When you win a Super Bowl, there generally isn’t a lot of available roster spots to go around. The 2019 New England Patriots currently sit at 90 players and they are no exception. There promises to be a ton of competition this summer for the back end of the team’s 53-man roster.
The Patriots were picked earlier this summer for having the deepest roster in the NFL. Whether or not you subscribe to that is immaterial. A look at the roster and there really isn’t a lot of wiggle room for players to come in and carve out a role for themselves.
So, that brings us to the purpose of this piece, several well-known players will be firmly on the bubble when training camp begins. Others, due to injury or subpar play could be added as camp practices progress and some of these players could cement themselves with solid play. Here are some but not all of the players on the bubble. There is a long way to go.
Danny Etling – Some people are surprised that Etling is still on the roster. During minicamp, the 2nd year QB was clearly displaced as the #3 signal caller by Jarrett Stidham. Etling was playing STs as the personal punt protector. The Patriots just used a 4th round pick on Stidham, while that isn’t in itself a guarantee, they clearly were giving him plenty of opportunities, to the detriment of Etling this spring.
The team isn’t going to keep 4 QBs, so Etling is the odd man out. Could he push Hoyer for a slot? Doubtful. And it is also doubtful that the Patriots cut their ties to Hoyer with Stidham so green…at least for 2019.
Braxton Berrios – The 2nd year WR was injured and missed the entire 2018 season and appeared in just one preseason game last summer. Now healthy, Berrios has turned some heads during OTAs and was arguably the best player on the field during Day 1 of the mandatory minicamp.
He hasn’t locked down anything yet however. Once training camp hits, he’ll need to continue that solid play catching passes, returning kicks and more importantly, stay on the field. This will be a big camp for him as he could either carve out a decent role for himself or fall completely off the radar.
Dontrelle Inman – Inman was signed by the Patriots in May after the Colts decided to let him walk in free agency. Inman was picked up by the Colts in midstream of the 2018 season and worked himself into a key role. Indy moved him around as a big (6’3, 205) slot receiver and occasionally as the “X”. He had good production down the stretch and in the playoffs.
But a very subpar minicamp dropped Inman far down the depth chart. He didn’t catch a single pass in team drills in all three days of the mandatory sessions. That doesn’t mean he’s out yet… but it does put him in a precarious position to begin camp, far down the depth chart.
Ted Karras – The tough, versatile Karras was picked up by the Patriots in 2016 and has been a valuable depth piece on the offensive line ever since. He can play anywhere on the interior offensive line. But the team invested a 4th rounder on Hjalte Froholdt. And the Arkansas alum can do the same things that Karras can do.
The feeling is that with Joe Thuney a free agent after this season, the team is grooming Froholdt to be the starter. He and Karras will be battling for the backup position this summer and it should be a great battle.
Derek Rivers – The Patriots top pick from two seasons ago is facing a huge training camp this summer. He lost his rookie season to a torn ACL during the preseason and never stepped on the field. He returned, albeit not 100 percent physically last summer and played sparingly. In his two seasons, he’s logged 78 snaps, two tackles, and one sack.
The Patriots know his potential and his NFL Combine performance and his production in college were the things that attracted them. But this summer is the beginning of Year 3 and projections are no longer in the cards. It is make or break time for Rivers this summer.
Keion Crossen/Duke Dawson – The Patriots are loaded at cornerback. It is arguably their deepest position. With Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, Crossen, and Duke Dawson who missed all of his rookie season, the team added more. They drafted Joejuan Williams in the 2nd round and Ken Webster in the 7th. They also added D’Angelo Ross later. They can’t keep all of them.
Gilmore, Jackson, and Williams (by reason of his draft position) are locks for the roster. McCourty and Jones are near locks themselves. That makes the competition between Crossen and Dawson for the sixth spot one to watch. The feeling here is that they’ll keep six but could opt for more, at least initially.
Crossen is a special teams standout with the athleticism to play cover corner, much like Jones, who began the same way. The team invested a second rounder in Dawson last year, but he was lost to injury. With the players they added this spring, Dawson is far from safe. He and Crossen may be fighting it out for the final corner slot.
Nate Ebner/Obi Melifonwu – The Patriots are also very deep but aging at safety. While they have ostensibly three starters in Devin McCourty, Pat Chung and Duron Harmon, the first two are on the wrong side of 30 and McCourty hinted at retirement this spring.
The team normally keeps five safeties/STs but this spring they signed former Jets S/ST ace Terrence Brooks. Brooks got a two-year, $4 million dollar deal with a $500,000 signing bonus and $1.3 million of that guaranteed. That puts him in the lock category.
Brooks is known primarily as a STs ace who can fill in and play some safety when needed. Nate Ebner is another STs standout and a Belichick favorite. However, he rarely if ever plays on defense. Obi Melifonwu was brought in at midstream last season and now has a full offseason under his belt. The team’s idea was for the uber-athletic and big Obi to cover big WRs and TEs in the slot. But with the addition of Williams in Round 2, that makes him potentially expendable.
Melifonwu offers much more upside than Ebner defensively and got some first-team reps this spring with Chung missing but he doesn’t have the ST’s acumen of the latter. These two may be battling it out for the 53rd and final roster spot on the team.
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 05-26 and AFC East notes this week.
We hope that everyone has a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend as we all remember and pay homage to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms
OTAs – Are in full swing and as we do every year, we all get overly excited about players performances (good and bad) while performing without pads in essentially a touch football game. However, it is the first time we’ve seen football since the Super Bowl so, we’re allowed a bit of excitement for it. But let’s not get too excited about things until the pads come on.
Dontrelle Inman – Had a very apt answer for signing with the Patriots. “I like winning. It’s one of those things like being part of a winning organization, you want to try to help the team win.”
Jerod Mayo – was making his presence felt on the practice field, yelling out encouragement and signals to the inside linebackers. And retired veterans Troy Brown and Kevin Faulk were on the practice field pitching in. Brown worked with mainly the punt returners while Faulk worked with assistant coach Ivan Fears and the running backs.
Boston Bruins – The Bruins were getting a lot of love from the Patriots as they kicked off OTAs this week. Nearly every Patriot was sporting a Bruins hat of some sort. The Bruins begin the Stanley Cup Finals against the St. Louis Blues on Monday night.
Gunner Olszewski – was signed by the Patriots this week. He was a defensive back at Bemidji State and was the NSIC Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 where he had 63 tackles with three interceptions. The Patriots are trying him at WR however. He’s also a kick returner, he returned 11 kicks for 327 yards and 69 punt returns for 923 yards with one touchdown during his college career.
Chris Long – the former Patriot, Ram, and Eagle after announcing his retirement took a shot at the NFL’s marijuana policy and admitted that he used it frequently during his career. “It is far less harmful than alcohol. It is far less harmful than tobacco. And at various points in the league’s history, they have engaged in partnerships on different levels in those respective industries,” he said. “We should be headed to a place where we allow players to use what I wouldn’t even call drugs. It’s far less dangerous than players guzzling a fifth of alcohol and going out after a game.”
Who Emerges from the Tight End Group?
After losing TE Rob Gronkowski to retirement, Dwayne Allen to free agency and trading away Jacob Hollister to the Seahawks, the top three tight ends have been purged from the 2018 roster.
The Patriots have thrown a lot of stuff against the wall and now they’ll have to see what sticks. They certainly have to hope that it doesn’t turn into a scenario from last year with what transpired with the wide receivers.
The team has brought in Matt LaCosse, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and former Patriot Benjamin Watson. They also have last year’s practice squad player, move-tight end Stephen Anderson, Ryan Izzo, and UDFA Andrew Beck.
The spring and summer workouts will be key for this positional group of whom no one other than Watson seems to be a lock. Seferian-Jenkins was missing this week, although with permission but that absence is concerning moving forward.
It will be interesting to see if Watson can, at age 38 work into a regular role on the offense. LaCosse showed flashes in Denver and displayed nice hands in the passing game during OTAs this week according to Tom Curran. The Patriots were in talks with Minnesota about TE Kyle Rudolph but it seems like the Vikings aren’t going to part with him…at least for now.
