Tag Archives: Ralph Webb

Best Of Social Media: Preseason Week 4 Patriots vs Giants

Robert Alvarez
August 31, 2018 at 9:30 pm ET

The New England Patriots concluded their 2018 preseason schedule at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on Thursday night as final roster spot battles dominated the storylines heading into the game.

MA ➡️ NJ

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Everything else is just noise.

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In the first half there wasn’t much scoring as neither offense could get much going, a Stephen Gostkowski 33 yard field goal put the Patriots up 3-0 after one.

On defense, 2018 undrafted free agent JC Jackson made his presence known with his first of two interceptions on the night.

In the second quarter, New York Giants rookie quarterback Kyle Lauletta found Amba Etta-Tawo for a 41 yard touchdown to put the “G-Men” in front 6-3 heading into halftime.

But not before K.J. Maye showed off his speed.

With about eight minutes to go in the half and not much happening, a funny moment was captured when former linebacker turned sideline reporter Rob Ninkovich shared a personal story about Rob Gronkowski’s house robbery.

6-3 Giants at halftime.

In the third quarter, J.C. Jackson tallied another highlight interception.

The pick led to a big 45 yard reception for K.J. Maye.

Ralph Webb put the Patriots back in front with a short 1 yard pass from quarterback Danny Etling. 10-6 through three.

With four minutes to go in the game, Etling pulled off the highlight of the preseason with an incredible 86 yard touchdown run to put the Patriots ahead for good at 17-6.

The Giants would tack on a garbage time touchdown as the Patriots would go on to conclude the preseason with a 17-12 victory and a 3-1 record.

Run, @dannyphantom08, run!

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Patriots Down Giants 17-12 in Preseason Finale, Quick Observations

Steve Balestrieri
at 7:06 am ET

The preseason is over, and the Patriots ended it in the Meadowlands as their backups downed the Giants’ backups 17-12 to finish off the preseason 3-1, not that it matters. The starters for both teams took a seat and let the backups get their playing time in, as many were putting together an audition tape for the 31 other teams in the league.

Rookie quarterback Danny Etling went wire to wire under center tonight, we’ll have more on him below, as both Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer got the night off. The team may have suffered one significant injury as OL Ulrick John who is considered one of the players definitely in the mix for a backup lineman’s spot on the 53-man roster, left with a foot injury and didn’t return. He was seen after the game in a walking boot.

Marquis Flowers and J.C. Jackson also left via injury during the game, but neither was considered serious. Flowers was evaluated for a concussion but did return to the game, while Jackson was treated for dehydration.

Bill Belichick was upbeat and smiling after the game in his post-game press conference and stated that the team only played about three dozen players tonight, similar to last season’s finale as well.

“Really proud of our team tonight. The guys played hard,” Belichick said. “Those guys really did a good job. It was a good warm night. I thought they showed up well. We’ll see on film but I think I learned a lot about these guys. I like the way they competed. We’ll see.

“It was a good competitive football game.”

So, now the coaches will go about the business of paring down the roster to the initial 53-man limit by Saturday at 4:00 p.m. and then announce a practice squad on Sunday by 1:00 p.m. We say initially because you can expect the bottom of the roster to be a fluid place for the first week or so of the regular season, right up to when the team plays the Houston Texans to begin the regular season.

So here is our quick observations from tonight’s game and how certain players may fare in the roster cutdown.

J.C. Jackson: The undrafted rookie from Maryland had a big night, intercepting two passes and defending three others. He showed very good ball skills on both picks, high pointing the ball and snagging both.

But he had his not-so-great moments as well. He totally whiffed on Amba Etta-Tawo’s 41-yard touchdown play and looked awful there. He was also beaten several times in the game as well. But his compete level is very high and he had the production you’re looking for in a game like this. Belichick said he had a long way to go, but they like his skills. He may have earned a roster spot, but at least a practice squad slot.

