Tag Archives: Patriots edge rushers

Wednesday Patriots Notebook 4/25, Gronk Returning, Final Mock

Steve Balestrieri
April 25, 2018 at 8:30 am ET

Gronkowski Announcement Doesn’t Change Much:
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski and his agent Drew Rosenhaus met with Bill Belichick on Tuesday telling the coach that he’s returning for the 2018 season. Adam Schefter reported this first on ESPN. This ends months of speculation that he may retire.

“It was very positive and Rob is committed,” Rosenhaus told Schefter.

Gronkowski then took to Instagram to announce his intentions:

Jeff Howe reported that just a few days ago, Gronkowski didn’t have a date to return and now he’s all in. Howe believes that Belichick issued him an ultimatum.

Regardless, it doesn’t change much for the Patriots needs wise in the draft this weekend. While they have Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Troy Niklas, Jacob Hollister and Will Tye on the roster, they still have a need there as Gronkowski has committed to playing in 2018. The next question becomes, what happens in 2019? While the need may be significantly lower this year, they still may opt to address the position.

The interesting tidbit was that Schefter announced through a source that Gronkowski will not be traded in 2018. Just as an FYI, that is what was said about Jimmy Garoppolo.

Van Noy Tells Patriots Nation to Chill Out:
When the news of the Gronkowski “decision” was aired, Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy had some fun with it and laughingly told everyone to calm down and was hoping for the media to leave it alone as well.

Something tells us that more than one player will pipe in now in regards to this latest Gronkowski saga.

Patriots 4th and 2 Podcast Dates Upcoming:
Be sure to check out our Patriots 4th & 2 podcasts right after each day of the 2018 Draft and the guys will break down who the Patriots added through each round.

Final Mock Draft Has the Patriots Moving Up

The Patriots have several options in the upcoming draft on Thursday night. And while we all talk about “positions of need”, the fact of the matter is, with the roster as currently constructed (if healthy), they’d be okay. Obviously, there are questions of depth at LT (Waddle, Garcia) and at LB, but with Hightower, Langi and Rivers returning, that should help quite a bit.

For our final mock draft, we explored the buzz that has been making the rounds, that the Patriots may decide to move up in the draft. And much of the talk has centered around the #9 pick of the San Francisco 49ers. We’ve heard a ton of talk that John Lynch “owes Bill Belichick” for the Garoppolo trade and frankly that is not how it works. Lynch owes the Patriots nothing, both sides went into that deal with their eyes wide open. If Belichick dials the phone on Thursday night, Lynch will certainly listen but doesn’t owe him a thing.

The thought moving up to #9 centers around the QBs obviously but in researching it, the top QBs (Rosen, Allen, Mayfield, Darnold) were all gone. We looked into it with the hope that LB Roquan Smith or DE Bradley Chubb may still be on the board due to the QB feeding frenzy going on. That didn’t happen. However, there are still opportunities.  

So, for our final mock draft ( conducted 4-22), we still decided to explore a trade up. PatsFans Mock 4.0. We looked at pick #13 for the Washington Redskins. So in our mock, we made a deal with Washington. The Patriots slide up 10 spots and give the Redskins the #23 and #43 picks for Washington’s #13 and #109 in the 4th round, where the Patriots don’t have any picks. The value works out, Washington gets added value in the early second round and the Patriots get their move up as well as a pick in the 4th round. So who did they take?

Round 1, Pick #13 Quarterback, Lamar Jackson, Louisville:

Once the team decides (if Jackson is the guy) who their QB of the future is, then they have to go get him. The Patriots brought him in for an official visit on the sly and judging from their supposed interest, he could be a guy they are interested in. We’ll see.

Jackson is a tremendous athlete with incredible moves in the open field when forced to run and rushed for 3000 yards over the past two seasons. He has a cannon for an arm and threw for 57 touchdowns the past two seasons as well. He is still raw in the passing department but will have the time to work on his mechanics and learning the offense.

Belichick had his eyes opened last season by a rookie QB (Deshaun Watson) who is a mobile QB much like Jackson. Working with Josh McDaniels, Belichick and learning at the side of Tom Brady for the next couple of seasons should have him ready to go.

Round 1, Pick #31 LB, Malik Jefferson, Texas:

Jefferson is another one of those great athletes at the linebacker position and has the added advantage of being able to play on the inside or slide outside as an edge defender or blitzer off the corner. He’s good in coverage in both man or zone.

Jefferson is a great anticipatory player but is explosive, very athletic and a powerful tackler. He’ll learn to be a true off the ball linebacker and can be very effective.

Round 2 Pick # 63 Edge, Sam Hubbard, Ohio State:
We have said all along that Hubbard is a proto-typical Patriots type of edge defender.

He gives that needed depth on the edge, can step in and play at a high level on Day 1, can play either side so he’s versatile and can do a bit of everything.

To see our draft profile on him click here:

Round 3, Pick #95 OT, Jamarco Jones, Ohio State:

Jones was a two-year starter for the Buckeyes who have developed quite a pipeline for tackles in the NFL. Jones has good size at 6’5, 310 and is a very good pass blocker, and has shown the quick feet and agility to rarely get beat by speed rushers on the edge. He’ll need to get stronger and become more physical, especially in the running game at the next level but under the tutelage of Dante Scarnecchia, he’ll get there. With the Garcia news that he’s healthy and ready to go, Jones won’t be hard-pressed to produce as a rookie.

Round 4, Pick #109 S, Marcus Allen, Penn State:

Allen has great size (6’2, 215), and athleticism for the position. He was a starter since midway thru his freshman season and was one of the leaders of the defense. He’s one of the most physical safeties in the class and a big-time hitter

He can play deep but is best suited to be the player in waiting to replace Pat Chung in the box. Excellent in run support, can cover tight ends and will be a perfect player to play the LB slot in the Patriots “big nickel” package.

Round 6, Pick #198 Edge, Dorance Armstrong Jr., Kansas:

Armstrong had a tremendous 2016, with 20 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks as his coaches had him pinning his ears back. In 2017, going to a more read-and-react style, those numbers dropped to 9.5 TFL and just two sacks. But he has very good speed and a quick first step. Armstrong has dropped into coverage at times, something the Patriots ask their edge players to do occasionally. He’s a good, athletic player who tackles well but needs to add some bulk at the next level.

Round 6, Pick #210, CB, Arrion Springs, Oregon:

Springs has decent size at 6’0 and 205 pounds but was insanely productive for the Ducks with 42 passes defensed, including 17 in 2017 alone. He tracks the ball in the air as well as anyone. However, his top end speed isn’t great and looked a bit stiff when turning at times. He is very bowlegged which hurts his athleticism.

Round 7, Pick #219 RB, Jaylen Samuels, North Carolina State:

Samuels is a true jack of all trades, we wrote he is chameleon-like as he can do just about anything. He rushed for 404 yards and 12 touchdowns while being the leading receiver for the Wolfpack with 76 receptions for 597 yards and four scores. He’s a good route runner that played tight end in college, can run between the tackles and can do just about anything on the field. He’s a Bill Belichick type of guy.

Samuels draft profile that we wrote can be referenced 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.

New England Patriots News 4-22, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 22, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 4-22, & AFC East Notes

Quick Hitters: 

Rob Gronkowski had a bizarre press conference where he clearly was sending a message to Bill Belichick and it wasn’t a very pleasant one.

