanding at stuffing the run. Brown is as well. Their job is to force everything outside where the defensive ends and linebackers are supposed to clean it up. They each got a little bit of push in the passing game but that is something that Brown could do a bit more of as well as be more consistent in 2017.

Patriots rookie DE Deatrich Wise in action at minicamp in June. (SBalestrieri photo)

Ealy will be an intriguing guy to watch this year. He’s in a contract year and has been given a clean slate by the coaches in New England.  The biggest knock against him was that he didn’t buy in when he was in Carolina. He seems to be doing that right off the bat here, which is a good sign. When he’s on, he’s a difficult man to block. Just rewind to Super Bowl L and watch him against the Broncos.

Big things are expected of Flowers this season, and after the way he finished 2016, he seems to be the go-to guy in the pass rush. Flowers, like many others in the Pats defense, is versatile and can rush from the edge or push inside as an interior pass rusher.

Ninkovich is a guy who is always at his best in clutch situations. He may be losing a step but he’s another versatile guy who can line up as a defensive end or drop as an outside linebacker.

Rob Ninkovich has been a clutch performer for the Patriots defense. (SBalestrieri photo)

Rivers and Wise by virtue of their draft stock are untouchable this season. Rivers is another guy who can play DE or OLB and was the Patriots top draft choice this season. Wise is another big DE in the Patriots mold that is an edge setter first and a pass rusher second. He was hurt in his senior season in college but had a very impressive 2015.

With the depth listed above, these rookie edge players, they won’t have a ton of pressure put on them to produce much this season. They will be able to learn the defense, get used to the speed of the pro game and get some reps here and there.

Near Roster Locks: Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine
Valentine showed some nice flashes last year in his rookie campaign. He’s another big body who can stuff the run on the inside. Guy is a versatile, movable piece and plays the 1-technique or out to the 5-technique. He seems like he’s going to be a nice fit in the Patriots defense. We’ll have to see if he can translate that to the field.

It is going to take some hard work from the guys below to unseat either of these two players. But stranger things have happened. Unless someone gets hurt or a case of the Foxboro Flu.

On the Bubble: Geneo Grissom, Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo, Josh Augusta, Adam Butler
The clock is running out on Geneo Grissom. He’s a guy that was drafted ahead of Flowers and was thought to have all kinds of versatility. But it hasn’t happened for him, he’s been unable to make a dent in the defense. Hamilton made the team a year ago but with the addition of Guy from the Ravens, he’s going to have to turn it up… a lot.

Augusta is a big-body, run stuffer in the Vince Wilfork mold, he’s listed at 6’0, 335-pounds…which may be wishful thinking. Passing the conditioning test on Day 1 will be a tough task for the big man, who failed to complete a lap during minicamp…twice.

Butler is a definite under the radar guy. Signed as a UDFA from Vanderbilt, the 6’4, 305-pound DL can be a run-stuffing tackle or a penetrator from the interior on passing downs. He played OL in college before switching over. He’ll be a guy to watch to see if he can turn some heads.

Kilgo was drafted by Denver and appeared in 18 games in two seasons before being released last November. The Pats signed the big 6’3, 320 DL to the practice squad where he spent the remaining part of the season.

Our next primer will have the Patriots Linebackers… stay tuned.

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 Early 53-Man Roster Projection 1.0 – Pre-Training Camp

Steve Balestrieri
July 3, 2017 at 6:30 am ET

The New England Patriots will have many difficult decisions to make at the end of training camp this summer. They enter the 2017 season fresh off a Super Bowl win and have re-tooled their roster to an even more dangerous (on paper) group that was victorious in February.

They seem to have more than made up for the players that they’ve lost in free agency and appear poised for another deep playoff run in 2017. Bill Belichick went against the grain once again and traded most of his draft picks in what was considered a very deep draft and came away with a slew of established veterans.

The team only drafted four players in April with two each from the offensive and defensive lines, but even those are with an eye to 2018 as this team appears loaded. First up are the key players lost and then the ones added.

Key Players Lost:
TE Martellus Bennett
DE Jabaal Sheard
DE Chris Long
RB LeGarrette Blount
CB Logan Ryan
LB/ST Barkevious Mingo
WR Michael Floyd
RT Sebastian Vollmer (injured/retired)

Key Players Added:
LB Dont’a Hightower (re-signed)
DL Alan Branch (re-signed)
S Duron Harmon (re-signed)
FB James Develin (re-signed)
RB/ST Brandon Bolden (re-signed)
CB Stephon Gilmore
DL Kony Ealy
DL Lawrence Guy
WR Brandin Cooks
TE Dwayne Allen
TE James O’Shaughnessy
RB Mike Gillislee
RB Rex Burkhead
WR Andrew Hawkins
LB David Harris

This doesn’t take into account their four draft picks and the UDFAs that they’ve signed thus far. While the inevitable injuries will occur, as its part of the game, the team seems in very good shape to handle whatever gets thrown at them in 2017.

First up is the offense…

OFFENSE (24)
QUARTERBACK (3): Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett

New England is stacked at QB with Brady, Garoppolo and Brissett for 2017. (SBalestrieri photo)

Out: None
New England has an embarrassment of riches at the position. They have three QBs that have started and won games for the team. Garoppolo was the guy everyone had being traded this spring but they held on to him … at least for this season. And can we please cease and desist with the “is Jimmy G injury prone?” talk? He has proven he can take over the team in a pinch and he’ll be watched closely this summer to see where his progression is at.

Brissett stepped in cold and split two games after receiving very few snaps in the preseason. He still has a long way to go in his development but he’s in the perfect place to do so. And that old guy at QB? I think they keep him around a bit…don’t you?