Cyrus Jones: Jones had a disappointing night, he didn’t flash much in the return game, not being able to make the first man miss and break tackles which is his specialty. He played significant snaps both on the edge and at slot corner and didn’t stand out. He could lose his spot if the team feels McCarron or Berrios can handle punt return duties.

Danny Etling: The rookie quarterback didn’t have a great night, his first half was particularly bad, but he played a little better in the second half and was seeing the field for really the first time for any sustained action. He had the highlight play of the preseason when he took a naked bootleg 86 yards for a touchdown with just under four minutes to go in the game. Belichick smiled and cracked, “When’s the last time a quarterback has run more than 85 yards for the New England Patriots,” he joked. “At least 20 years.”

Etling completed 18-32 passes for 157 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. He rushed for 113 yards on seven carries. He still struggles with accuracy and consistency, which isn’t a shock considering his limited snaps this summer. His footwork suffered while he was under pressure, but these are correctable.

He showed enough to warrant a practice squad slot and the team can see how much he can develop this season. He is more athletic than perhaps he was given credit for, throws a good tight spiral and has very good arm strength.

Mike Gillislee/Riley McCarron: Two players seemingly on the bubble before the game, didn’t play and are probably safe…for now on the roster. With the shortage of wide receivers on the roster, McCarron probably gets a spot initially on the 53-man roster. While fans on social media are clamoring for Braxton Berrios, he missed nearly as many practices as he attended this summer. And he didn’t stand out anymore so than McCarron either offensively or as a returner. But we’ll see.

Gillislee, we wrote on Monday, may get a reprieve if either or both Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel aren’t ready for the regular season. It appears that way after the Giants game. Speaking of backs…

Ralph Webb: The rookie from Vandy had another solid performance in the finale. He rushed 12 times for 41 yards and found the end zone again when Etling’s pass at the goal line was behind him and he made a nice catch, reaching behind himself and hauling it in. He definitely rates a practice squad look and we wrote here, that he may rate a higher ceiling than Gillislee at this point, but the coaches may opt to go with a veteran back early this season.

Derek Rivers/ Vincent Valentine: The pair of players who both missed all of 2017 played a significant amount of snaps, well into the second half but seemingly for different reasons. Valentine seems firmly on the bubble. The rotation of big men inside has him on the outside looking in right now, unless a trade of someone else is made this week. We wrote about that as well earlier on Monday.

Rivers doesn’t seem to be in danger of losing a roster spot, but after missing all of his rookie season due to injury, the team clearly wants him to get in as much action as possible. He should be a member of the edge rotation this fall.

Keionta Davis: The big, 6’4, 280-pound 1st-year player had a disappointing finale on Thursday night. It started off well when he showed good power and split a double team coming off the left edge and pressured Giants QB Kyle Lauletta and forced an incompletion.

However, he lost containment on an end around, crashing down inside and allowing the runner to get to the edge with speed and the result was a 19-yard gain. Going against the twos and threes, we expected Davis to flash more than he did. But he should still be in consideration for a practice squad spot.

Jason McCourty: The 10-year veteran started at safety and played the entire first half. When an injury occurred in the third quarter, he returned to the field before being replaced by Jordan Richards. That can’t be a good sign for him moving forward.

On the broadcast, it was said that the coaches may just want him to get as much work as possible at safety before the regular season begins. That is possible, but we’re putting him squarely on the bubble here.

Big time props have to go to WR K.J. Maye, and RBs Kenneth Farrow and Khalfani Muhammad. The three were signed to the team just this week and had very limited time to prepare and practice before playing the Giants. They all knew they had a snowball’s chance in hell of making the roster but all were intent on maximizing an opportunity to audition for a slot in the league. All acquitted themselves well.

Maye led all Patriots receivers with five catches for 71 yards. Farrow had five carries for 24 yards. Muhammad had four for 21 yards. Excellent work

Patriots – Giants Preseason Finale, What to Watch For

Steve Balestrieri
August 30, 2018 at 7:00 am ET

After all of the draft preparation, OTAs, mini-camps, training camps and three preseason games, it all comes down to the final preseason game for the fringe players on the rosters for both the New England Patriots and the New York Giants. Most of the players who will see action tonight won’t make either team. And many will be playing in the final game of their NFL careers.