It has been said that Gronkowski wants a new deal, there are ways to get that without resorting to what transpired. It wasn’t an off-the-cuff remark, it was planned. Gronkowski’s dad was with him and laughing at his comments.  The Patriots gave him a long-term deal when his health was an issue. They backed him, and now he’s acting like the wronged party here. That could be a big miscalculation.

The weather this week for the Boston Marathon was hardly the ideal conditions for running that or any kind of race. A cold rain was falling with winds blowing right in the runners faces. Congratulations to all who participated in and finished this year’s race. The Patriots Marathon Team all finished this year and raised more than $223,000 for charity. Well done.

The 2018 NFL Schedule was released this week and of course the first thing everyone does is (and we’re all guilty of it), is to try to analyze the schedule and predict what the final outcome of the season will be. It is an exercise in futility of course. Before the draft, no one knows what the landscape across the league will look like yet.

But of course it never stops some, and the first on deck was the Washington Post to loudly proclaim that the Patriots once again have the easiest schedule in the league. Playing seven playoff teams and few others (Green Bay, Houston, and Detroit) who will no doubt again be in the mix hardly seems like a cupcake schedule, but it always seems that way. BTW the much-maligned AFC East had two playoff teams in both 2017 and 2016.

One thing that definitely stands out is the final month of the season, which is a carbon copy of the 2017 season. Road games at the Dolphins and the Steelers, followed by home games to finish the regular season versus the Bills and Jets.

James Harrison announced his retirement from the NFL this week, citing the desire to spend more time with his family. The long-time Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker was released at the end of the regular season and signed by the Patriots.

“I’ve missed way too much for way too long…and I’m done,” Harrison wrote on Instagram. “Many thanks to my family, coaches, the fans, and everyone who played a role in my football life.”

Despite having to learn the defense on the fly, Harrison played very effectively, logging nearly 90 percent of the defensive snaps in the Super Bowl, having arguably the best game of anyone on the team’s front seven.

Kudos to Johnny Manziel and his agent, with the draft upcoming, the media buzz around him has noticeably cooled from a few weeks ago. So Manziel just happened to have himself photographed wearing Patriots garb this week. No other team will garner such a visceral reaction on social media. And Bingo!, he’s news again. Well played.

Quoteworthy Belichick Tidbits:
Bill Belichick was in a presser speaking about the team-building process last week and had this gem, that puts his philosophy out there…in case anyone forgot.

“So the preseason schedule was released and I noticed that there are no games in May, June, or July. Preseason games are in August, so it doesn’t look like the regular season is going to start until September this year.”

Patriots Lose an Icon From the Booth:
Late in the week, we got the very sad news that long-time Patriots radio announcer Gil Santos had passed away on his 80th birthday and also his 57th wedding anniversary.

Santos was the final announcer from the old AFL days, having begun his stint with the Patriots as their color man during the 1966 season. In 1970, he took over as the play-by-play man for the Patriots thru the 1979 season. Working for WBZ, the station lost the rights to the Patriots games from 1980-1990 and Santos was out. However, in 1991, they regained the rights to the Patriots broadcasts and Santos would be the “Voice of the Patriots from 1991 thru the 2012 season.

His final game was the 2012 AFC Championship Game loss to the Baltimore Ravens. It was his 759th Patriots game called on the air. He is a member of the Patriots’ Team Hall of Fame as a contributor. He and partner Gino Cappelletti worked the booth from 1972-79 and again from 1990-2011 when Cappelletti retired and was replaced by Scott Zolak.

Santos rich baritone and always exquisite timing made him one of the very best in the business. From all accounts, he was a very gracious man who never made the moment about himself and had a manner of announcing that made the listener feel that they were right in the booth with them. No one who follows the Patriots can forget the final drive call of his from Super Bowl XXXVI which will remain an icon for the team and the fans.

For a guy who saw the very lean years in the late ‘60s and early ‘90s to finally see the team win their first of five Super Bowls was one of those moments that transcend just the call of a football game. Santos was one of us and you could hear the emotion in his voice as well as Cappelletti, who played in those years. “Well New England, you have the best football team in the world now.”

Growing up in that era, Boston was blessed with some of the best radio voices ever. Santos covering the Patriots, Bob Wilson with the Bruins, Ned Martin calling the Red Sox and Johnny Most covering the Celtics. There were too many school nights to recall where we’d turn an old transistor radio down way low while we were supposed to be sleeping on a school night to hear Wilson or Martin calling a game from the West Coast.

Santos was a frequent guest in the family car on fall weekends when we’d travel to see relatives who lived all over the New England area. His work never changed whether the team was very good or very bad and many times in-between. The mark of a true professional. For those who may have missed it, I’d recommend the book Santos and Cappelletti wrote, “A View from the Booth” which was a great look behind the scenes.  

RIP Gil and thanks for so many great memories. And a call I never get tired of listening to, thanks to Kliff Kingsbury:

Decisions, Decisions, Trying to Decipher What the Pats Will Do in Round 1:
The Patriots have a lot of draft capital in the upcoming draft with two picks in both the first and second rounds. Now everyone is trying to predict what the team will do with all of that capital.

Will they trade up for an elite prospect or one of the quarterbacks, stay put at 23 and 31 and draft some impact players that will immediately help the team or trade back to acquire more draft capital for the middle-to-late rounds. One thing does appear certain, that the team will at one point trade back since they don’t have any picks in the fourth or fifth rounds.

Just some history here, this will be the 14th time in the Patriots history, (if they keep the picks) that they’ll use two or more picks in the first round. Back in the 1970s, the team under Chuck Fairbanks drafted exceptionally well. He had two (2), three pick first rounds taking John Hannah, Sam Cunningham and Darryl Stingley in 1973, And Mike Haynes, Pete Brock and Tim Fox in 1976. Fairbanks then drafted Raymond Clayborn and Stanley Morgan in the first round of 1977.

Bill Belichick has dipped twice in the first round on two different occasions. He took Vince Wilfork and Benjamin Watson in 2004 and Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower in the 2012 NFL Draft. How he decides to proceed on April 26, will depend on how the board plays out. But if he does decide to move up, two slots to keep an eye on are #9 currently held by the 49ers and # 14 held by the Packers. It should be quite an interesting night this week.

Team Hall of Fame Finalists Announced:
The Patriots announced their finalists for the 2018 Team Hall of Fame. All three were teammates on the early 2000’s three-time Super Bowl winning teams. Matt Light, Richard Seymour, and Mike Vrabel are this year’s finalists.

This is the first time for Light to be named a finalist while Seymour is a finalist for the second straight year, while Vrabel is a finalist for the third straight year.

Fans can vote at patriots.com/2018hof through May 14. The Pats will announce the 2018 Patriots Hall of Fame selection that week.  

One interesting footnote is that if Vrabel were to get selected, he’d be the first former player, who also happened to be a head coach of a team the Patriots would play later in the season.

The Patriots have the only team Hall of Fame that is elected by the fan base, which is both a positive and a negative in the process. However, this year’s selection will be the 27th player or contributor to enter the team’s Hall. From the Pats’ website, the following greats are listed in alphabetical order and the year that they were inducted.