RUNNING BACK (5): James White, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis, James Develin

Out: D.J. Foster, Brandon Bolden, Glenn Gronkowski, LeShun Daniels
With the depth of the position (wasn’t it just a year ago we were lamenting the depth?), the Patriots are going to cut a couple of guys that you hate to see leave. I love the Gillislee signing, a one-cut power runner who hits the holes quicker than LG. White is coming off of a Super Bowl performance of a lifetime. Burkhead was signed from Cincy and Lewis looks to be completely healthy this spring.

That said, I hate to see Foster go. He can play in this league and will probably get a shot elsewhere. Daniels will probably get stashed on the practice squad or get a case of the Foxboro Flu. Bolden is another tough cut… he has been a core STs performer.

TIGHT END (3): Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, James O’Shaughnessy,

Out: Jacob Hollister, Matt Lengel, Sam Cotton
Dwayne Allen replaces Martellus Bennett and will be looked to for his blocking skills mainly. When healthy, nobody is better than Rob Gronkowski and it will be curious to see how the team manages his snap counts. But he looks completely ready to go.

The fight will be for the 3rd tight end spot and right now, we have Shaughnessy taking it. But Hollister is going to be kept around on the practice squad. Those too and Lengel will be battling for reps.

WIDE RECEIVER (5): Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola

Out: Devin Lucien, Andrew Hawkins, Austin Carr, Cody Hollister
Brandin Cooks was the big addition this spring, at the cost of the Patriots 1st round draft pick. But he’s a proven commodity in the league and is only 23. He, Edelman, and Hogan all can move inside or outside and create matchup nightmares.

Julian Edelman is primed for another big season alongside Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan and Rob Gronkowski in the Pats offense. (SBalestrieri photo)

Mitchell earned Brady’s trust as a rookie, no mean feat and will only improve. Amendola took his yearly renegotiation of his contract and is back. His pedestrian numbers belie the impact his production has at crunch time.

Any of the other four could stick in the event of an injury. Lucien, Carr, and Hollister could wind up back on the practice squad if they’re not picked up by another team.

INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINE (4): David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Joe Thuney, Ted Karras
Out: Jason King, James Ferentz, Chase Farris

Center David Andrews and guards Mason and Thuney were all starters last year and Thuney went wire to wire as the starting LG as a rookie. Karras is tough and can fill in at either guard or center in a pinch. Ferentz may stick on the practice squad.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE (4):  Nate Solder, Antonio Garcia, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming

Out: LaAdrian Waddle, Conor McDermott, Cole Croston, Max Rich, Andrew Jelks
Left tackle Nate Solder enters the final year of his contract. He and Cannon both performed very well in 2016. Cameron Fleming is the swing tackle for the team. Tony Garcia will get a red-shirt type season to learn under Dante Scarnecchia and may be the LT of the future.

McDermott may get the same red-shirt experience on the practice squad. Waddle was a third, blocking tight end but is a victim of numbers this season.

Next up in the defense.

DEFENSE (23):
DEFENSIVE TACKLE (4): Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Vince Valentine, Lawrence Guy

Out: Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo, Josh Augusta, Adam Butler
Alan Branch re-signed with the team and he’s played some quality snaps inside for the team. Brown has shown the type of play that he’s capable of at times and now just needs to be consistent. Valentine flashed at times in his rookie season and Guy should be a versatile piece who can play inside or outside after coming over from the Ravens.

The big bodies give the team the flexibility to play with either a three or a four-man front. This position seems to be very strong heading into camp this year.

EDGE RUSHER (5): Kony Ealy, Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich, Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise

Out: Geneo Grissom
The emergence of Trey Flowers down the stretch and into the playoffs made the loss of Sheard and Long sting a lot less. The team picked up Ealy in a trade with Carolina and the big man has seemed to buy into the Belichick/Patriots way already. Ninkovich is slowing down but is a very reliable, consistent, smart player.

Trey Flowers is primed to be a big factor in 2017 after being the team’s best DL down the stretch in 2016. (SBalestrieri photo)

The Patriots drafted Rivers and Wise this spring and both will be eased into the system and allowed to develop slowly. Time runs out on Grissom who was a valued ST player but could never make an impact on defense.

LINEBACKER (5): Dont’a Hightower, David Harris, Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin, Harvey Langi

Out: Jonathan Freeny, Trevor Bates, Elandon Roberts
Re-signing Hightower this spring was a huge plus for the team, they just didn’t have anyone with his skill set that could step into his shoes, until now. David Harris was a great pickup, he can sub for Hightower or play beside him in a 3-4 situation, he’s a consummate professional who will fit in seamlessly with New England.

Van Noy and McClellin were picked up a year ago and both played valuable roles for the team. Van Noy, in particular, was very impressive in sub-packages and will be looked to do more of the same this year. McClellin can play in the sub-backer role, fill in the middle in a pinch or line up as an edge rusher. The signing of Harris is bad news for Freeny who was a valuable STs contributor and was lost to IR in 2016.

Re-signing Dont’a Hightower was a huge boost for the Patriots this spring. (SBalestrieri photo)

CORNERBACK (5): Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones

Out: Justin Coleman, DJ Killings, William Likely, Kenny Moore, Dwayne Thomas
Malcolm Butler was thought to be a trade loss this spring but the Patriots are bringing him back for 2017. Paired with Gilmore, who’s a bigger corner, this gives the Patriots a very solid pair of corners who can match up with anyone. This Patriots group of corners is among the best the team has had. The third corner spot is open for competition between Jonathan Jones, Eric Rowe, and Cyrus Jones. Depending on the matchups, each of those should see some valuable snaps.

The numbers game strikes Coleman and the feisty Killings who turned some heads this spring. Doubtful that either would pass thru waivers….but we shall see.