For many others, they’ll be trying to create as much good tape as they can as a demo for the 31 other teams in the league to garner a practice squad invitation and a chance to further their NFL dreams.

The starters, especially the quarterbacks, Tom Brady and Eli Manning will not see the field and watch from the sidelines until the games are for real beginning next week. In last year’s finale, also against the Giants, the Patriots used 38 players.

Other than the long snapper Joe Cardona, punter Ryan Allen, and kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who had no competition in camp, only seven of those players made the 53-man roster. Only one of the fifteen players on defense in last season’s finale against the Giants made the roster, DE Geneo Grissom.

However, for those few players that are trending up as the preseason winds down, this final audition can make a big difference. Bill Belichick spoke about that earlier this week.

“We evaluate everything, but if there’s a rising trend, that carries a lot of weight,” Belichick said on Tuesday. “So, this is the last opportunity. If guys that have been improving the last couple weeks can add onto that, it will absolutely help them. It could help them a lot.”

The game will be broadcast locally on WBZ-TV in Boston with Bob Socci, doing the play-by-play, Scott Zolak handling the color commentary and Rob Ninkovich and Steve Burton handling the sideline reporter duties. Andy Hart and Paul Perillo from PFW will be live in the studio offering instant analysis as well.

So from a New England perspective, here’s what to watch for when the Giants and Patriots meet again to end the preseason.

Who’s Starting on Offense, Defense: There will be plenty of decisions to be made at the bottom end of the roster. Most of these players will be left out of the final roster cuts but a few may be looking to get at least practice squad consideration. Among them are:

RB Ralph Webb – Webb was a dark horse candidate to make the squad given the depth that the team had at the position when training camp began. But Webb worked hard and in his limited snaps in practice played well. He had a very impressive debut against the Redskins in the first preseason game. Since then, he’s been nearly invisible. It could mean that the team will likely try to hide him on the practice squad.

The Patriots added RBs Kenneth Farrow and Khalfani Muhammad this week. Look for them to get a lot of work in the game as an audition for other teams. Webb? Not so much tonight.

RB Mike Gillislee – The veteran back who was a starter at the beginning of 2017 is likely gone. Jeremy Hill has (in our opinion) clearly outplayed him and is a bigger factor in the passing game, something the Patriots value highly in their backs.

He still has a shot at making the roster if the injuries to Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead are deemed long-term, although both returned, albeit limited, to practice this week. He’s auditioning for another team.

QB Danny Etling – The Patriots late-round draft choice is another player who hasn’t seen much of the field since the opener. Has he shown enough development in practice to warrant a practice squad spot? The feeling here is yes. He may go wire to wire tonight at QB, with a chance to show what he can do.

WR Devin Lucien – Lucien has made the rounds in the last year. He was with the Patriots in camp and then bounced around with several team’s practice squad a year ago before making his way back to New England this summer.

He’ll probably be the most targeted receiver in tonight’s game, but his chances of cracking the 53-man roster are pretty low.

On defense, there are plenty of decisions that likely have to be made and many of the players still in competition for roster spots may get a final look. Among them are:

DB Jason McCourty –  The move to safety was an intriguing one, was it a good or bad sign? Opinions seem to be mixed on that subject. I think if we see a lot of him on the field it will not be a good sign for the veteran to make the team.

DE Trent Harris – “Toolbox Trent” from Miami has had a difficult time getting thru the deep group of edge players to get significant snaps this summer. But when he’s been on the field, he’s been productive. He’s someone who may get snapped up by another team after the cutdowns are made.

