The Patriots finished up their mandatory three-day minicamp on Thursday and at the conclusion of it, head coach Bill Belichick seems pleased..with how things turned out.
“I think we got a lot done, out on the field, which is good, but we just have to keep grinding away,” Belichick said. Both Belichick and Tom Brady spoke after the practice session and remarked on the day that Patriots long-snapper Joe Cardona was promoted in Gillette Stadium to the rank of Lieutenant in the Naval Reserve. And both remarked on how the day coincided with the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
As Brady was speaking to the media after practice, Devin McCourty cracked, “Tell ‘em (media) it is Ring Night and we ain’t got time for this!”
Julian Edelman showed some love for the Bruins by wearing a Bruins jersey out before practice started. Coincidentally, it was #13 and had Dorsett on the back….
Notable Players MIA:
Among the missing was the same names that missed the first two sessions, RB Sony Michel, RB Nick Brossette, WR Demaryius Thomas, OT Yodny Cajuste, DE Deatrich Wise Jr, SS Patrick Chung, SS Nate Ebner. One new name was added, CB J.C. Jackson.
Isaiah Wynn was present and worked on individual drills and looked like he was moving without any limitations, which is a good sign for moving forward in training camp.
Overall today’s session was a lot of individual drills with not as much 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills.
Other observations included:
Joe Thuney continues to line up at left tackle and worked with the tackles during individual drills
Deion Branch and Troy Brown worked once again with the wide receivers. Branch gets very animated and worked with them on breaking a jam at the line of scrimmage
Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels worked a side session with N’Keal Harry and Jacobi Meyers. It was an exercise in timing as well as how McDaniels and Brady want the young WRs to run their routes and position their breaks. It continues to be a learning process
Stephon Gilmore finished a strong camp in style, by locking down the WRs and knocking down a pass.
Jamie Collins had a strong week and knocked down a Bryan Hoyer screen pass
Jonathan Jones had a nice pass breakup on a deep pass from Tom Brady to Julian Edelman in the corner of the end zone
The offense ran a Flea Flicker on one play where Maurice Harris got behind Jason McCourty and caught it in the end zone.
Duke Dawson had a nice pass breakup on a deep sideline pass from Brady to Phillip Dorsett.
Derek Rivers got some snaps with the first grouping of defensive players.
After Brady finished up his work with 11-on-11, once again the coaches went to Jarrett Stidham before Brian Hoyer or Danny Etling. They want to see what the young man has got.
Play of the Day:
The day ended on two very nice pass plays from Brian Hoyer. He threw a touchdown to Braxton Berrios to end the day, but his TD before that to Phillip Dorsett was a beauty. Hoyer threw a high arcing pass to the corner of the end zone and Dorsett made a beautiful leaping catch in the end zone.
The play by Dorsett brought Hoyer running over to celebrate with him. Ditto for the same thing with Berrios.
After practice, we got to speak with new DL Mike Pennel, and we’ll have more of that on PatsFans.com soon.
Tuesday morning was the Patriots first mandatory mini-camp practice. And the weather gods smiled on the team as there was plenty of sunshine with temps around 70 degrees.
Sony Michel was the most notable absence. It was reported that he was there on Monday for the individual photo day but we don’t know the reason he was missing. Pat Chung, Nate Ebner, Demaryius Thomas, Deatrich Wise, Yodny Cajuste and Nick Brosette were also missing.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins was released today. It has been widely reported that he’s been suffering thru some personal issues. It isn’t known whether the door will be open for him if he decides to return at a later date.
Kyle Van Noy worked out on the lower practice field and returned to the main field later in practice. Isaiah Wynn was present for the warmups and then retreated to the lower fields for work with the training staff.
Brady Looks Sharp:
It is funny how at times Tom Brady, who always looks focused and sharp is questioned. I received several DM’s on Twitter asking “How does Tom look?” As soon as he bounded up the steps to the practice field, walking with James Develin, there was a air of anticipation. He looked over at the assembled media and smiled. “How’s it going guys…and gals,” he said.
Wearing a blue hoodie under his uniform, Brady was sharp, mid-season sharp and was putting some zip on the passes. His mechanics are always flawless. Both he and Brian Hoyer seemed to be trying to get the ball to N’Keal Harry on some short crossers and some out routes.
Brady connected twice on deep balls down the field to Maurice Harris. On the second one, however, backup safety Terrance Brooks could have had a play on the ball in a game situation. At a minimum, he’d have laid a big hit on Harris.
After practice, Bill Belichick was asked: “How did Tom look?” In typical Belichick deadpan, he answered, “there were 90 guys out here, I can’t watch them all.”
During a Special Teams period, Brady worked on the side with James White, Ben Watson, and N’Keal Harry… Interesting stuff there.
Jarrett Stidman is the clear #3, or at least was on the first day of minicamp. We’ll see what Wednesday’s practice brings. Stidman and David Andrews botched a snap on a miscommunication and both had to run a penalty lap.
Danny Etling got very little play with 11-on-11. Stidman’s release needs to get worked on. He has a longer, looping release, but much like he was advertised, he throws a nice tight spiral. Brian Hoyer had an okay day. He had a few passes batted at the line, including one by Van Noy that was picked off by Ja’Whaun Bentley. But he also zipped a few nice passes into tight coverage during the 11-on-11 drills. That being said…
Play of the Day:
Hoyer connected with Braxton Berrios on a deep pass down the right sideline on the far practice field. Berrios had to dive for it and came up with a fantastic catch. The players on the field roared and Berrios just beat rookie corner Joejuan Williams to the pylon. He then spiked the ball.
Other offensive impressions included:
Berrios had an impressive day. While it is hard to get a true read on performances like these in shorts and shirts with no hitting, contact or jamming at the line. He didn’t hurt his chances moving forward. He exhibited quickness off the line and out of his breaks. He got snaps with both Brady and Hoyer, although Brady never targeted him. He made another nice touchdown catch from Hoyer when he cut across the back of the end zone and Hoyer zipped a laser (I can’t believe I just wrote that) in tight coverage.
Maurice Harris had a nice practice, hauling in some contested catches. I like his length, route running, and hands. He’ll be a guy to watch more of as camp wears on. Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett were the first guys in every WR and team drill. Edelman looks like vintage #11.
N’Keal Harry had plenty of good moments but struggled at times. He lined up wrong once and had a drop along the sideline. But he also went up against Stephon Gilmore too, which will only make him better moving forward.
With Michel out, Brandon Bolden got quite a few snaps during the running back drills and 11-on-11s. It is good to see him back, and he’s a popular teammate.
Damien Harris had a nice day. I like the way he hits the hole quickly in the running game and runs low. He’s a solid looking back and looks quick. He got some reps in the passing game and did well.
Ben Watson still moves well for a 38-year old tight end. He was working on his chemistry and timing with Brady. But I was pretty impressed with Matt LaCosse. He moves well and has very good hands. I’d say he was the best TE of the group on the day. Stephen Anderson was active with both Brady and Hoyer.
Joe Thuney was taking the majority of left tackle reps with Cole Croston getting some work, Ted Karras took Thuney’s slot at left guard.
Secondary Looks Strong:
The Patriots have a plethora of cornerbacks, very good cornerbacks and all of these guys can play. They are a fun group to watch.
Defensive observations included:
Gilmore is an All-Pro, J.C. Jackson has the look of a guy who is going to start…and excel. He broke up a pass. Although Jason McCourty got a lot of reps with the first group. Duke Dawson and Keion Crossen also broke up passes.