SAFETY (4): Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, David Jones

Out: Jordan Richards, Damarius Travis, Jason Thompson
The Patriots enter 2017 with all three starting safeties intact…three you say? Yes, because Harmon was nearly a starter with the snaps he played in the sub-packages. Bringing him back was a nice move for both parties.

Chung plays a physical brand of football and his eventual replacement, David Jones could be the UDFA that makes an impact this season. Richards has disappointed thus far and is too stiff to be a good cover man for backs and tight ends. Jones has the size and physicality and showed some flash in coverage this spring when we watched him. He’s a player to watch this summer.

SPECIAL TEAMS (6): Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Brandon King, Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner

Out: None
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Ryan Allen and long-snapper Joe Cardona are as solid a group as there is in the league. None of them are going anywhere. King, Slater and Ebner are all outstanding Special Teams players and Bill Belichick values STs more than most. It would be a surprise to see any of them going anywhere at this point.

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 6-11, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
June 11, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 6-11, & AFC East Notes.

Because of extensive travel this weekend, this week’s news and notes piece will be a bit shorter than normal with no AFC East notes this weekend. We’ll be back with all of them next Sunday.

Patriots Get Their Super Bowl Rings in Private Ceremony:
The Patriots were all invited to the private digs of Robert Kraft on Friday night and received their rings from the franchise’s fifth Super Bowl victory.

The words “We Are All Patriots” and “Greatest Comeback Ever” are engraved inside the ring. The Pats trailed the Falcons by 25 points in the third quarter before staging the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history. No team in the first 50 Super Bowls had rallied from more than 10 points down to win.

Also engraved on the ring is “Unequivocally the sweetest,” which was Kraft’s postgame comment about the Patriots’ latest championship in a dig at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the entire Deflategate saga, that the team and QB Tom Brady were punished with.

The ring includes 283 diamonds, a not-so-subtle reminder of the Falcons’ 28-3 lead that New England overcame.

“We celebrated our first Super Bowl ring ceremony 15 years ago to the day,” Kraft said. “It was our first Super Bowl championship in 42 years and, at the time, I couldn’t imagine a more exciting game or ring celebration.”

“It was a historic comeback win, and the players deserve to have a ring that represents that accomplishment. So, we created the biggest Super Bowl ring ever made. Watching the expressions of the players and coaches when they saw them for the first time and the overwhelming pride when they put them on was priceless.”

Julian Edelman Gets Contract Extension and is a Bargain:
The biggest news coming out of minicamp this week was that the Patriots extended WR Julian Edelman for an additional two years which will keep him in Foxboro thru the 2019 season. Edelman’s contract is worth a reported $15 million dollars in pay and incentives which is a total bargain for New England.

Consider this, Edelman’s potential $15 million is what the Colts are paying T.Y. Hilton, for just the 2019 season. Edelman finished 2016 with 98 catches for 1106 yards, but his grab at the end of the Super Bowl may have saved the Patriots Super Bowl comeback.

In the past four seasons, only three players have more receptions that Edelman’s 356, Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas, and Julio Jones. Edelman is tied with Larry Fitzgerald, some pretty heady company.

Not too shabby for a 7th Round draft pick out of Kent State on an option quarterback who had never played a down at the position of wide receiver before.

Minicamp Had Few Surprises But Was a Good Teaching Experience:
The team wrapped up their mandatory three-day minicamp on Thursday and while there a few small surprises, the team treats it like the learning camp that it is. We all get excited about the performance of a player either good or bad but that’s what these sessions are designed for. However, a few things that did stand out, because, hey that is all we have to judge on.

The good? Newcomers Brandin Cooks, Rex Burkhead, and Kony Ealy flashed early in the workouts. Cooks was displaying his noted speed on the outside had a few splash plays as he and Tom Brady are working hard on their chemistry early this year. Burkhead had a nice day on Wednesday catching the ball out of the backfield. Ealy who missed the second two days with an unspecified injury stood out on Tuesday.

Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan looked impressive in passing drills both individually and in team drills. Tom Brady looked to be in near mid-season form. Stephon Gilmore impressed with his coverage ability

The not-so-good? Dwayne Allen struggled in the rain on Tuesday and dropped a number of passes, Wednesday he seemed to be just fine as we were in attendance and didn’t see any drops. Jacoby Brissett had a particularly rough outing on Wednesday, holding the ball too long and struggling with his accuracy. But the bottom line is, there is no reason to get too high or too low over minicamps with no pads on. But after 4 months of no live football, it is easy to get excited over seeing the players do football activities.

Training Camp will hold answers for DL/OL Running Game:
One thing missing from minicamp was the play of the offensive and defensive lines as well as the running game. With no pads on the battles in the trenches is very difficult to judge as well as the running game.

We’re intrigued to see how well newcomer Mike Gillislee fits in with the Patriots offense in 2017. He was there on the field and most definitely looks the part but until the pads come on, we won’t really know. On the offensive line, newcomer Tony Garcia is an intriguing prospect who could someday push Nate Solder for reps.

On the defensive side of the line, draft picks Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise are going to be watched closely this season, especially in training camp to see how much they can contribute in their rookie campaigns. Trey Flowers looks to continue a stellar second half of 2016 and playoffs and will enter 2017 as a starter on the edge at defensive end.

Ealy in a contract year looks to get a fresh start in New England and already gets high marks for showing up for the voluntary OTAs and showing the willingness to work hard. Something he was criticized for in Carolina.

Some of the UDFA free agents looking intriguing, WRs Austin Carr, Cody Hollister, DB David Jones and LB Harvey Langi are all guys who will bear watching once camp opens for real in about six weeks.