LB Christian Sam – The “other” linebacker taken in the draft is athletic but hasn’t had nearly the impact that fellow rookie Ja’Whaun Bentley has had this summer. He’ll be looking for a performance that will convince the coaches that he’s worth developing long-term and may end up on the practice squad.

DE Keionta Davis – The first-year player has turned some heads with his play this summer. He’s far from a finished product but certainly has shown potential. The feeling here is he’s close to making the 53-man roster, so he may be one of those players who the coaches want a final look at.

Crowded secondary – The Patriots have a few difficult decisions to make in the secondary. Both Jonathan and Cyrus Jones have returned to full duty and Jonathan, I believe is a lock to make the roster. Cyrus however, is a different story.

With the uncertainty in the return game, his special teams’ versatility may be the difference in him getting a roster spot.

The team also has rookies J.C. Jackson, Keion Crossen and practice squad player Ryan Lewis in the mix. All of these players have a legitimate shot at making the roster and tonight’s game may be the difference in who stays and who goes.

Corey Bojorquez – The UDFA rookie punter hasn’t seen the field in one preseason game yet. Bill Belichick and ST’s coach Joe Judge kind of danced around the subject of “Bojo” but the feeling is that they don’t want any tape on him to risk losing him to another team.

Best Of Social Media: Preseason Week 3 Patriots vs Panthers

Robert Alvarez
August 25, 2018 at 6:51 pm ET

The New England Patriots entered Thursday nights preseason matchup with the Carolina Panthers for the final “dress rehearsal” before the opening of the 2018 regular season.

Before the game, it was reported that quarterback Tom Brady was expected to play “extensively” and into the second half.

#Lfg ✈️

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Work time

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Charles Darwin.

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In the first quarter, the Patriots offense struggled to find the red zone on their few drives, but the defense made big plays and held the Panthers to two Graham Gano field goals.

After one, 6-0 Panthers.

In the second, wide receiver Julian Edelman showed of his recovery progress as he returned to his old ways of being clutch on third down.

https://twitter.com/Patriots/status/1033349640114950145

In what could be a sign of things to come in 2018, Brady connected with Phillp Dorsett following an audible at the line.

https://twitter.com/CaseyBake16/status/1033150178965037056

The drive led to the Patriots first points of the game, a 27-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.

Unfortunately despite Brady’s solid first half, the team was unable to get much going in the red zone and found themselves down a pair of field goals heading into halftime at 9-3.

Halftime 9-3 Panthers.

As the second half opened, things got a little weird for returner Cyrus Jones, who’s jersey looked like some Spider-Man webbing.

The Panthers meanwhile, extended their lead to eleven following a 7 play 50 yard drive capped off by a Taylor Heinicke one yard run.

15-3 Panthers with 9:09 remaining in the third.

Gano would tack on a 47 yard field goal to up the score to 18-3 after three. The Patriots offense remained silent.

In the fourth, the Panthers broke it open when backup quarterback Garrett Gilbert found Mose Frazier for a six yard touchdown. 25-3 Panthers.

With just three minutes remaining in the game, the Patriots delt with another injury situation as running back Jeremy Hill limped off the field following this play.

Hill appeared to be okay in the locker room after the game.

With the game winding down, the Patriots finally found the end zone on a Mike Gillislee two yard run, he would then convert the two point conversion.

25-14 Panthers and that would be how it would end.

The Patriots conclude the 2018 preseason with a trip to the Meadowlands to take on the New York Giants next Thursday night at 7pm.

Super Cam & TB12.

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Best Of Social Media: Preseason Week 1 Redskins vs Patriots

Robert Alvarez
August 12, 2018 at 4:18 pm ET

Thursday night marked the New England Patriots first preseason game of 2018.

Checkout some of the best sights and sounds over social media from the teams come from behind victory over the Washington Redskins.

It’s Game day #LETSGOOO @tombrady #Gameday

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It was an ugly first quarter for the Patriots offense as they failed to get much going.

The Redskins took a 10-0 lead after a quarter of play.