With Chung missing, Duron Harmon was filling in but Terrance Brooks was getting more reps than Obi Melifonwu and looked better in coverage on the day.
With no pads, it is tough to gauge the offensive and defensive line play. But it does matter how they match up and Michael Bennett, Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, and John Simon got first reps… Chase Winovich, as advertised went all out on every rep.
Jamie Collins was getting a lot of first reps with the defense (wearing #8)
Jerod Mayo was calling the defensive signals again.
Jake Bailey can put a charge into the ball. He launched a few punts into the ozone. He just needs to be more consistent. However, Ryan Allen had a few excellent punts as well. It will be an interesting competition this summer.
Punt returners included Berrios, Harry, Edelman, Harris, Dorsett, and Gunner Olszewski. No kickoffs were conducted, no field goals or extra points either.
Robert Kraft was there for nearly the entire practice. Troy Brown and Deion Branch were again helping out at practice again.
Wednesday’s practice again kicks off at 11:15 a.m. We’ll be there again. On a personal note, I was asked to be an in-studio guest on the Patriots Unfiltered Podcast as soon as practice was over. Fred Kirsch, Paul Perillo, Megan O’Brien from Patriots.com and I spoke about our observations from practice. It can be heard here:
As we count down the days until the 2019 NFL Draft is upon us, we’re going to look at some of the positions that the Patriots need to address to restock, reload and prepare to defend their Super Bowl title. As everyone knows, winning back-to-back titles is never easy.
So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at several positions that the team needs to address. And next up is the wide receiver position. They finished the 2018 season thin at the position. Josh Gordon was suspended indefinitely and may not play this season if ever again. Chris Hogan is a free agent and not expected to return. Phillip Dorsett was resigned to a one-year prove it. Deal. Julian Edelman and Braxton Berrios return, but Berrios didn’t play a snap last year, going on IR at the end of training camp.
During the initial phase of free agency, the team missed out on several big name free agents but signed Bruce Ellington and Maurice Harris. But those two are more depth than anything else. So along with tight end, the WR position is currently one of the thinnest on the roster.
With a plethora of draft picks, the Patriots could swing a trade for an established veteran, which we assume, they’ll try to do. Or add thru the draft….preferably both.
So, with that in mind here are a few prospects (BUT NOT ALL) that may be around for the Patriots to select from. We’ll list a couple of early rounds, mid-round and then late-round prospects who we feel would be a good fit in New England. This list isn’t meant to be all-encompassing, there are other players out there who would fit, this is just a few that we like here.
Deebo Samuel, South Carolina:
Samuel in our opinion, wouldn’t be a good fit in New England, he’d be a great fit. Samuel was the go-to guy for the Gamecocks and he can turn any pass on the field into a threat to score. With the ball in his hands, he’s more running back than wide receiver.
Can separate right off the line of scrimmage
Plays inside in the slot or outside
He is a dangerous kick returner, returning four for TDs
Very productive, 2076 yards receiving, 23 TDs
Doesn’t have ideal height (5’11)
Has injury history
Sometimes struggles against press coverage
What his Role Will Be: Samuel can compete for starting reps on Day 1. The Patriots can move him around with Julian Edelman to create mismatches.
Will his Role Change from Year 1-2? As he gains experience in the offense, he’ll have more and more put on his plate
How Many Downs Can He Play? Four
What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
He is a speedier version of Danny Amendola and I could see him fitting seamlessly into that role
What is his ST Value? He will immediately be a threat to return kicks and had four return TDs for the Gamecocks
Samuel went down to Mobile and turned heads all week during practice and then in the game. He’ll be a fan favorite immediately here in New England and he should enjoy an immediate rapport with Tom Brady. I really doubt however, he’ll last until pick #56, the Patriots may have to move up in Round 2 to get this guy.
Riley Ridley, Georgia:
Ridley is the younger brother of Calvin, the Falcons first-round pick from last year. He is a consistent chain mover and has good production in the red zone. Ridley is a very tough, possession receiver that runs very good routes with good body control.
Very strong hands
Can win those contested catches
Very good at finding soft spots on the defense
Plays his best against the best competition
Has occasional concentration drops
Run blocking needs work
Release off the line of scrimmage needs improvement
What his Role Will Be: Ridley will look initially to be a chain mover and red zone target
Will his Role Change from Year 1-2? Ridley can expect to see his role and looks in the passing game to expand with a year of experience
How Many Downs Can He Play? three
What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
He can look to replace Chris Hogan’s role on the team
What is his ST Value? None, no return experience
Ridley is one of those guys who, in the right situation and system become a better pro receiver than he was in college. He’s not a burner by any stretch of the imagination, running a 4.58 in the 40-yard dash, but has enough speed for corners to respect. His ability to win contested catches and physicality should make him a starter really early. He is a late Round 2 or early Round 3 prospect.
Terry McLaurin, Ohio State:
McLaurin is a mid-round prospect with good size, excellent straight-line speed (4.38 in the 40), and a player who is just coming into his own. He’s got good physicality, is a very hard worker and a leader, he was voted as a two-time captain.
Thickly built, physically strong
Very good blocker
Good, strong hands, route running is crisp
Special teams gunner
Long strider, has to build up speed
Is a bit of a body catcher at times
Doesn’t have a huge catch radius
What his Role Will Be: McLaurin is a guy who can come in and compete for the #3-4 WR and immediately be a factor on STs as a gunner
Will his Role Change from Year 1-2? With experience, he can solidify the role as a #3 or even vie for #2 reps
How Many Downs Can He Play? Four
What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
He can challenge Ellington and Harris for a roster spot and reps.
What is his ST Value? Excellent, he should get reps right away as a gunner
McLaurin had only so-so numbers at Ohio State, with 35 catches but he averaged 20 yards per catch and had 11 touchdowns for the Buckeyes. He was considered below average as a receiver and then went and put on an excellent showing during the Senior Bowl week. He looks like he’s beginning to come into his own. He’s a mid-round guy who will have an immediate impact on STs.
Miles Boykin, Notre Dame:
Boykin has tremendous size and length at 6’4 and 230 pounds who is a very good route runner with soft hands. He ran a 4.42 at the Combine and turned in a fantastic 6.77 time in the 3-Cone Drill.
Height and length off the charts
Quick release for a big man
Huge catch radius
Can high point the ball over most defenders easily
Has occasional concentration drops
Only one year of big production
Can sometimes let corners get into his chest and slow him down
What his Role Will Be: Boykin will try to earn reps as the Patriots “X” receiver
Will his Role Change from Year 1-2? Boykin can expect to see a huge uptick in passing game production to expand with a year of experience under his belt.
How Many Downs Can He Play? three
What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
He can look to replace some of the production that Josh Gordon had outside
What is his ST Value? Minimal
Boykin is a very intriguing guy. With his size, he reminds one of a young Calvin Johnson. But we’re not saying he’s going to have that kind of impact but that’s how big and physical he is in the passing game. He’s a size mismatch kind of player who can high point balls, win in contested areas with very strong hands. Boykin is another mid-round player who could immediately pay dividends for the Patriots.
Now for a couple of later round players…
Hunter Renfrow, Clemson:
Renfrow is… let’s see, too small, too slow, isn’t athletic enough, where have we heard this before? Yet, all he does is catch the ball at crunch time and move the chains. Every time Clemson was in a crunch situation, they looked Renfrow’s way and he delivered.