Houston Antwine (2015)
Bruce Armstrong (2001)
Raymond Clayborn (2017)
Drew Bledsoe (2011)
Troy Brown (2012)
Tedy Bruschi (2013)
Nick Buoniconti (1992)
Gino Cappelletti (1992)
Ben Coates (2008)
Sam Cunningham (2010)
Bob Dee (1993)
Kevin Faulk (2016)
Steve Grogan (1995)
John Hannah (1991)
Mike Haynes (1994)
Jim Lee Hunt (1993)
Ty Law (2014)
Willie McGinest (2015)
Stanley Morgan (2007)
Jon Morris (2011)
Jim Nance (2009)
Steve Nelson (1993)
Vito “Babe” Parilli (1993)
Andre Tippett (1999)

Contributors:
William H. “Billy” Sullivan, Jr. (2009)
Gil Santos (2013)

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Who Comes Up With This Stuff? Bills Already Picked to Be Worst:
The Buffalo Bills were a playoff team in 2017 but according to ESPN’s Mike Clay, they should stay home in 2018 because according to him, the Bills will own the #1 pick as the NFL’s worst team this season. This is before the draft takes place.

Buffalo made great strides in 2017 and own five draft picks in the first 65 of the upcoming draft…but that didn’t let stop him from predicting the bottom to fall out. Clay didn’t stop there, he picked Buffalo to finish 2-14 along with Miami. And the Jets? Clay gives them a whopping four wins at 4-12. So the Bills and Jets will have the top two picks in 2019 with the Jets picking fourth. Wow.

And for anyone keeping score at home, Clay last year reported that Bills’ secondary was the fifth worst positional grouping in the NFL.

Dolphins Fans Remain Optimistic Despite Lackluster Predictions:
The Miami Dolphins as referenced above by ESPN’s Clay were picked to finish 2-14, they were considerably better in ESPN’s Mike Rodak prediction going 8-8 improving from last year’s 6-10.

The Palm Beach Post’s Jason Lieser also went thru the Dolphins’ slate also going with a 8-8 record, predicting a New England Patriots sweep this season while predicting a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Meanwhile, Dolphins fans were feeling much more confident than Clay, (they may not want to see his piece). Going thru each game, Dolphins fans picked how they saw the season playing out and gave the Fins a very respectable 10-6 record. A couple of surprises there as 79 percent feel that the Fins will beat the Titans in Week 1. In a close pick they mainly feel confident against the Jaguars 51-49, but much so against the Patriots at home, 64 percent predict a win.

Mayfield to the Jets Gaining Momentum:
The New York Jets with less than a week to go before the draft are still looking for that elusive franchise quarterback. And the rumors that they are going to go for Baker Mayfield over Josh Allen, who they just had in for a visit. We’re not going to lie, Mayfield would be a fun fit in New York and with his fiery demeanor would immediately put the Patriots – Jets rivalry right back where it should be. Thursday night can’t get here fast enough.

In other news, longtime Jets standout offensive lineman Nick Mangold announced his retirement. And the team announced that they have picked up the fifth-year option on defensive tackle Leonard Williams.

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.

Podcast: Defensive Draft Preview For The Patriots

Russ Goldman
April 18, 2018 at 4:38 pm ET

Derek Havens and Steve Balestrieri did their Defensive Draft Preview, as they shared their top three propsects at the defensive positions for the Patriots.

Podcast: Patriots 4th & 2 Video Interview with BSJ Greg Bedard

Steve Balestrieri
April 16, 2018 at 11:05 am ET

The PatsFans.com  podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” did a video podcast of an interview we did with Boston Sports Journal’s founder Greg Bedard late last week as we spoke about the upcoming NFL Draft.

We also took a look at where the roster is and tried to get a feel for how the Patriots will proceed in the first two rounds of the draft.

You can click on the link to take you to the video, it will also be released later as just an audio podcast soon on our BlogTalkRadio site.

We also encourage our readers to subscribe to our YouTube channel and to our podcasts.

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 4-15, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 15, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 4-15, & AFC East Notes

Quick Hitters: Some interesting NFL news this week, the league waves goodbye to those hideously awful “color rush” uniforms for Thursday night contests. Perhaps the only thing worse than the uniforms were the awful slate of games that fans were subjected to. Here’s hoping for a much better 2018 slate.

The league wants an independent investigator to look into the concussion settlement with the players, claiming that there is rampant fraud on-going isn’t a good look for the league or the players association.

And the Dez Bryant release by the Cowboys and reports that wants to play in the NFC East to play Dallas twice a year, makes for some interesting times ahead. Greg Bedard of Boston Sports Journal penned a piece earlier this week stating he’d be a great one-year rental for the Patriots. But now, that probably won’t happen.

The Patriots conducted a pre-draft press conference on Friday morning and Bill Belichick talked about how the team would prepare for the draft by conducting some in-house mock drafts to prepare themselves for the volatility of the draft boards.

He also spoke about trying to draft for need. “You can’t manufacture a guy. It’s a name on the board right now. Until that player gets on the field and performs, then you never really know for sure what that’s going to be.”

“You start talking about the third guard and the second corner, the third guard and the eighth corner, or however those grades will line up,” Belichick said. “Or, you talk about players that are specialty-type players, role players that are maybe very good at a certain role but they’re not three-down players. What are their values relative to other players who may be three-down players with a lesser skillset?”

The Patriots always move around the draft board with trades up and down and this year with two picks in each of the first two rounds promises to be an interesting time to watch how they approach those rounds.

Martellus Bennett had an interesting story on Belichick and his meticulous approach to game planning. Appearing on Fox Sports, Bennett spoke about a game against Buffalo.

“We’re getting ready to play against the Buffalo Bills. The scouting report on the Buffalo Bills punter is he doesn’t have the best hands, and it’s going to be raining,” Bennett said.

“So at practice we practice the punter dropping the ball, scooping and scoring because Bill’s like ‘it’s going to happen in the game.’ And I’m like ‘yeah, well, it might happen.’ You know how coaches say something, everyone’s doing it, right? Well, sure enough on Sunday, it’s drizzling and he drops the ball.”

Bennett was then asked if the Patriots scored.  “No, we didn’t do what (Belichick) said. But on the sideline, I looked at him like, ‘who is this guy?’ All the little things like that he prepares us. I don’t think there’s another team better at situational football.”

Garcia and Rivers are Kind of Hidden Draft Picks in 2018:
Last year the Patriots top two draft picks (taken at #83 and #85 overall) Edge Player Derek Rivers and Tackle Tony Garcia were both lost for the season during training camp and if not for Deatrich Wise, their 2017 draft would’ve been of zero help.

Tony Garcia blocks Kony Ealy during Patriots minicamp 2017. (SBalestrieri photo)

Now they both Garcia and Rivers are slated to return and ready to compete. While they didn’t play any meaningful snaps in 2017, both were able to sit in the meetings and probably have a much better idea of the Patriots system this year.

Garcia spoke with Greg Bedard last week and said he’s feeling the best, he’s ever felt, and his weight is back up to 290 (his playing weight at Troy). He and LaAdrian Waddle will no doubt be competing for the starting role this summer of the Patriots left tackle position vacated by Nate Solder.

Derek Rivers returns ready to go in 2018. SBalestrieri photo

Rivers, who came from Division 2 Youngstown State, seemed a bit overwhelmed in the first few days of training camp. But once he got used to the speed of the NFL game, you could see the light gradually coming on and just as he was starting to flash a bit, was injured during a joint practice against the Texans.