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 myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots Day 2 Minicamp Observations from Wednesday 6-7

Steve Balestrieri
June 8, 2017 at 6:58 am ET

 The Patriots concluded their second day of mandatory minicamp on Wednesday under bright sunny skies after Tuesday’s session seemed more like late October weather with rain and temperatures in the 40s.

A total of 88 players took part with DL Lawrence Guy and backup OL Andrew Jelks being the only players not on the field. Brandon King was on the field however he didn’t appear to be working out.

Dont’a Hightower worked out on the exercise bike at the beginning/stretching phase of the workout and he and Malcolm Mitchell retreated to the lower fields with training personnel. Jonathan Freeny wore a red non-contact jersey and is still recovering from shoulder surgery that landed him on IR.

Russ Goldman and I were at Wednesday’s session and this was our observations from the practice. And remember, it is really early and there aren’t any pads on until training camp.

Cooks appears even faster than we remember:
Last summer during the joint practices with the Saints, Brandin Cooks stood out with his speed when working against the Patriots corners, specifically Malcolm Butler. Fast forward a year and if anything, he’s even more impressive.

Brandin Cooks looks to be a very intriguing option for the offense in 2017. (SBalestrieri photo)

Cooks’ speed was on full display on Wednesday, he connected on a post route from Tom Brady where he literally left Jordan Richards and Devin McCourty in his dust. Richards has been playing some deep safety early in minicamp as Duron Harmon has been limited and we know that isn’t his strength but it is clear that if defenders can’t get a jam on Cooks at the line, he has the speed to create separation and dare we say it…. stretch the field.

He showed during both 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work, that whenever he wasn’t disrupted he was getting open. Cooks is obviously putting the work in to build that early rapport and trust factor with Brady, something that can’t be overstated.

Brissett had a Rough Outing:
Look, we get it, it is one practice and an early one at that. But this spring we made a mental note to watch Brissett and look for that big second season jump in play. And this wasn’t it. After reading about his struggles on Day 1, he’ll have to put some extra work in before training camp begins.

Jacoby Brissett had a rough outing on Wed’s minicamp session. (SBalestrieri photo)

He seemed to process things late, holding onto the ball for far too long. His accuracy was off as well. He missed many throws he needs to make if he’s pressed into service again. During 7-on-7s RB D.J. Foster had a good step on his man down the center of the field on a post route and Brissett badly overthrew him. That’s a throw that Brady makes consistently.

Nothing to be overly alarmed at unless it becomes a trend. As Russ pointed out, some of his timing issues could stem from the fact that he was working with an entirely new cast of characters and he hasn’t had the opportunity to build any chemistry with them yet.

On the flip side, Brady not surprisingly looks to be in mid-season form. His throwing motion is always perfect, something he works on. A staffer was filming all three QBs as they went thru their throwing motion. Fundamentals are always stressed at this time of year. Garoppolo looked sharp after reading of his struggles on Day 1.

Other observations included:

Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan look to pick up right where they left off last season. Each looked sharp in their route running and each made a couple of nice catches in team drills. Hogan with a back-shoulder throw and catch near the sideline over Butler and Edelman with a grab down the middle.

Julian Edelman had a typically strong day at minicamp, making a few nice catches, as this one over the middle. (SBalestrieri photo)

Newcomer Stephon Gilmore definitely looks the part of a tall, physical defender. He looked impressive at times but was beaten by Edelman badly, going for a fake and left grabbing air. Not surprising since the jamming is very limited at this time of year. He took a back seat to Eric Rowe for many of the drills today as Rowe got some work with the first unit.

Gronk beat Pat Chung for a touchdown in team drills on a nice pass from Brady. The big man is looking healthy and was all business on the field Wednesday. Chung has the unenviable position of usually covering him in practice. And when he’s on like that, no one can stop him one on one.

Kyle Van Noy picked off Garappolo during 11-on-11s and Kony Ealy had a pass breakup during team drills, dropping into the flat to cover the area for check downs, something that Chris Long did frequently last season.

Rex Burkhead looked to be a nice target in the passing game as he was the recipient of about a half dozen passes during full team drills.

Watching Deatrich Wise had a strange gait in his running and we originally thought he was hobbled. He even had it walking, he wears a bulky knee brace and first thoughts were that he tweaked something. But after speaking with others there, it is a natural gait for him.

UDFA David Jones turned a few heads with some nice coverage ability. He’s a big safety who is listed at 6’3, 210 pounds from Richmond. He’ll be a guy to monitor in future workouts in training camp.

Cody Hollister is a big target (6’4, 209) and had a pretty good day at catching the ball. He was able to generate some separation and used his body well to shield the defenders away.

Good news for Cyrus Jones, he was clean fielding all his kicks on Wednesday. That is encouraging for the rookie who struggled all of last season. And it all started with minicamp struggles in the wind a year ago.

The team gets back for their final minicamp practice on Thursday.

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.

An Early Projection for the Patriots Starting Lineup, Better, Stronger, Faster

Steve Balestrieri
May 8, 2017 at 9:08 am ET

The NFL Draft is in the books, free agency has been fruitful, and the Patriots have made a flurry of initial UDFA moves. Barring any late moves or last minute trades, the initial roster of the 2017 Patriots should now be set.

As it stands now on paper, the roster for this season’s team looks better than the one that just won the Super Bowl. But as Bill Belichick has frequently said, you never really know what each season’s team will be like until Thanksgiving. Lots of things can and will change, injuries occur, and some players’ production will either rise or fall inside the system. Tweaks to the roster always occur during the season.

But what we see now should constitute the bulk of this year’s team. Confidence is high as always in New England. And for a team that has won 10 or more games for 14 straight seasons, why should there be any other feeling?