Very clutch receiver
Excellent awareness when he’s the hot read
Outstanding at finding soft spots on the defense
Plays his best against the best competition
Undersized, isn’t explosive
Quicker than fast
Obvious smaller catch radius
What his Role Will Be: Renfrow will immediately vie for reps in the slot
Will his Role Change from Year 1-2? Julian Edelman is beginning to get up there in years, Renfrow is the type of player that can be eased into the same type of role
How Many Downs Can He Play? three
What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
No one, he’ll be battling with Braxton Berrios for a roster spot.
What is his ST Value? Minimal
Renfrow is a quintessential Patriots kind of guy, that people spend too much time telling you what he can’t do while they find ways of taking advantage of the things he does well. He’s a gifted route runner and always finds ways to get open. Production? In 53 college games, he caught 186 passes for 2133 yards and 15 touchdowns. Clutch? In two National Championship games against Alabama, Renfrow caught 17 passes for 180 yards and 4 touchdowns. Yeah, I’ll take that.
Penny Hart, Georgia State:
Hart is another small, even smaller than Renfrow, wide receiver at 5’8, 180 pounds. He played at a lower level of competition at Georgia State, but got an invite to the Senior Bowl and turned heads there. He was too quick, too fast and too twitchy for the corners there to get their hands on.
Smaller catch radius and doesn’t win many contested catches
What his Role Will Be: Hart can vie for reps in the slot while carving out a role as a kick and punt returner
Will his Role Change from Year 1-2? If he shows he can step it up against the pros, he could definitely see an uptick in targets in Year 2.
How Many Downs Can He Play? Four
What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
No one, he’ll be battling with Braxton Berrios, Bruce Ellington, and Maurice Harris for a roster spot.
What is his ST Value? Very good value as a kick or punt returner
Hart is a potential steal in the late rounds or even as an UDFA. He has had very good production and is a very versatile kind of player, he can run, catch and return kicks. He’s a natural slot receiver with outstanding change of direction. He’s going to land somewhere.
The Patriots have to address the wide receiver position in the draft or possibly decide to make a trade with one of their 12 draft picks for an established veteran as well. The cupboard as it stands right now is too bare for the team to enter the 2019 season. However, it IS only March and like the TE position, they have plenty of time to rectify the situation. These players are some of the ones we feel would fit what they do. Obviously there are others.
The Patriots are just in the infancy stages of building their roster and regardless of the big fish that got away in the hours and days before free agency even actually began, it is rarely if ever the way this team builds its roster.
The roster, as it currently stands will in no way resemble that which will take the field in Week 1 of the regular season nor at the end of the season. That especially will hold true for the Wide Receiver position.
We have seen the angst that many fans and media members have been feeling about the group of players that Tom Brady will be throwing to and rest assured, the team is not done addressing those issues. The team signed Bruce Ellington and Maurice Harris after bringing back Phillip Dorsett and while those two players aren’t the names that people were looking for, they will add depth to the roster and in the case of Ellington, he’s a guy who has had some degree of success against the Patriots a few times with the Texans. Bill Belichick loves to bring in guys like that.
So, with 12 picks, including six in the first 101 of the upcoming NFL Draft, the Patriots approach to building up more production and depth at wide receiver will probably be two-fold. They will most assuredly draft a wide receiver …or two in April. But they probably will try to swing a trade with a team that has a wide receiver on the final year of his contract, much like how they got Brandin Cooks two years ago.
So who is out there in the final year of their contracts? Let’s look:
A.J. Green, Bengals: With Cincinnati in the rebuild mode, Green who is now 30, is the name you’ve seen most circled as a “Patriots target” for a trade. It makes sense on a couple of points. Green is 30 and probably isn’t circled by the Bengals as being part of their longterm plans. He’s also been very productive in his career but has never tasted a playoff victory.
But Green to New England isn’t happening. Why? I can give you 15 million reasons why. That’s what his salary is for 2019. With the Patriots already strapped for cash, they need to re-do a couple of contracts anyway to get themselves prepared for the rest of 2019 and the draft. Bringing in Green without the Bengals eating a significant amount of his contract would put them in a huge bind… That’s a non-starter.
Tyler Boyd, Bengals: If there is a guy on Cincinnati, I’d rather have its Boyd. When he came out in the draft a few years ago, our 4th & 2 podcast member Derek Havens and I both really liked Boyd and thought he’d be a great fit in the Patriots offense.
Boyd had a terrific 2018 catching 76 passes for 1028 yards and 7 TDs, even better, his contract for 2019, his last on a rookie deal pays him just $1,064,742. Which is peanuts for a player of his ability. However, if I am the Bengals, why would I want to trade him? He’s just 26, and unless I felt there was no way, he returns in 2020.
Allen Hurns, Cowboys: Most people remember the gruesome injury Hurns suffered in the playoffs when his ankle was dislocated in the Seahawks game. Hurns is considered a very good teammate and a popular one in the locker room. He is expected to be fully healthy to take part in training camp and the regular season.
He had 1000 yard season a few years ago in Jacksonville and can play all three receiver positions including the slot. He’s got good size at 6’3, 201 and will turn 28 in November. He’s due $6.000,000 in 2019.
He didn’t have a great first season in Dallas with just 20 catches as he saw his playing time take a nose dive after the team acquired Amani Cooper. The Patriots could possibly pry him away as Dallas may opt for a slot receiver in the draft.
Laquon Treadwell, Vikings: Treadwell was thought to be the next great one when the Vikings drafted him in the first round #23 in the 2016 NFL Draft. But it has never materialized for him, he struggled to get production and was a healthy scratch in late December when the Vikes were fighting for a playoff spot. He had just 35 catches for 302 yards and a TD in 2018.
His cap hit is just $3,161,132 in 2019 with a team option for a fifth season. He’s not going to be picked up by Minnesota who have to deal with Stefon Diggs and Adam Theilen at the position. The question is, can Treadwell, who is just 23, turn his career around with a fresh start?
Sterling Shepard, Giants: Shepard plays both primarily in the slot and outside, and was thought to be possibly expendable with the Giants picking up Golden Tate recently. He caught 66 passes for 872 yards and four touchdowns in 2018. He’s in the final year of his rookie deal where he’s making just $1,891,464 in 2019.
Would the Giants let him go in a trade? It seems like the answer is no to that. Dave Gettleman, the Giants GM who has made some head scratching moves this spring, first by trading Odell Beckham Jr. and releasing Landon Collins, then signing Tate to a big money contract is saying their keeping both.
“Sterling played outside last year and did fine,” he said on a recent radio interview.” Will work well together with Tate.”
Shepard or Boyd remain the best case scenarios for the Patriots. Others like Emanuel Sanders of the Broncos is a very long shot. John Elway won’t trade him to New England. Another name to consider may be Josh Doctson of the Redskins. He’s another 1st round draft pick who thus far has been a bust in Washington. He’s never had more than six passes caught or gained more than 84 yards in any game thru his first three seasons.
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 03-17 and AFC East Notes. We hope everyone has a great, happy and safe St. Patrick’s Day.
Favorite St. Patrick’s Day memory? Taking the train into North Station in a blizzard and my Dad taking me, my brother and two cousins to my first Bruins game. Against the Montreal Canadiens.
Adrian Clayborn – the veteran pass rusher will only complete one season as a Patriots and was released on Friday as per his wishes. His release gives the team an extra almost $3.5 million dollars in salary cap room.
Clayborn wrote on Twitter a thank-you note to the Patriots.
“Thank you Patriots for my time with the organization. gained so much respect for how you do things and win championships. It’s done the right way through hard work. Thank you for granting my release. I’m ready for this next chapter.”