In the second, Redskins quarterback Colt McCoy continued his hot start, and Washington added to their lead. 17-0 midway through the quarter.

With the clock winding down on the first half, backup quarterback Brian Hoyer finally found rhythm and the Patriots got on the board heading into the half following a 52 yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal. 17-3 Washington.

Heading into the locker room at halftime, head coach Bill Belichick was in regular season form when he was asked about his teams first half performance.

https://twitter.com/JoeGiza/status/1027726811776659456

https://twitter.com/damienwoody/status/1027734365592342528

The Patriots came out firing to open the second as running back Jeremy Hill tallied the teams first touchdown of the new year and cut the deficit to 7 at 17-10.

In the fourth quarter the Patriots still found themselves trailing by seven, but newly signed wideout Cordarrelle Patterson hauled in his highlight catch to put the patriot in position to tie the game.

2018 Undrafted free agent Ralph Webb found the end zone to get the Patriots back in the game, however they weren’t looking to tie.

Hoyer again found Webb for a successful two–point conversion attempt and their first lead of the night. 18-17 Patriots.

With under four minutes to go in the game, the defense stepped up as Geneo Grissom scooped up a loose football and nearly scored.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BmTQ2a3n-iE/?taken-by=geneo_grissom

Ralph Webb again found the end zone to seal the comeback victory for the Patriots.

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Starting off the preseason with a W.

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Dear Lord I thank you felt good to be back out there again

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Turning what I love into a career, now that’s a dream come true

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Patriots Ground Game Provides Comeback in 26-17 Win Over Washington

Steve Balestrieri
August 10, 2018 at 7:07 am ET

After the offense looked lost until the final minute and a half of the first half and trailing 17-0, the Patriots offense finally got it going. After Brian Hoyer and Devin Lucien got the air attack going to kick a field goal just before the half, in the second half we saw what the coaches had been having the team practice for most of training camp thus far.

Jeremy Hill and UDFA rookie Ralph Webb keyed a Patriots ground game that pounded the ball relentlessly against the Redskins front seven. There was nothing fancy about it, they just lined up in a two-tight end set and drove the ball down their throat.

With Hoyer under center, the Pats took the second half kick off and ate up over 10 minutes of the clock on an 18-play drive before Hill pushed it in from the one-yard line to make it 17-10. Webb added a pair of touchdowns and two 2-pt conversions as the Pats scored 26 unanswered points to come away with the preseason win.

With Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel not playing in the first preseason tilt, Brian Hoyer started and played into the fourth quarter. He finished with 16 completions in 23 passes for 144 yards. Danny Etling came on in the fourth quarter.

The Patriots defense looked shaky in the first half and Washington and Colt McCoy were gashing them time and again as they were moving seemingly at will. McCoy finished 13-18 for 189 yards with two TDs and 259 yards of offense against a group of ostensibly the Patriots starters.

McCoy found a mismatch with RB Byron Marshall on LB Kyle Van Noy and they converted a third and seven for a 25-yard touchdown that had all of New England having flashbacks to the 2017 season and the Super Bowl.

The timing of the New England offense was really off in the first couple of drives. But give Washington credit. They provided really solid coverage early in the game. Hoyer on several occasions had time to throw but nowhere to throw to.

Hoyer finally got them going late in the half and connected with Lucien to move into Redskins territory where Stephen Gostkowski booted a 52-yard field goal just before the half to get the Pats on the board.

In the second half, it was the running game with Hill and Webb and a chance to see some of the backup defensive players show what they can do. UDFA DE “Tool Box” Trent Harris showed some nice moves getting a tackle for a loss in the backfield and a strip sack. Geneo Grissom alertly picked up the ball and was racing for what appeared to be a touchdown. CB Ryan Lewis began celebrating early and allowed a Redskin player to tackle Grissom at the one-yard line rather than block for him. The film room won’t be kind to Lewis today.

It is their first preseason game so I wouldn’t put too much stock in this one. But here are the Ups and Downs for Week 1.