So here is a quick projection for the starting lineup for the 2017 Patriots

Offense:
Quarterback:

Tom Brady: Well duh? No change from last year or the 15 years prior. While the talk remains that eventually, his play is going to fall off a cliff due to his age, at this point, it is a lot of wishful thinking for a lot of non-Patriots supporters. His play, especially in the 2nd half of Super Bowl LI shows he’s still at the top of the heap in regard to NFL QBs.

His backups remain Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. The rumor mill for Jimmy G. had him being traded this offseason but he’s still here, at least for 2017 and should any injury occur, he’ll be ready to step in.


James White is among a crowded Patriots backfield this season.

Running Back:

James White: After a Super Bowl where he could have easily been named the MVP, White has been given a nice raise and contract extension. And with the Patriots being a passing team first, White has proven to be a trusted, capable weapon in the offense.

But the Patriots are a matchup team that uses a rotation of running backs so their roster of backs doesn’t really have a starter per se, it will depend on how they match up against an opponent. Mike Gillislee will have a big role, taking over the big back i.e. LeGarrette Blount role. Something to consider, New England runs the ball on third down much more so than most fans would believe, so Gillislee will have a big role.

Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis, who should be completely healthy now round out the RB options. James Develin remains the fullback. Brandon Bolden, D.J. Foster, and LeShun Daniels are longshots for the roster at this point.

Wide Receiver:

Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks: The Patriots brought in the speedster Cooks who was very productive in New Orleans this offseason. He’ll move around from outside to the slot depending on the matchups. A look at the top three with Edelman, Hogan, and Cooks shows that all of them can do the same. That makes for a very difficult group to cover. The versatility factor makes this group even more dangerous.

Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola are the primary backups and they’ve shown that they’ve earned Brady’s circle of trust. Mitchell came on in the second half of his rookie season and should be ready for more production in Year 2.

Devin Lucien, Devin Street, and Cody Hollister are longshots for the roster.


Rob Gronkowski is once again the Patriots top TE Option heading into 2017.

Tight End:

Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen: Gronkowski returns healthy for 2017 and Allen was brought over in a rare trade with the Colts, replacing Martellus Bennett who left in free agency. Gronk, when healthy remains the gold standard for NFL tight ends. Allen is an excellent blocker that can be very productive in the passing game who can attack the seams of the defense.

There is now plenty of depth behind them with James O’Shaughnessy, Matt Lengel, Rob Housler and Jacob Hollister fighting it out for a roster slot and repetitions. Training camp competition will be interesting to watch here.

Tackle:

Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon: No changes here from 2016. Solder returned from IR and played very solid in 2016. He’s in the last year of his contract and the Patriots must decide this year if they want him to return in 2018. Cannon was the biggest pleasant surprise of 2016. He parlayed a contract extension into a very solid campaign under the able tutelage of Dante Scarnecchia.

The team drafted a potential replacement for Solder in 2018 or beyond with Antonio Garcia. They added another tackle in the late rounds of the draft with Conor McDermott. He’ll be fighting backups Michael Williams, Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle for reps and a roster slot.

Guard:

Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason: No changes here from 2016. Thuney came in and started from Day 1 at left guard. As can be expected, he struggled a bit as a rookie and needs to come back stronger for his second season. Mason is a tough, road grader in the running game and will be looking to improve as well in 2017.

Primary backups should be Jamil Douglas who was brought over in midseason from Miami who was a 4th round draft pick in 2015 and Chris Barker.

Center:

David Andrews: No change here from 2016. Andrews is a bit undersized for the position but is smart and tough. He won over Tom Brady during training camp last year because of his ability to make the line calls and seeing the field much like Brady did.

His backup remains Ted Karras, the tough but less mobile version of Andrews. Karras can also play guard as well, the versatility that the coaching staff loves.


Flowers had a strong showing in 2016.

Defense:
Defensive End:

Trey Flowers, Kony Ealy: Lots of changes here. Gone are last season’s Week 1 starters Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard via free agency. But Flowers, who came on strong in the 2nd half of the season was the team’s best defensive lineman down the stretch and should be primed for a very solid 2017. Ealy was brought over from the Panthers as well as a 3rd round pick for the Patriots 2nd rounder.

Lots of good depth here now, Rob Ninkovich will play both DE and OLB and fill in where he’s needed and may still lobby for starting duties. Top draft choice Derek Rivers gives the team the speed and athleticism from the edge. Deatrich Wise is a bigger, edge setting end who can kick inside as an interior pass rusher. Lawrence Guy is another big man who can play inside as an interior tackle or on the edge. Geneo Grissom is on the outside looking in this year.

Tackle:

Malcom Brown, Alan Branch: No changes to the starting lineup. Brown played solidly in Year 2 but could stand to improve his pocket push in 2017. Branch was excellent against the run in 2016, eating up a ton of space. He returns with a new deal and has played the best football of his career since coming to New England.

Backups include Vincent Valentine, Woodrow Hamilton, Guy, Darius Kilgo, and UDFA Josh Augusta who is one of the players to watch in training camp. He’s a huge space eater who could be one of the surprise players to stick on the roster.

Linebacker:

Dont’a Hightower, Jonathan Freeny: Wait, what? People forget Freeny, a Bill Belichick favorite was a starter for the defense a year ago until landing on IR. Hightower got a new deal after testing free agency and not finding the market he envisioned out there. He’s the glue that holds the defense together for the Pats. He calls the defense and is the guy they need in the middle. He can do it all, stuff the run, cover in the flat and blitz up the A-gaps. Hightower’s starting slot is secure, Freeny will have to re-earn his spot this summer. But for now, he’s in.