Our early feeling here is that Watson, LaCosse and either Izzo or Beck make the team as a blocking tight end, barring a trade. Anderson is a wild card here but at this point, if Seferian-Jenkins is here in August is debatable.
McCoy to the Patriots? It isn’t as Farfetched as You’d Believe:
The Patriots have supposedly expressed interest in former Bucs DL Gerald McCoy along with nine other teams. The 31-year old McCoy was released last week for financial reasons and he has plenty of suitors for his talents.
And there is a good reason for this; McCoy is a six-time Pro Bowl player with three All-Pro nods behind him. He is still quite a force inside and can push the pocket as an interior pass rusher. He had six sacks last year from the DT position and has 54 for his career.
The bidding for his services (as of Friday night) has reached $11 million dollars. Which is way out of what the Patriots can afford to pay him. But McCoy (like many others) has expressed the desire to play for a contender and vie for a Super Bowl as he’s never played in the playoffs in his nine-year career. He’s already made over $100 million in career earnings so he can chase one last fat contract or opt for a ring. And only one team has been to the past three Super Bowls and won two of them.
Should McCoy opt for the Patriots, he would join Lawrence Guy inside, along with Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise and newcomer Chase Winovich on the edge, which makes for an intriguing group.
Danny Shelton Returns to the Fold but Without High Expectations:
Last spring the Patriots swung a trade with Cleveland to bring over DT Danny Shelton. The team then passed on an opportunity to pick up Shelton’s fifth-year option which meant he was a free agent in March.
Shelton has been a free agent since then and had only one visit, with Cincinnati and then left without a contract offer. His contract with the Patriots is less than a fifth of what he’d have gotten from the team had they picked up his option.
Shelton signed a one-year deal worth a total of $1.05 million. He got a signing bonus of $75,000 with a base salary of $805,000.
Shelton is a two-down, two-gap run stuffer. As we saw late in the regular season, and in the AFC Championship Game, his role isn’t always needed or game planned for. As a result, the 6’2, 345-pound Shelton was a healthy scratch for three straight games. But he played well against the Chargers and Rams in the Super Bowl
Now with him back on the team, he not a lock for the 53-man roster. On their interior defensive line, he joins free agent signing Mike Pennel, Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, Ufomba Kamalu and David Parry. The Patriots will probably keep four from that group and have also expressed interest in free agent Gerald McCoy.
Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:
Bills Lose TE Kroft To a Broken Foot:
The Buffalo Bills signed TE Tyler Kroft to be their #1 tight end this spring. His 2018 season was cut short with a broken foot. Now it appears that the oft-injured Kroft broke the same foot on the first day of OTAs.This latest injury is expected to keep him out until at least the beginning of the regular season.
That opens up competition right away for the Bills this spring. The Bills have Lee Smith, who they brought in and Jason Croom from the 2018 squad. Newcomer Dawson Knox who the Bills drafted this spring is the early favorite to get a lion’s share of the reps from QB Josh Allen.
Speaking of Allen, ESPN’s Aaron Schatz is not a fan. Schatz was a guest on the WGR-550′s Schopp and the Bulldog show and said, that he likes a lot of the moves the Bills made during the offseason, he’s not optimistic of their chances.
“I’m just not a Josh Allen believer. I do not think there is an NFL starting quarterback in there waiting to come out and develop,” Schatz said. “And if I’m wrong then, you know, they’ve done a lot to give him help, but if I’m right then they’re still in trouble.”
Flores Trying to Build Optimism for the Dolphins:
The Miami Dolphins are in rebuilding mode and one national media analyst even has the team going 0-16. That isn’t going to happen but despite all of the noise, first-time head coach Brian Flores is trying to get the team to focus on coming together and building a winner. To quote his mentor Bill Belichick, the answer is to ignore the noise and build a team, not collect talent.
“I’m not really worried about anything that’s going on outside of our building,” Flores said when asked about the 0-16 prediction. “My focus is on helping these players succeed and get better and try to make some type of impact on these guys. I don’t really listen to the rest of it, to be honest.”
Flores mantra is T-N-T (Takes No Talent), which translates into doing all of the little things right, being prepared and giving 110 percent. In a bit of good news…
The Miami Dolphins will be presented with the 2019 NFL Team of the Year Award, given annually to a franchise by the Pop Warner Little Scholars that have demonstrated commitment and support of their community and youth. RaShauna Hamilton, Director of Youth Programs and Camps, will be accepting the award for the team
Darnold Can Silence “Jets Are a Mess” Crew With a Hot Start:
The New York Jets play in one of the toughest media centers of the world. Win and they’ll toast you, sing your accolades, and tell the world how great you are. Lose, and they’ll turn on you like a pack of rabid dogs. After the latest fiasco centering around the firing of their general manager, the guy that silence all of the noise around them is their second year QB Sam Darnold.
If the Jets get off to a hot start, all of this “the Jets are a mess” talk will disappear and Darnold and head coach Adam Gase will dissappear. Nothing like adding a bit of extra pressure on a kid who turns 22 next month.
Gase is known as a QB whisperer and expectations are very high that Darnold is going to make the Jets a contender…now. Darnold was drafted #3 overall last year and he has the demeanor to handle the scrutiny of the NY media, which for the most part gave him a pass in 2018. He was, after all a rookie.
Gase has installed his offense and right now both he and his QB are in the honeymoon phase. The team gave him improved weapons to run the offense around. But the biggest obstacle in their path is an offensive line that still has a lot of questions.
The Jets haven’t won a Super Bowl in 50 years or have been to the playoffs in eight. The honeymoon won’t last long unless they begin with a couple of wins. Week 1, the Jets host the Bills at 1:00 p.m. And then in begins in earnest.
One final thought on Memorial Day, from General George S. Patton. “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived.”
PThe Patriots brought in free agent WR Dontrelle Inman for a visit and despite the player reportedly having offers from four other teams on the table has agreed to sign with New England.
Inman, 30, has plenty of experience. After having gone undrafted after the 2011 draft, played two years in the CFL and won a Grey Cup with Toronto. He also played with the Chargers, Bears, and lastly with the Colts. He appeared in nine games with Indy in 2018 and had 28 catches for 304 yards and 3 touchdowns. He added eight more catches for 108 yards and a touchdown in the Colts two playoff games.
His best season was in 2016 with the Chargers where he caught 58 passes for 810 yards and 4 touchdowns. Like many of the new additions to the Patriots receiving corps, Inman brings good size at 6’3, 205 pounds.
Inman got positive reviews from Colts head coach Frank Reich who also worked with Inman with the Chargers for his work ethic, leadership, and his football I.Q. Added in midseason, he developed good chemistry with QB Andrew Luck and he quickly became a trusted target in the Colts offense.
In the final four games of the year for the Colts, Inman notched 17 catches for 231 yards and three touchdowns. He locked down the Indy #2 WR position behind T.Y. Hilton
After the Patriots jettisoned Bruce Ellington earlier this week, bringing Inman in on a one-year deal makes sense. We mentioned a few times this week, that we could see an additional veteran WR being added to the team would make sense and Inman will have an opportunity to create a role for himself.
He now joins Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, Demaryius Thomas, Josh Gordon, Braxton Berrios, Jakobi Meyers, Xavier Ubosi, Ryan Davis, Maurice Harris, Damoun Patterson and Matthew Slater as the current wide receivers in the offense.
How they plan on using him as of yet is unknown but they have brought in plenty of players who can compete. Especially with Thomas coming off a serious injury and probably is not going to be ready for the season and with Gordon being indefinitely suspended
BThe Patriots are turning the clocks back to 2004 a bit as they’re coming to an agreement with veteran tight end Ben Watson who they’re signing to a one-year deal worth $3 million dollars.
Watson began his career in New England as a first-round draft pick (#32) out of Georgia in 2004. He played the first six years of his career with the Patriots before moving on to Cleveland, Baltimore, and two stints with the New Orleans Saints.