Players Up:

Jeremy Hill – Hill showed nice burst, vision, and cut-back ability against the grain. Something an established veteran should. He made a nice catch and run in the passing game to convert a third and long. He finished with 51 yards on 11 carries and was impressive in his first outing. Player of the game for New England

Ralph Webb – The rookie running back didn’t do a thing to hurt his chances of sticking with his performance. He ran hard and decisively and made a nice grab of a low throw from Hoyer on the 2-pt try. Two TDs and a pair of 2-pt conversions…good debut.

Devin Lucien – With the Patriots offense looking offensive in the first half, he got them going just before halftime with a couple of catches to put them in position to get some points on the board. Finished with 71 yards on five catches and was easily the best WR on the field for the Pats.

Derek Rivers – Just a year removed from an ACL tear, he started the game at left DE and was moving well. A very encouraging sign. Showed good strength on the edge.

Trent Harris/Keionta Davis – The young players who are longshots to make the roster were playing against the third stringers in the second half, but the important thing was, they were productive. In their first NFL action, each flashed a bit, which is something to build on.

Run blocking OL – The Patriots offensive line in the second half had to have Dante Scarnecchia smiling. They lined up showing run and did just that. When you have a 41-year old QB, a pounding ground game doesn’t hurt.

Ja’Whaun Bentley – The rookie MLB flashed some potential inside to be a guy who could contribute this season. And if he can play, it would free up Dont’a Hightower to move around.

Players Down:

Stephon Gilmore – After an outstanding spring/summer, Gilmore wasn’t the same person on the field Thursday night. He was targeted three times and gave up all three completions.

Mike Gillislee – Slow to the hole, tentative and not productive. In a fight to keep his roster spot with Hill, Gillislee took a big step back tonight. Was stuffed on a couple of 3rd and short runs (sounds familiar?) although he converted a pair of 4th down runs right after.

Riley McCarron – With Etling in the game in the 4th quarter, he felt the pressure from the outside and stepped up in the pocket and delivered a bullet down the seam to McCarron. He let the ball come into his body and the pass bounced off his pads incomplete. Those are drive killers.

Phillip Dorsett – Was the opposite of what we’ve seen thru two weeks of training camp. Was a total non-factor and ran a sloppy route on third down. Not a good start.

Jordan Richards – Out of position (how many times do we say this?) and missed tackles. Was later knocked out with an injury.

Patriots Announce Jersey Numbers For 2018 Rookie Class

Robert Alvarez
August 9, 2018 at 6:25 pm ET

For the first time in their NFL careers, the New England Patriots 2018 rookie class was officially assigned jersey numbers on Thursday.

The full list, which is still subject to change, has number assignments that align more closely with each players respective position as opposed to the “non-traditional” numbers the rookies donned since their first days in pads this past spring.

At the start of training camp, most rookies wore numbers in the 50’s and 60’s, making it difficult for observers to differentiate between them and the veterans.

According to 985 The Sports Hub’s Matt Dolloff, the Patriots active roster is still dealing with duplicate numbers for multiple players, but they aren’t on the same side of the ball when viewing tonight’s game.

The full list is as followed

5 – Quarterback Danny Etling

7 – Punter Corey Bojorquez

14 – Wide Receiver Braxton Berrios

22 – Running Back Ralph Webb

29 – Running Back Sony Michel

33 – Cornerback A.J. Moore

34 – Cornerback J.C. Jackson

35 – Cornerback Keion Crossen

42 – Cornerback Duke Dawson

44 – Linebacker Christian Sam

45 – Defensive End Trent Harris

48 – Fullback Henry Poggi

51 – Linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley

76 – Offensive Lineman Isaiah Wynn

85 -Tight End Ryan Izzo

92 – Defensive Tackle Frank Herron

97 – Defensive Tackle John Atkins

New England Patriots Training Camp Primer – Running Backs

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

 

Different Look, Better Production?