Backups include sub-package third down players Shea McClellin and Kyle Van Noy, run-stuffer Elandon Roberts, Ninkovich, Trevor Bates and UDFA Harvey Langi. Langi is one of my players to watch this summer.

Since the Patriots spend so much time in sub-packages, we only include two starting linebackers, therefore…


Butler’s potential return solidifies a terrific secondary.

Cornerback:

Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe: The team gave Gilmore a big money contract this spring during free agency. And after a contentious period with Butler, he signed his free-agent tender and has been in for off-season workouts. Rowe is a big matchup corner and gives the Patriots a very solid starting three. Each has the versatility to be shifted around and play outside or in the slot depending on how Belichick and Matt Patricia choose to use them.

Backups include Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Coleman, Jonathan Jones, and intriguing UDFA D.J. Killings who for now, is a long shot for the roster.

Safety:

Devin McCourty, Pat Chung: No changes here from 2016. McCourty is the QB for the secondary and always ensures that the players in are in the right position. He plays the centerfield position in the base defense and can slide up to play in the slot in the “big nickel”. Chung is the guy in the box, he plays physical against the run and he’ll cover tight ends in the short to intermediate range.

Duron Harmon was brought back with a nice deal in free agency. He plays a lot of snaps and replaces McCourty as the center fielder in big nickel coverage. Jordan Richards has been disappointing thus far. Nate Ebner and Brandon King are special teamers.

Special Teams:

Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Matthew Slater: The team’s specialists remain the same. Gostkowski will have training camp competition for the first time in a while from Josh Gable, known more for his trick shots. Punter Ryan Allen and LS Joe Cardona face no competition. Slater is a perennial Pro-Bowl gunner.

So, with the additions made in the draft and free agency, the Patriots look …on paper in a prime position to compete for another Super Bowl bid. Of course, injuries and other factors always weigh in but there are no holes on the roster as it currently stands. They’ve addressed their needs across the board and look even better than the team that won 14 games in the regular season and three more in the playoffs in 2016.

Is it time for mini-camp yet?

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.

Podcast: Patriots Draft Review

Russ Goldman
May 5, 2017 at 12:04 pm ET

In this episode of Patriots Fourth And Two, we looked back at the draft for the Patriots, and also discussed some Patriots news.

Patriots’ Defense on the Edge Will Have a Different Look in 2017

Steve Balestrieri
May 3, 2017 at 10:50 am ET

 The Patriots didn’t have to make too many changes for a roster that had just won Super Bowl LI but one of the areas that underwent pretty dramatic change was at defensive end on the edge. With Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long leaving via free agency, it was considered the Patriots biggest area of need.

And the Patriots have addressed it, bringing in Kony Ealy in a trade with the Carolina Panthers and then drafting a pair of edge players Derek Rivers from Youngstown State and Deatrich Wise from Arkansas. Those three players will join Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich for the Patriots this season. The team signed UDFA linebacker Harvey Langi as well and he played the edge for BYU somewhat last year, but his best fit is at outside linebacker.

Flowers was arguably the best Patriots defensive lineman down the stretch last season. He’s guaranteed to be starting at RDE when the season starts. Ninkovich and Ealy will compete for the LDE spot. With Rivers and Wise providing rotational depth.

But this year’s unit has a much different feel to it because they have more versatility. Ealy is a bigger guy at 6’4, 275 pounds. He can set the edge in the running game, has the athleticism to get after the passer and is big and physical enough to kick inside as an interior pass rusher on third down. Flowers already does that frequently.

The Patriots brought in another free agent, Lawrence Guy who can be a sub-package interior pass rusher. That’s what they’ll get in Wise as well. He’s a big kid, at 6’5, 275 pounds with insanely long arms that he needs to learn to use better. When he extends his arms, with his upper body strength, he can push through tackles and get to the quarterback. He’s frequently been compared to Chandler Jones but isn’t nearly as athletic. He’s more of a big edge setter. But Wise can also kick inside and provide interior pass rush…Seeing a trend here?

Which brings us to the team’s first draft pick Derek Rivers. If there was one element the Patriots front seven lacked on the edge last season was speed. Rivers will bring that speed to the pass rush with an athleticism that should serve the team very well.

Rivers isn’t as big at 6’4, 250 pounds at the defensive end position but ran a 4:61 in the 40-Yard Dash, with a 1:61 10-Yard Split. His time in the 3-Cone Drill was third best at the position with 6:94. That shows he has the quick twitch athleticism, loose hips and the ability to change direction as well as bend off the edge to get to the QB. He showed his strength with 30 reps at the Bench Press.

He may need some time to find his feet in the NFL, similar to how Flowers progressed in his first campaign, but he has the potential to be a very good player in the league. The good part is, with the depth of the team, he won’t be pushed too hard too soon. They can let him develop and learn the nuances of the position at the NFL level.

With the added depth, the Patriots can move Ninkovich around and possibly let him take some snaps at OLB with Shea McClellin, Kyle Van Noy, and Langhi.

However, the edge will look quite different in 2017. How effective will it be? No one knows right now but I’d bet on Belichick having it figured out as the season winds along.

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.

Mock Draft 3.0 – Patriots Get Depth, Fill Needs

Steve Balestrieri
April 21, 2017 at 8:13 am ET

After the flurry of activity this week, the Patriots are primed to enter the season with all the pieces they need for a serious bid to repeat in the Super Bowl. Malcolm Butler has signed his tender, Danny Amendola has re-done his deal for the third year in a row and the team made an offer for free agent RB Mike Gillislee who would be a great fit.

Of course, if the Bills decline to match the Patriots offer, New England will have to turn over their 5th round draft pick to Buffalo. But for now, until that is settled, we’re moving on under the assumption that they’ll choose in Round 5.