Watson never really lived up to his first-round expectations with the Patriots but a couple of his most memorable moments were his two late touchdowns on the first Monday Night Football game of 2009 as Tom Brady was just returning from his ACL injury to pull out an improbable comeback win. And his uber-athletic chasing down of Champ Bailey in the playoffs of 2005 where he ran 100 yards from the opposite side of the field and knocked Bailey out of bounds after he intercepted Brady and returned the ball all the way down the field.
He led the Ravens in receptions in 2017 with 61 and had his best season with the Saints in 2015 with 74 catches for 825 yards and six touchdowns.
The 38-year old Watson considered retirement this winter but after the birth of his twins recently had a change of heart. Now his career has come full circle and he’s returning to the team that drafted him.
The tight end position will be vastly different in 2019 as the top three players from 2018 (Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister) are all gone. Now the tight end roster will look like this:
Ben Watson Austin Seferian-Jenkins Matt LaCosse Stephen Anderson Ryan Izzo Andrew Beck
Anderson was brought in at midseason in 2018 but didn’t catch a pass. Izzo spent the season on IR. The team brought in free agents Watson, Seferian-Jenkins, and Lacosse this spring as well as the UDFA Beck.
The learning curve for Watson should be very short, after spending six seasons in Foxboro with Brady, re-learning the offense should be fairly easy for him despite his being gone for so many years.
Obviously, the hope is Watson can give them veteran leadership and together with Seferian-Jenkins provide them with enough production to at least replicate what they had a year ago and hopefully more.
Watson is a solid run blocker and together he and Seferian-Jenkins with Lacosse should provide the offense with enough targets to go around. Other than the missed season of 2016 with an injury, Watson has been durable and has always been on the field. The knock on Seferian-Jenkins is that he’s hurt all too frequently, but has never played with a QB like Brady.
In his career, Watson has played in 195 games with 135 starts. He has 530 career catches for 5885 yards and 44 touchdowns.
Adding Watson should give a nice short-term boost to the tight end position. And perhaps, like Patrick Chung proved a few years ago, you can go home again.
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 05-5 although no AFC East notes this week. They’ll be back next week.
Bill Belichick is always zigging while the others in the league are zagging. Everyone (including here) thought the Patriots would take one, possibly two tight ends in the draft. Eight were taken in the Top 100 picks and 16 overall. The Patriots took zero.
Does this omission mean that the team didn’t like any of the tight ends available in this class? That they planned on picking up another in a trade? Or that the team is moving in a different direction and they plan on putting the emphasis elsewhere and going to stick with what they have?
Tom Brady’s appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel show was a must watch clip. Brady was asked about his contract which is “only paying him” to be the 20th highest paid player in the NFL this year. “I want to win,” he answered, stating that the money the team saved on him allowed them to surround him with good players. He also added, “my wife makes a lot of money.”
Brady took part in the ongoing “feud” between Kimmel and actor Matt Damon. Brady has been in LA working out on his own and was a guest on Kimmel’s show. And the two with Kimmel sidekick Guillermo went to Damon’s house where you can imagine the rest.
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Three Games to Glory – the 5-hour DVD set that sets the tone for the Patriots’ three playoff games culminating in the Super Bowl victory over the Rams is available for order thru the Patriots Pro Shop.
In a video produced to promote the release had players Kyle Van Noy, Jason McCourty, Rex Burkhead, and Stephon Gilmore watch some of the videos and offer some commentary on the game.
DuJuan Daniels is leaving the Patriots “to pursue other opportunities” in the news that was first reported by ESPN’s Field Yates. Daniels joined the staff as a scouting assistant in 2006, and worked his way up to area scout and then for the past three years as a National Scout. The only member of the staff, that holds that title.
Steve DeOssie – former Patriot and Super Bowl XXV winner with the Giants took part in the annual Patriots/Patriots Alumni charity basketball game against a team from the Grafton Police Department. During the halftime break, where fans get to meet and greet current and former members of the team which included Elandon Roberts, Keion Crossen, Brandon King and local Grafton alum Obi Melifonwu, DeOssie was approached by a fan whose father played with him on that Giants SB winner.
Reyna Thompson was a reserve defensive back and Pro Bowl STs player who started the game on defense. For those who don’t remember or were too young to recall, Belichick was the defensive coordinator on the Giants and he started just two DL, three LBs and six DBs including four CBs to slow down the Bills’ offense. Belichick’s game plan now is on display in the Pro Football HOF in Canton.
DeOssie and Thompson’s son had a long conversation about his father and some memories of that Giants team. It was a very cool moment.
DeOssie and Thompson speak about the SB XXV Giants
Some Interesting Players in the 2019 Patriots UDFA Class:
The Patriots have signed several key UDFAs to the team thus far. Let’s take a quick look at each of the new members of the 2019 UDFA Class.
Jakobi Meyers, WR, NC State: Meyers was originally a QB and switched to WR in his freshman year. The last two seasons he’s had tremendous production and developed quite the chemistry factor with QB Ryan Finley.
Meyers has good size at 6’2, 203 and while not fast at all, he’s shown that he can make contested catches from the slot. He has great hands and a very high football I.Q. Last year in Raleigh, he caught 92 passes for 1047 yards with 4 TDs.
Xavier Ubosi, WR, UAB: Ubosi wasn’t on the list of signed players but we’ve heard and read from multiple media members that he intends to sign here. His route tree is a straight line…he ran go-routes, a lot of them in college. But he also averaged 23.9 yards per reception. This should prove interesting.
Ryan Davis, WR, Auburn: Davis was the Auburn slot machine the past two years. He set a school record for receptions in 2017 and led the team again last year. He’s not big, (5’10, 189) but is quick enough to be a good addition to the slot. He also returned punts which could get him a roster spot.
Andrew Beck, TE, Texas: Beck was originally a LB who converted to TE. He’s got good size (6’4, 260) and is known primarily as a blocking tight end. He’s average athletically and in the passing game, he can function reliably as a safety valve underneath.
Nick Brossette, RB, LSU: Brossette had a big year in 2018 at LSU, as he led the team with 240 carries, 1,039 yards, and 14 touchdowns. He has a compact muscular frame and excels at short-yardage. He doesn’t have much of a burst but is solid, reliable and gets better as the game wears on. Keep an eye on him this summer if anyone shows up hurt in training camp.
Malik Gant, SS, Marshall: Gant is a good sized (6’0, 209) very physical strong safety. He thrives in the box where he loves and seeks out contact. He wasn’t tested much in coverage against top competition. But he could provide a favorable matchup against tight ends and running backs. He would be a candidate for the Patriots “Big Nickel” role.
Terez Hall, LB, Missouri: Hall is an undersized, aggressive, downhill linebacker who could provide depth and special teams production. He’s tough and plays with good speed but his aggression frequently caught him out of position. With some coaching and discipline, he has the speed and athleticism to be a good defender in coverage.
D’Angelo Ross, CB, New Mexico: Was a productive corner for the Lobos despite measuring at just 5’8, 185. He is an uber-athletic player who ran a 4.32 at his Pro Day with a 39” vertical leap. He led the Lobos with 54 tackles and 15 passes defensed, but his size…or lack of it will bear watching.
Tyler Gauthier, OL, Miami: Gauthier was the starting center for the last two years at Miami and has good size at 6’5, 300. He is considered very solid in pass protection and allowed no sacks in 2018. He has the versatility to move over to guard.
Calvin Anderson, OT, Texas: Anderson played three years at Rice and graduated before transferring to Texas to get a masters in economics. He’s a bit raw and undersized (6’5, 292). He has good quickness and mirroring skills but requires time to get more strength and power at the NFL level.
Tyree St. Louis, OT, Miami: St. Louis has the size at 6’5, 314 to play in the NFL but is probably just a right tackle at the next level. He started in 34 straight games, so his experience level is excellent. But he’s not the most athletic player and a move inside could be in his future. It will be interesting to see how these last three prospects work out with Dante Scarnecchia.