This year I could see Rivers in kind of a hybrid OLB/DE role on the edge in the sub-packages, at least initially and see if he can maybe vie for a starting role later during the season.

Rivers doing an interview after an early TC practice. (SBalestrieri photo)

Nate Solder’s Letter to New England Perfectly Stated:
Former Patriots left tackle Nate Solder and now New York Giant penned a large thank you letter to the Patriots coaches, front office and fans this week and it was a poignant, heart-wrenching account of his son’s struggles with cancer and what he and his wife were going thru behind the scenes.

The characterization of the Patriots of this cold, hard-hearted organization takes a backseat to how he describes how Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels allowed him to miss team meetings to be with his son during his cancer treatments.

It is a must-read piece by Solder and gives the reader a real up-close look at the man behind the number. The Giants are getting a very good player and Solder. They are getting an even better man.

Patriots Offer to Amendola, Wasn’t Close to Miami’s:  
Danny Amendola returned to New England this week and he was the featured guest of the American Cancer Society’s “Relay for Life” event at Merrimack College, where ESPN’s Mike Reiss rode with him to the event.

Danny Amendola at training camp 2017. SBalestrieri photo

Amendola was very forthcoming in the piece, talking about his contract, “When free agency broke, I came to the realization that he wasn’t going to really come close to any of the other offers I had,” he said. “I had to make a decision for my family and go down to Miami and continue my career there.”

And then about the Malcolm Butler benching,  “I have my thoughts about it because I was out there putting my blood, sweat, and tears out on the field that night, and one of our best players wasn’t on the field,” he told Reiss.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t know why. I did ask, but I didn’t get any answers. I can’t make decisions like that, so I don’t necessarily worry about it, but I know Malcolm is a great player and he could have helped us win. For whatever reason, he wasn’t out there. He’s going to play more football in his career, and he’s going to be a great player for a long time.”

But at the event, Amendola called Belichick, “the best coach to ever coach in the game” and even said that he respected the hard work that went into getting to the Super Bowl. “I didn’t like practicing in the snow, I didn’t like practicing in the rain, but that was going to make us a better football team and that was going to make me a better football player. It wasn’t easy, and he’d be the first to admit, at the [Super Bowl] ring ceremony, that it wasn’t easy playing for him. The silver lining was that we were at the ring ceremony.”

Jordan Matthews Signing Keeps Looking Better:
The signing of former Bills and Eagles WR Jordan Matthews continues to look better and better on paper as we wait for the off-season workouts to start. Matthews bet on himself, knowing how tough a place New England is to play, and with the Patriots already having a slew of wide receivers on the roster, he picked the Patriots.

He spoke AL.com about his decision this week and said, “I don’t feel like I’m called to be comfortable, and I knew this would be a great place for me to grow, not only as a player, but as a man in general.”

“When I walked into the building I could feel that there was an aura of ‘Let’s get better every day,'” Matthews said. “I think sometimes in the offseason it’s easy to kind of slip into that kind of monotonous mindset and just saying, ‘OK, we’re just bringing people in,’ or whatever. But there was a lot of intentionality during the visit. They were very detailed. They were very specific with me on what they thought about me and areas that they thought I could grow in. I appreciated that more than anything. I appreciated that type of honesty.”

Matthews knows how tough the Patriots’ offense can be to pick up, but having played at Vanderbilt, considered the “Harvard of the South” he should be plenty smart enough. He also knows that with a solid 2018 season, he’s setting himself up for a nice payday.

Matthews was a very productive receiver for the Eagles, averaging 75 catches a year for three years before being traded to Buffalo last year. He was injured three times and his production plummeted. But it takes two to tango. A receiver has to have an innovative system and a good QB to be productive. Buffalo had neither last year. He can play outside the numbers or in the slot so, he’s a guy we’ll be looking at closely this summer.

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

McCoy Wants the Bills to Sign Dez Bryant
The Buffalo Bills definitely need help at wide receiver, right now having only Kelvin Benjamin, Zay Jones and Andre Holmes on the roster. With A.J. McCarron and no doubt a rookie QB on the roster this summer, adding a veteran WR would definitely help whoever is under center. This is why RB LeSean McCoy is stepping up.

McCoy tweeted out asking Bills management to sign recently released Dallas Cowboys’ WR Dez Bryant. He doesn’t seem to be a fit, either in the Buffalo offense or in the city but he does make things intriguing if the Bills would throw their hat into the ring.

Richie Incognito had stated earlier this week that due to physical ailments that he was retiring. “I’m done. That’s it. It’s been a long career. Went to the doctor. My liver and kidneys are shutting down. The stress is killing me. It’s just about doing what’s right. I just want to be in the Hall of Fame.”

Now he’s saying that he’ll be at the Bills off-season workouts starting on Monday. This too will bear watching tomorrow.

Dolphins Bringing in Kenny Vaccaro for an FA Visit:
There are still some quality free agents out there despite the draft being right around the corner. The  Miami Dolphins are bringing in former Saints first-round pick Kenny Vaccaro for a free agent visit. The Fins are pretty much set at safety with Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald and courting Vaccaro, while a high impact player, doesn’t really have a position to fill unless they envision him in a role that the Patriots characterize as the “big nickel” in a linebacker kind of slot.

Vaccaro, 6’0, 214 pounds, had played that type of role as well as nickel, strong safety, and free safety while with the New Orleans Saints.  

Even more intriguing is that ESPN’s Mel Kiper has the Dolphins drafting another safety, FSU’s Kerwin James in the first round. That would be a surprise. However, what isn’t a surprise is that the Dolphins struggle covering tight ends, especially Rob Gronkowski.

But Vaccaro was smoked for a pair of touchdowns last year during Week 2 by Gronkowski, hardly the only one that has happened to, however.

Latest Kiper Mock Has Jets Taking Rosen:
The New York Jets moved up in the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft to the #3 spot in a trade with the Indianapolis Colts and now the only question is, which QB will they draft. And Mel Kiper is sticking with Josh Rosen.

Kiper has stuck with his guns all winter long and has been touting Rosen as the next franchise QB for the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets. Many draft pundits have been touting Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield for Gang Green.

Each has their strong points, and Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy winner makes some people pause with his offbeat persona but he’s a tremendous talent. The first round of the draft is shaping up to be a very intriguing night. In our humble opinion, Mayfield would be a great fit in New York and has the persona to handle the rough times.  

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.

New England Patriots Mock Draft 3.0, Building Depth on Defense

Steve Balestrieri
April 13, 2018 at 9:25 am ET

 

Most Draft Boards Are Starting To Stabilize

The Patriots have several options for the first two rounds in the upcoming draft that begins on April 26. They may opt to move up to take a quarterback to eventually succeed Tom Brady, stand pat with their picks or slide back, something they’ve done quite often.

While most people had the Patriots taking a tackle early if not in the first round of the draft, we felt that was not going to be the case. After investing in Tony Garcia last year and bringing back LaAdrian Waddle, our take is that they may draft one, but more for depth. Now with the news that Garcia is fully ready to go, we’ll double down with that.

For our third mock draft, we didn’t do any trading to move up or down the draft board, however, the feeling is that the Patriots will be moving around the board. They currently have no 4th or 5th round draft picks, and that will undoubtedly change. But we went with building the depth especially on defense with two linebackers, two edge players and a corner. Future concerns at QB and TE were addressed, and the latter is ready to produce immediately.

