A short but intense rainstorm slowed the festivities of the day as the Patriots always hold their in-stadium practice for season ticket holders and Foxboro residents after their annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Rodney Harrison and Leon Gray were enshrined in the Patriots Hall of Fame in the late afternoon but the sun returned and added a steamy aspect to things. But fans didn’t care and they flocked into Gillette Stadium after the ceremonies were over.
Not Practicing – Julian Edelman and Yodny Cajuste remain on NFI, Edelman, however, was in attendance and later signed autographs after practice was over. Those on PUP remain Demaryius Thomas, Nate Ebner, Cole Croston, and Ken Webster. Croston was seen on the sidelines which may be a good sign for him returning soon. Byron Cowart and Dontrelle Inman were also not in attendance again.
Pat Chung is no longer wearing the red non-contact jersey and now seems a full participant. David Andrews and Isaiah Wynn are still limited.
And recently acquired offensive lineman JJ Dielman has retired, the third OL to do so this spring after Jared Veldheer, and Brian Schwenke.
The practice was conducted in helmets, shorts, and shirts, with no pads and no contact. In reality, it was more of a walkthru than a spirited practice session after the past two days in full pads. Our observations included:
Danny Etling was acting as the QB for the scout team while Chung was taking snaps as the scout team running back. In his stead, Obi Melifonwu saw many of Chung’s normal reps, lining up as a deep safety.
Perhaps Chung’s lining up was in homage to Rodney Harrison, who Bill Belichick earlier had said that Harrison would line up anywhere in practice. Belichick then compared Harrison and Chung and spoke about how both broke arms in the Super Bowl but wouldn’t leave the field and remained with air casts on to support their teammates.
Conducting practice in a half-speed, walkthru pace can mess with a QB’s timing, Jarrett Stidham badly overthrew James White who was all alone in one rep.
N’Keal Harry had a concentration drop on a deep ball from Tom Brady which drew groans from the crowd.
Brady targeted Braxton Berrios frequently while James White joined Brandon Bolden and Damien Harris in getting a lot of reps from the backfield.
Dan Skipper is getting a lot of reps at left tackle as Joe Thuney returns to his normal left guard position.
Bill Belichick said before practice that the team would work on Situational football as their focus Monday night and they did, conducting several down and distance scenarios during the session.
Among the players speaking with the media after practice were Maurice Harris, Mike Pennel, and Lawrence Guy.
After the session, players signed autographs for the fans and then everyone was treated to a fireworks display inside Gillette Stadium.
Good morning, Here is your Sunday’s Patriots news 8-05, & AFC East Notes. The Patriots are getting the day off today from training camp, but we hope to see many of you down there in the coming days as the team gears up for their first preseason game.
Sony Michel who left practice early on Wednesday with an injury to his already damaged knee, had a procedure done to drain the knee. He’s expected to be sidelined for at least 10 days but it could be that we won’t see Michel until the first game of the regular season. It is a waiting game at this point. But that was the drawback of drafting Michel, he’s had knee woes before. Hopefully this won’t be a long-term issue but regardless, it definitely sets back his progression in a big way
With the birthday of Tom Brady on Friday, the Patriots made enough birthday cake for Brady and 5000 of his fans. Shaped in a big #12, the cake consisted of 2000 eggs, 250 pounds of sugar, etc … all of which are usually strictly off-limits for Brady’s diet. He was surprised after practice by his wife and kids on the field. And was serenaded by both fans and teammates as he got a rare off-day in training camp.
Julian Edelman told the media on Friday that recovering from last year’s ACL tear has been a “grind” on the field. Edelman said that “I feel like I got to get my legs under me a lot more. I don’t have my camp legs, I don’t have football legs, and it’s evident out there.”
Training camp he added has been difficult, “You get tired, you create bad habits, you don’t run your routes right and you get yelled at in meetings for it. I’m expecting to do that because I got to pick it up,” he said. “I wasn’t as good as I want to be today and feeling that’s because I’m not in the best shape right now.”
Riley McCarron is having a pretty good training camp thus far, the 2nd year practice squad player is vying for one of the Patriots WR spots on the roster. McCarron and Braxton Berrios are almost mirror images competing against one another for the slot/PR duties. Both are similarly built can return punts and good in the middle of the field. While there is a long way to go, McCarron may be slightly ahead of the rookie at this point, but this will bear very close watching once the preseason games begin.
Riley McCarron has had a good start to training camp. (SBalestrieri photo)
J.C. Jackson has been having a strong offseason, dating back to OTAs. The UDFA from Maryland has been getting some reps opposite Stephon Gilmore and has competed hard and showed nice flashes of potential. He shook off a rookie mistake against Chris Hogan, not locating the ball in time on a 50+-yard completion by breaking up a pass in the end zone and intercepting a two-point conversion try.
Kenny Britt, Matthew Slater, and Mike Gillislee returned to practice after missing time due to injuries. That is a good sign as injuries, most of the non-serious nature begin to pile up.
Hollister Seems Primed for a Big Year 2 Jump:
The Patriots signed UDFA TE Jacob Hollister a year ago and he flashed enough athleticism, good hands and toughness to make the team. After playing sparingly in 2017, he set about to improve his all-around game starting with becoming a better blocker in the running game. He looks a tad more chiseled this season after a year in the strength and conditioning program but his pass catching looks right on schedule.
Hollister has made several standout plays during the first week of training camp. Showing good hands and the ability to find the open areas of coverage and attack the seams of the defense, Hollister is a much more fluid receiver than the current #2 Dwayne Allen, but Allen’s blocking skills remain his strong suit.
Bill Belichick was asked about Hollister this week and gave (for him) an almost glowing recommendation. “He’s still got a long way to go. He has a lot of football in front of him. He didn’t have a lot of experience–had some–but has gained a lot and will gain a lot more. I think he’s got a greatfuture, Belichick said. “He works hard, he’s a tough kid, he plays hard, practices hard and has become much better at his fundamentals and techniques at his position.”
While the highlighted text was my doing, this kind of praise is rare from Belichick. And he’s right, although he says this about everyone, Hollister still has a long way to go. But he’s definitely arcing in the right direction. With the uncertainty at the WR position as it sorts itself out, the Patriots offense could easily lean more on the running game and two tight end sets (12 personnel) in the first month of the season until Edelman returns.
Watching practice at training camp this week, Tom Brady usually throws a side session during Special Teams drills with his “Circle of Trust” receivers, normally Gronkowski, Hogan, and Edelman. Hollister was included in there this week a few times. That in itself is a very encouraging sign, we’ll see how the preseason plays out.
Jacob Hollister is looking much more comfortable in the passing offense in Year 2. (SBalestrieri photo)
Belichick Inserts Fun? Into Patriots Training Camp:
With the abundance of stories from players, some of whom have never stepped foot in the Patriots locker room that the team doesn’t have any fun, this week’s events should effectively put those to rest…well not really but you know what I mean.
On Monday Night, the in-stadium practice for the season ticket holders, Bill Belichick ended practice on an interesting note. He had rookie OL Isaiah Wynn back fielding a Ryan Allen punt. If Wynn catches the ball cleanly, the team was didn’t have night meetings on Monday night and could get a little extra rest.
With the team cheering him on, Wynn dropped the first attempt but caught the second, amid wild cheers from the players and fans and big smiles all around, even from Belichick.
Then on Thursday, Day 7 of camp, Belichick ended the practice by switching roles. The defense went on offense and vice versa. Watching Duron Harmon play QB and Tom Brady safety was, as Monty Python once said, “something completely different.”
The defense, especially QBs Harmon and Pat Chung struggled but the players loved it. Devin McCourty broke it down for the media as follows:
“We need a lot of practice,” McCourty said. “We need a little bit more rules. There was no running game. (The offense) dropped like nine into coverage and rushed two. They had a little bit of an advantage because they rushed (380-pound offensive tackle Trent Brown), so that’s like rushing three. It’s tough for us on offense, but hopefully, we do it again and we get another shot at those guys.” It should be noted here that these are things that Belichick has done frequently in the past and it was not him reacting to the crap that is posted in social media, not that he would anyway. But for the team known as the buttoned-down all business Patriots, it is always good to see them lower the guard a bit.
Young Edge Rushers Look to Improve Pass Rush in 2018: The front seven of the Patriots defense was beset by injuries in 2017 and that was the cause of many of their struggles. As much as people want to point at the lack of Malcolm Butler as the cause of Super Bowl failures, the absence of Dont’a Hightower was an even bigger factor in their struggles.
But initially, on paper, for now, things are changing for the better. The team added run stuffing DL Danny Shelton and he and returning from IR Vincent Valentine should really help the rotation inside. Hightower and Harvey Langi return from IR which should help the LB core play much better. But at the edge is where the team is looking to play much better in 2018.
The team went out and signed DE Adrian Clayborn during free agency. Clayborn isn’t a dynamic “hair on fire” pass rusher, but a very solid, big, veteran presence who should help solidify things. And the trio of young edge players, all just 24 years old should, with Clayborn be much better against the pass and the run.
Trey Flowers is the elder statesman of the DLine, having been there the longest but he’s still just reaching his peak where many predict an All-Pro season for him. Deatrich Wise is having an outstanding camp and is making a big jump in play so far this summer. And Derek Rivers, last year’s top draft choice who missed all of last year with an ACL injury is over that now and beginning to come on in the 2nd week of training camp. These players are the top 4 rotation that should help the defense be much improved in 2018.