Winovich is Arguably the Most Intriguing Additions to NE:
Chase Winovich was one of the Patriots’ selections in the 3rd Round (77th overall) of the 2019 NFL Draft. And he is one of the more intriguing characters they selected. He plays with a non-stop motor on the field and exhibits just as much passion off of it.
Don Brown, a Central Mass. native and Michigan’s Defensive Coordinator spoke with the Boston Herald early last week and had several very interesting quotes about Winovich and how he feels he’ll fit in the Patriots system.
“He’s a trip, no question, but he’s a very serious football player,” Brown said. “He’s one of those guys who love the game and plays the game the right way all the time. You never have to worry about his effort. He’s going to give you everything he’s got . . . I think him going into Coach Belichick’s system, this is probably a match made in heaven for him.”
In Michigan’s system, Winovich was asked to rush the QB from the edge but Brown believes he’s capable of much more and thinks the Patriots will use him in multiple ways.
“We stood him up as an outside linebacker. His primary goal was to go hunt the quarterback. But there’s no question, he can drop back and cover,” Brown said. “He has tight end in his background. He has good hands, he can catch. This offseason, getting ready for the combine, he trained a lot standing up, dropping into the flat, playing coverage, working on his hands. So he can do those things. We just didn’t ask him. The priority for us was to get him around the quarterback. But he can do it all. There’s no doubt about that.”
Pro Football Focus had Winovich as their 29th highest rated player going into the draft, so the Pats bringing him in at #77 is pretty good value. It was interesting to see how the board played out. The Jets were picking at #68 and reportedly looking for help on the edge. But they opted for Jachai Polite from Florida and Winovich was there for the Patriots to take at #77.
Here is his phone call from Bill Belichick telling him he’s going to New England.
Colts Finding the Right Players with Ballard/Decker:
One other AFC team that has drafted much better recently is the Indianapolis Colts. While new GM Chris Ballard is the guy who will (and should) get most of the credit, one name that won’t get much airspace is Brian Decker. But Decker is the guy ensuring that the Colts not only draft good players but the right ones.
Decker was hired by Ballard right off and is the Colts Director of Player Development. If you’ve never heard of him, you should. Analytics are becoming more and more important across all of sports and Decker has a unique career path. While Ballard and the staff scout football players, Decker’s job is finding the right ones.
A few years ago Decker was a Green Beret major and was tasked to find out why there was a marked increase in the number of candidates that were washing out of Green Beret training.
He totally revamped the system on how the Army, identifies, assesses, and evaluates prospective Green Berets. He then took his system of evaluating the “right people” with the NFL. In speaking with the Colts.com, he said it simply about finding character among the successful Special Forces candidates and NFL people.
“When you take the sport away and you look at the mindset of the people we’re dealing with, they’re the same people.”
What the Colts are doing now is what the Patriots under Belichick have done for the past two decades. They’re building a team and no longer just trying to collect talent. And from the gist of things, it would seem like the Colts draft board is much smaller these days much like New England’s.
“We try to learn as much as we can about a player by answering five questions,” he said. And those questions are:
Does he have a favorable development profile
Does he have a favorable profile that will predict performance under pressure
Does he have an intellectual profile that will allow him to learn and make decisions on the field
Background data, does his background pose any risks to his development
Selecting people who are a good fit with what the team is trying to do. Character matters, players have to buy in.
Under Decker’s watch, his system identified potential Green Berets and now Colts players by learning that each successful candidate responded to stress in their lives with a heightened sense of motivation.
The biggest character trait he looks for is desire. “Desire is the one thing, you can’t coach and can’t teach,” he said. “It is the desire that ultimately fuels the motivation.” He pointed out that desire will make a prospect develop great work habits that lend itself to great performance on the field.
They are trying to implement a system where they identify smart players who thrive in a pressure-packed environment. The successful player won’t be looking for external solutions to problems but internally within the group. They’ll have excellent work habits, be mentally and physically tough, have confidence which comes from practice and preparation and the optimism and belief that they can achieve anything together.
Keep your eye on the Colts this season and moving forward. Right now, I’d put them as the #2 team in the AFC and they’re getting an identity.
Two years ago, I did a couple of interviews with Decker for SpecialOperations.com and spoke about the process of identifying, assessing and evaluating Green Berets, but the same process applies equally.
The NFL is revamping the overtime rule to allow each team a possession. It is expected to pass when the league brings it up for a vote. Of course, this is because the Patriots defeated the Chiefs in O.T. during the AFC Championship Game where the Chiefs never touched the ball.
Cowboys C.O.O. Stephen Jones was firmly behind the Chiefs’ proposal.
“I certainly tend to lean toward the new rule,” Jones said. “I certainly watched every play of that Kansas City-New England game, and you kind of would have liked to have seen what would have happened if Kansas City got another shot at it, and then how the thing would have ended up. It was football, in my mind, the game at its best. I certainly don’t have a problem with guaranteeing each team a shot at it. … It’s certainly something that had some traction there in the room, and certainly saw some people who were very interested in it. But we’ll get on a call there, take a long, hard look at it, and I’m sure membership’s gonna get to see it.”
One has to truly wonder if Jones would have wanted to see the rule changed if the opposite had happened or wanted to see Brady get a chance at the ball.
This just reeks of sour grapes. Kansas City had the Patriots at third and long three times in that overtime drive. They didn’t stop them, hold them to a FG or even bothered to use one of their timeouts when their atrocious defense was obviously gassed in OT.
Are you surprised? You should be. Let’s look at some of the other New England rules after playoffs and Super Bowl wins.
“Point of emphasis” on contact with WRs
No more leaping FG or extra point blocks
No more tricky formations with ineligible WRs
Medical Spotters added in case a player is concussed
PSI checks, that went the way of the dinosaur quickly
Catch rules (which happened to be changed in the SB LII
But what happens when the Patriots have one of these rules work in their favor? “Put an asterisk on that one!” Child please.
“Rob Gronkowski was a presenter at the Billboard Music Awards last week and confirmed he was retired…then left the door open for a return. Hmm. So, how was your week?”
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 04-28 and AFC East Notes.
“Havlicek Stole the Ball!” RIP to a Boston Celtics legend John Havlicek who passed away this week at age 79. Older Celtics fans will always remember that iconic call when he sealed a victory against the 76ers. An iconic member of the Celtics, he’ll be missed.
Draft Quick Hitters:
Patriots Draft Room has to be the sparsest populated room in the league this weekend. I kept seeing other teams’ inside of their “war room” and there were tons of people in each. The Patriots draft room looked like a pretty lonely place, with very select people inside.
Nashville did a tremendous job with the draft this year. People came out in droves and it was located right smack in the middle of everything. Setting the bar high
DJ Metcalf had the most emotional moment of being drafted, the clip of him weeping openly on the phone even got HC Pete Carroll misty
Pat McAfee’s spot during the draft was absolute gold….watch it again, you’ll be happy that you did.
Kyle Rudolph is reportedly on the trading block after the Vikings drafted Irv Smith Jr. from Alabama. Don’t know why, however, Rudolph, who turns 30 in late November had 64 catches a year ago….hmmm
Tyreek Hill was captured on audio tape by his fiance in a very disturbing turn of events in the case of Hill’s 3-year old son who allegedly had his arm broken by the Chiefs wide receiver. Initially, prosecutors declined to press charges even though they were convinced a crime had been committed. Now in light of the audio tape, they’re re-opening the investigation.
On the tape, Hill threatened his girlfriend Crystal Espinal Espinal told Hill their son is “terrified of you.”
Hill replied, “You need to be terrified of me, too, b***h”
Later, Espinal asks Hill, “What do you do when the child is bad? You make him open up his arms and you punch him in the chest.”
Because of this development, Hill has been barred from the Chiefs facility during their voluntary strength and conditioning workouts. He may have played his last game in a Chiefs uniform over this incident.