There is a fascinating tool to use for doing a mock draft made possible by the guys over at Fanspeak.com that we touted last year and it is even more, fun to use in 2017.
In their “On the Clock” simulator, you are the GM for any NFL team. You can choose how many rounds you’d like to draft for (1-7), and pick one of nine different big boards to choose from.

The big boards for each site differ and the site has a random selection process that picks for the other 31 teams based upon the best player available and team needs that are constantly updated until it is your time to pick.

For this second mock draft (4-20), I used the big board of Composite Big Board

Right now, the Patriots don’t pick until Round 3, #72 due to some of the trades that they’ve swung for Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy. While they may still swing a deal to move up into the first two rounds, right now we’re going with what they have. In this mock, we’re going under the assumption that Malcolm Butler’s signing of his tender means that he will play in NE for at least the 2017 season so that changes our outlook considerably.

Here is our Patriots Mock Draft 3.0:

Round 3, Pick #72 Linebacker/Edge Tim Williams, Alabama:
Williams is a steal at #72. He’s a 6’4, 250-pound edge player with the frame to get bigger. He can play OLB or DE and fell in this mock down to the 3rd round over character concerns. He’s an outstanding athlete, with excellent explosion, long arms and a very consistent playmaker.

Williams played for Nick Saban at Alabama so Bill Belichick will have all the info he’d need on him. He’s a tremendous pass-rusher with excellent counter moves to get to the QB. The Patriots would use him as a DE primarily

Round 3, Pick #96 Tackle, Julie’n Davenport, Bucknell:
The Patriots have scouted Davenport and worked him out, so Dante Scarnecchia would have the final say if they can work with him. He has great size at 6’7, 318 pounds and a four-year starter. He was a team captain his final two years at Bucknell.

Has tremendous arm length and strength in his hands where he can disrupt pass rushers, has enough athleticism to get out to the second level in the running game. His balance and foot placement.

Davenport will be a developmental prospect that could be the long-term replacement for Nate Solder

Round 4, Pick #141 TE George Kittle, Iowa:
Kittle is a 6’4, 247-pound tight end that will help build the depth they need at the position. Kittle was an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick last season, in 11 starts, he produced 22 catches for 314 yards and four TDs.

He’s got good size, has very good speed with a 4:52 time in the 40-yard dash with excellent hands. He had only one drop with 48 career receptions. He’s a good and willing blocker inside. Kittle has the speed to be a vertical threat down the seam, although his route-running needs polishing.

Round 5, Pick #163 S Josh Harvey-Clemons, Louisville:
Clemons has tremendous size at 6’4, 217-pounds and would be the heir apparent to Pat Chung as the box safety. He has rare size, length, and athleticism for a man his dimensions. He’s a physical, tough tackler and will be the in-the-box safety and be able to play the hybrid linebacker role, the “Big Nickel” for the Patriots.

He’s not a deep cover safety and at times takes poor angles to the runner. Was dismissed from Georgia after three failed tests for marijuana.

Round 5, Pick #183 LB Matt Milano, Boston College:
Boston College has been churning out very good linebackers from their program from Mark Herzlich and Luke Kuechly and now Milano, who stepped up big for the Eagles the past two seasons. He turned in a very solid 2016 season with 58 tackles, 11 for a loss, 6.5 sacks, one interception, and a blocked punt.

The undersized (6’0, 233-pounds) Milano plays “like a heat-seeking missile” on the defensive side of the ball, flying around the field looking for contact. He played 94 percent of the Eagles snaps in 2016 and has speed toughness with very good instincts in pass coverage as a converted safety.

Special teams’ standout in Chestnut Hill with three blocked punts and 24 STs tackles. We took him in our Mock 1.0 draft and he’s here again in the third and will be a great value pickup

Round 6, Pick #200 Edge Keionta Davis, Chattanooga:
Davis had his second straight FCS All-American season in 2016, tallying 10.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. At 6’3, 274-pounds he has the length and strength to take on offensive linemen in the trenches.

He plays low to the ground and sets the edge very well in the running game. However, he’s a bit stiff in the hips and doesn’t have the bend on the edge that you’d like to see in an edge rusher. The strength and conditioning coaches may have him bulk up another 10-15 pounds and kick him inside as a sub-package interior rusher.

Round 7, Pick #231 LB Riley Bullough, Michigan State:
Bullough comes from a football family devoted to the Spartans. His father (Rose Bowl 1982), uncle and brother all played at Michigan State. He’s very athletic, plays downhill and flies all over the field. He was named the team’s “Most Inspirational Player” for the past two seasons.

But at 6’2, 226, he’s not big enough to stand up to the physicality of the NFL as an inside linebacker. His path to the league will be as a special teams’ standout and his mentality, and athleticism will be a perfect fit.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast 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 Draft Profile: Washington Edge Player Joe Matthis

Steve Balestrieri
April 20, 2017 at 6:19 am ET

As the 2017 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar or that we feel would be a great fit.

The Patriots are certainly going to be looking at players on the edge with the picks that they have left in the NFL Draft.  Trey Flowers, Kony Ealy, and Rob Ninkovich are the guys we look to at providing the edge pressure but they still have DL Lawrence Guy who can play on the edge as well as kick inside as an interior pass rusher. Geneo Grissom is a STs player.

As we’ve repeated here many times, edge rushers are like cornerbacks, you can never have too many good ones. Many experts are looking for the Patriots to double dip in the draft next week, taking a DE and an OLB that can provide pressure as well. And this next guy maybe a bit of a sleeper.

I was watching a few games of Washington looking for tape on Sidney Jones and this next player began to jump off the screen in the early games of the season. So much so, that we grabbed him in our Mock Draft a week ago.