Derek Rivers is getting his comfort level back after missing all of 2017 with a torn ACL. (SBalestrieri photo)
Eric Lee who played last year and the under-the-radar Keionta Davis who missed all of his 2017 rookie season with a neck injury and Trent Harris are all still in the mix. The front seven will bear considerable watching in the preseason but the edge players are the ones poised to look vastly different. We’ll keep you updated as camp rolls along.
Van Noy Trade Continues to Be a Steal For New England:
The Patriots traded just a 6th round draft choice for LB Kyle Van Noy in 2016, but the linebacker has worked his way into becoming a key contributor and leader in his second full season in New England.
With Dont’a Hightower injured last year, a lot was forced onto Van Noy’s plate including the mantle of leadership, something he’s embraced. Now with Hightower back, Van Noy can return to do the things he’s better suited for on the outside and is penciled in as a starter for 2018.
Bill Belichick was very complimentary about the level of play and the mentoring he’s shown with the younger players at one of his daily press conferences this week.
“Kyle’s done a really good job for us,” Belichick said. “He’s a player that didn’t start his career here but has come in and really has understood the way that we have tried to do things. He’s embraced it. He’s become very much of a leader in, A, doing his job and doing it the right way, but also helping other guys, particularly guys that transition onto the team as he did. He has a good perspective for that.”
The fact that the Patriots were able to snag the former 2nd round draft pick (40th overall) and a 7th rounder for just a 6th round pick has been an outright steal for Bill Belichick. They found a role for Van Noy and he’s met their expectations and has had more put on his plate. He should be much more effective with Hightower back in the fold this fall.
Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:
Bills UDFA Phillips Impressive in First Week of Camp: TheBuffalo Bills signed Virginia Tech UDFA WR Cam Phillips to a deal this spring that paid him a signing bonus of just $600. Yep, that isn’t a typo, but the WR has used that slight to motivate him to earn the trust of his QBs and coaches. And the young WR is doing just that.
Phillips has shined in the first week of training camp that has many re-evaluating him as a long shot to make Buffalo’s 53-man roster to a player that now has a really good shot of doing so. Phillips has been making some big plays in practice every day, something that is getting the attention of the coaching staff.
With a WR position that is wide open, Phillips is making a spot for himself at the table. Now he’ll have the chance to do some work once the preseason games begin.
Dolphins Going With Three Safety Look This Season? Not yet says DC: The Miami Dolphins already had a pair of talented safeties in Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald before drafting the very talented Minkah Fitzpatrick, the glue from the National Champion Alabama defense with the 11th overall pick in this year’s draft.
Now the issue is getting all of the pieces gainfully employed. Dolphins defensive coordinator was asked this week when he “has to” get the three of them on the field together. Burke wasn’t having any of it. “I don’t have to,” he said. “We’re mixing the groups. What you’re probably not seeing is we’re repping guys at different spots but maybe not all together. So, there may be times where there are only two safeties on the field but one of them is playing a spot that they’d be playing when there are three safeties on the field if we’re going to do something like that.”
The three will eventually see the field in practice at the same time to iron out any potential issues they may encounter with communication. The Patriots use a similar grouping with Duron Harmon joining Devin McCourty and Pat Chung.
For now, it is still early in training camp for the Dolphins and it is a good problem to have as they an abundance of talent at the position.
Jets Tight End Position a Possible Achilles Heel in 2018: The New York Jets may have made a mistake in letting TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins walk in free agency this spring. As it looks right now, they may struggle at the position in 2018. Jenkins is now a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Jets don’t have an answer at this early stage of training camp.
In a piece written by Luis Tirado for the JetPress, Tirado says the Jets haven’t had Jordan Leggett who is injured and thus far Chris Herndon, Eric Tomlinson, Neal Sterling, and Clive Walford haven’t done anything to stand out positively.
Any quarterback’s security blanket is usually their tight end, it may be especially so if the Jets top draft Sam Darnold wins the starting job this summer once the preseason games begin. Without having a credible target at tight end will hurt even an established veteran like Josh McCown, with a young QB like Darnold, it could prove even more so.
With the surprising news that Jordan Matthews’ injury was severe enough for the Patriots to place him on IR, the Patriots lost out on one of the key free agent signings they made this spring. The team ended up releasing Matthews, I’m thinking, at his request as he probably believes that he’ll be ready to go a lot sooner this season.
But back to the situation at hand, with Matthews gone, the Patriots saw this coming and worked Decker out before he was signed on Thursday. After nearly missing all of 2016 with the Jets, Decker signed with Tennessee and put decent but career low numbers since becoming an every-down player. He caught 54 passes for 563 yards (career-low 10.4 yards per reception) with just one touchdown. But he remains reliable, his 65 percent catch percentage was the second highest of his career.
Can he revert to something akin to his last two years with the Broncos or the first two with the Jets or has he permanently lost a step. Part of his stats could stem from the struggles of the Titans offense. Last season they were just 28th in passing attempts and 23rd in yardage. Catching passes from Tom Brady should be more akin to better stats than Marcus Mariota.
The biggest asset Decker brings to the Patriots is versatility. He can play outside as the Z- receiver or in the slot. As a slot guy, he’s much like Matthews, a bigger (6’3, 215 pounds) who relies on his size to box out smaller defenders. So how will the Patriots use Decker?
Without seeing him run yet in practice, I see Decker as the Z-wide receiver, not the X. He will be used to attack the middle depth routes and work the perimeter and the middle of the field. They can move him around to create matchups in the slot where he logged about 50 percent of the Titans’ snaps last year when the opportunity avails itself. Phillip Dorsett has been seeing a lot of reps in the slot this summer and he’s been one for the more impressive players on offense.
Right now, the wide receiver depth has Chris Hogan, Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson, Decker along with rookies Braxton Berrios and Darren Andrews with 2nd-year player Riley McCarron, and Paul Turner. Veteran Matthew Slater is a wide receiver in name only, he’s a special teamer. Veterans Kenny Britt and Matthew Mitchell are not practicing yet and are considered day to day. Julian Edelman will return to the team Week 5 when his suspension is finished.
Decker isn’t a lock to even make the team but I believe he’ll have enough in the tank to beat out one of the younger slot guys (Berrios/McCarron) but time will tell. He had just a tad of experience with Josh McDaniels in Denver during his rookie season.
While the loss of Matthews is a blow, we thought he’d be an integral member of the offense in 2018, it certainly isn’t a death knell. Why? The Patriots still have plenty of talent at the wide receiver position. They like Britt and he’s only a year removed from a 1000-yard season. Dorsett appears primed to shake off his first season blues and be a bigger contributor. Patterson is the wild card, he’s never been able to produce like he was thought to be when he arrived in the NFL. But the Patriots are intent on finding him a role.
And this team has so many other talented pass catchers at other positions. Rob Gronkowski is the gold standard among NFL tight ends. Jacob Hollister seems poised to make a big jump in production from Year 1 to Year 2 and has caught more passes from Brady this summer than anyone. And the production from Rex Burkhead, James White and Sony Michel at running back shouldn’t have anyone pushing the panic button.
So while I’d temper expectations a bit for Eric Decker right now, I think he’ll be fine here. He’s at the age where his one-year deal comes at a good time for him. He’ll be very visible with the Patriots nationally and could parlay this into one more good payday. I expect him to be a model teammate (unlike the other guy fans were clamoring for) and be “all-in” immediately.
While I have never been a big fan of Decker’s, the timing may be just right for him to come to New England and carve out a nice role for himself. His versatility will be a key facet in him being able to pick up the offense on the fly. Without being here all spring, and the first week of training camp, he’s well behind the rest of the receivers. However, it isn’t anything that can’t be overcome with hard work.
Orchestrating all of this is Tom Brady, who has taken the Patriots deep in the playoffs and to a Super Bowl with far less talent than he has right now with this offense. The loss of Matthews and Edelman (for a month) is a blow but this team will be just fine. They always start off a bit slow anyway. No reason to panic and sound the alarm. In one aspect of this, they were fortunate that the injury happened in the first week of training camp rather than Week 9 or 10.
Good morning, Here is your Sunday’s Patriots news 6-10, & AFC East Notes … No AFC East notes this week, they’ll be back next Sunday as this week we’ll focus on the Patriots minicamp
Quick Hitters: It was good to see some of the injured players from last year, back on the field, in varying amounts of work. But one player, Harvey Langi, who was injured in a car wreck while stopped at a light in Foxboro along with his wife in October. Langi was thankful to just survive and spoke about how blessed he was to just to see her okay. The two were sent to different hospitals in Rhode Island and Massachusetts on the night of the accident where the fire department had to use the “Jaws of Life” to cut them out. He’s never had a surgery in regards to football but ended up on IR after being rear-ended.
Langi after minicamp practice. (SBalestrieri photo)
The media asked all the players about the “fun” angle and most laughed it off. Running back Rex Burkhead, said he wasn’t even going there but having great fun at minicamp, as everyone in attendance laughed with him.
Chris Hogan is fully healthy after lingering shoulder issues cut back on his production last season. He spoke about the intensity ramping up a bit in minicamp and spoke about the team energy taking a step up with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski being back.