We have been using the draft tool that the folks at Fanspeak.com that we’ve been touting for awhile and it is really good and highly recommended.

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 several big boards to choose from. The boards are all updated every Tuesday.

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 third mock draft (4-12), I used the big board of NFL Draft Scout.

Here is our third mock draft attempt this year: PatsFans Mock 3.0

Round 1, Pick #23 Linebacker Rashaan Evans, Alabama:

Once again Evans was still on the board at #23 and was too good a prospect to pass up. He has tremendous speed, range, and agility. Evans was the Alabama team leader in tackles, flies around the field from sideline to sideline, can cover, blitz off the edge and stuff the run. A Day 1 starter and the kind of sure-hit player the Patriots like to take in Round 1. Subsequent rounds are for reaches Read our draft profile on him here:

Round 1, Pick #31 CB, Mike Hughes, Central Florida:

Hughes is a very good press man, lock-down corner, despite not having great size, (5’10, 195-pounds) has the mentality and skill to be a very good corner at the next level. He is a physical corner that is adept at throwing receivers off their timing and is a very good tackler and run defender. He’s a versatile player with special teams value, returning a kickoff, punt and interception for touchdowns in 2017.

Round 2, Pick #43 TE, Mark Andrews, Oklahoma:
The Patriots could use an eventual replacement for Rob Gronkowski and Andrews has the same qualities as a receiver, with excellent hands, the ability to stretch the field and attack the seams and is an absolute mismatch against linebackers and most safeties.  Andrews has good size at 6’4, 254 pounds, who won the John Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end catching 62 passes for 958 yards and eight touchdowns for the Sooners. He’s not a great blocker…yet, but with some coaching can improve there.

Round 2 Pick # 63 QB, Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State:
Rudolph has the boxes checked with the prototypical size of NFL QBs at 6’4, 230 pounds and was a four-year starter for the Cowboys in their spread, up-tempo passing game. He throws an excellent deep ball with very nice touch and ball placement. The knock on him is that he played in a very simplified system and had a tendency to stare down his receivers. He’ll have to learn to process faster in the NFL and go thru his progressions, something he’ll have time to learn behind Brady.

Round 3, Pick #95 OT, Jamarco Jones, Ohio State:

Jones was a two-year starter for the Buckeyes who have developed quite a pipeline for tackles in the NFL. Jones has good size at 6’5, 310 and is a very good pass blocker, and has shown the quick feet and agility to rarely get beat by speed rushers on the edge. He’ll need to get stronger and become more physical, especially in the running game at the next level but under the tutelage of Dante Scarnecchia, he’ll get there. With the Garcia news that he’s healthy and ready to go, Jones won’t be hard-pressed to produce as a rookie.

Round 6, Pick #198 Edge, Dorance Armstrong Jr., Kansas:

Armstrong had a tremendous 2016, with 20 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks as his coaches had him pinning his ears back. In 2017, going to a more read-and-react style, those numbers dropped to 9.5 TFL and just two sacks. But he has very good speed and a quick first step. Armstrong has dropped into coverage at times, something the Patriots ask their edge players to do occasionally. He’s a good, athletic player who tackles well but needs to add some bulk at the next level.

Round 6, Pick #210 LB, Kenny Young, UCLA:

Young is an undersized, speedy, athletic linebacker who may be a candidate for the “big nickel” linebacker role the Patriots like to run in their sub-packages. He’s got plenty of speed and athleticism to play sideline-to-sideline and cover backs and tight ends in the passing game. However, he lacks the bulk and strength (6’1,236) to play on every down. He may be a Special Teams player first and work his way into a subpackage role.

Round 7, Pick #219 Edge, Joe Ostman, Central Michigan:

Ostman is a guy who’s draft profile is all over the place. While most have him as a 6th-7th round draft pick, others have him as high as a 3rd-4th round selection. He’s a high-motor, slightly undersized edge player at 6’2, 250 pounds that wins with second effort. He uses his hands well and possesses a nice spin move. He was very productive in the MAC but will have to get stronger at the next level.

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 4-8, & AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 8, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 4-8, & AFC East Notes

Not football related, but our thoughts go out to the Humboldt Broncos, the Canadian Junior Hockey team whose team bus was hit by a truck and resulted in at least 14 players and coaches dying.

Quick Hitters: Mike Reiss of ESPN wrote a piece this week about the nominating committee for the Patriots team Hall of Fame of which he is a member. With the influx of so many of the Super Bowl veterans, there is a logjam of deserving players that will eventually get in. That’s bad news for players and coaches of past generations. And notably coach Chuck Fairbanks who we’ve been campaigning for, fruitlessly for several years.

Most of the fans who vote are too young to remember him and forget that he put together some excellent teams and a 1976 team that should have been a Super Bowl team. Money and management issues doomed his time here but take a look at how poorly the team drafted before he arrived and while he was here.

The Patriots made another under the radar move by bringing in tight end Troy Niklas formerly of the Cardinals. The 6’6, 270 Notre Dame alum is known strictly as a blocking tight end but was thought to be more than that when he arrived in the NFL as a second-round pick for Arizona. The Patriots scouted him that year so it is another case of them bringing in guys they initially coveted in the draft. If Niklas can stay healthy, it will be interesting to see what Josh McDaniels can bring out of him.  

Brandin Cooks had nothing but nice things to say about Bill Belichick and the Patriots on the way out the door after his trade to the Rams. Although many fans and media did a bit of bashing on him as he left, he spoke highly of Bill Belichick saying, the team handled the situation the right way.

They gave me a call about an hour before it happened,” Cooks said, to the Ventura County Star. “I have a ton of respect for him (Belichick) and we have a ton of respect for each other. You hear the horror stories of guys finding out on Twitter, but at the end of the day, you know the way that they run things over there and the respect that we have for each other, he gave me a call and gave me a heads up. And at the end of the day, all you can do is respect that and have to understand it’s a business.”

Jordan Matthews Signing Adds Size and Depth to the WR Roster :
The signing by the Patriots of WR Jordan Matthews didn’t register very highly on the national radar either, but it is just another example of Bill Belichick building a team and not a fantasy football roster. Matthews spent an injury-riddled 2017 season with the Buffalo Bills and had a career-low 25 catches in his only season there.

But in the three years prior while with the Eagles, Matthews logged 225 catches for 2673 yards and 19 touchdowns. That averages out to 75 catches, 891 yards and six+ touchdowns per year. Hardly numbers to easily dismiss. He brings the element of versatility to the team that the coaches love here. He can play outside or in the slot and he also brings size to the wide receiver group.

At 6’3, 212, he’s a bigger target which may well factor into the red zone offense. His size is something different to the normal slot receiver we’ve seen in New England. While he doesn’t the quickness off the line of an Edelman or Amendola, he runs precise routes and is a proven move the chains type of guy. He has good but not elite straight-line speed and if he can learn the offense this spring, he may be a very solid pickup for the team this season.

The depth chart for the Patriots wide receivers is rapidly getting crowded with Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Phillip Dorsett, Kenny Britt, Cordarrelle Patterson, Matthews, as well as Riley McCarron and Cody Hollister from the practice squad of last season.

Cooks Trade Opens Up Options Galore For the Patriots:
The Cooks trade to Los Angeles was, in the end, too good a deal to pass up. The Patriots tried to re-sign Cooks after a very solid first (only) season with the team. But there was no way they were going to pay Cooks the kind of money he’s looking for.