Joe Matthis from Washington is a 6’2, 266-pound defensive end/outside linebacker who is a well-rounded edge player. He shows good leverage in the running game and an ability to get to the passer despite not being a “quick twitch” athlete. He’s a guy that is versatile and can play with his hand in the dirt or stand up as an outside linebacker. That is always a plus in the Bill Belichick book with the Patriots.

He has good, heavy hands and uses them well to shed blockers at the line of scrimmage. Matthis is a very physical player who goes non-stop and all out on every down. He’s a sleeper because he was injured after just six games in 2016 and there was very limited tape on him.

At the time of his injury, he led the team with five sacks thru six games. A look at how their defense faded after his injury may provide a good look at how valuable he was to the team.

Pros:

– Good frame and strength on the edge

– Excellent, heavy hands with a violent punch

– Good football I.Q., very good against the run

– Shows good bend around the edge, non-stop motor

Cons

– Only average athletically

– Needs to refine pass rush moves

– Injury history, limited body of production on tape

What his Role Will Be:
Matthis’ role would be to initially be a part of the rotation outside as an outside linebacker and drop into coverage for the Patriots. He can also move on to the defensive line and play with his hand in the dirt as a defensive end and rush the passer.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, with some added lower body strength and more work on his pass rush moves, he could easily develop into a full-time very productive player

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
Grissom, Matthis will be a guy that they’ll feel that they plug on the edge and get to play special teams.

What is his ST Value?
Good

Conclusion:
Matthis is a guy who will be intriguing to see where he ends up in the draft. The Washington coaches moved him around and after a productive start of 2016, he suffered an injury that sidelined him for the rest of the year.

He has very good, heavy hands and has a violent punch that will keep defenders off of him and allow him to get some separation. He has a good bull rush with good bend coming around the edge. He’s very good at setting the edge in the running game, a must in the Patriots system.

Matthis is a Patriots kind of player. He’s versatile, can play standing up as an outside linebacker or with his hand in the dirt, has good instincts and a high football I.Q. He plays with a violent streak, never stops working and will make plays all over the field with a non-stop motor.

Matthis is a guy who won’t be in high demand because of his injury, his lack of taped production and the fact that he’s isn’t an athlete that will blow people away with his measurables. But if he’s on the board in the fourth round, the Patriots could land one of the sleepers of this draft.

Matthis’ highlight tape can be seen here:

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.

How Lawrence Guy Fits In Patriots’ Defense May Influence the Draft

Steve Balestrieri
April 18, 2017 at 7:09 am ET

The Patriots, many are predicting will double-dip at the edge rusher position which may indeed be the case.  We’ve had multiple conversations on the podcasts about the edge and how they’ll approach it in the draft. But how they plan to use Lawrence Guy may have a bearing on those draft plans as well.

Guy has been kind of the under-the-radar signing that Bill Belichick has traditionally made during free agency. While the news of his signing wasn’t met with a ton of fanfare at the time in March, the four-year, $13.4 million-dollar contract certainly shows that they’re planning on using him in their system for the next several years.

The 6-foot-5, 300-pound defensive lineman has played in 67 games in his career, with 20 starts. He played in all 16 games for the Ravens in 2016 with 10 starts and played in 46 percent of the defensive snaps. He had a quarterback hit against Tom Brady on Monday Night Football last season. Guy had his most productive season in 2015 when he recorded 4.5 sacks and 46 tackles.

Guy’s most natural position is at the five-technique defensive end and he’d be a big body on the outside although he has the versatility to kick inside on passing downs and be a three-technique defensive tackle and provide an interior pass rush.

Unlike other players the Patriots have used in a kind of NASCAR-like package, Guy at 300 pounds isn’t an undersized guy but still has the athleticism to get after the quarterback. He’d provide them with plenty of versatility to play inside or outside. He’s not a space eater like Alan Branch but should be strong enough to hold up in the running game inside as well as push the pocket. At the age of 27, he’s just entering his prime as a player.

Guy’s former coach John Harbaugh thinks that the Patriots got a good player, and spoke highly of him at the league meetings last month.

“I just think they’re getting a great guy, and they’re going to love him because he’s a really good football player,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a very under-rated, under-valued player. I thought it was very Patriot-like to recognize his value and to pay him the way they did. I think they paid him very well and in a way that’s going to change his life forever so I’m really happy for him.”

“They’re going to get a guy that plays equally well against the run and the pass, plays super hard, will be excellent in the locker room and in the meeting room,” Harbaugh added.

So where will Guy play, on the edge or inside? Both probably and special teams as well. Because since the league has ruled that Shea McClellin’s leaping over the line is a [gasp!] safety issue, they’ll need more of an interior push to block field goals and extra points.

But in regards to the draft, while they’re about set in the interior with Branch, Malcom Brown, Vincent Valentine, Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo, and Guy, they will still be looking to add speed on the edge.

The Patriots have Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich, Kony Ealy and Geneo Grissom on the edge. Flowers will have big expectations this year after a strong second half of the 2016 season. Ninkovich has always been a solid big-play contributor but at 33, is starting to slow down. Grissom was a special teamer. Ealy has the size and versatility to also play inside or outside on passing downs.

This gives Belichick and Matt Patricia plenty of options on the defense as they’ll be able to mix and match with a variety of fronts. At the end of April, they’ll look for a speed rusher in the draft. Of course, if the opportunity avails itself, another would be even better. One can never have enough talented ‘guys’ on the edge.

But as for Lawrence Guy, he’ll be one player to watch this spring/summer. He may be the ‘guy’ no one talks about in the spring, then will rave about what a great signing it was in December.

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.