He garnered 2.5 sacks, 13 QB hits, and a forced fumble after signing a two-year free-agent deal last spring. He added a sack and five QB hits during the Patriots Super Bowl run. With Trey Flowers a member of the Detroit Lions and Clayborn released, the Patriots depth chart on the edge consists of Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise Jr., John Simon, Ufomba Kamalu, Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis, and Trent “Toolbox” Harris.
Michael Bennett – Speaking of the latest addition, Bennett spoke with Patriots.com
“I used to hate the Patriots,” he said. “I hated it because they would win so much. I hated it because Tom Brady’s hair was long. I hated that Belichick would wear sweaters. But now that I’m here, I love it. I love Tom Brady’s hair. I love being a Patriot obviously because it is all about winning. I think everything about the organization is being team-first, and just about doing what we need to do to get to where we want to go as a group. I love that.”
KC’s Hill Under Investigation For Child Abuse – Kansas City Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill is under scrutiny by law enforcement personnel for battery against a minor. This is the second brush with the law in 10 days. Police were called to his home for a child abuse/neglect call on March 5 but closed the case without any charges being filed.
Again on March 14 police officers received a call at the same address and Hill’s three-year-old son was reportedly the victim with a broken arm. Hill has not been charged with any crime at this point.
Law enforcement officials won’t comment on an on-going investigation. Hill back in 2015 pleaded guilty of domestic assault and battery by strangulation in August 2015. He received three years probation.
He reportedly punched and choked Espinal, who was then eight weeks pregnant with their son, on Dec. 11, 2014. She is now pregnant with twins. Hill has been in negotiations with the Chiefs on a new deal that would make him among the highest players at his position. But for now, those negotiations are probably on hold. Both the Chiefs and the NFL said that they are aware of the incident.
“The club is aware of the investigation involving Tyreek Hill,” the Chiefs said in a statement. “We’re in the process of gathering information and have been in contact with the league and local authorities. We’ll have no further comment at this time.”
This isn’t good news for Hill, the Chiefs or the NFL. The league just suspended former Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt for eight games in 2019 for violation of the league’s Personal Conduct Policy. After he was captured on video kicking and shoving a woman in the hallway of a Cleveland hotel.
Bolden and McCourty Return – After a year in Miami, Patriots special teams ace and backup running back Brandon Bolden is returning to Foxboro on a two-year deal. The popular locker room presence spent the first six years of his career in Foxboro. Tom Brady responded to Bolden’s Instagram post about his return with an “F**k Yeah!”
Jason McCourty is also returning on a 2-year deal. The 31-year old, came on board with the team last year and played very well, giving the cornerback position another veteran presence along with Stephon Gilmore.
Dorsett and Simon Back – The Patriots also brought back two more of their own free agents by re-signing WR Phillip Dorsett and DE John Simon. Dorsett seemed primed for a big role in the offense after a solid training camp but he never really had a big impact, catching 32 passes for 290 yards and three TDs. Once the team brought in Josh Gordon, Dorsett lost most of his reps. He has a one-year, prove-it type deal in 2019. The one strange thing in this, however, was whenever his number was called, he generally came thru, with a 76 percent catch rate. Will the third season be a charm?
Simon was signed in late September after being released by the Colts. He was a valuable role player both defensively and on STs, where his role increased down the stretch last season and into the playoffs. He was one of the players who found a nice role when the team used their “Amoeba Defense.” The deal was for two years and $7.2 million dollars.
Melifonwu Surprised by Grafton High School Honor – Patriots reserve safety Obi Melifonwu was asked by his old high school in Grafton, Mass. to come in and speak with the students. I was covering it for the Worcester Telegram and Gazette and the Grafton News.
He did and spoke about the importance of schoolwork and how it helped a freshman struggling to fit in find his way into a college where he not only starred in football but graduated with two degrees in 2017. But the school surprised Melifonwu by presenting him with his high school jersey which will be permanently displayed at the school. He was a star both offensively and defensively in CMass football before moving on to UConn and then the NFL.
He admitted he was shocked by the gesture and very appreciative. Afterward, he spoke about preparing for this upcoming season, he’s working with a trainer in Foxboro, outside the facility to prepare himself. He also spoke about learning how to better prepare his body, something he learned the hard way, after being injured for the first time and the resultant therapy.
“Sometimes you train a certain way thru high school and into college that you believe is preparing your body correctly,” he said. “But you learn that certain body parts have been neglected which can lead to overcompensating in certain areas, which ultimately lead to injuries.”
Asked about his Super Bowl experiences, he said, although he didn’t play, his focus was on helping his teammates. “I knew early in the week that I wasn’t going to play, so your focus is completely different,” he said. “Then, your entire mindset is to help the offense, by trying to emulate the Rams defense the best that you can in practice.”
While CMass Division III football isn’t exactly a hotbed for NFL players, the Indians have had a few make their mark. Beside Melifonwu, another former Grafton alum, Steve Spagnuolo is now the Defensive Coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs.
The draft and spring workouts will be an interesting one for Melifonwu. When the Patriots signed him it was for two years, with 2019 in mind. How they feel about the ridiculously athletic safety will be put to the test in April. They normally target a safety early in the draft. If they do or don’t take a strong safety early will probably tell you how they feel about his long-term viability in their system.
Patriots Add Five Free Agents But No Sexy Names…Surprised? Shouldn’t Be:
We knew this was coming…right? While teams were overpaying for the premium name free agents in a feeding frenzy before the actual free agency period even began, the Patriots stood pat. They did bid on a couple of free agent wide receivers, especially Adam Humphries and to a lesser extent Cole Beasley. But if you really expecting OBJ or Golden Tate, you were bound to be disappointed, just like nearly every other spring.
The team did add five free agents, but they weren’t any of the sexy names fans were clamoring for. The Patriots signed wide receivers Bruce Ellington and Maurice Harris, tight end Matt LaCosse, special teams safety Terrence Brooks and defensive tackle Mike Pennel.
Fans shouldn’t be worried at this point in just mid-March about the state of the wide receiver position. Team building is just in the infantile stages here. Trades are still available and with 12 draft picks, there will be some deals to be made. And with 12 picks in the upcoming draft, they have the capital to move around or make a deal
Of all the players the biggest impact player may just be Mike Pennel. If you listen to our Patriots 4th & 2 podcasts, you’d have heard me say, I believe the Patriots were going to add Pennel as a free agent. He’s a big, 6’4, 330-pound space eater who will be the nose tackle in 2019. With Malcom Brown a Saint and Danny Shelton a free agent, the team needed a big body to anchor the middle of the field, something they needed a year ago.
As Bill Belichick said a year ago before the Patriots played the Jets, guys who are 330 pounds don’t grow on trees. He’s big, very strong and will be a very good addition against the run. He’ll be a starter on Day 1.
Bruce Ellington is a small, 5’9 WR who has had trouble staying healthy and on the field. He has excellent speed and had 31 catches in just seven games a year ago. He has KR and PR ability and this may be why the team brought him in to replace Corrdarrelle Patterson this season. In 2017, he had a good game against the Patriots in Foxboro, catching four passes for 59 yards including a 29-yard touchdown from Deshaun Watson. Bill Belichick loves bringing in players who have done well against his team in the past.
Maurice Harris is a former Redskins WR who has never really put things together. He has very good size at 6’3, 200 pounds with some return ability as well. An UDFA in 2016, he seemed destined to break out last year after a big training camp. But he never did and gets a fresh start with New England. He had 28 catches for 304 yards a year ago, however, over half of those receptions (15) came in two back-to-back games.