One thing to keep in mind is, fans are always lamenting that Belichick doesn’t covet wide receivers. Our friend Kerry Byrne from Cold Hard Football Facts refers to WRs as “shiny hood ornaments”, and we pretty much agree with him there. Look at this list from “Over the Cap” of the Top 10 Paid WRs”
Next to the players’ name is the amount of their contract followed by their current yearly salary. Does anything jump off the page at you?  Of all of the Top 10 WRs getting paid, only one  Demaryius Thomas has a Super Bowl ring. And he got his with the best defenses in the NFL during those years.  Just something to file away the next time someone laments that the Patriots need a diva WR.

So with him being a free agent after next season, the Rams offering a first-round draft pick with the teams swapping later round picks was a great get by Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio. We wrote about they’re options earlier this week.

And we’ll double down here by stating that while they are in a great position to move up in the draft if they choose to, we’d love to see them use all four picks in their first two rounds and get the team some talented playmakers that will restock the youth and depth on the team for the next several years. Will they use them all? Probably not, they’ll be bound to trade back at some point, especially if they don’t see a player they believe is a fit for them.

Bill Belichick’s philosophy is that they don’t covet picks, but players. So if the value isn’t there in their opinion, they’ll trade back. The Patriots draft board and their war room are notoriously smaller than most other teams.  If their perceived value isn’t there, don’t be shocked by a trade down. 

Don’t Read Too Much Into Visits And Private Workouts By the Patriots:
The Patriots have been in the news with a lot of workouts and visits by prospects and each time they conduct one, everyone rushes to say that “Player A” is drawing interest from the Patriots and he vaults to the list of everyone’s mock draft. Not so fast there.

While a visit or a private workout could absolutely mean a high level of interest from the Patriots but for many others, it is just an exercise to see what makes a guy tick. For instance, if the Patriots feel an opponent from the division is targeting a player that they won’t see in the draft by may see in the future as an opponent, they’ll ask him in for a workout to see where his strengths and weaknesses are, and see how his thought process works in game situations. It is filed away for possible game planning situations.

And of course, for others, we see them have an interest in a player that they know, will be drafted before they choose. And then the visit is filed away with more information for down the road if this player is ever released or becomes available, they can make a better decision on whether to bring him in or not.

It is just one of those small things that make the team building phase for the team so successful every year.  

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Adding Depth Sign DE Fede, Still Unsure Whether To Trade Up For a QB:
The Buffalo Bills earlier this offseason signed DE Trent Murphy to a free agent contract have now added former Dolphin DE Terrence Fede on a one-year contract.

Fede spent the first four years of his career with the Dolphins after being drafted in the 7th round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Fede, 6’4, 267, has appeared in 51 games with 55 tackles and a safety. He’ll be a depth rotational player for the Bills.

The Bills currently hold the 12th pick in the upcoming draft. Many people are expecting them to trade up earlier in the draft to take one of the quarterbacks that are slated to go in the first round. So far, nothing has been made public about their wishes and they may just be waiting until the night of the draft to see how the first couple of picks in the draft go before deciding when and where and possibly if they move up.

Dolphins Are Playing the Waiting Game as Well:
The Miami Dolphins hold the 11th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and most people also expect them to draft a quarterback as well. But Adam Gase has Ryan Tannehill coming back this season from a serious ACL injury this year, so there will be no rushing the prospect onto the field until he’s deemed ready.

Rumors persist that Miami, like Buffalo, will trade up to get one of the more highly heralded QBs that abound this spring. The word is that Gase wants to slide up and grab Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield. If they elect to remain at #11, they may opt for one of the other premium prospects, and get a QB later. In the eleventh spot, there are still a lot of impact players that will be available.

There are some, granted a minority that believes Gase will trade back and garner a bevy of picks to load up on talent and build his depth. Many of the Dolphins fans want to see the team grab Minkah Fitzpatrick from Alabama. While the chances are pretty slim that he’s available by #11, if he slides just a bit during the QB feeding frenzy, then perhaps Miami could move up and pick him up without breaking the bank.

Is Mayfield the Jets Target At #3? Most Believe So:
The New York Jets are also interested in Baker Mayfield as their next franchise QB. According to NFL draft analyst Tony Pauline, the Jets are pretty much locked in on Mayfield as being their pick at #3.

Pauline wrote this week, “There are a good number of league insiders who believe the New York Jets will use the third pick of the draft to select quarterback Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma. This assumes that Sam Darnold is already gone when the Jets are called to the clock.”

With so many good quarterbacks being available early in the draft, the fans reaction to this is naturally split, some love Mayfield, others opt for Josh Rosen. With so many variables, the first night of the draft promises to be a very entertaining and intriguing evening.

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.

New England Patriots Mock Draft 2.0, Post Trade Edition

Steve Balestrieri
April 6, 2018 at 9:26 am ET

 

Lots of Opportunities to Move Up

With the trade of Brandin Cooks to the Rams, the Patriots draft picks now look vastly different than they did a week ago. With two picks now in both the first and second rounds, they now have plenty of options to move up and around the draft board.

For this particular mock draft, we didn’t do any trading to move up or down the draft board, although we do feel that they will most certainly do so at some point as they now have no picks in the 4th or 5th rounds of the draft.

We have been using the draft tool that the folks at Fanspeak.com that we’ve been touting for awhile and it is really good and highly recommended.

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 several big boards to choose from. The boards are all updated every Tuesday.

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 (4-5), I used the big board of Draftek.

Here is our second mock draft attempt this year: PatsFans Mock 2.0

Round 1, Pick #23 Linebacker Rashaan Evans, Alabama:

Evans somehow was still on the board at #23 and was too good a prospect to pass up. He’s a quick twitch, versatile linebacker who can line up in the middle at the Mike, or on the outside and has tremendous sideline-to-sideline speed. He can cover tight ends, running backs and is a tremendous blitzer up the A-gaps. He’s a big-time difference maker on defense and is a Day 1 starter. Read our draft profile on him here:

Round 1, Pick #31 Edge, Sam Hubbard, Ohio State:

We stuck with our original pick at #31 with Hubbard as he was still there using a different big board. He’s not a one-trick pony that can scream off the edge and nothing else. But the Patriots with their style of defense want players who can set the edge first and also rush the passer. Hubbard is a well-rounded, good defensive end prospect.

He gives that needed depth on the edge, can step in and play at a high level on Day 1, can play either side so he’s versatile and can do a bit of everything.

To see our draft profile on him click here:

Round 2, Pick #43 TE, Mike Gesicki, Penn State:
The Patriots pick up a long-term replacement for Rob Gronkowski who is/was contemplating retirement. While no one can replace the best tight end in the NFL, there are several very good options in the draft.

Gesicki has good size and moves pretty well for a guy at 6’5, 250-pounds. While he’s not an elite athlete that will leave defenders in the dust, he has the best hands of any TE in the draft and is a classic overachiever. He’s limited as a blocker and could use some more strength but would be a very good option in the flex or “move” tight end role with Gronk.

Round 2 Pick # 63 OT Tyrell Crosby, Oregon:
Crosby is an aggressive road grader in the running game, a mauler at 6’5, 320 pounds with excellent strength and power.

He has improved in pass protection and has played both tackle positions as a four-year starter for the Ducks.

