The Patriots have been forced to totally revamp their tight end position this season as all three players on the roster from last year are gone. Rob Gronkowski retired and although rumors are that he’s coming back later this year, he’s not walking thru that door anytime soon…if at all. Dwayne Allen left via free agency and Jacob Hollister was traded.
The team was beginning with a clean slate. And there were/are questions all around. Old friend Ben Watson was brought back to the team after briefly flirting with retirement, the team also picked up Matt LaCosse with a two-year, $2.8 million dollar deal during free agency.
The team also signed Austin Seferian-Jenkins during the spring, but he had some personal issues to be worked out and was given his release. Would he be welcomed back if those issues are behind him? No one really knows, but I wouldn’t bank on his return this year.
Watson is suspended for the first four games of the season due to testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. LaCosse has appeared in 22 games in his career and had 24 catches for 250 yards and a touchdown for the Broncos last year in 15 games.
The only holdover was practice squad player Stephen Anderson who was called up to the active roster at the end of the season. The team also has Ryan Izzo who spent the year on IR and UDFA Andrew Beck.
With the state of the position, everyone had the Patriots dipping into the 2019 NFL draft early for one of the premier tight ends that were coming out. And true to form, Bill Belichick did the opposite, eschewing all of them. Many of the journalists who cover the NFL had the Patriots trying to swing a deal for a tight end, with Viking Kyle Rudolph at the top of the list. There have also been persistent rumors about them trying to make a deal for the Tampa Bay Bucs, Cameron Brate. But as of now, that’s all it has been, being rumors
So with training camp just around the corner, let’s take a quick look at the tight ends on the roster and see how they stack up.
Check back with PatsFans.com as we’ll go thru the entire roster as our primers for training camp continue before the heavy lifting starts on July 25.
Current roster – Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse, Stephen Anderson, Ryan Izzo, Andrew Beck
Locks – Watson, LaCosse
Bubble – Anderson, Izzo, Beck
Long Shot – None
Discussion – If there is a position the Patriots could swing a deal for during the summer, this would be it. That being said, they can probably piece together the production they received at tight end last season with who they have right now. With Gronkowski hobbling for much of last year and Hollister/Allen not producing, the total production from the tight end position was 54 catches, 761 yards, and 3 TDs.
What they won’t be able to replicate is the amount of coverage that Gronkowski would consistently draw away from the other receivers while he was on the field. Watson, while 38 years old, can still move well, but he won’t be available for the first month.
That means, for now, everything is going to go thru LaCosse for better or worse. After watching him at minicamp, he moves better than I had originally believed and shows good hands for hauling in the ball. Anderson is more of flex or a “move” tight end while Izzo was well thought of by the coaching staff, but is more of a blocking tight end. He’ll have to show he is capable of more.
LaCosse spoke to the media after minicamp practice last month and talked about coming to New England
Beck was given the most guaranteed money by the Patriots of any of their UDFAs ($115,000), so he has that going for him. Beck was used mostly as a blocker at Texas but did contribute with 28 catches for 281 yards and two touchdowns for the Longhorns. He was an First Team, All-Big 12 all-star in 2018.
So, barring a trade either during camp or into the season, this is who the Patriots will enter the season with at the tight end position. After a decade of dominance there, things are going to change.
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 07-14 and AFC East notes this week.
Just 11 more days until the hard work begins for “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door.”
Devin & Jason McCourty- continue their work in the community. The twins spent time with both We Belong and the Peace Unit, which are initiatives dedicated to helping the youth and young adults of the area.
Rob Gronkowski – was honored at the ESPYs in LA this week and spoke about being a good teammate. “When I look back on my career, what I look back on, what I’m most proud of was the teammate I am,” he said. “My teammates knew I would do anything for them, and I knew they’d do anything for me. I know the relationships we formed will stay with us for the rest of our lives, so thank you to all the guys I played with and thank you for making the ride so much more fun and so much more memorable.”
Melvin Gordon – the Chargers running back will be the latest RB to test market for RB value. Gordon has informed the team that he wants a new contract or be traded. Gordon is scheduled to make $5.605 million this year but is looking for much more or he won’t report to training camp. His agent said it could sit into the regular season
Allen Bailey – Former NFL GM Gil Brandt wrote on the NFL.com site that the Patriots are still the best landing spot for the free-agent DL. Bailey, 30, visited the Patriots on March 14 and reportedly had contract discussions. But he left without signing anything. The former Chiefs’ DL also visited with the Panthers, Falcons, and Seahawks.
Nick Caserio – was back in the news for the wrong reason. The Texans, who have been pursuing him for their GM job for two years, announced they aren’t going to have a GM for the 2019 season. The plan is to share the responsibilities between several men including Jack Easterby, who is now on the outs with the Krafts. All signs point to them coming hard after Caserio again in 2020 when his current deal expires. It may be time to give the man a title and pay him to keep him around…if he wants to remain.