Matt Lacosse from the Broncos has boom or bust written all over him. He signed a two-year deal worth $4.8 million dollars and has the frame (6’6, 255) to be a very good blocker in the running game.
He caught 24 passes for 250 yards and a TD last year after working his way from the #3 TE to being the starter after injuries hurt the position. He too will be getting a fresh start in New England. He’ll get the chance to be the #2 or #3 TE here in 2019.
Terrence Brooks is a safety but is more known for his special teams’ acumen. He was one of the standout players on one of the better STs units in the league last year. The Patriots struggled in the kicking game especially kickoff and punt coverage early last season. Once they brought in Albert McClellan and Ramon Humber, both free agents, things solidified. Bringing back Bolden and signing Brooks should be a boost overall for the ST units in 2019.
Patriots ST’s Kickers Remain Unsigned:
The Patriots are getting a lot of air time with the usual hot take hosts about their lack of depth at wide receiver. But right now, they have no players in the kicking game with the exception of long-snapper Joe Cardona.
Both kicker Stephen Gostkowski and punter Ryan Allen remain unsigned. Gostkowski has been with the team for longer than Adam Vinatieri was and is one of the top kickers in the league. Allen, while in the middle of the road in terms of gross punting average is outstanding at directional punting and could have been a legitimate Super Bowl MVP candidate by pinning the Rams back deep in their zone all game long.
Bottom line here is there isn’t a better kicker on the market than Gostkowski. We still expect both to return at some point, but it remains an area to monitor.
Patriots Still “Tentatively Planning” on Having Gronk Back in 2019:
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski still hasn’t announced his decision on whether to return to the team in 2019 or retire. He’s openly talked retirement in the past but the opportunity to have one last shot at the team’s seventh Super Bowl championship may be a big draw for him.
Of course, Gronkowski can also point to the cash he’s due, he’ll count for $11,859,375 against the salary cap in 2019. If he retires, the team will have an additional $9,859,375 to spend this year.
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported, “My understanding is when you talk to people close to him, they think there is a better chance that he comes back again than he doesn’t. And I do believe that the Patriots are at least tentatively planning as if they will have Gronk for the 2019 season.”
With the release of Dwayne Allen, the Patriots depth chart at tight end consists of the newly signed Matt Lacosse, Jacob Hollister, Stephen Anderson, and Ryan Izzo.
Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:
Bills Bring In Weapons for Josh Allen:
The Buffalo Bills signed some very needed receivers for their offense in free agency inking WRs John Brown and Cole Beasley, tight end Tyler Kroft as well as offensive line help in Mitch Morse and Ty Nsekhe. This should aid in helping QB Josh Allen in helping transform what was a moribund offense in 2018.
The team also inked the ageless Frank Gore at running back on a one-year deal, giving Buffalo the oldest RB group with Gore who will be 36 along with Chris Ivory (30) and LeSean McCoy (30). It should be noted, however, that Gore averaged 4.7 yards per carry last year with the Dolphins.
Brown gives the Bills the deep speed they lack and he had his best season last year in Baltimore catching 65 passes for 1003 yards. Beasley is a Julian Edelman clone, who the Bills hope will transform their short passing game, where Allen was 32nd in the league a year ago. Kroft had a breakout season with 42 catches in 2017 but broke his foot and played in only five games a year ago.
This will be an interesting year to see how much Allen can progress, the Bills spent a lot of cash to upgrade their weapons for him and added two WRs and a badly needed TE. With the draft upcoming, the Bills will probably still address WR and RB to get a bit younger there.
Dolphins Trade QB Tannehill to the Titans:
The Miami Dolphins have traded their seven-year starter at QB, Ryan Tannehill to the Tennessee Titans on Friday. The Dolphins packaged a 6th round draft pick in 2019 along with Tannehill for the Titans 7th round pick in 2019 and a 4th round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Tannehill had his moments but could never put it all together for Miami who paid him a few years ago as their franchise QB. He completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 1,979 yards with 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 11 games last year. Now he’ll serve as the backup to Marcus Mariota. Tannehill is playing on a one-year deal with $7 million guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The one-year deal goes to $12 million+ with playtime and other incentives. The Dolphins are on the hook for $5 million of the $7 million guaranteed in the form of a signing bonus.
Miami, which tried to bring in QB Teddy Bridgewater, now has only Jake Rudock and Luke Falk at QB. They’ll either try to swing a trade for an established QB, or draft a young one in the NFL Draft, perhaps both.
Jets Go All in On Free Agency:
The New York Jets were expected to make a splash in free agency with a ton of cap space to spend it on and they didn’t disappoint. The laid out big money for RB Le’Veon Bell, ILB C.J. Mosely, slot receiver Jamison Crowder and then added slot corner Brian Poole who came over after spending three years with the Falcons.
Bell, is the most notable free agent having sat out 2018 in a contract dispute with the Steelers, and the money he signed for is actually less than the Steelers offer of five-years and $70 million. Bell signed for four years and $52 million with $25 million guaranteed. He has a ton of wear on his tires but after taking a year off, he may go into the season refreshed. But the Jets offensive line scarcely resembles the Steelers unit that helped Bell launch in his career. The Jets did make a move in that direction by trading for LG Kelechi Osemele from Oakland.
Mosely is one of the best interior linebackers in the league, a true leader for the defense and a smart, physical player who will be on the field for all three downs. He’s an instant upgrade for them at the position, but the Jets ponied up a ton of money, guaranteeing a whopping $51 million. They also had Anthony Barr agree to a deal but he ended up getting cold feet and ultimately left the Jets at the altar.
Crowder gives the Jets a big play option in the slot with the speed to make a ton of YAC. This should allow them to move Quincy Enunwa to the outside. But the question with Crowder is can he stay healthy? He missed seven games a year ago.
The Jets made a big splash, but will these moves pay off? We’ll see, but it never stops Manish Mehta from making one of his patented silly predictions. In Manish’s latest “look at me” moment, he made his prediction for the top QBs for the AFC East in 2019.
Current starting QBs in the AFC East… from projected best to worst in 2019:
1) Sam Darnold 2) Tom Brady 3) Josh Allen 4) Luke Falk
But before you get too hard on Manish, he got exactly what he was looking for as Boston sports radio couldn’t wait to get him on to defend his position…hmm
The Patriots are facing a ton of potential turnover in their roster in the upcoming 2019 season and to go along with a slew of coaching changes, it presents a difficult challenge in the days ahead.
Most Super Bowl winners suffer a turnover of more than 20 players from the Super Bowl to Week 1 of the following NFL season. This year’s Patriot team will no doubt be any different.
So, now that the post-Super Bowl celebrations are over and we’ve had a chance to let the dust settle, we are going to take a look at some of the Patriots free agents and try to get a feel on who may return and who may be moving on. And let’s start with the two biggest of them.
The Patriots defensive end was a fourth-round pick from Arkansas just four years ago and at 25 is just now entering the prime of his career. Flowers led the team in sacks the past three years but he’s much more than just a sack specialist.
In the varied scheme that the Patriots run on defense, they ask their edge players to do a lot of different things. And Flowers can do them all. He sets the edge, rushes the passer from the outside, can kick inside as an interior pass rusher and drop occasionally into the passing lanes in the flat.
Flowers has arguably been the Patriots’ best defensive player for the past several years and they know and appreciate his value. How will the rest of the league value Flowers? In an increasing fantasy football mindset, many fans and writers may not believe that he’s a top-tier defensive player. But the coaches see what he brings, especially two ex-New England coaches in Detroit and Miami.