RIP to the 49ers Dwight Clark who passed away this week after a long battle with ALS. Clark was famous for “The Catch” from Joe Montana in the NFC Championship Game against Dallas. By all accounts was as classy off the field as he was on it. We still remember that catch like it was yesterday and recall watching the game in a crowded dayroom on Ft. Bragg long ago.
For the third time since 2010, the Ravens and coach John Harbaugh have been fined by the league for excessive contact during OTAs/Minicamp. Harbaugh claimed that the league singled out Baltimore for what other teams all do. Baltimore had to forfeit their last two OTAs, while Harbaugh was fined $50,000 and the team assessed a $100,000 fine for the latest infraction.
Terrell Owens Snubs HOF Ceremony: Owens has decided to skip his own induction ceremony into the NFL Hall of Fame. Owens, the uber-talented and even more disruptive influence during his time in the NFL gives the NFL the petulant brush for not inducting him earlier. In a statement he wrote:
“I am so grateful for all of the support my family, friends, and certainly my fans, have shown me throughout my entire career in the National Football League. When it was announced that I was going to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the response received from my fans was overwhelming, and I am truly humbled. I am honored to be included among this group of fellow inducted individuals. “While I am incredibly appreciative of this opportunity, I have made the decision to publicly decline my invitation to attend the induction ceremony in Canton. I have already shared this information with the Hall. After visiting Canton earlier this year, I came to the realization that I wish to celebrate what will be one of the most memorable days of my life, elsewhere. At a later date, I will announce where and when I will celebrate my induction. “I would also like to thank the San Francisco 49ers, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Dallas Cowboys, the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals for the time I was granted with each organization. I am thankful for the relationships forged and the lessons learned while part of each team. “I wish to congratulate all past, current and future inductees. It is quite an honor to be part of such elite company. This honor is something that I will cherish forever.”
This is unchartered territory, no living Hall of Fame member has ever declined his invitation for enshrinement. “We are disappointed by will respect Terrell’s decision not to participate in the Enshrinement,” Pro Football Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker said in a statement.
“As we do not want to detract from this great honor being enjoyed by the seven other members of the Class of 2018 (Bobby Beathard, Robert Brazile, Brian Dawkins, Jerry Kramer, Ray Lewis, Randy Moss and Brian Urlacher), their family, friends, and fans; the Pro Football Hall of Fame will have no further comment on the decision made by Terrell Owens.”
Something tells me he’ll change his mind, being in the limelight is too big an opportunity to pass up.
Gronkowski Rumors Fuel Wild Friday: How times have we said, the Patriots are many things but never boring. Rumors were swirling around the Patriots on Friday. Barstool Sports posted that Pats TE Rob Gronkowski was rumored to be on the trading block and they were writing a “pre-emptive blog post or what might be, if true, the most stunning move of the Bradichick Dynasty. Stay tuned” Which sent many fans overboard.
Several of the regular beat writers chimed in trying to read the tea leaves and glean any indication that the rumors could be true. Tom E. Curran posted about an hour later that the Patriots weren’t trading Gronkowski and fans could resume their weekend fun.
But about 5 p.m. former Herald Pats beat writer Adam Kurkjian posted that he had multiple sources that there were deals on the table but Robert Kraft nixed them.
That set off a firestorm of activity on social media, and Patriots Media VP Stacey James, normally one to stay off social media quickly tweeted out that “I would say with the utmost confidence that none of that is true. None of it.”
Others in the media quickly squashed it as well. Former Patriots QB and now the team color man on the radio broadcast Scott Zolak posted that someone high up in the organization was ashamed of the buzz on what was a false story.
Edelman Suspension A Big Blow to the NE Offense: Julian Edelman is facing a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. In appealing the decision, Edelman released the following statement on his Instagram account.
“I am very sorry — I don’t know what happened,” Edelman posted on his Instagram page. “I’ve taken many, many tests obviously over the course of my career, and nothing like this has ever happened. I apologize to the Kraft family, my coaches, teammates, and fans. As this matter is being appealed, I can’t say anymore but no matter what, I will be ready to play and pursue another championship with our team and for Patriots fans around the world.”
Apparently, Edelman and the Patriots as they exited the practice fields for the final day of minicamp on Thursday, they were unaware of the ruling coming down from the league, where someone leaked it to Field Yates and Adam Schefter of ESPN. While no one knows on what grounds Edelman will base his appeal, those normally do not as a rule fare well.
Edelman would miss the first four games against the Texans at home, on the road at Jacksonville and Detroit and home against the Dolphins. He’d also forfeit over $400,000 in base salary alone during his suspension.
While many point out, and correctly so, that the Patriots went to the Super Bowl without Edelman a year ago, they’re also dealing with the losses of Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola, Brandin Cooks as well as Nate Solder at left tackle from last year’s team.
While this season’s offense looks even better on paper than 2017, with so many new faces on the team this season, it may take them some time to find their comfort level and their roles in the offense. And having no Edelman there for the first quarter of the season is definitely a big blow. Especially without Amendola there to take up his slack.
On the flip side, it will give one wide receiver an extra four weeks to make an impression and possibly carve out a role for himself. We shall see.
Punter Competition at Camp is a Good Thing: Ryan Allen is most definitely facing some competition at punter this year during training camp and if Wednesday’s minicamp practice session is any indication, it should be quite a good one to watch. Solid camp competition is always a good thing for the team.
We were in attendance for minicamp and the first thing that jumped out to us was that UDFA rookie punter Corey Bojorquez from New Mexico has a tremendous leg. He was booming punts with tremendous height and hang time and had a distinct advantage over the veteran incumbent…for now. But it is all about consistency and whether he can do it all the time.
Allen is in the last year of his contract and beat out incumbent Zoltan Mesko who coincidentally was in the last year of his contract in 2013. Bojorquez, the left-footed punter not only have to continue his hot start punting but do the holding for Stephen Gostkowski’s extra points and field goals, something Allen has been very solid at.
Patterson Turns Heads Early in Camp: Minicamp was also the first time we’ve gotten to see Cordarrelle Patterson up close and his speed is something that just leaps out. He showcased that during the return part of the session as he eats up yardage…fast.
With the new kickoff rules in effect, the Patriots ST coaches Joe Judge and Bret Bielema are working on new packages to get Patterson free to get to that next level. He already has averaged over 30 yards per return with 5 TDs in his career and he smiled when asked about the new rules.
Cordarrelle Patterson after minicamp practice on knowing his role. (SBalestrieri photo)
“If they kick it to me, we might get more yards,” Patterson said. “That’s the game. Every year, they stop trying to kick it to me. It doesn’t matter.”
One area where he’s struggled is finding a consistent role on offense. He’s known as a gadget-type of player, running reverses, screens and such. But thus far the Patriots seem intent on trying a number of different things with him and he’s open to whatever the coaches decide.
“It’s challenging, but you have to know your role and embrace it” Patterson said. “Every offense. New England, Oakland, Minnesota, no matter where you are, it’s going to be a challenging offense. … There’s always something you can learn.”
“I mean, my film don’t lie,” Patterson said. “I can do whatever I put my mind to. That’s something I’ve been blessed with from the man above since I was born.”
Asked about the difficulties in learning the Patriots playbook he said,“I feel like I know the playbook more than I did yesterday,” Patterson said. “Each day, I’m trying to improve to get better. Let all three quarterbacks out there trust me so I am in the right place where I need to be every time.”
Many had Patterson as a bubble player or as a cut going into the season. Forget that. He’s a lock, for his STs ability alone, and if he can work his way into the Patriots offense for just 10-15 snaps a game? That is a win-win for the Patriots.
Three Up and Three Down For the Pats Minicamp: With the Patriots finished up until training camp begins in late July, we compiled a quick list of who helped themselves during the spring and who didn’t. After three pretty intense days (albeit without pads) of practice, the team looks in pretty good shape. Besides the usual stars (Brady, Gronkowski, Edelman, Stephon Gilmore) who all looked very good to outstanding during minicamp, we’ll focus on some of the lesser-known players for this segment.
Jacob Hollister: The second-year tight end added some muscle and still looks like he can threaten the seams against just about anyone on the field. He was already a pretty athletic tight end, but now he seems even more so.
Hollister was not only giving the second team guys fits but consistently got open against the likes of Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, and Pat Chung. That was most impressive. If his newfound muscle translates into improved play in the blocking game, then he’s way ahead of the pack to be the #2 tight end on the depth chart.
Training camp and preseason will be interesting to watch. Once the pads come on, if Hollister can still get open from the jams at the line, then he’ll be a key player to watch in the offense. He had an outstanding spring…now he needs to have a better summer.
J.C. Jackson: The UDFA rookie out of Maryland had the potential to be a top-tier CB and prospect but had off-field issues in college that had him dropped from Florida. But he’s turned his life around and he certainly turned some heads this week.
The Patriots liked what they’ve seen with the rookie and gave him plenty of reps with the first team unit. While Bill Belichick pooh-poohs first or second team designations at this time of year, Jackson was out there often times facing the top WRs in the Patriots offense. And didn’t look at lost out there.