Dont’a Hightower and David Andrews made the Patriots first picks in the second round of the draft on Friday night. Hightower tweaked the crowd, who regardless of the venue likes to boo every Patriots mention, with the “THE CHAMPS select” …classic.
Apples and Oranges – When mentioning the Hill investigation, fans are jumping all over the NFL by stating that while Hill has still not been suspended, Josh Gordon remains indefinitely suspended. While the NFL’s discipline decisions are always skewed, comparing the two cases is not a good comparison. Whether we agree with the league’s choice of making marijuana suspendable, Gordon has violated the rule multiple times. Hill is going to be suspended, the league is still gathering the facts. His earlier transgression occurred before he was a member of the league. Now the only question will be, how soon another team rushes in to sign him once he’s released by KC. Which, while they’re “deeply disturbed”, they’ve yet to move on releasing him. Why is a good question at this point.
Meet the 2019 Patriots Draft Class:
The Patriots have made several key additions to the team thus far. Let’s take a quick look at each of the new members of the 2019 Draft Class.
N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona St. – The Patriots needed a big, physical wide receiver and they went out and got one of the best ones in the class. Harry was very productive (213 catches in 37 games) and he’ll make those contested catches as well as use his body to box out defenders.
JoeJuan Williams, CB, Vanderbilt – Williams played in the very competitive SEC and is a very big press corner who is physical and will make jarring tackles in run support and has the length to contest passes all over the field. While not a speed merchant, he moves well for a big corner and possesses good agility.
Chase Winovich, Edge, Michigan – Winovich is bound to be an early crowd favorite with his long flowing blonde locks, big personality, and non-stop motor. For a bigger man, he runs well, has good agility and is a disruptor behind the line of scrimmage.
Damien Harris, RB, Alabama – is a good, tough, run between the tackles kind of running back who keeps his pad level low and has the burst to get to the outside. He’s patient, and gets good yardage after contact. An excellent pass blocker and an underrated receiver with good hands.
Yodny Cajuste, T, West Virginia – Cajuste is a big left tackle that will probably move to the right side in the NFL. He has good balance, agility, and quickness for the position and will probably function as the team’s swing tackle in 2019.
Hjalte Froholdt, G, Arkansas – Froholdt is a 6’4, 306-pound guard/center who played under Pats coach Bret Bielema. He was one of the most highly graded interior offensive linemen in pass protection in 2018. Team captain.
Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn – Stidham has a strong arm and mechanics and can make all of the NFL throws. NFL analyst Daniel Jerimiah said he throws the best ball in the draft. But his footwork is sloppy and he can often wait too long to pull the trigger. Struggled under pressure. Very much a developmental prospect. However, Danny Etling will have camp competition.
Byron Cowart, DE, Maryland – Cowart is 6’3, 298 interior defensive lineman who went to Auburn and then transferred to junior college before landing in Maryland. Played as a five-technique or can move to a three-technique. Has the potential to be an interior pocket pusher.
Jake Bailey, P, Stanford – The Patriots moved up in the draft to select a punter. Yes, we really said that. However, he had the best hang time in the country in 2018 and can also kickoff with about 60 percent touchback rate. And he is a right-footed punter, unlike the past few Pats punters who were lefties.
Ken Webster, CB, Ole Miss – The Patriots final draft pick is another corner from Ole Miss. Webster is athletic (4.43 in the 40, 43.0 vertical, 6.85 Three Cone). He’s aggressive and a good tackler, but after a good start at Ole Miss, he never made the leap. It’s going to be tough for him with seven other viable corners on the roster to make this team.
Now come the first of the undrafted free agents, look for about a dozen or more to make their way to Foxboro in the coming days.
Brady “Must” Be At OTAs Now? Child Please
Talk about your classic case of overreaction, no sooner than the Patriots had drafted one of the best wide receivers in the class, then the hot take artists immediately descended on the team to rain on the parade. In the latest example of “It’s never sunny in Foxboro”, the chatter is already starting on how N’Keal Harry’s development is going to “be stunted” if Tom Brady decides to skip OTAs again this spring.
“We don’t want you on that wall Tom, we NEED YOU on that wall.” Really?
Harry is coming in with a clean slate, he is a rookie and because of his draft standing here, there is going to be an insane amount expectations and production that fans and media will envision. Right now, he needs to learn the playbook and the route tree for the wide receivers. That is plenty of work right there in itself.
Thrusting him into the mix and then putting the onus on he and Brady getting chemistry on Day 1 will not be beneficial to either. He’ll have enough on his plate and by working with Josh McDaniels and backups Brian Hoyer and Danny Etling he can ease into the playbook and learn his responsibilities…first.
Brady skipped OTAs for a reason a year ago, and it had nothing to do with him feuding with Bill Belichick. As he’s aging, he needs to keep fresher for the season. Having him in good form in December and January is more important than him being here in April.
Brady will no doubt work very closely with Harry in the upcoming weeks and months. Would having him prove beneficial to both? Of course, but not at the expense of him losing his sharpness down the stretch or in the playoffs.
Early on Friday morning, I had this exact conversation with someone and they said, Brady and Josh Gordon struggled with their chemistry early in the process. And while true, my answer to that is Gordon entered in mid-season and first played in Week 4 against the Dolphins. That’s quite different with the team trying to prepare for a regular season opponent than it is working out in the spring.
There will be plenty of time for those two to work out and build their chemistry together. But this talk about Brady stunting Harry’s development is nothing more than to give the hot-take artists fodder for weeks.
Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:
Bills Offensive Line Leads the Way for a Revamped Roster:
The Buffalo Bills have really done a roster do-over, where half of the team in 2019 may be actually new players. But nowhere will the roster appear different in 2019 than the offensive line. Buffalo identified a weakness a year ago in the poor play of the offensive line and they have aggressively set out to rectify it.
Buffalo signed six free agent offensive linemen including former Patriot LaAdrian Waddle and then drafted Cody Ford from Oklahoma. Ford will obviously get one of the tackle spots. At guard, they signed free agents Quinton Spain, Spencer Long, and Jon Feliciano. They moved up in the draft to get Dawson Knox from Ole Miss at TE and took Devin Singletary at running back.
They got Ed Oliver to anchor the heart of the defense, although I wasn’t a fan of the Vosean Joseph pick at linebacker. But the Bills had a very successful spring.
Dolphins Get the Steal of the Draft, Nab Rosen for Two Picks:
The Miami Dolphins now have their quarterback. Miami packaged a 2nd round draft pick, #62 overall and a 5th rounder in 2020 to get Josh Rosen from the Arizona Cardinals. Rosen was in an uncomfortable situation as he was drafted with the #10 pick just a year ago.
But the Cardinals were enamored with Kyler Murray and jettisoned Rosen after just one year. Their loss is Miami’s gain. Miami got a steal and for a late 2nd rounder got a QB who a top ten pick and then saddled with a terrible team a year ago.
With Ryan Fitzpatrick onboard, the onus on Rosen right now will be to learn the playbook and find a comfort level in the offense. But rest assured, as soon as Fitzpatrick struggles…and he will, the calls will come for the Dolphins to put him in. This is a very low risk, high reward for the Dolphins. The AFC East now has Brady and three young players selected in the 1st round just a year ago.
Jets Add Quinnen Williams in the Draft:
The New York Jets added one of the best players (arguably the best IMHO) in the draft in Quinnen Williams. The Alabama star should be a fixture of the defensive line for many years to come. He is a dominant player and will immediately become a guy opposing teams will have to account for on every down.
I wasn’t a fan of Jachai Polite and was surprised the Jets took him over Chase Winovich, who the Patriots scooped up after the fact. But my favorite pick for the Jets after Williams is their 4th round TE Trevon Wesco. We raved about his blocking ability and versatility during the pre-draft process. He could become an emerging pass catcher as well.
“What was your impression of the draft in Nashville? So, how was your week?”
The Patriots attempt to virtually sign every free agent wide receiver on the market this spring has finally borne fruit. The team has signed free agent Demaryius Thomas to a one-year deal worth up to $6 million dollars according to ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates.