The chances of Flowers returning are probably less than 50/50, and if they can’t get anything done by the time the signing frenzy begins, it will probably be less than that. Flowers would look awful in teal…
My, my, my, (Joe Kenda voice), what a difference a year makes. When the Patriots got Brown in a trade with the 49ers there were a lot of very unconvinced people (including right here) that wondered why the Niners would let him go if he was as good as Von Miller proclaimed him to be.
Miller, the Broncos pass rush specialist, called Brown the best right tackles in the NFL and considered him one of the best tackles …period. Brown is absolutely enormous at 6’8, 380-pounds but for a man so big, he moves incredibly well. He took over the starting left tackle position in the first days of training camp and never looked back.
He started all 16 regular season games and all three playoff games and was simply outstanding. So, yes… he can play left tackle in the NFL, and do so at an elite level. Having feet as quick as his for such a large man allows him to keep pass rushers at bay and he can be a road grader in the running game.
Will another team throw a boatload of money at his feet this spring? With the protection of QBs blindsides always at a premium, the answer is probably yes. Will the Patriots match? Probably not. They invested their top pick last year in Isaiah Wynn who ended up on IR with a torn Achilles last year. Marcus Cannon is under contract for the next three years. The Patriots believe Wynn is more than capable, however, they’ll want to take him along slowly with his injury.
If the Patriots do re-sign Brown, then swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle will probably go, if not he’ll return for another year. The chances of Brown returning are far less than 50 percent in 2019.
Stephen Gostkowski/Ryan Allen:
Both of the Patriots kicking tandem are free agents this season. Gostkowski has been with the Patriots since Adam Vinatieri left in 2006, (the Patriots have essentially had two kickers since 1995), and Gostkowski has been remarkably consistent for a very long time. Last season he was 27-32 on FG attempts, three of his misses were beyond 50 yards and 49-50 on extra points. His work on kickoffs is a subject that Bill Belichick has long complimented on as exemplary.
Allen has been outstanding at angling punts to the sidelines and dropping them inside the 20-yard line of opponents. During the Super Bowl, he pinned the Rams deep three times inside their 10-yard line. And don’t forget, it is Allen that does the holding on all of the extra points and field goals.
Both are extremely valuable and trusted. The odds of each returning is well over 50 percent for 2019.
J-Mac was a very valuable contributor in 2018, his solid play, experience, and leadership were all key factors in the team’s success in the secondary. And playing in the playoffs for the first time in his career, was an experience that McCourty relished, a valuable teaching point to the younger players to never take anything for granted. Especially for a player who went from 0-16 to a Super Bowl win.
The Patriots have a lot of depth at the cornerback position with Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones (RFA), Duke Dawson, Keion Crossen and Eric Rowe (UFA). McCourty’s veteran presence would be very valuable in 2019, but much of his future may be tied into his brother’s retirement consideration. If Devin decides to return for one more year, Jason would be much more inclined to remain. He’s a 50/50 proposition to return.
Chris Hogan/Phillip Dorsett/Cordarrelle Patterson:
The Patriots three complementary wide receivers are all unrestricted free agents this spring. Hogan has spent the past three seasons here after signing a three-year deal bringing him over from Buffalo. Hogan was a key contributor on the two Super Bowl teams his first two seasons but this year, he seemed to be frozen out of the offense, where he was forgotten for very long stretches. A classy vet, on and off the field. He’s a great teammate who works hard every day and can be a valuable complementary piece in any offense.
Dorsett seemed primed to have a nice role in the offense after a really strong training camp. But when the team signed Josh Gordon, he saw his playing time slashed. However, when his number was called, he contributed some big plays, most notably the touchdown pass in KC during the conference championship game right before the half. He never lived up to his first-round draft pick expectations but can be a nice role player.
Patterson remains one of the premier kick returners in the game and the opening kickoff in the Super Bowl showed how dynamic he can be, nearly breaking it for a TD. The Patriots installed a package on offense to take advantage of his blazing speed and he chipped in with three receiving touchdowns. He also jumped into the mix at running back when injuries piled up at mid-season and acquitted himself pretty well there. That concept of doing whatever the team needs you to do wasn’t lost on the coaching staff.
The belief here is that Hogan is gone and Dorsett is slightly less than 50 percent to be returning, probably looking for a spot that will allow him more playing time. Patterson seemed to really like it here and if the Patriots offer him anything close to what he gets on the open market, then his chances of returning are better than 50 percent.
Malcom Brown/Danny Shelton:
The two big men in the middle both had the team decline fifth-year options for each in 2019 which says that they are prepared to move away from either or both unless the money is right. Brown had a good but unspectacular 2018 season and like his previous four years, had bouts of inconsistency. He was much better down the stretch and into the playoffs. But in truth, he never really lived up to his first-round draft expectations.
The Patriots picked up Shelton from the Browns last spring and he too was plagued by consistency problems. He was a healthy scratch for three late-season games including the AFC Championship Game but was active and very good in Super Bowl LIII.
The belief here is that the team could easily bring one of the two back on a team-friendly deal, but the chances that either return are under 50 percent.
John Simon/Albert McClellan/Ramon Humber:
The Patriots love their special teams’ guys and in a year when the normally stellar STs units were struggling with their consistency early in the year, they brought these three into to the fold to steady the boat.
Simon proved to be a valuable role player on the defense first and STs second. He did a very good job when called upon in setting the edge and getting after the passer as well as dropping into coverage. In the sub-packages the team runs, he provided a valuable role and fit in well.
McClellan was an outstanding addition to the STs and blocked a couple of kicks, forced a key fumble. But in the punt coverage teams? Before McClellan’s arrival, the team was allowing nearly 13 yards per punt return. After he came on board, it was cut in half. That isn’t a coincidence.
Humber is another STs maven and he’s terrific on kick coverage and recovered a blocked punt. The chances of these three returning are better than 50 percent, it would be nice to see the team re-sign all three this spring.
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 02-10 and AFC East Notes.
An Emotional Bill Belichick: We are used to seeing to the normally clipped and reserved Bill Belichick over the course of the year, where he always keeps things in perspective and never gets too high or too low. But as the Patriots clinched Super Bowl LIII, all of those shrouds were lifted and we saw the joy for all of the hard work come thru. In typical Belichick style, he gave all of the praise to the players. NFL Films captured it perfectly right here:
Patterson With a Diamond-studded Gift for Brady: Patriots WR/KR/RB Cordarrelle Patterson was obviously very grateful for his 2018 season with the Patriots and especially with Tom Brady. Patterson made a gift of a diamond-studded TB12 logo to Brady after the Super Bowl, which no doubt set him back thousands of dollars. Brady posted a picture of his daughter wearing it on his Instagram page. She saw it and fell in love with it…Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.
What a Crowd for the Parade: The Patriots 6th Super Bowl win this week featured a couple of huge crowds which put to rest that the fans were getting blase about the team’s continued success. The turnout for the send-off rally was over 35,000 fans and the Super Bowl parade which had a huge crowd of 1,500,000 fans in downtown Boston. The crowd at the game itself was the first time that the Patriots had a clear advantage in terms of crowd noise. It never gets old or taken for granted.
Did you Know? For the yards are more important than points crowd… The Patriots in SB LIII garnered more yards (407) than their season average (393) against the Rams. While the defense held the Rams to 160 yards fewer (260) than their season average which was 421. When we wrote about the defense coming together late in the season, many scoffed at it. After those last three playoff wins, nobody is scoffing now.
A Return for Amendola? The latest news out of Miami is that the Dolphins are rumored to be moving on from WR Danny Amendola after just one season in South Beach. If that were to happen, could a return to Foxboro be in the cards? Absolutely. And I know a certain QB that would love to see that happen as well.