We wrote about him six weeks ago and it seems that he’s in a good spot to secure a roster spot heading into training camp. He’ll have to beat out CBs Keion Crossen and Cyrus Jones for a CB slot. He had a very good head start on things while the other two were relegated to the lower practice fields working back from injuries.
J.C. Jackson was impressive in his first minicamp. (SBalestrieri photo)
Sony Michel: The Patriots have very high expectations from the first round draft pick and it is easy to see what they like. Michel has good size, is quick to the hole in the running game and is a smooth runner who looks really good in the passing game with very good hands.
The coaches are working on him with his route-running and ensuring he’s precise in that manner and they’re ensuring his work on STs is up to par, he drew the ire of the coaches when he whiffed on a block during a kickoff return by Patterson.
With an albeit limited look this spring, he looks dynamic in the Patriots offense. He and Rex Burkhead have the inside edge as being the two starters …right now.
Sony Michel looks to be a nice weapon in the Patriots offense. (SBalestrieri photo)
Three Down: Malcolm Mitchell: After missing all of 2017 with lingering knee issues, those appear to be chronic. Expectations were also high for Mitchell who had a very solid 2016 rookie season.
Mitchell missed all of the minicamp and most of the earlier OTAs although during Thursday’s minicamp session he was spotted on the lower field working out with the training staff with some of the other hurt players.
With a very crowded field at WR, it isn’t going to be easy for Mitchell to make the team unless he’s a healthy go for nearly all of the training camp this summer. Ditto for 6th round WR Braxton Berrios. He suffered an injury at the NFL Combine and is slowly working his way back.
Eric Rowe: Rowe wasn’t sharp at any of the sessions this week and was beaten on occasion by every WR on the roster as the week wore on. During the Wednesday session, we watched Edelman get separation on him for a long gain, but he regularly does that to everyone he goes against.
But as the week wore on, Rowe was losing reps to the rookie Jackson with the starting unit. Hardly the spring Rowe was looking forward to. We’ll see once the pads come on if that helps his coverage as he can jam more at the line.
Jason McCourty: The McCourty twins didn’t see the field much this week, in one of the more puzzling moves. Jason was barely on the field during team activities. He spent most of it as a spectator just watching from the sidelines.
We don’t believe it to be injury related as he didn’t go down to the lower fields to work with the training staff but stayed with the team on the upper field but as an observer. This will be an area to watch once camp begins.
It is really hard to judge any of the linemen, offensive or defensive during minicamp since the players don’t wear pads. Those big guys plus the big running backs, (Mike Gillislee, Jeremy Hill, and Ralph Webb) plus blocking tight ends Dwayne Allen and Troy Niklas will get closer looks then.
Patriots 53-Man Roster Projection 3.0 – More Questions Emerge
As we’ve been saying all summer, the New England Patriots will have many difficult decisions to make when the final 53-man cut down is due in September. There is still plenty of time, joint practices, and three preseason games to go before their hand is forced.
With some injuries cropping up and some uninspired play at some spots, there are a few more questions that are emerging, as it is always is, when dealing with training camp. Thru the first several weeks, we’ve seen some very good competition and some players are going to make Bill Belichick’s decision a very tough one.
So we’ll take our third crack at the roster here on Sunday night with time to digest and re-watch the Jaguars game.
First up is the offense…
QUARTERBACK (3): Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett
New England has first world problems at QB, do they keep two or three. All three have won games for the franchise and the feeling here is they continue with the same trio.
The Patriots are set at QB with Tom Brady and Jimmy G. Jacoby Brissett is the insurance. (SBalestrieri photo)
Brady has had a typical Brady summer, that is, he’s been excellent. He’s sharp, always has laser focus and shows no sign of falling off that cliff everyone else in the NFL keeps predicting since 2008 and keeps praying for. His arm strength is still there and he has hummed in a few fastballs into tight coverage. No worries with #12.
Jimmy Garoppolo has had a typical Jimmy G. summer as well. Very inconsistent practices and a very solid, if not spectacular game performance against Jacksonville. He didn’t push Brady as some envisioned this summer, but the team is in good hands if disaster should befall Brady during the season. Brissett is a different story. He’s been a disappointment this summer. I expected a much bigger jump and despite what some of the media wrote about on Thursday, I thought his performance, going against many of the Jags who won’t make their team, was subpar. Could the Pats go with two QBs and save a guy like Carr? Maybe, but I think Brissett stays.
RUNNING BACK (5): James White, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis, James Develin
Bubble: D.J. Foster, Brandon Bolden, Glenn Gronkowski, LeShun Daniels
No changes here, I really love the way the offense looks with the top four backs with White, Lewis, Gillislee, and Burkhead. Burkhead has been exciting to watch and with the additions at wide receiver, the Patriots will have lots of acreage for the backs to operate out of the backfield. There are a few minor injuries, Gillislee with a balky hamstring but it should be fine by the opener.
Brandon Bolden is on the bubble but has had a nice summer. (SBalestrieri photo)
Bolden has stepped in, in his absence and played well. He’s a core STs guy so, Belichick could make a cut somewhere else and keep him around. Ditto for D.J. Foster, a guy I really like. Daniels and Baby Gronk are practice squad candidates.
TIGHT END (3): Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister
Bubble: Matt Lengel, Sam Cotton, James O’Shaughnessy
Just when you thought that Gronk may be hurting a little, he puts on a demonstration, like he did against Jax during joint practices. He was vintage Gronkowski and lit them up to the tune of seven TDs during practice.
Allen is an established veteran and the talk of his being cut earlier this summer, ….sorry I wasn’t buying it then or now. He’s an excellent blocker and can threaten the seams, he’s not a Gronkowski, but then again, who is?
Hollister steps up to the big table after a very impressive performance against the Jaguars. He’s not a big bodied blocker but as a move tight end, he showed he can go deep down the seams, has outstanding hands and can make plays even when taking some hits. He also needs to be better as a blocker but is getting a lot of STs reps. O’Shaughnessy and Lengel are by no means out by any means, and they’ll have to step up their game.
One thing to keep in mind, the two above players are more big blockers than receivers. Do the Patriots want another big body with the weapons they already have or another big target in the passing game? They could always keep a guy like LaAdrian Waddle around and let Hollister play more of a move-TE, in the mold of he who shall not be named.
WIDE RECEIVER (6): Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola, Austin Carr
Bubble: Devin Lucien,Cody Hollister, Tony Washington, K.J. Maye
For the record, I love the job Austin Carr is doing so far in training camp. He’s done everything that they’ve asked from him and has outstanding hands. He doesn’t look like a rookie trying to earn his way onto the roster. But the problem is once again, do they keep a 6th WR plus Matthew Slater and make a cut elsewhere? As much as I like Lucien, he hasn’t done enough to unseat any of the veterans.
The only way I can see him being on the roster in September is if injuries occur. Slater is banged up right now, if he ends up on IR (who knows?), then it may open the door for these guys.
Julian Edelman has had an excellent training camp. (SBalestrieri photo)
But this WR group is going to be fun to watch. With this group, Gronkowski at TE and the backs in the passing game it will be a pick your poison type of game plan.
INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINE (4): David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Joe Thuney, Ted Karras
Bubble: Jason King, James Ferentz, Chase Farris
Center David Andrews and guards Mason and Thuney were all starters last year, are locked and playing well. Karras has outplayed Ferentz …so far but not by a lot. He may end up as being a primary practice squad candidate.
OFFENSIVE TACKLE (4): Nate Solder, Antonio Garcia, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming
Bubble: LaAdrian Waddle, Conor McDermott, Cole Croston, Max Rich, Andrew Jelks
Here’s where things get interesting. Solder has been hurt, and nobody filling in for him has done the job particularly well. And now Garcia is hurting. This will be something to monitor in the next two weeks to see if the injuries persist, then the team could make a move for a veteran.
But for now, I’m sticking with the same group. If the team decides to cut from elsewhere, Waddle could find his way onto the roster for sure. McDermott is a prime candidate for the practice squad. He’s done well in practice. But in the joint practices with the Jaguars and the preseason game, he didn’t fare well. It will be a big week for him in Houston.
Next up in the defense.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE (4): Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Vincent Valentine, Lawrence Guy,
Bubble: Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo, Josh Augusta, Adam Butler
With Alan Branch on PUP and probably coming off of that after this week, Lawrence Guy has stepped up and played very well. He’s an established veteran who is versatile and tough. He’s going to be a solid addition.
Butler has stepped up and played very well this summer showing good penetration and toughness on the inside. He’s a great candidate for the practice squad if he’s cut and for the 53 if someone were to go down with an injury. Hamilton and Kilgo have always played well but not enough to unseat anyone.
Bubble: Geneo Grissom, Caleb Kidder, Keionta Davis Depth has become an issue here. Wise was stepping up and playing some outstanding football the first two weeks but now has a concussion. He’ll be out for the next week and we’ll see if this sets back his progression. Rivers started slowly but has picked up his game as he’s adjusted to NFL speed.
The Patriots will rely on young guys, such as Deatrich Wise and Kyle Van Noy to supply pressure from the edge. (SBalestrieri photo)
So what’s up with Ealy? Nearly everyone has him being cut. I don’t. And I’ll tell you why. Has he been disappointing so far? Yes. But the team has asked him to do a lot of different things, things he was never asked to do in Carolina. He’s by no means a lock but I don’t see them cutting him. Especially since Grissom, who is very athletic and a very good STs player can’t seem to make an impression at the edge.