The Patriots head into training camp in just a few weeks and there should no shortage of competition at several spots, especially at the back end of the roster. As a lead-in to the beginning of camp, we’ll break down the positions and give our take on who is a lock, a near lock for the 53-man roster and who is on the bubble. Next up are the running backs.

The running back position will look very different in 2018. Dion Lewis is gone, He got a nice deal in free agency and will be in Tennessee this year. The team got back Rex Burkhead, James White returns but the big news is that the team invested a first-round draft pick to select Sony Michel (31st Overall) in the 2018 NFL Draft.

The team is deep, talented and have four good players battling for two roster spots.

So… who’s locked in and who’s on the bubble?

Roster Locks: Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel, James Develin

The Patriots did the very unPatriot-like decision to draft a running back in the first round under Bill Belichick.  But the selection of Sony Michel proves to be a very intriguing choice. He split the carries at Georgia with Nick Chubb, so playing in a New England backfield by committee won’t be a big exercise in adapting to the way the Patriots play.

But what stands out about Michel is that he’s a big-time playmaker and should be able to step in and contribute in both the running and passing games right away. He’s a different type of player than Lewis but the chiseled 5’11, 215-pound back has a boatload of potential.

Sony Michel after practice. (SBalestrieri photo)

Burkhead had a very good season in 2017 but appeared in only 10 games due to injuries. He’s back and can contribute in the running game, the passing game and on special teams. He’s a guy who will get about 500-600 combined yards rushing and receiving while being a solid contributor.

James Develin was just resigned to a two-year extension worth about $3.8 million with a $600,000 signing bonus. Develin played in about 30 percent of the Patriots offensive snaps a year ago and his value lies in his blocking. Rewatch the AFC Championship Game and look at the hole Develin blew open for Dion Lewis in the 4th quarter. That kind of smash-mouth football is invaluable in the running game.  

Near Roster Locks: James White

White remains the Patriots go-to third-down running back, especially in the passing game. In 2017, White only had 43 carries but caught 56 passes for 429 yards with 3 touchdowns. His Super Bowl performance against the Falcons shows how hot he can get when getting the favored matchups (6 carries 29 yards 2 TDs, 14 catches 110 yards 1 TD and a 2PT conversion).

 

James White hauls in a pass during practice. (SBalestrieri photo)

On the Bubble: Jeremy Hill, Mike Gillislee, Brandon Bolden

The Patriots invested in Gillislee last year and he ran okay but his lack of production in the passing game made him predictable while on the field and he was a healthy scratch in seven games.

Jeremy Hill was brought in because a change of scenery seemed like was needed for the veteran. He was an extremely productive running back in his first three seasons in the league, tallying up 27 TDs and 2700 yards rushing. But he fell out of favor in Cincinnati and is trying to restart his career here.

The Patriots could use a big physical back to churn up short yardage and be the closer in games. Could he be that guy? Possibly, but he’ll have to have a good summer and show that he still has some tread left on the tires.

Every year it seems, everyone has Brandon Bolden getting cut and every year, he’s back on the team and contributes a tremendous amount on Special Teams where he is a force out there. As a running back, he is a .260 hitter, he can run a bit and catch the odd pass here or there but is an excellent pass blocker. He will be either the 53rd player on the roster or the last guy cut.

Outside Looking in…. Longshots: Ralph Webb

The Patriots signed undrafted free agent Ralph Webb out of Vanderbilt. Webb is a straight-ahead power back with a lack of speed but with excellent vision to see where openings are. Webb is a lunch pail guy who is extremely durable, tough and consistent.

He’s not the biggest guy or the fastest but won’t be outworked. He was productive with 23 touchdowns the past two seasons. With a good summer, Webb could be looking at a practice squad slot and a chance to carve out a role for himself in the case of an injury in 2018 or in 2019.  

He reminds one of a slightly smaller BenJarvus Green-Ellis. He won’t make a lot of people miss but his feet never stop and you’ll get 100 percent on every snap.

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