Close the Roof: With another sound clip from just before the game started, watching Bill Belichick questioning the timing of the roof closure after the flyover shows how detailed the Patriots and their coaches are in preparation for every possible scenario.
Favorite Play of the Game in Super Bowl LIII:
In a game dominated by defense, there are several plays that could fit the bill as favorite plays of the game. The pass breakup by Jason McCourty in the end zone, Stephon Gillmore’s interception, Dont’a Hightower just blowing up Tyler Higbee during the Danny Shelton’s run stuff, but my personal favorite was from Kyle Van Noy.
The Rams rolled Jared Goff out to the right and had three WRs flooding the zone. Josh Reynolds was the main target doing a shallow cross about 3-4 yards off the line of scrimmage with a deeper cross about 12 yards and Cooks running a deep corner route.
Van Noy was supposed to get sucked into Goff which allows his an easy window to complete the pass and have an easier 7-10 yard pass play. But Van Noy recognized the play coming, and slowed up to hit Reynolds with a forearm, flattening him. He then joined the rush after Goff, who had nowhere to throw and was forced out of bounds. It was a tremendous play.
Brian Baldinger from the NFL Network every week does his “Baldy’s Breakdowns” and highlights certain key plays and they are excellent. He calls this particular play here:
Flores Brings Three Patriots Assistants With Him to Miami:
The Miami Dolphins hired former Patriots de facto Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores this week and Flores has brought three Patriots assistant coaches with him to Miami. Former WRs coach Chad O’Shea will become the Dolphins offensive coordinator. Josh Boyer who coached the NE cornerbacks will handle the same duties in Miami with the added title of defensive passing game coordinator as well. And Jerry Schuplinski, the assistant QBs coach will also handle the same duties there.
Greg Schiano Rumored to be the Next Defensive Coordinator:
With Flores departure for South Beach, the Patriots are looking for a couple of defensive coaches and what was first reported locally by Jim McBride of the Boston Globe, the Patriots are reportedly close to signing former Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano as their next DC.
Schiano spent the last two years as the Ohio State DC and is a friend of Bill Belichick’s. But where Schiano is best known for was his time as Rutgers’ head coach. During his tenure there 19 players who played for him made their way to New England.
Those players included Devin and Jason McCourty, Duron Harmon, Logan Ryan, and current Patriots safety coach, Steve Belichick. Bill Belichick will always surround himself with players he likes, and the Rutgers connection with Schiano is a testament to that. He and Schiano should get along fine.
Patriots Have Large Free Agent Class in 2019:
As tough as it is moving on from Super Bowl LIII, time marches on and now the team will have a lot of tough personnel decisions to make in 2019. Here is the list, and it is lengthy of the Patriots free agents this year.
Trey Flowers Trent Brown Chris Hogan Cordarrelle Patterson Phillip Dorsett Jason McCourty Eric Rowe Stephen Gostkowski Ryan Allen Malcom Brown Danny Shelton LaAdrian Waddle John Simon Albert McClellan Ramon Humber Brian Schwenke Ulrick John Jonathan Jones (RFA) Josh Gordon (RFA) Ufomba Kamalu Cody Hollister
Obviously, the two top free agents are Flowers from the defense and Brown on the offense. Flowers has arguably been the Patriots best defensive player for the past three years and has led the team in sacks in those three. The Patriots will no doubt try to find a way to secure Flowers services but he’s in line for a huge payday and is considered one of the top free agents this spring.
Brown was brought on-board last spring and had never played left tackle. He took over the position early in training camp and never looked back. He was very solid in pass protection and was terrific in run blocking, especially in the postseason. He’s another guy inline for a huge payday.
Hogan will probably be gone although I do believe that the team will make efforts to bring back both Dorsett and Patterson, the latter who did a bit of everything this past season, playing wide receiver, running back and returning kickoffs. Patterson had a combined yardage total of over 1100 in 2018. Dorsett was a forgotten man during the time Josh Gordon was on the team, but contributed down the stretch and had a big TD reception in the AFC Championship Game.
Gostkowski and Allen are an excellent duo. Gostkowski has been here since Adam Vinatieri left in 2006. Allen was outstanding in the Super Bowl, pinning the Rams three times inside their 10-yard line.
It will interesting to see if McCourty returns, there were rumors that he and his brother Devin may retire after the Super Bowl but he played well all season and made a huge play in the Super Bowl, coming from across the field to break up a pass for Brandin Cooks in the end zone. Rowe began the year as the #2 corner before landing on IR after just four games.
Brown and Shelton are the two big guys in the middle of the DL.Both played well down the stretch and into the playoffs. However, after passing on the fifth-year options on both, the team may only resign one. Waddle has been a valuable swing tackle, with the health along the OL this season, he wasn’t used as much.
Simon, McClellan and Humber were brought in mid-season and all filled valuable roles. The team will probably look to retain all three. Jones and Gordon are restricted free agents. And the interesting aspect of Gordon is that he can apply for reinstatement in May of this year.
Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:
Bills Have $80 Million in Cap Space, But Preach Caution:
In a really good piece by Vic Carucci, the Buffalo Bills in the first two seasons under Sean McDermott have been trying to manage expectations and build for long-term sustained success. So with about $80 million in cap space this spring, GM Brandon Beane in a letter to season ticket holders is preaching more caution. The message is to not expect the team to go all-in in free agency for instant gratification.
“The sole focus is to build the Buffalo Bills into a championship contender and help create a culture aimed at long-term, sustained success,” Beane wrote.
That is the correct way to build a winner. The Bills are still a long ways off from being a true contender and now they’ll try to start adding the long-term pieces that they’ll need to surround their young QB Josh Allen.
“The previous two draft classes have begun a new foundation of young players on our roster,” Beane wrote. “We are encouraged by the development thus far by players like Josh Allen, Tremaine Edmunds, Tre’Davious White and others. Each of them was given an individual plan of improvement at season’s end and they understand they have a lot of work in front of them.
“We have opportunities to improve our team this offseason and the Pegulas, Sean (McDermott) and I are all on the same page and determined to bring winning football to the city of Buffalo. Thank you for your loyal dedication to this franchise.”
Dolphins Hire Flores Who Brings Plenty of NE Coaches With Him:
The Miami Dolphins hiring of Brian Flores is a new change of regime, of which the Dolphins have had plenty but this time they are hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with a big New England Patriots presence going to South Beach with Flores, Chad O’Shea, Josh Boyer and Jerry Schuplinski also coming on-board.
One of the more surprising bits of news coming out of Miami is that the Dolphins are planning on moving away from WR Danny Amendola, who they brought in a year ago to bring the veteran presence to the Dolphins locker room. That will bear watching.
Flores, like Belichick is behind the power curve in terms of being far behind in preparation for the NFL Combine, but the Dolphins will be looking to find their next franchise QB and are in need of a true nose tackle either in free agency and the draft.
Jets Coaching Staff Seems Like Perfect Choice for Hard Knocks:
The New York Jets hired Adam Gase as the new head coach for Gang Green. And as Rich Cimini of ESPN has pointed out, there is certainly no lack for potential controversy there.
The full staff, announced Friday by the Jets, includes longtime NFL assistant Joe Vitt, Gase’s father-in-law, and Blake Williams, the son of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. This is where it gets interesting. Vitt and Gregg Williams were members of the New Orleans Saints’ coaching staff implicated in the 2012 BountyGate scandal. In the bounty hearings, conducted by former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Vitt accused Williams of lying in his testimony. Vitt also said the players didn’t take Williams seriously because of his “false bravado” and “schtick.”