I really liked Davis during the pre-draft process and had him to NE in one of our Mock Drafts. If he’s healthy I like him to compete for a practice squad spot.
LINEBACKER (6): Dont’a Hightower, David Harris, Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin, Elandon Roberts, Harvey Langi
Bubble: Jonathan Freeny, Trevor Bates, Brooks Ellis
I’ve been intrigued with Langi who the team has moved around and asked to do a bunch of different things. So far, I’ve been very impressed and think he’s approaching a lock status. There are no worries about the top unless an injury crops up.
Roberts to me is firmly on the bubble and it is neck and neck between him and Freeny. I know fans are enamored with his downhill “thumper” style but he’s a liability in coverage and as shown as Jacksonville, frequently guesses the wrong gap or overplays the run and is out of position. See those big holes (79-yard TD run) the other night? That is from the Mike being out of position.
CORNERBACK (5): Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones
Bubble: Justin Coleman, DJ Killings, William Likely, Kenny Moore
The top four are locked and cocked and ready for the season. Gilmore and Butler are a dynamic and intriguing duo. Rowe and Jones (Jonathan) have split the duties for the slot corner and all four have played very solidly this summer. No worries there. If someone goes down, would they trust Jones (Cyrus) back there? Not so much.
Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore have been excellent for the the team this summer. (SBalestrieri photo)
He’s hanging on to his roster slot by a sliver right now over Coleman and Moore who has been outstanding at times this camp. Jones only saving grace is the fact that he looks like the Patriots #1 return man right now. But he didn’t look good on Thursday night doing that either. Bill Belichick has never cut a guy before season 2 with his draft position. But the ice is getting mighty thin ….
SAFETY (3): Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon
Out: Jordan Richards, David Jones, Damarius Travis, Jason Thompson The top three of Chung, McCourty, and Harmon have been solid and are locked. The team has depth for those two with Nate Ebner and Brandon King who are mainly special teamers and will be carried down there.
Very disappointing summer for David Jones. When the team signed him, I thought he had a good chance to make an impact. His limited play in minicamp magnified that. But he’s yet to take the field. Jordan Richards? After a nice start to summer, he’s reverted to what he’s done in the first two years. His lack of top end speed and stiffness makes him a liability. His performance on Thursday was a harbinger of things to come. He’s not long for the roster.
Jordan Richards? After a nice start to summer, he’s reverted to what he’s done in the first two years. His lack of top end speed and stiffness makes him a liability. His performance on Thursday was a harbinger of things to come. He’s not long for the roster.
SPECIAL TEAMS (6): Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Brandon King, Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner
A good solid group who have had a good camp thus far. Gostkowski still seems a tad shaky me on his field goals/extra points but his kickoffs are outstanding at getting the team great field position on defense. Allen has had a very strong camp. Slater is dinged up right now but the other three of Cardona, King and Ebner are outstanding STs performers.
Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 8-13, & AFC East Notes.
The Patriots signed former defensive lineman Vince Wilfork to a one-day contract so that he could retire as a Patriot. Or as Robert Kraft put it in his remarks, “A Patriot for Life.” The respect he has around these parts is off the charts, both on and off the field.
Wilfork and his wife Bianca (AKA Mrs 75) were great representatives not only for the team but for the region with their charitable endeavors and the interaction with the fans. The most emotional part of his retirement ceremony was his mention of his parents, who both passed away before they could see him live his dream of playing in the NFL. We hope to see lots of them around here in the future. Red and gold jackets await in the future…we’re calling it early.
Goodell Shows Up for the Preseason Opener in a Pre-emptive Strike: How ‘bout dem apples? NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell just took the drama out of his opening night appearance in Gillette Stadium by showing up at the Jaguars preseason game. The Commish then posed for pictures with a couple of surprised Patriots fans who probably seemed as shocked to see him as the rest of us that he was there.
It kinds of renders the entire clown-nose shirt thing moot. However, I’m sure that will still go on as planned but it seems like a day late and a dollar short now. Smart move by Goodell.
The backlash against the three guys who posed with Goodell has gone, predictably over the top with the reaction of many on social media. These guys were surprised as they were walking to their seats by an NFL staffer who asked them to take a picture. Less than 30 seconds later it is all over social media, posted by the league.
They were no doubt lubing up in the pregrame tailgate, got surprised and used as pawns by a slick NFL staffer in this deal and were taken advantage of, Case closed… We’re on to Houston. Jerry Jones Furious…Over “no evidence” and Suspension of Elliott: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is fighting mad and he isn’t going to take it anymore…or is he? When the ongoing fiasco with the investigation of Ezekiel Elliott a while back, there were serious questions about whether the alleged abuse ever happened. Jones, the Cowboys owner rushed to his RB’s defense and said there was “no evidence” that anything took place.
Ah, but the workings of the good folks at Park Avenue look at things differently. Evidence, schmevidence. The NFL slapped a six-game ban on Elliott for allegedly abusing his girlfriend. The fact that the same league only suspended Giants kicker Josh Brown for one game last year, when a mountain of evidence, including NFL security personnel who had to separate Brown from his wife at the Pro Bowl speaks volumes about the consistency of their punishments.
Jones won’t get any sympathy in these parts. He was practically giddy about the suspension of Tom Brady and spoke highly about the job Goodell was doing and he supported his decision-making in these matters…OOPS.
Patriots – Texans Joint Practice/Preseason Games to Have Different Vibe: In a strange scheduling of events this summer, the Patriots and Texans meet in the second preseason game and then will lock horns for real in the third week of the NFL season on September 24 at Gillette Stadium.
As a result, the workouts and the preseason will look a bit different when the two teams meet this week. Expect both teams to be really cagey and play their cards close to their vest as they will have Week 3 in mind.
Defensive End Depth Addressed As Pats SIgn Keionta Davis: The injury sustained by Deatrich Wise when he got kicked in the head on Thursday night against the Jaguars highlighted the need for some depth at defensive end. Wise suffered a concussion and is expected to miss at least a week. Kony Ealy has struggled somewhat in the early going, so the team went out and signed DE Keionta Davis, the UDFA from Chattanooga. In a corresponding move, the team released DB Dwayne Thomas.
Davis was an All-America defensive end who had 31 sacks in college, including 10.5 in 2016. He was thought to be a mid-to-late round draft selection before he was found to have a bulging disc in his neck that he never knew about or affected his play and went undrafted. We even had him in one of our Mock Drafts this spring.
The 6’3, 271-pound Davis, if healthy, he has good initial explosion, has the ability to shoot the gap inside and influence the play and has quick, violent hands that can free him from the offensive lineman’s grasp. He is still a bit raw but has the size and strength to play on the edge in a 4-3 scheme.
Hollister and Carr Make the Most of Their Opportunities Against Jax: A couple of the bright spots for the Patriots this week against the Jaguars was the play of both WR Austin Carr and TE Jacob Hollister who took advantage of the starters resting to put forth some very solid efforts in their first NFL action.
Carr led the Big 10 in receiving last season but went undrafted. He’s had some very good moments during the early going of training camp, showing some outstanding hands and good quickness off the line.
We got the chance to interview Hollister in a one-on-one opportunity during the first week of training camp and you can take another look at that here: He’s more of a move tight end than a traditional inline blocker but he has good speed to attack the seams, has good hands and has been a productive player in college.
Both have uphill climbs to make the 53-man roster, the WR position is very deep and there are two tight ends already locked into the roster. Will Hollister have enough to unseat the others for the #3 TE spot? We’ll see but neither did anything to hurt their chances with solid performances on Thursday night.
The sequence of a Great Catch: We normally look at a big play during practice or a game and watch the video of a player making a great catch or a run. On Monday, Chris Hogan had arguably the play of the day with a great catch down the sideline on a perfectly thrown ball by Tom Brady. Instead of video we had our sequence of still photos that show how Hogan gets just the slightest of separation and then leaps up to come down with the ball.
Just something a little different this week. Check them out.
Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:
Bills Trade Two of the Best Players Away:
The Buffalo Bills in a stunning move traded star WR Sammy Watkins and CB Ronald Darby in a three team deal with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Los Angeles Rams.
Watkins who is in the final year of his rookie contract and a 6th round draft pick goes to LA for CB E.J. Gaines and a 2nd rounder. Darby the starter at corner goes to the Eagles for WR Jordan Matthews, a versatile, productive WR, also in the final year of his rookie contract.
While these moves may potentially weaken the Bills in the short term, they look to be in better shape down the road, for 2018 and beyond. Matthews has made his living operating out of the slot the past three years and will automatically become the #1 target for QB Tyrod Taylor in the Bills offense.
Tannehill to Cutler Isn’t a Step Up for the Dolphins: “Just when I thought I was out…they pulled me back in.” Michael Corleone GFIIIThe Miami Dolphins signed Jay Cutler after QB Ryan Tannehill was injured in a non-contact injury during training camp, in what will probably be an end to his time in Miami. Tannehill hasn’t become the QB that the Dolphins hoped he would, but after surrounding him with a lot of talent this season, the hopes were that he’d make a jump in play this year.