Round 3, Pick #95 QB, Kyle Lauletta, Richmond:

Lauletta has been widely mock drafted to the Patriots all spring…which usually means that he won’t be coming. But by Round 3, the majority of the highly sought after quarterbacks were taken. Lauletta has the skill set to do very well with the Patriots.

He throws a nice ball and leads his receivers well, he won’t throw them into big hits. Lauletta has a quick release, very good footwork, moves well in the pocket and was a team leader. Doesn’t have a cannon for an arm but is very tough, physically, and mentally. Learning from Brady for a year or two may be just what the doctor ordered.

Lauletta’s draft profile by us can be seen here:

Round 6, Pick #198 CB, Levi Wallace, Alabama:

Wallace was a walk-on at Alabama because his father was from Tuscaloosa. High football I.Q. and considered to be a very high character player and person. Paid his dues and worked his way up to be a starter in 2017.

Was the “other guy” on the Bama defense that opponents tried to pick on. He responded with three interceptions and 18 passes defensed. Sets the edge extremely well in the running game. Lacks experience but a good developmental prospect. Good length at 6’0, 185 pounds.

Round 6, Pick #210 LB, Nick Deluca, North Dakota State:

Deluca is a three-year starter, a three-down middle linebacker who has smarts, leadership, and toughness. Deluca is a very instinctive linebacker while not a burner and doesn’t have great speed, he consistently plays faster because of his instincts. Has very good size at 6’2, 243 and covers well with good depth and can play both zone and man. Was an outstanding special teams’ player and will immediately become part of the core unit in the NFL.

Round 7, Pick #219 RB, Jordan Wilkins, Mississippi:

Wilkins has good size at 6’0, 215 and had 1000 yard season in the SEC as a senior in 2017. He paid his dues and came on strong after very little wear and tear on his body. Had only 311 career touches in his five years.

Wilkins runs with a low pad level but at times tries to bounce too much to the outside. Had 26 catches as a senior, and would be a nice addition to the running back by committee approach. His best football is still in front of 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 Wednesdays at 12 noon.

New England Patriots News 4-1, & AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 1, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 4-1, & AFC East Notes

A happy April Fool’s Day and of course a Happy Easter to all our readers out there, for our Jewish friends, Happy Passover “chag Pesach sameach.”  From all of us here, we hope you enjoy the day with family and friends, healthy and safe.

Quick Hitters: Boston 25’s Butch Stearns had an informative sit down with former Patriot LT Nate Solder where the Giants recent addition spoke about how tough it was for him to leave the Patriots, calling it “bittersweet.”

“When I think of my team, I think of the Patriots,” he said. “I am transitioning into a new team, a new chapter in our lives. I think we will always be part of this community. We will always be part of the Patriot family because we have two championships here. We’ve done a lot here. Now, this is a new chapter and we’re going to be Giants. It’s exciting.”

So there is a racehorse name “Gronkowski” named after the Pats TE that is going to run in the Kentucky Derby? I can think of one person who will be betting heavily on that horse.

The Johnny Manziel story is still out there with the Patriots reportedly having another meeting with former Browns quarterback and the rumors continue to persist that the team will sign him to back up Tom Brady in 2018.

I’ve made my feelings on his fit here before but the Patriots and Bill Belichick have always gone to the beat of a different drummer. It would likely entail changing the offense to fit his skill set. Would he be exciting seeing running around the preseason field against a lot of players who won’t be on NFL rosters in September? No doubt. But I’ve never been a big believer that he’d have an impact in the NFL. So, we’ll see.

A lot of people have been asking about the possibility for the Patriots to trade for the Giants Odell Beckham Jr. Reportedly the Giants are asking for not one but two first-round draft picks for the talented WR. That’s far too rich for the Patriots to afford.  So in a trade? Who would you trade, Cooks? It is unlikely the Giants would go straight up and would want more consideration. Gronkowski? That is a lot to pay for a WR who is in the last year of his contract and will want to get paid and paid big. And for one who doesn’t know the offense. But most importantly of all, it isn’t a position of need. Far too expensive for a one-year rental.

Right after the Super Bowl, everyone was looking at where the team would be headed, personnel-wise in 2018. Almost universally everyone thought that the Patriots would either release Dwayne Allen or restructure his deal from his owed $5 million in 2018. Well, we’re less than a month away from the draft and Allen’s contract remains. Chalk that one up to a big surprise this spring.

Gronkowski on the Trading Block? Rumors Persist:
Another hot take item has been the “will he or won’t he” status of Pats TE Rob Gronkowski. His agent Drew Rosenhaus has stated that his client still hasn’t come to a decision on whether to play in 2018 and beyond. Which immediately opens up the rumor mill on whether it is a ploy to get more money for a new deal or if he’s seriously considering hanging it up and heading off to a new career as an action film star and WWE personality.

Gronk action film

If he is still truly waffling on retirement, then a trade scenario becomes a very real possibility. With Belichick, if you’re not 100 percent in…you know the rest. So this may not be as far-fetched as previously thought.

But Robert Kraft did say that he’s seen Gronkowski working out there after hours which is a good sign that he’s preparing for the offseason workouts that begin on April 16. Those will be interesting to see who is there and who isn’t.

But regardless, it won’t be a shock to see the team dip into the draft for an eventual replacement for Gronkowski who has two years left on his deal.

Belichick Losing the Locker Room? Perhaps Not After All:
In the aftermath of the Malcolm Butler interview with SI where he stated that he felt the Patriots could have won the Super Bowl had he played and wanted to confront the coaches during the game…but didn’t. The article opened up an entirely new conversation about the Patriots, their locker room, the recent free agent losses, and how “no one wants to go there in free agency”. There was also a renewal of the take that there is a deep rift in the locker room with Belichick needing to “clear the air” with the players. Not so fast.

NBC Sports Mike Giardi spoke with a couple of players offline about Butler’s interview and the answers weren’t what one would expect, given the recent storylines.

One current player said “we all wished it would have worked out better” but he (Butler) “should have focused on what mattered those 2 weeks.” Another player told Giardi “we didn’t like the decision but it wasn’t without merit.”

And Giardi added the following… worth a look and to ponder.

Sounds quite different from a fractured locker room but we’ll see. Belichick, at the league meetings and at various Pro Day workouts said he feels the energy of the team building phase of the offseason.

Kraft Doubles Down on Support of Belichick:
Patriots owner Robert Kraft was asked about the Malcolm Butler question at the league meetings and had some very telling comments. He, like many others, had questions about the benching of Butler. But unlike many other meddling, non-football people owners, he spoke of trust.

“With my fan hat on, you can come up with all kinds of reasons or things, but here’s the deal: We in New England are privileged to have, I believe, the greatest coach in the history of coaching,” Kraft said. “We’re involved in a number of businesses in our family – we’re in 95 countries in the world – and we try to encourage to have good managers and we want them to be bold, we want them to take risks. Sometimes they work out, sometimes they don’t.”

“ I have faith in Bill as a coach that I don’t think there is anyone who has the football knowledge and expertise combined with understanding personnel – no one can merge those two worlds. He’s done pretty well for us over the last 18 years,” which was an understatement.

“So, as a fan, I can question some of the moves. As someone who is privileged to be the owner of this team, I encourage him to keep going with his instincts and doing what he thinks is right. There is no doubt in my mind, even if he made an error – and this is true with any of our managers – that if they’re doing it for the right reason, then I support it 100 percent,” he added.