The Patriots tried to bring Thomas in at the trade deadline last season but he was traded to the Houston Texans instead. It certainly appeared last season that Thomas, who has averaged about 15 yards per reception had lost a step. Of course, the subpar play of the Denver QBs may have played into that.
He played in seven games with the Texans before tearing an Achilles tendon ending his season. Therein lies the risk. Thomas will turn 32 late in the 2019 season and is coming off of a serious injury. His game is built on being able to gain separation and is not a physical receiver, despite his excellent size at 6’3, 229.
Back in 2010, Josh McDaniels, then-head coach of the Broncos had a lot to do with Denver taking him in the first round of the draft. So, he has had at least some experience with Thomas, albeit nearly a decade ago.
So what are the Patriots getting with this signing?
With any wide receiver signing, the first thing we always wonder is “will he be able to learn the Patriots playbook?” That is a legitimate question as we’ve seen several established wide receivers flame out here in New England as they had issues learning the route tree of the Patriots offense.
That shouldn’t be a big issue with Thomas. He played in the Houston Texans system, which was put in place by Bill O’Brien after he spent several years here in New England and is considered very similar. So, in that aspect, he should already be ahead of the game with his couple of months with Houston.
Is he going to be ready to go in training camp? Achilles injuries aren’t the easiest to recover from and at 31, it is not going to be a given that he’s going to be ready. However, the Patriots had him in for a visit last week and had to be encouraged enough to offer him a deal.
Thomas suffered an Achilles injury earlier in his career and was able to recover from that one in just six months, so that is in his favor.
Thomas’ game was always built around the elite athleticism that allowed him to gain tremendous yards after the catch. With an aging athlete, an Achilles injury could seriously impact that.
The Patriots are very thin at wide receiver with Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Bruce Ellington, Maurice Harris, Braxton Berrios, Damoun Patterson, and STs ace Matthew Slater to round out the depth chart. Josh Gordon is suspended indefinitely and shouldn’t be counted upon for any production this season.
To say that there will be plenty of opportunities for a WR to carve out a role opposite Edelman is a more than just a bit of understating things. Thomas, if he’s healthy could certainly be a key player in the offense in 2019. The wide receivers, however, will find the going much tougher this year with no Rob Gronkowski drawing so much attention from opposing defenses as he’s had in the past.
Thomas had five straight 1000 yard seasons between 2012-2016 but has had his numbers dropping off for the past several years. While some of that can definitely be attributed to QB play, (Brock Osweiler, Paxton Lynch, Trevor Siemian) he definitely appeared to be losing a step on tape and that YAC wasn’t as big as before.
Coming off of a serious injury, that athleticism could be even more affected. As to his contract, the devil will lie in the details. Much of that cash may be tied up in performance-related bonuses. So, we will have to wait and see how that looks once the contract details are posted. As for on-field expectations, if fans are expecting the monster years of 2012-2014, they are going to be very disappointed. His career numbers have steadily dropped in the last 5 years, as has his yards after the catch.
Put expectations with Thomas as minimal and hope that he can provide a solid role player’s production at this point of his career. This signing shouldn’t impact at all the need for the team to select one of the better wide receivers in the upcoming draft.
The Patriots have been linked to several WRs including A.J. Brown(Ole Miss), Deebo Samuel (South Carolina) who said in an interview “C-ya next month Bill”, Hakeem Butler (Iowa State), and others, including UMass’ Andy Isabella.
In other news, the Patriots announced the re-signing of CB Jonathan Jones who signed his one-year tender.
ICYMI: Our second Mock Draft 2.0 attempt at building the 2019 Patriots roster is in the books. You can recap it here: I believe we all expect the Patriots to be very active in this one, possibly packing some picks for a trade or perhaps moving around the board as they are very used to doing.
Michael Bennett had the felony charges against him dropped in Texas. After the Super Bowl in Houston, he was trying to get on the field to congratulate his brother Martellus when he supposedly shoved a 66-year-old paraplegic security staffer, who suffered a sprained arm. The DA dropped the charges “in the interest of justice” as they didn’t feel there was sufficient evidence to earn a conviction.
Tom Brady was in People Magazine after he signed what he dubbed, “the coolest helmet I’ve ever signed.” The helmet with many Patriots-themed illustrations didn’t appear to have a clear area for #12 to sign. We’ll leave the picture here for fans to decide on the coolness of it.
Patriots Huge in China: The Chinese have definitely taken a shine to the Patriots. According to CNN, the Patriots have enjoyed a “monumental” year in the world’s most populous nation, becoming the first NFL team to hit 500,000 followers on Weibo, which is the Chinese version of Twitter. Weibo has around 300 million monthly active users.
The Patriots were the team that put the biggest onus on creating daily content that would specifically be attractive to Chinese fans. Which included graphics in Mandarin,, and short video explainers on American Football.
“The Patriots this past season have set themselves apart from the rest of the league in terms of creating original Chinese content,” Gideon Clark, client director at Mailman, said to CNN.
Red Sox/Patriots championships for the 2018 season will both be honored at the Red Sox home opener on Tuesday. RS President Sam Kennedy told media members that the Patriots have accepted their invitation to attend and conduct a joint celebration.
The Patriots are celebrating their sixth title since 2001 while the Red Sox are recognizing their fourth since 2004.
Patriots Draft Caps were released by New Era caps that the players who are drafted by the team will wear on stage when they are selected. In a word…bland.
Rodgers and McCarthy Excoriated in B/R Piece:
Aaron Rodgerswas raked over the coals in the recent piece by Bleacher Report’s Tyler Dunne. And former head coach Mike McCarthy wasn’t spared the rod either in this compelling yet disturbing story. Calling this an unflattering look at Rodgers is like saying the Titanic encountered ice problems on her maiden voyage.
This was a truly toxic relationship and Dunne says it was over before it began. Rodgers, it was said, never forgave McCarthy for drafting Alex Smith before him in the NFL Draft and it poisoned their relationship before it even began. This story, unlike the one that pictured Brady and Belichick at odds, named names and had quotes from many former Packers players.
Rodgers changed about a third of the plays McCarthy called and frequently told receivers to run different routes than what was called. After McCarthy was fired, Packers President Mark Murphy called Rodgers to tell him the team was hiring new coach Matt LaFleur speaks a lot of how bad things have gotten in GB.
Murphy called Rodgers to tell him who they were going with. He didn’t ask for permission—he told him who the choice was. There was a brief pause on the other end of the phone before Rodgers eventually spoke. Murphy made it clear that Rodgers would need to accept coaching. “Don’t be the problem,” he told him. “Don’t be the problem.”
Leon Gray Elected to the Patriots HOF:
With the meeting of the Patriots Hall of Fame Committee this week to select the three finalists for this season’s fan induction, the 10-member Senior Selection Committee met to elect a player who has been retired for 25 years or longer. This year’s selection was former Patriots offensive tackle, Leon Gray.
Gray was drafted by Miami but cut at the end of training camp. He was quickly scooped up by Chuck Fairbanks of the Pats and quickly became one of the best tackles in the NFL. He and John Hannah comprised an outstanding combination at guard and tackle and were instrumental in setting the NFL record for team rushing yards in 1978, a record that still stands today.
Gray was underpaid in relation to tackles around the league and would be gone by 1979 to Houston. He later played for New Orleans. He was a four-time Pro Bowler with two All-Pro seasons. He died in 2001. The selections for the team HOF will be announced later this week.
Why A 1st Round WR? He’s a Perfect Fit:
“The Patriots have NEVER selected a WR in the first round of the Bill Belichick era.” Yes I know, and judging from the emails I received after Mock Draft 2.0, a lot of Patriots fans know that too. But if there is one thing about this team, we’ve learned is to never say never.
So, with that being said, we opted for a wide receiver from Ole Miss at the end of the first round who was still there, during a draft simulation.No, it wasn’t D.K. Metcalf, the physical freak who has everyone drooling in fantasy football dream scenarios. It was his teammate A.J. Brown who was actually a ton more productive.