Tannehill has weathered a lot in his time, different offenses and offensive coordinators every year, a sieve of an offensive line at times, and even the barbs of social media from the wife of a teammate. We never thought he’d be the franchise QB there, but in our humble opinion, he’s a better deal than Cutler.
As soon as this deal was made, many in social media were lauding this move as Miami “making a step up” at the QB position. Over who? Matt Moore the backup? I could accept that, but Cutler isn’t a better QB than Tannehill in the Dolphin’s system. I’m not buying that…at all. If so, Miami had plenty of opportunities to make that move back in March and give Cutler (who played for Adam Gase) the benefit of an entire offseason program.
Cutler is the perennial tease. Everywhere he’s gone he’s hailed as a savior upon arriving and shown the door down the road with no one sad to see him go. Miami isn’t going to end any differently. Is he better than the scrappy Matt Moore? Maybe, and then only marginally so. Caveat emptor Miami, (Let the buyer beware). “ Come on, Rook. Show us that million-dollar arm, ’cause I got a good idea about that five-cent head of yours.” Crash Davis in Bull Durham.
Decker Returns to the Jets Stadium, in a Titans uniform:
The New York Jets released Eric Decker this spring in the Great Purge that hasn’t been seen since the days of Joseph Stalin and the USSR in the 1930s. The Jets cleaned house and let go a plethora of stars for the team. Decker who went thru OTAs with the team was coming off of an injury plagued season in 2016 that eventually landed him on IR requiring shoulder and back surgeries.
He was very productive in 2015 with 80 catches, for 1027 yards and 12 touchdowns as the #2 WR to Brandon Marshall, who was also released. Jace Amaro, the Jets 2nd round bust TE who was released in 2016 will also suit up for Tennessee.
Did the Jets cut Decker too soon? Looking at their current crop of WRs especially after the injury to Quincy Enunwa, it appears so. So we’ll be watching Decker this summer and into the regular season. If he’s healthy, he’ll help resurgent Titans team. And the Jets? They’ll be setting their sights on the #1 pick in the NFL Draft for 2018.
The long wait since the Super Bowl is over, the field at Gillette has the goalposts back up, the lines are painted on the turf and the Patriots will once again take the field for a football game. But don’t call it meaningless, because there remains a lot to accomplish.
OK, we get that the final score of tonight’s game is secondary to both Bill Belichick and Doug Marrone but for the 90 players on the roster, many of them are fighting for jobs. And the coaching staffs will attempt to find those depth players and those valuable guys who fill roles on the team that makes such a big difference during the course of a season.
Gillette Stadium is ready for football again. (SBalestrieri Photo)
Many of the Patriots starters won’t play tonight, I don’t expect to see Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola, Nate Solder or Mike Gillislee on the field for the Pats offense. So what are we looking for tonight from a New England perspective as the Patriots take on the Jaguars in the first game of the 2017 preseason?
The Patriots Pass Rush and Specifically How the Rookies Fit: This will be a big storyline for the entire preseason and into the regular season. Gone are Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, and Chris Long. Trey Flowers is the elder statesman in terms of time with the team. He, Kony Ealy along with rookies Deatrich Wise, Derek Rivers and Harvey Langi will be watched closely in their first game action this year.
Wise has had a very good start to camp and seems to be much farther along in his development than was expected at this point. He’s shown to be explosive and has had good penetration from the edge and along the interior.
Deatrich Wise has looked very impressive in the early days of training camp. (SBalestrieri photo)
Before people pile on Ealy (and there’s been a lot of it), something to keep in mind is that early in camp the team has asked him to do a lot of different things that he was never asked to do in Carolina. He’s played a lot inside and that is a new position for him. Rivers seems to be getting in sync a bit more in the last few days, it will be interesting to see how he fares in his first game action. Langi has been moved around by the coaches. They’re trying to see all the things he can do and look for him to play outside linebacker and down as a defensive end tonight.
Jacksonville’s offensive line has a lot of issues right now. There are at least two starting spots wide open for competition. So this will be a good test for both teams to see how their players are coming along.
How Will Jimmy Garoppolo Fare in Game Action: We know that Jimmy G. hasn’t had the greatest camp, but he’s never been the best practice player for some reason although he’s fared better during the games. Well at least initially, he’ll be playing with some very good weapons. I would expect Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan to play a series or two tonight. Coupled with Dwayne Allen at tight end, James White, Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead coming out of the backfield, this will be a very good group to work with.
I’d expect to see Garoppolo play most of if not all of the first half. He should be able to lead the Patriots offense and get the unit clicking, especially when the above-named players are taking the field. Things to look for in his play, his decision-making, his processing of what he sees in front of him and his ability to get the ball out quickly and accurately.
Many people thought that this was the year that he may push Tom Brady a bit for the reins to the offense. That hasn’t come close to happening yet. Brady is still head and shoulders far above him. But he must be ready to take over in a pinch and tonight we’ll be watching how he looks in the starting role.
Look for the Patriots to test the waters deep Thursday night with Chris Hogan and Brandin Cooks. (SBalestrieri photo)
Secondary Looks Strong, But This May Not be the Best Test: Thus far in camp, the Patriots corners, Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe and Jonathan Jones have been very solid. They bring the physical element to the game and contest everything thrown at them. Rowe probably won’t play as he’s been dinged up a bit but that will still leave the other three to watch for the probably the first quarter.
Jacksonville has some very good wide receivers in Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns with Marcedes Lewis at tight end but the problem with them has been getting them the football. The quarterback play in camp so far has been spotty at best and that’s what we saw in the two days of joint practices. Blake Bortles and Chad Henne were not doing a good enough job of getting their skill players the football during the 11-on-11 team drills. On the first day, they were a combined 8-22, on Day 2 they didn’t fare much better.
With the largely vanilla schemes on defense in the preseason, the time may be right to see Bortles and Henne open things up a bit and see the field a bit better. In which case the Jaguars receivers will provide a solid first test for the Patriots secondary. But after what we’ve seen in the two practices, the Jags quarterback situation may preclude that.
Let’s See Some of the Running Game This Week: With LeGarrette Blount in Philadelphia now, the Patriots running game will definitely have a different look and feel to it in 2017. Gillislee has been slowed by a balky hamstring so I don’t expect to see him tonight. But the team has a lot of players who could see some significant snaps trying to earn a roster or practice squad slot.
In the early going, I am intrigued to see how Rex Burkhead fares in his Patriots debut. He’s been an intriguing player to watch in camp as he brings the element of both running and catching to the mix. Dion Lewis looks back to full health and I’d expect the team to give him a few reps early in the game along with James White.
But later in the game, D.J. Foster who is very quick out of the backfield is fighting for a roster spot. I’d look for him to get a ton of reps as the receiving back out of the backfield. Brandon Bolden who has gotten a lot of work with Gillislee on the shelf and LeShun Daniels will handle the heavy lifting in the running game between the tackles.
Time for the Young Players to Shine: Invariably during these preseason games, especially the early ones, a couple of the unheralded undrafted free agent players step to the forefront. It seems every year the Patriots have one UDFA who not only makes the roster but contributes some meaningful snaps during the season.
We’ve already mentioned Langi above but the team has several to keep an eye on this week. Wide receiver Austin Carr has made some nice catches this summer and has struggled to get separation at times as well. He’s a guy to watch tonight. CB Kenny Moore has been around the ball making plays all summer, he and fellow rookie Will Likely are players to watch. TE Jacob Hollister is a move-tight end that has the speed to get separation and attack the seams, this may factor in later.
Some of the players who have been on the team and are on the bubble this summer will bear watching. CB Justin Coleman, WR Devin Lucien who has had a strong camp thus far and CB/KR Cyrus Jones. Jones it should be noted, dropped his first kick of the summer and hasn’t had an issue since. He’ll be watched closely in Year 2 and much will be expected of him in the return game in 2017.
Bonus Note: It will be interesting to see how Patriots fans respond to Mark Brunell who does the color commentary for the Jaguars radio network tonight. Brunell had the famous crying jag (no pun intended) on ESPN after the news of Deflategate broke.
Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 8-6, & AFC East Notes.
The Patriots have the first week + of camp in the books, the team will have today off as they prepare for the joint practices with the Jacksonville Jaguars that begins tomorrow morning. The two teams will open their preseason schedules on Thursday night with a game at Gillette Stadium.
We will be looking forward to the two teams getting some good work in this week. It is always a valuable tool for the coaches and players to practice against someone else after going against just your teammates all spring and thru the first week or so of training camp.
A Healthy Gronkowski Has Been a Big if Rarely Mentioned Factor: The Patriots got a healthy Rob Gronkowski back for training camp this season and although the team is limiting his reps a bit, he’s fully healthy and ready to go this summer. Gronkowski and Bill Belichick earlier during training camp both said that Gronkowski is under no limitations whatsoever, which is great news for the offense this year. The big man was limited to just eight games a year ago and none during the Patriots Super Bowl run.
Having a healthy Gronkowski for the 2017 season with the stacked wide receiver group and running back options in the passing game makes the Patriots offense an even more dangerous one than averaged over 30 points per game in the playoffs last year.
Rob Gronkowski is completely healthy and that is a very good sign for the Patriots in 2017. (SBalestrieri photo)
He looks to be his normal, athletic self at tight end so far and is a load for any safety to cover and is a mismatch against any linebacker. Tom Brady also has one of his two most trusted receivers in the passing game.