“I’ve never had one instance in the 18 years where Bill hasn’t done what he believes is in the best interest of our team to help us win games.”

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Former Bills Coach Rex Ryan Expects Buffalo to Make a Push for the #2 Pick:
The Buffalo Bills under new coach Sean McDermott made the playoffs last year for the first time since 1999. It was a testament to McDermott’s coaching that Buffalo made the postseason despite having the 26th rated defense and the 29th rated offense.

But the man McDermott replaced, Rex Ryan, believes the Bills may make a move to trade with the New York Giants to move up to the #2 spot in the NFL Draft looking for their franchise QB. And Ryan already thinks who it should be.

In an interview with the MMQB, Ryan said, “I do expect them to make a huge offer to the Giants and move up to No. 2. And if I was them, I would take Josh Allen. You need to have a guy to throw the ball in windy conditions, and no one has a bigger arm than that kid.”

Moving up won’t be cheap but if the Bills believe that their guy will be gone then it is a no-brainer. They’ve been searching for that elusive franchise QB since Jim Kelly retired.

Dolphins Made the Right Move in Adding Quinn for Suh:
The Miami Dolphins had a cap hit with Ndamukong Suh for over $26 million in 2018. After paying him $60 million, he never really transformed the Miami defense, especially in the running game as he was envisioned.

They added Robert Quinn whose cap hit of $14 million is much more doable and he brings the element of a game changer to the table as a player out on the edge who can get to the QB. Miami is moving him back to his natural position as a 4-3 defensive end and teamed with Cameron Wake, Charles Harris, and Andre Branch, not only will Miami be able to generate a lot of pressure on opposing QBs, Quinn, in this defense, should have immediate double-digit sack potential.

Meanwhile, the Rams signed Suh to a $14 million-dollar one-year deal. Advantage Miami.

Jets Sign RB Thomas Rawls From the Seahawks:
The New York Jets have found a very depth option behind Bilal Powell at the running back position and have signed former Seattle Seahawks back Thomas Rawls. Terms were not immediately announced.

Rawls was an undrafted running back out of Central Michigan in 2015 and burst on the scene when he replaced an injured Marshawn Lynch for Seattle.  His downhill, physical running style quickly got him noticed. The 5’9 dynamo averaged 5.6 yards a pop in 2015 and produced 830 yards on the ground that season.

But his all-out physical style has taken a toll, he’s been unable to stay on the field the past two years. But backing up Powell, he should be a dynamic #2 option. Good move for the Jets if Rawls can stay healthy this year.

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.

New England Patriots Draft Profile, Lorenzo Carter, LB, Georgia

Steve Balestrieri
March 31, 2018 at 8:30 am ET

Carter Has a lot of Potential Upside in the Pros

As the 2018 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.

In an earlier post, we wrote about the Patriots issues on the edge in 2017. They had too many losses to work around because of free agency, retirement, and injury. Others that they brought in, that just didn’t work out (Kony Ealy, Cassius Marsh), added to the issue.

With some players getting back from injury this year, things should automatically look up from 2017. And the Patriots did address the position during free agency. The team signed Adrian Clayborn this spring which immediately helps.

Hightower, Rivers and Langi return, they’ll join Trey Flowers, Deatrich, Lee, and Adam Butler but they could really use another young edge player which could facilitate moving Hightower and Langi back to linebacker. That would be the best thing, as they really need some help at Inside Linebacker.

At the outside linebacker position, they’d have Marquis Flowers and Kyle Van Noy, as well as Derek Rivers, returning. They could still shift either Hightower or Langi back on occasion to the outside but would still require some needed depth and athleticism at the position and there are players available in the draft.

Lorenzo Carter from Georgia is an intriguing prospect that played in the SEC. He’s one of those players that may become a better professional than he was a college player. After being one of the most highly recruited players in the country, his college football resume never really materialized the way most thought it would.

Carter has an incredibly long and rangy frame (6’6, 250) and played as both as a hand in the dirt defensive end and as an outside linebacker standing up. He had some experience covering tight ends and backs and even at times receivers. Although he generated a lot of quarterback pressure, Carter never was a big sack guy getting just nine and a half combined sacks in his last two seasons.

In college, he set the edge well using his athletic ability and holding the containment in the running game. But he’s not solidly built in his lower body and can get pushed around if he allows blockers to get inside of him. Because of that, at the NFL level, he’ll probably be more of an outside linebacker than defensive end.

Pros:

– Excellent Height and Length

– Good hand placement and work

– Has a knack for causing fumbles

– Good motor and speed

Cons

– Not great in coverage

– Can be pushed around in power running game

– Needs to add bulk especially in his lower body

What his Role Will Be:

Carter could immediately play in the sub-packages as an outside linebacker. He’ll have too much trouble setting the edge in the pros as a 4-3 Defensive end. If he’s used there, he’d be strictly a subpackage pass rusher initially. He can cover a bit but also rush off the edge as a blitzer.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?

Yes, in Year 2 if he can build up his leg strength, he could see more work as a stand-up defensive end.

How Many Downs Can He Play?

Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?

Carter could replace an STs guy like Nicholas Grigsby and take his role on STs.

What is his ST Value?

Limited, but the team will probably use him on some of the coverage units taking advantage of his speed and athleticism

Conclusion:
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein in his profile wrote that:

Carter was a five-star prospect and one of the most heralded players in the nation when he was recruited by Georgia but he never made the impact expected of him as a Bulldog. However, Carter played with increased toughness and confidence this year and his NFL potential began to reassert itself once again. Carter is an outside linebacker in a 3-4 or 4-3 with sideline-to-sideline range and the tools to become a productive edge rusher in sub-packages. He needs to add more bulk, but he is a future NFL starter.”

Carter is a better fit at Outside Linebacker and has the skills to rush the passer off the edge where his speed and agility can be brought to bear. He’s good but not great in coverage and tended to give too much of a cushion but that happens with players that aren’t asked to do it very much.

Carter is a versatile player, something the Patriots value highly in their players and he was that guy for the Bulldogs. He could be found, rushing off the edge as a Wide-9 Defensive End, dropping into coverage as a WILL Linebacker and moving all around the formation. He doesn’t have great instincts and is more of a read and react kind of player but he has the athleticism and speed to be a very productive player at the next level.

I know he showed some good power and strength in setting the edge in college but the pros are different. His legs look a bit spindly and that could be an issue until he packs on some needed muscle. But his frame may max out quickly and it could hurt his athleticism if he bulks up.

Carter is going to be one of those boom or bust kind of prospects. It is easy to become enamored with his obvious physical skills, running a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash but he chose not to run the bigger barometer for a change of direction and agility which is the 3-Cone Drill. But for all his physical tools, it didn’t translate into production. He produced just 9.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss in his last two seasons combined in Georgia.

Carter will be an intriguing prospect as we stated above because some defensive coaches will want to be able to channel that athleticism. We all saw that in the Orange Bowl with the blocked field goal attempt.

He’s mainly thought of as kind of an end of the second or early third-round prospect in most places. It may be a good place to pick him up. We know Bill Belichick saw him and the rest of the Georgia linebackers up close and worked them out during their Pro Day.

 

Carter’s highlight reel tape from Keith Benjamin can be seen here: 

 

And his 2018 Rose Bowl Game against Oklahoma highlights from Cut Up Corner can be seen here: 

 

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