Blake Williams, 34, has a reputation for rubbing people the wrong way. As a St. Louis Rams assistant, he upset people in the organization by screaming at a draft prospect in a scouting-combine interview, a source said. He also was reprimanded multiple times for sitting in the wrong seat on the team bus; he kept sitting in a seat reserved for a senior member of the staff. The Rams fired him after the 2013 season. Williams has only worked for NFL teams in which his father was on the staff.
Gase also hired Jim Bob Cooter as the Jets running backs coach. With an eclectic group like this with all of the potential fireworks with the coaching staff, I believe that this will be a perfect choice for Hard Knocks this summer.
Well… That was a wild finish to that game. The fourth quarter and overtime were exactly the way we described it in our pregame matchup piece, an instant classic. A low scoring game for three quarters exploded in the final 20 minutes of the 4th quarter/OT.
The Patriots went on the road in a very tough place to play in front of a very raucous crowd and were able to pull out a very impressive win to capture their third straight AFC championship and for the Brady/Belichick legacy, this is their ninth Super Bowl appearance since 2001.
So, check out our grades and see how the team fared in this week’s blowout win:
Tom Brady came out of the gate and led the Patriots on a beautifully called opening drive where the Patriots went 80 yards and ate up eight minutes of the first quarter before the Chiefs even touched the ball. They went back down again with a chance to go up 14 and Brady threw an interception on the end zone on a poor decision. Late in the half, he threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Phillip Dorsett on a really nice pass to the corner of the end zone.
Brady ended up completing 30-46 for 348 yards with a TD and 2 interceptions, the other going off Edelman’s hands and right into the hands of the defender. But after the Chiefs found their offensive mojo and came to take the lead, the Patriots needed Brady’s magic. He gave it to them in spades.
In the last eight and a half minutes of the game, (3:32 in regulation and about 5 minutes of OT) Brady led the Patriots to three touchdown drives. He was vintage Tom Brady and checked all the blocks: Throwing into tight windows? Check. Zipping the ball downfield? Yes for certain. During those last three drives, Brady was 11-16 for 147 yards. And a perfect 5-5 on 3rd downs. In Overtime, the Patriots converted three 3rd and 10s.
Lucky? Why are we still even having this drivel asked anymore?
Running Backs: A
The Patriots were once again led on the ground by Sony Michel, the rookie had another very productive day, grinding out 113 yards on 29 carries with two touchdowns. He was spelled late in the game by Rex Burkhead who ran 12 times for 41 yards and two touchdowns including the game winner in Overtime.
James White didn’t have a big a role as we envisioned carrying just six times for 23 yards. The Patriots rolled up 176 yards on the ground. They did exactly what was asked of them, they set the tone early in the game and then late when the Chiefs were selling out on their pass rush, they gashed them for three late scores.
Wide Receivers: A-
Julian Edelman was once again the Patriots leading receiver with 7 catches for 96 yards and he was immense in the game-winning drive converting two huge 3rd and 10 scenarios with a 20 and 15 yard gain. But he was nearly the goat. He had a pass bounce off his hands and right into a Chiefs linebacker’s (Sorensen) for an easy interception. But he more than made up for that during crunch time. With the hits he took down the middle Edelman once again proved he is as tough as woodpecker lips.
Chris Hogan chipped in with five catches for 45 yards including a huge third-down conversion where he dove and pulled the ball into the crook of his arm for a catch that was challenged but upheld. White had four catches for 49 yards including a huge 30-yard screen pass that set up a score. Phillip Dorsett had just one catch but it was a big one, a 29-yard touchdown. Burkhead had four catches for 23 yards, Cordarrelle Patterson had two for 18, James Develin added in one for nine.
Tight Ends: A
Rob Gronkowski once again dominated in the running game. He, Dwayne Allen, and Develin unleashed the backs with some crushing blocks on the linebackers and edge players. But the Chiefs decided to single cover Gronkowski mostly with a single safety (Eric Berry).
Gronkowski had a big game in the passing department as well hauling in six passes for 79 including the huge 15-yarder over Berry that set-up the final runs by Burkhead that gave them the win. It was an almost vintage-like Gronkowski performance and a well-needed one.
Offensive Line: A
The offensive line had another dominant performance. The Patriots rolled up 524 yards of offense, they ran 94 offensive plays and had only one play (1) go for negative yardage. The kneel down by Tom Brady at the end of regulation. Kansas City had a very good group of pass rushers who tallied up 52 sacks in the regular season.
Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney dominated Chris Jones last night and not only did he not get any pressure on Brady, but they also pushed him around a lot in the running game.
This was magnified by the Patriots being on the road in a very loud stadium. So the Chiefs could anticipate the snaps from Brady without having to worry about a hard count. Brady was pressured on only seven of 46 dropbacks. Outstanding.
Defensive Line: B+
The Patriots defensive line had a very big game. The Chiefs running game was registered as an afterthought gaining only 41 yards on 12 carries. The defensive line did a great job of mostly containing Patrick Mahomes in the pocket and bringing pressure.
Trey Flowers was terrific on the edge and Lawrence Guy and Malcom Brown were stout inside. Flowers had a sack, a tackle for a loss and two QB hits. Guy split a sack with John Simon. Adam Butler came on in passing downs and helped push the pocket.
The Patriots much-maligned linebacking corps had another big day. Kyle Van Noy was outstanding, making plays all over the field. He had a pair of sacks, six QB pressures, and five run stops. He was a pain in the ass for the Chiefs offensive line all night.
Dont’a Hightower had another strong game playing 100 percent of the snaps and providing some pressure up the middle. John Simon saw more snaps than Elandon Roberts and had another under the radar strong game. He had a half-sack, and three QB pressures.
Wait you say. They gave up 31 points and 24 in the fourth quarter??? Well, look at the job that the secondary did on shutting down Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Those two combined for just four catches for 65 yards. No one held them under 100 yards all season and the Patriots did it in Arrowhead. Hill was doubled by Jonathan Jones/Keion Crossen with outstanding help over the top by Devin McCourty. Big Mac was terrific.
Sammy Watkins had 4 catches for 114 yards but his big one, 54-yarder was one play where Mahomes had all day to throw and Watkins finally shook free from Stephon Gilmore. The Pats moved Gilmore over to Kelce in the second half and he smothered him.
Rookie J.C. Jackson was the victim of several flags and was beat by Kelce (with a push off) for a touchdown.
Special Teams: A-
The only potential bad play was the almost muff by Edelman on a bouncing punt. It was a near and potentially game changer. But Edelman was very good in the punt return game returning three for 38 yards. Patterson had three kick returns for 80 yards including a nice 38 yarder. The coverage units did a much better job time around. Ryan Allen was solid and Stephen Gostkowski hit a difficult 47-yard field goal considering the conditions.
Bill Belichick had an absolutely masterful game plan and the players executed it flawlessly in the first half. The Chiefs were shut out at home for the first time all season and they held them to just 32 yards of offense. They would adjust and finally explode with a huge fourth quarter but that allowed the Patriots to play with the lead all game.
Josh McDaniels called another strong game. He knew where the Chiefs’ weaknesses were and the Patriots offense rolled up 524 yards while having a more than double time of possession advantage (43:50 to 20:53).
Brian Flores called another very good game as the Patriots defense held Kansas City to under 300 yards of total offense. Penalties hurt but those are part of the game. We’re on to Atlanta and Super Bowl 53.