Gronkowski still has that exuberance for the game, even in training camp that brings out the kid in all of us. He takes great delight in scoring touchdowns even in practice and even when he makes a mistake, he makes the most out of it. Yesterday he jumped offside and get going and looked like his penalty lap was still fun while most guys act like they’re going to the gallows.
Rex Burkhead Looks to be A Valuable Pickup For the Patriots Offense: The Patriots picked up Rex Burkhead this spring and on the surface, the move made very good sense. Burkhead is a valued special teams’ performer and was a productive backup running back for the Bengals.
But in New England the 27-year old looks to have a much larger role. He has the ability to run between the tackles and is showing a nice knack for finding open real estate in the passing game. This versatility with his ability to run or catch is something the team lacked last year. When James White was in the game, opponents knew they would probably pass. When LeGarrette Blount was on the field, it was considered a run. Now they can keep opponents guessing.
“Hopefully, this year, we’ll have a little more balance between the running game and passing game,” Bill Belichick said. “Again, (Blount) was primarily a runner. He didn’t have a lot of receiving production. The reverse is true of James White. So hopefully with our backs this year we’ll have a little more balance and be a little less predictable from that spot.”
With a return of health of Dion Lewis and Mike Gillislee handling the majority of short yardage situations, the team is in a good position to keep things mixed up. And Burkhead thus far looks to be much more than a backup and a STs player.
Wise Has Been One of the Biggest Surprises of Camp So Far: On the flip side of the coin, the surprise for the defense may be DE Deatrich Wise. The Patriots drafted a couple of edge players in Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise in the 2017 NFL Draft and both are expected to produce in the future but Wise may be pushing the envelope a bit earlier than expected.
Patriots rookie defensive end Deatrich Wise after practice on Aug. 3. (SBalestrieri photo)
The rookie who has a large wingspan at 6’5, 271 pounds and seems much more mature than his years may just be a steal in the 4th round of the draft. After a stellar junior season in 2015, Wise’s senior campaign was a frustrating one filled with a couple of injuries that limited his production. But as we said in the spring, if you want to see what he can do watch the 2015 tape.
So far, the big man is playing both inside and outside and has shown the ability to not only set the edge in the running game but beat the offensive linemen using a nice array of moves. He’s shown good explosion off the line. Wise credits the veterans on the team for helping him with the many questions and tips for him and the other young players on the team.
Can he continue to do so? He’ll be a key player to watch during the joint practices with the Jaguars and even more so once the preseason games begin.
Tom Brady Is Still The Hardest Working Man on the Field: Hard to believe that the Patriots quarterback just turned 40 on Thursday. It is safe to say that no one is better prepared than Brady is and his work ethic despite his many accolades is second to none.
One of the things that all of the new players on the roster marvel about is how hard Brady prepares and works during practice. When he’s off the field, rarely does he sit on the side and chat with the other players. He’s usually working on his mechanics or his chemistry with some of the other players.
While some in the national media are always looking for a sinister reason why Brady continues to battle Father Time, they should come down to Gillette and watch him work. Brady hates to waste even a rep in practice. He has the incessant desire to improve, his drive, his fire and passion for the game remain as strong as ever. That’s the biggest reason for his success
Training Camp Dustups Are Not New: Much was made about the shoving and wrestling match between Julian Edelman and Stephon Gilmore early this week but in reality, those things happen in every training camp. And in true Belichick form, both players were ejected from practice. The coach has zero tolerance for that and while he understands that it happens, the players know he won’t tolerate it.
The heat and humidity and the constantly going against the same people will cut tempers a bit short and all it takes for one player to give another a little extra push or feel like the other guy is holding on a bit too tight and that’s it. Last year both Malcolm Butler and Bryan Stork were given five for fighting and sent to the showers. Let’s hope that we don’t see any more of it with the Jaguars are in town. But if it does it wouldn’t be shocking.
After practice on Tuesday, wide receiver Brandin Cooks spoke with the media and said that it is just training camp.
Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:
Bills Depth at Defensive End Tested on Friday:
The Buffalo Bills practiced in New Era Field on Friday but lost two of their defensive ends early in the session. Shaq Lawson tweaked his groin and was shut down for precautionary reasons. Lawson later reported to the media that it was nothing serious. Fellow DE Ryan Davis suffered a concussion and was helped off the field. Neither is expected to be sidelined long and Lawson may even practice today.
Charles Clay had his best day of camp on Friday night and he reportedly is looking completely healthy. With the Bills still searching for WR help for QB Tyrod Taylor, having a productive season for Clay is essential. While it is still early in training camp, Taylor has looked very inconsistent according to the Buffalo media. Having Clay heat up would certainly help that.
Tannehill Injury May Be a Rallying Point for the Dolphins: The Miami Dolphins had pretty high hopes for the 2017 season after a 10-6 campaign last year and a playoff berth. But then a non-contact injury to starting QB Ryan Tannehill is the nightmare no team wants to face. But when faced with a similar situation during the stretch run in 2016, the team rallied behind Matt Moore to win three of four to secure a playoff spot.
With Tannehill possibly looking at season-ending surgery, Moore is the man for now. And forget the haters, Moore is a very solid backup QB. Is he the answer for the Miami Dolphins for this year? They have reached out to Jay Cutler to see if he’s interested. If he’s signed, I would be surprised if Adam Gase just handed the job to him. Especially the way Moore rallied the Fins last season.
Don’t count them out yet. Miami dropped four of their first five and rallied. Then regrouped again after Tannehill went down last year. Gase has his work cut out for him, that is clear. But as we pointed out a year ago, Miami hired the right guy this time.
Jets Seem To Be Going With McCown at QB:
The New York Jets have their first week of training camp in the books and there is no QB controversy this season. According to reports by the Jets media beat writers, Josh McCown is getting nearly all of the first team reps. One piece in the New York Post said the number was almost 99 percent. Christian Hackenberg is solidly locked into the 2nd team slot. Bryce Petty? In the same report, he was reported to get only four reps total during Friday’s session.
McCown certainly has his work cut out for him. Only Quincy Enunwa is a bona fide NFL wide receiver with any kind of experience. The Post reported that the Jets WRs are running the wrong routes and making all of the QBs look bad.
The good news for Gang Green is the play of their top draft picks Marcus Maye and Jamal Adams. Both are having solid camps and appear to be the starting safety tandem for the Jets when the season opens.
The Patriots wrapped up their seventh practice of the 2017 training camp and their fifth practice in full pads in a row. The crowd was a bit bigger than the past few days probably because it happened to be Tom Brady’s 40th birthday and he was serenaded by the fans near the end of practice. But if you went today, expecting to see a large dose of Brady, then you were disappointed.
After the first few minutes of practice, Brady and nearly all of the first team offensive players retreated to the lower practice fields accompanied by the starting secondary players as well. And there they remained until the practice was nearly over. Not much could be seen because the storage building outside the practice field was blocking the view. But what little could be seen was that the offensive linemen were pushing the sleds a few times and the rest seemed to be just standing around.Therefore, this was a day for the backups to the lion’s share of the snaps today.
Bill Belichick said in his morning presser that the many players being dinged up have hurt the team’s preparation. Perhaps he felt that the backups weren’t progressing well enough and wanted to get them all the work. Regardless, it was the first time I’ve seen this in the last ten years. Josh McDaniels went down to the lower fields and WR coach Chad O’Shea called the plays.
No Shows: Alan Branch, Dont’a Hightower (PUP) and Andrew Jelks (NFI) didn’t practice but were in sweats on the sidelines. Cody Hollister, Nate Solder, and Matt O’Shaughnessy weren’t seen. David Jones, Mike Gillislee, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola retreated to the lower fields for work with the training staff.
D.J. Foster had a concentration drop early in practice but had a very solid day both receiving and running the ball.
Both the offense and the defense (Substitution issue) had to take a penalty lap today. Kony Ealy had to take one on his own.
Jacoby Brissett made a nice throw on a crossing route to Matt Lengel who got separation
Brissett then made another nice throw to Devin Lucien on a short comeback route, where he drilled the ball exactly on-time and on-target.
Jimmy Garoppolo made a pair of nice deep throws to Lucien and Tony Washington.
Garoppolo had an interception where it looked like the ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage and was picked off on a nice head’s up play by Cyrus Jones.
After a strong start to camp, Jordan Richards has been getting picked on a bit the past few days. (more to that below)
Kenny Moore had a really nice play (we’re saying that every day), breaking up a pass to Tony Washington
Eric Rowe was getting first dibs in the slot today.
Austin Carr had a really nice catch on a deep sideline ball thrown by Jimmy G. over Jonathan Jones. Jones went down awkwardly but returned to finish practice.
Stephen Gostkowski had a strong day. He was booming field goals from 45+ yards with plenty to spare.
Derek Rivers showed a nice job of setting the edge, defeating the block of Matt Lengel and stopped Foster behind the line after making him reverse his field.
One on One Drills: In what is becoming my favorite part of practice, albeit the hardest to see at the far end of the field, here are some of the battles we saw:
Geneo Grissom beat Max Rich with a speed move to the outside. Rich then turned the tables on Grissom later and stoned the big DE cold. Cole Croston battle Kony Ealy to a draw Jacob Hollister stopped Harvey Langi who tried a speed rush Josh Augusta showed a good bull rush against Ted Karras in a good battle James Ferentz stoned Woodrow Hamilton in another good battle of big men.