Metcalf caught 67 passes for Ole Miss during parts of three college seasons. Brown caught 189 for 2984 yards (15.5-yard average) with 19 touchdowns. He’s been compared to JuJu Smith-Schuster by several draft writers.
He’s got very good size at 6’0, 226, and has good but not great long speed. But before everyone begins to say a “deep threat receiver” keep in mind that Brown can do a lot more than that. He can work as a traditional “X” wide receiver, the “Z” or out of the slot. His route running and route tree is much better than his ex-teammate.
He can be a chain mover and stretch the field horizontally as well as vertically, something the Patriots offense is more aligned with. He’s versatile and can play multiple positions. He can be a very productive receiver in this offense. Now the only question that remains is, would he fall as far as #32 and if he did… would the Patriots, who already had a visit with him, select him in the 1st round?
Saban on Advice from Belichick – “Let the Players Play”:
There are times when you see obscure tweets and you at times just skip over them. There’s no way you can read everything that zips past your timeline. But when a good friend (@PatriotsSBLIII) tweets something, I usually stand up and pay attention. And when I miss something and frequently do, he’s always sharing stuff with me.
Nick Saban, head coach at Alabama was on the podium and talking not about coaching but “over-coaching” which can sometimes happen to coaches who try to hammer home every detail into players’ heads.
“Sometimes players are kind of depending on that reinforcement all the time in practice,” Saban said. “In a game, there’s no coach out there. I coached like that when I was an assistant — we’d have a scrimmage at the Cleveland Browns, and Belichick would chew my butt out, man. He’d say, ‘Let the players play.’
“And I was like, ‘Wow. I’ve never had my butt chewed out before for coaching and teaching.’ “
But as Saban continued, he said that learned that Belichick was right and adopted the same style of coaching.
“I say the same things to our coaches now, because there’s a time when you’ve just got to let the players play. Because in the game, they’ve got to know what to do, they’ve got to know how to do it, they can’t depend on somebody else to make a call for them. They can’t depend on somebody else to recognize things for them.”
“So, we actually do stuff in practice now, when we do team I make the coaches get off the field, make the calls, let the players play,” he added.
One of the hallmarks of Belichick coached teams and a trait that they value is having smart football players. Guys who will take the coaching, do the preparation needed and be able to recognize what they see in front of them in a game and know what they’re supposed to do. This is just a small example of how blessed the Patriots fans are in New England.
Nick Saban with a quick story about getting chewed out by Bill Belichick for coaching too much.
Sports radio host and NFL analyst Adam Schein is really high on both the Buffalo Bills and their second-year QB Josh Allen and predicts great not good things for the duo in 2019. He appeared on the One Bills Live radio show and echoed those thoughts.
“I’m obsessed with the Bills. I love the coach; I love the GM; I love the potential of the young quarterback. I think he’s going to be great and I’m not just throwing that word around. I think Josh Allen’s gonna be an absolute star,” Schein said.
“Here’s a stat: 5-6. That was Allen’s record as a rookie starter. And given what people initially expected of the 2018 Bills, as well as the underwhelming offensive talent that surrounded Allen, that 5-6 mark speaks volumes,” Schein penned in an NFL.com article.
“A couple more stats that sing: 631 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. Allen’s rushing ability was a revelation. Remember the hurdle of Anthony Barr? That’s not normal for a quarterback. Special stuff.”
He added, “Long story short: Allen enjoyed an encouraging rookie season. He silenced many naysayers. And that was just the beginning. Josh Allen is going to be great.”
That particular radio show had to be music to the ears of the fan base hungry for a contender. While many writers don’t share Schein’s optimism regarding Allen, he’ll have the chance to prove them all wrong in September.
Dolphins Meet With Duke QB Daniel Jones:
The Miami Dolphins search for a franchise QB, something they’ve struggled to find since Dan Marino retired continues. With their trade of Ryan Tannehill, they signed journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick as a bridge QB, but that signing is strictly a band-aid fix.
Jones played in a pro-style offense and has the arm strength, size, and patience in the pocket. He has a quick delivery and processes things quickly and accurately. It will be interesting to see if Miami pulls the trigger on Jones in the draft. The Duke signal caller has also drawn interest from the Broncos, Giants, and Chargers.
Miami also announced that Richmond Webb and Kenyan Drake will announce some of their 2019 NFL Draft picks in keeping with the recent tradition of having former and current players announcing selections for the team.
All Quiet on the Jets Front:
The New York Jets are keeping a very low profile heading into the draft. And there hasn’t been much of them in the news. While they prepare for the #3 pick in the draft, how the first two selections go will have a big influence on their decision.
Most of the talk this week was on the Jets new uniforms which are IOHO very boring, with the black third jersey looking far too much like the Philadelphia Eagles uniform. Sometimes new isn’t better, the Jets 1980s look to me was their best, just like the Patriots red uniforms, especially the away unis with red pants and white jerseys.
But in other “news” Robby Anderson is excited to be in Adam Gase’s offense, although he hasn’t officially seen it yet. And Jamal Adams doesn’t believe Gronk stays retired…Yawn.
Patriots-Bills Week 16, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?
The New England Patriots are sailing in some uncharted waters this week. When we looked at this game on the schedule back in the spring, we expected that the division would be wrapped up and this game would only figure in whether New England was still playing for the top seed. And….we were wrong.
This game is extremely important to the Patriots this week because the division isn’t wrapped up and they need a win to do just that. The team can still get the #2 seed and a bye but now they no longer control their own destiny. They need to win their final two games at home this week against Buffalo and the Jets next week and hope that the Texans lose to either the Eagles or the Jaguars. Uncharted waters indeed.
The Patriots (9-5) lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-10 last week as the offense only scored 10 points and made a ton of mistakes. Dropped passes on third down, penalties (14) and breakdowns at key times was the story as they dropped their second in a row.
The Bills (5-9) beat the Detroit Lions 14-13 as Josh Allen hit Robert Foster with a 42-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter to come from behind.
We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2018 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game.
The Patriots and the Bills are meeting for the 118th time and the Patriots have dominated overall 73-43-1. And since Bill Belichick took over in 2000, the Patriots have won 32 of 37 games between the two teams.
Tom Brady’s record against the Bills in games where he’s started and finished the game is 29-3. The Patriots won the last meeting between the two teams 25-6 on October 29 as the teams met on Monday Night Football.
This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, December 23 at 1:00 p.m.and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Greg Gumbel will handle play-by-play duties with Trent Green and Bruce Arians as the color analysts. Melanie Collins will work from the sidelines.
The game will also be broadcast on the Patriots flagship station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci doing the play-by-play, with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who will provide color analysis. The games are produced by Marc Cappello.
Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge. First up is the Patriots offense:
Patriots RBs vs Bills Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Buffalo
The Patriots running game has sputtered the past two weeks on the road as the play of the offensive line has been consistently, inconsistent. Sony Michel is leading the way for the Patriots along with Rex Burkhead and James White. Fullback James Develin has been getting the ball more in short yardage and goal line.
Buffalo is 10th in the league allowing just 104.8 yards per game on the ground and just 4.0 yards per rush. It starts up front with the big men, Kyle Williams, and Adolphus Washington with the linebackers, Matt Milano and Preston Brown being very active. However, with Milano suffering a broken fibula against the Jets, it is a blow to the defense.
In the first meeting, the Patriots didn’t have either Sony Michel or Rex Burkhead who were both out with an injury. However, look for the Bills to put pressure on the Patriots on early downs to try to force them into third and long situations.
Patriots WRs vs Bills Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots passing game just lost a huge piece as Josh Gordon’s mental health issues are forcing him away for the game, possibly for good this time. He averaged 65 yards per game receiving in his 11 games with the Patriots and it won’t be easy to just say, “next man up” as they have around here in the past.
In the first meeting, Tom Brady threw for 324 yards in Buffalo. It will be difficult to throw for that much this time around despite still having Julian Edelman, James White, Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan, and Phillip Dorsett.
The Bills defense is #1 against the pass allowing just 187.4 yards per pass play. They’re getting very good play from their corners and linebackers and safeties in coverage. The Bills have 31 sacks on the season.
With Gordon gone Brady will have to lean on everybody else now to pick up the slack. I would expect him to go both Julian Edelman (9-104) and James White (10-79) as he did in the first meeting to keep the chains moving. The Bills did a good with their safeties on Rob Gronkowski in the first meeting and I’d expect more of the same. Buffalo is outstanding at not allowing big pass plays and I’d expect Brady to keep the ball in the short passing game.
Next up the Buffalo offense:
Bills RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England
As yes as strange as this sounds I expect the Patriots run defense which has been awful for the past few weeks to be better this week. The Bills running game has been struggling with their backs running the ball. LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory have averaged just 3.3 and 3.4 yards per rush respectively in 2018. Part of the reason is the offensive line was bad earlier in the season but has been playing better of late.
However, Josh Allen has transformed the running game. He’s rushed for 506 yards on the season and without him, the Bills rushing average of 124.7 would transform to just 90.9 yards per game.
With the issues the Patriots have had stopping the run, I’d look for Danny Shelton to make a return this week. Buffalo has the 31st rated pass offense and they want to run the football. The Patriots need a player over the nose that can two-gap. He’s been a healthy scratch the past few weeks but this week, I’d expect him back.
Bills WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England
The Bills passing game has been really struggling as Josh Allen has struggled in his rookie season. But he’s gradually learning his craft and he’s cutting down his mistakes. But overall, they average just 168.7 yards per game, 31st in the NFL. He has Robert Foster who is becoming the Bills big play WR, he’s averaged 25-yards per reception this year. Zay Jones is their leading receiver with 49 catches.
The Patriots pass defense is currently 23rd allowing 256 yards per game, however, the secondary has been playing quite well and it seems that they’ve found another quality UDFA in corner J.C. Jackson. The Patriots don’t generate a ton of sacks but are tied in the league at pressuring the QB without blitzing.
The Bills like to run deep crosses using a rub route to get Foster open deep across the middle of the field. For the Patriots, they’ll look to bring pressure and force Allen to throw from outside the pocket without allowing him to run…More of this below.
Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots tandem of Stephen Gostkowski and Ryan Allen have a slight edge over Stephen Hauschka and Corey Bojorquez in the kicking game, especially being at home. But their numbers are pretty similar. But with Cordarrelle Patterson in the kick return game, the Patriots get the edge in there, although in the first meeting Micah Hyde had a 31-yard punt return.
Next up, who wins and why…
This one will be closer than people are predicting. The Bills defense is tough and knows the Patriots well. They played them very tough in the first meeting back in October. I would expect this game to be much of the same.
Three keys to the game from a Patriots perspective include:
Win the Turnover Battle:
The Bills are -8 in the turnover department. Buffalo QBs have thrown 20 interceptions this season, with Allen tossing nine of them. They are the 31st team in the league in scoring averaging just 15.4 points per game. They don’t have the kind of offense that can afford to give away points. If the Patriots can play a clean game, they will put pressure on the Bills offense to take some chances.
Force Allen to Throw From Outside the Pocket:
Allen has played better of late as his pass protection has improved. But if the Patriots can generate pressure while keeping a spy on Allen and not allowing him to run, his numbers throwing outside the pocket are not good. ESPN’s Mike Rodak just posted some stats when Allen is forced to throw outside the pocket. Completion percentage- 20 (33rd in the league) Passing Yards per Attempt- 3.1 (30th in the league) Off Target Throws- 40 % (most in the NFL) Interception Percentage – 6.9 % (4th most in the NFL)
If the Patriots are successful in getting some pressure on Allen, they’d need to put a spy on him. I really don’t believe that their linebackers are fast enough to do the job…possibly Kyle Van Noy. But one possible piece would be to go to their “Big Nickel” with Obi Melifonwu substituting on obvious passing downs. He’d have the speed to keep up with Allen.
Spread the Ball Around:
The Patriots are at their best when Tom Brady spreads the wealth equally among the players. They need to run the ball better and will need a lot better effort from the offensive line. I’d expect to see the uptempo offense with the Pony formation with Burkhead and White a bit on passing downs.
This one will be close but eventually, the Pats will pull away and they’ll finally be able to break out the Hats and T-Shirts. Patriots 27-17
Steelers Down Patriots 17-10, Knock Them Out of a Bye
Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes. They keep piling up on the 2018 Patriots on the road and it cost them dearly again on Sunday down in Pittsburgh.
Dropped passes, missed opportunities and generally, poor play has the team now on the outside looking in for one of the two teams earning a bye in the AFC. The Patriots, like a week ago in Miami, earned that loss this afternoon in Pittsburgh. They were outplayed, and once again were owned at the line of scrimmage in the Steelers 17-10 win.
Their second loss in a row drops the team to 9-5 and the #3 seed, forcing them to now have to beat the Bills next week at home to win the division. After that, they close out against the Jets and they have to hope that they win out at home while hoping for the Texans to stumble against either the Eagles or the Jaguars in the final two weeks. Other than that, they will be playing on Wild Card Weekend.
The Steelers went to an empty formation early in the game so that the Patriots couldn’t effectively double their wide receivers. It was a great tactic and they easily sliced and diced the defense by mixing in well-designed runs and scored easily on the opening possession.
The Patriots answered when the Steelers totally blew a coverage and left Chris Hogan all alone on a cross from left to right. Brady hit Hogan in stride and he cruised 63-yards without a Steeler in sight. It looked like it was going to be another shootout.
But only one more touchdown would be scored, a Roethlisberger 17-yard pass to Antonio Brown one play after a horrible pass interference penalty on the Patriots for 26 yards set the Steelers up inside the red zone. Pittsburgh went 92 yards in eight plays to take a 14-7 lead. The teams would just trade field goals for the rest of the game.
The game against the Steelers can be summed by the A. Penalties, B. Red Zone and C. Run Defense. And all three of those areas, the Patriots rate A’s this week. Eh…you say. Yes, A’s as in Appalling, Awful and Atrocious.
Penalties: A as in Appalling
The Patriots had 14 penalties on Sunday….That is totally unacceptable on any level. Sony Michel had a 25-yard run wiped out by a holding call at the line of scrimmage after he was clearly past the line and into the second level. That just isn’t smart football.
Another holding call pushed them from the 2-yard line on a Michel run on first and goal at the 5-yard line to the 15. Two plays later Brady was picked off by Joe Haden when trying to throw the ball out of bounds.
On the final drive, facing a 2nd and 5 at the Pittsburgh 11-yard line, yet another holding call pushes them back to the 21. On third down, Brady throws it out the back of the end zone and misses James White standing all alone in the flat. He had an easy 8-10 and would have made the 4th down pass much more manageable.
Red Zone: A as in Awful
When you go 0-3 in the red zone and a combined 3-11 on third and fourth down attempts, you’re not going to win many football games. The Steelers were getting good pressure on Brady and were intent on taking away the middle of the field….which they did. Which begs to the question, why didn’t Josh McDaniels adjust?
Josh Gordon was MIA in this one, he wasn’t even on the field for the final series inside the Pittsburgh red zone. After his big TD catch, Chris Hogan was rendered invisible as well. Very curious play calling in this one.
Run Defense: A as in Atrocious
Jaylen Samuels sliced and diced the front seven to the tune of 142 yards and a 7.2-yard average. Pittsburgh has been awful at running the football, just like Miami was before last week. And once again the offensive line of the Steelers totally dominated the point of attack all game.
The Patriots front seven doesn’t travel well because in every loss this season, they’ve been blown off the ball. This doesn’t bode well for a team on the outside looking in for a bye in the playoffs.
The Patriots limp home after an abbreviated by disastrous 0-2 road trip. Instead of fighting for the #1 seed and locking up the division, now they are no closer to the division and any chance of the #1 seed are gone.
The run defense is scary to watch…and not in a good way. And the offense is still searching for an identity after 14 games.