Play of the Day: Jacob Hollister burned Jordan Richards on a deep post for a 30-yard touchdown pass from Jimmy G. The young tight end has some intriguing speed.
After practice, Devin McCourty addressed the media with his young baby in his arms.
The New England Patriots will have many difficult decisions to make at the end of training camp this summer. They enter the 2017 season fresh off a Super Bowl win and have re-tooled their roster to an even more dangerous (on paper) group that was victorious in February.
They seem to have more than made up for the players that they’ve lost in free agency and appear poised for another deep playoff run in 2017. Bill Belichick went against the grain once again and traded most of his draft picks in what was considered a very deep draft and came away with a slew of established veterans.
The team only drafted four players in April with two each from the offensive and defensive lines, but even those are with an eye to 2018 as this team appears loaded. First up are the key players lost and then the ones added.
Key Players Lost:
TE Martellus Bennett
DE Jabaal Sheard
DE Chris Long
RB LeGarrette Blount
CB Logan Ryan
LB/ST Barkevious Mingo
WR Michael Floyd
RT Sebastian Vollmer (injured/retired) Andrew Hawkins (retired during training camp)
*DE Rob Ninkovich(retired during training camp)
Key Players Added:
LB Dont’a Hightower (re-signed)
DL Alan Branch (re-signed)
S Duron Harmon (re-signed)
FB James Develin (re-signed)
RB/ST Brandon Bolden (re-signed)
CB Stephon Gilmore
DL Kony Ealy
DL Lawrence Guy
WR Brandin Cooks
TE Dwayne Allen
TE James O’Shaughnessy
RB Mike Gillislee
RB Rex Burkhead
WR Andrew Hawkins
LB David Harris
This doesn’t take into account their four draft picks and the UDFAs that they’ve signed thus far. While the inevitable injuries will occur, as its part of the game, the team seems in very good shape to handle whatever gets thrown at them in 2017. Our first attempt at an early roster projection was done on July 1 prior to training camp. We’ll highlight any changes we make from our earlier version.
First up is the offense…
QUARTERBACK (3): Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett
New England has an embarrassment of riches at the position. They have three QBs that have started and won games for the team. Garoppolo was the guy everyone had being traded this spring but they held on to him … at least for this season. And can we please cease and desist with the “is Jimmy G injury prone?” talk? He has proven he can take over the team in a pinch and he’ll be watched closely this summer to see where his progression is at.
Neither Garoppolo nor Brissett has really shined in the first week of camp. Both have struggled at times and both have thrown a lot of interceptions. Brady has been Brady. The incessant, inane talk of him “falling off a cliff” this year is ridiculous. We’ve been hearing that for 5-6 years. So, keep it up, and one year the writers who spout that stuff off will finally get it right and take victory laps. But for now, he’s as sharp as ever.
RUNNING BACK (5): James White, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis, James Develin
Out: D.J. Foster, Brandon Bolden, Glenn Gronkowski, LeShun Daniels
I was a big fan of the additions of Burkhead and Gillislee this spring. Now, I’m an even bigger fan of these moves. I love the versatility that Burkhead brings to the table. One issue the offense had a year ago, depending on who was on the field, opponents could tell if the play was run or pass. With him and a healthy Dion Lewis? That has changed.
Burkhead can run the ball between the tackles and in the passing game, will find those sweet spots in the flat when Brady spreads the field. Gillislee has shown that the power running game will look a bit different this year, but may be better. He hits the hole quick and he’s a faster, one-cut runner.
James White hauls in a pass. (SBalestrieri photo)
Foster is still the tough cut here. He’s getting a lot of work with the backups but is a very competent receiver with speed and quickness out of the backfield. Strictly a case of numbers for Brandon Bolden who is a core STs player. Daniels is a great candidate for the practice squad.
TIGHT END (3): Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, James O’Shaughnessy
Out: Jacob Hollister, Matt Lengel, Sam Cotton
A healthy Gronkowski is a wonderful thing to behold. He and Allen are locks. The real battle comes down to the number three slot. We originally had O’Shaughnessy beating out Lengel on the basis of his blocking and STs skills. But he’s shown soft hands and the ability to find the open spots on the field.
Hollister is an intriguing case as he’s more of a “move” tight end that can stretch the field. He’s getting a ton of reps with the top STs unit. What does that mean? They want to keep him around and he’s a primary practice squad candidate.
WIDE RECEIVER (5): Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola
Out: Devin Lucien, Austin Carr, Cody Hollister, Tony Washington, K.J. Maye
Brandin Cooks has been everything as advertised. His speed is incredible to watch. Imagine if Tom Brady didn’t have diminishing arm strength (sarcasm). He’s going to be fun to watch in this offense.
Edelman and Hogan seem in mid-season form and the top three are going to be a versatile, dynamic group. Mitchell and Amendola are working with the training staff so they haven’t practiced but there are no worries there.
Carr has been electrifying at times as he’s building a nice chemistry with Jacoby Brissett when working with the backups. He seems to make a big play in every session and the team may have to get creative to keep him around.
INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINE (4): David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Joe Thuney, Ted Karras
Out: Jason King, James Ferentz, Chase Farris
Center David Andrews and guards Mason and Thuney were all starters last year and are locked. It comes down to Ferentz and Karras and so far, I haven’t seen anything to change my earlier call of the 2nd year guy sticking around.
OFFENSIVE TACKLE (4): Nate Solder, Antonio Garcia, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming
Out: LaAdrian Waddle, Conor McDermott, Cole Croston, Max Rich, Andrew Jelks
The starters and the swing tackle from 2016 (Solder, Cannon, and Fleming) return this season. Garcia isn’t that big but plays with a bit of a mean streak that I like. McDermott is in a red shirt year and will go to the practice squad.
Next up in the defense.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE (4): Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Vince Valentine, Lawrence Guy
Out: Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo, Josh Augusta, Adam Butler
Alan Branch is on PUP to begin camp but he’s a lock. Brown has been steady but unspectacular as has Valentine. Guy was a nice pickup from Baltimore and projects as an interior guy with New England. Bill Belichick spoke about his versatility and dependability before practice on Tuesday.
Out: Geneo Grissom, Caleb Kidder With Rob Ninkovich’s retirement, this puts Ealy and Flowers firmly in the starters position with the two rookie draft picks Wise and Rivers as the backups. Depth is definitely thinner now. Combined the team lost 26 years of experience at the position.
Deatrich Wise has had a nice start at training camp. (SBalestrieri photo)
Grissom is getting a ton of reps with the starting unit to see if he can break thru in season #3. He may be kept or the team may opt for another linebacker. Wise has really turned some heads so far in camp. He’s shown good explosion off the ball and the strength to hold up and set the edge. Can he keep it going? We’ll see.
Rivers has struggled a bit with the speed and physicality of the NFL game which isn’t a surprise given he’s a rookie from Division 1AA. I had one fan DM me asking if he was a bust… Really? After five practices? Relax folks, he’s going to be fine.
LINEBACKER (6): Dont’a Hightower, David Harris, Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin, Elandon Roberts, Harvey Langi
Out: Jonathan Freeny, Trevor Bates, Brooks Ellis
Hightower is on PUP but should be ready soon, he’s been out at practice in sweats, usually a good sign. Harris looks like he’s still a thumper inside and with Roberts gives them good depth in the middle. This will allow the team to move Hightower outside more where he can be more of a disruptor.
Van Noy and McClellin will probably be asked to fill in at times as edge rushers (Hightower as well) so the team may opt for an extra linebacker. Harvey Langi is a good sized, athletic kid who can play inside or outside and even as DE in a pinch but this unit will have to work out some roles during the season.
CORNERBACK (5): Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones
Out: Justin Coleman, DJ Killings, William Likely, Kenny Moore, Dwayne Thomas
This has been a fun group to watch. Butler and Gilmore have played as advertised. Jonathan Jones and Eric Rowe have both played well thus far in the slot. This may be a case where they’ll use both depending on matchups.
Stephon Gilmore looks to be a good fit in the Patriots defense.
All of the others have played well. It is strictly a numbers crunch. If they had the slots they would keep them all. Moore has had a great nose for the ball and has made some nice plays so far.
SAFETY (4): Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards
Out: David Jones, Damarius Travis, Jason Thompson Richards leap frogs Jones from our earlier projection as he’s played fairly well so far and Jones, who we are really high on, has been working with the training staff on the lower fields thus far.
The top three of Chung, McCourty, and Harmon have been solid. Harmon had an injury scare the other day and missed Tuesday’s practice but it isn’t considered serious.
SPECIAL TEAMS (6): Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Brandon King, Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner
A good solid group who has had a good camp thus far. Allen had a weird sequence of two straight shanked punts on Saturday but that was an anomaly. The Patriots under STs coach Joe Judge have a very solid core group and they should be fine in 2017. Gostkowski is looking for a rebound year and has looked his normally solid self in camp.
They will need a backup long snapper now, something that was always covered by Ninkovich in the case of an injury to Cardona. Slater is still a marvel and has tremendous speed for a guy in his 10th season.