Brady NFL Best at Throws 10+ Yards Downfield:
Pro Football Focus (PFF) Steve Palazzolo put out some startling stats on Friday which got social media aflame, especially those who consider Tom Brady a “dink and dunk” QB. According to the stats that Palazzolo posted, not only did Brady have the best percentage of passes completed of 10+ yards downfield, he attempted the most in the past three seasons.
Of course, this ignited the troll population who then wanted to know who led the league in short passes. Well, Palazzolo’s stats showed that Brady wasn’t even in the Top 10 of passes thrown at or behind the line of scrimmage.
This won’t stop the Brady-haters who were already flooding Palazzolo’s mentions about his data being biased, but it was funny to watch the questions spew forth and answered. Well, it isn’t “dink and dunk”, it must be that dreaded Patriots “system”…
18 Game Schedule? This is a Ridiculous Scenario:
We were thinking that this was a satire piece when we first saw it but unfortunately that was not the case and someone at the NFL front office actually believes this to be a good idea. The NFL has been pushing an 18-game schedule for quite some time now, that isn’t new, but what they’re proposing is…
The league is proposing that there will be only two exhibition games and expand the regular season slate to 18 games. But the kicker is, that the league knowing the NFLPA (NFL Players Association) will certain dig their heels in over this, wants to limit each player can only dress for 16 of those games.
I have no idea what is on the menu at Park Avenue, but please feel free to share some.
Fans will not be happy, imagine a fan from another city knowing that say the Patriots or Chiefs are coming to town, shelling out big money for tickets only to find out that Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes is sitting this week?
This one doesn’t even sound good on paper, it will never pass with the NFLPA but just shows two things. The owners aren’t going to stop pushing for an 18-game schedule and the bargaining agreement with the league and NFLPA is not going to be pretty.
Gronk and Brady Play Catch While Social Media Melts Down :
Slow your roll folks, there is no reason to lose your mind over a game of catch between Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. And no, it does not point to Gronkowski coming back in mid-season this year.
Gronkowski was in LA for the Monster Energy $50K Charity Challenge Celebrity Basketball Game Monday night at UCLA. So, once he found out Brady was doing a private workout at UCLA with his personal trainer Alex Guererro it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the two would link up.
“He saw I was in town for this basketball game,” Gronkowski said in an interview on Monday. “He was like, ‘Yo, Gronk, man, yo, Gronk, come throw with me in the morning.’ So I was like, ‘No problem. It’ll give me a warm-up to this basketball game tonight.’”
Getting together in shorts and tossing the football around is hardly proof he’s returning. It had more to do with good friends taking advantage of being in close proximity to one another when each has a busy, demanding schedule.
This week I went to a shooting range with an old Special Forces buddy to catch up. It doesn’t mean Mrs. Balestrieri’s bouncing baby boy is heading to Afghanistan anytime this century.
Elandon Roberts Traffic Stop Wasn’t About Race, Sheriff Says:
Patriots linebacker Elandon Roberts was pulled over by Sheriff’s Deputies back on March 10 in the Pecan Grove neighborhood of Richmond, Texas outside of Houston. Roberts has charged that the deputy in question acted unprofessionally because of Roberts’ race.
The sheriff’s deputy, Adam Watkins tried to pull over Roberts for doing 59 mph in a 35 mph zone, but things went south from there. Roberts assertation that he was harassed “because he is a big black guy” (Deputy’s words), was frightening and unprofessional.
Roberts tried to exit his vehicle with his hands up and was ordered back into the vehicle. Roberts tried to tell the deputy that he lived there. The deputy called for backup because he had “ a large black guy who wouldn’t obey his commands.”
Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls said that the stop wasn’t based on race but that his deputy didn’t act as professionally as he should and received a verbal reprimand. Roberts received citations for speeding and not having proof of insurance (Roberts couldn’t find it during the stop).
When the Buffalo Bills were looking to revamp their tight end position during free agency, they gambled that Tyler Kroft was destined for big things in their offense in 2019. They paid Kroft handsomely, with a three-year, $18.75 million dollar deal. Outside of 2017, when he filled in for the oft-injured Tyler Eifert, Kroft has just 25 catches over three seasons. It was in 2017, that Bills are hoping for when he caught 42 passes. In 2018, he played only five games before breaking his foot.
But in the first practices this spring Kroft broke his foot and that leaves them with questions. They drafted Dawson Knox in the third round of the draft and Tommy Sweeney in the 7th round. Knox has good size and is athletic but has suspect hands. The knock on him in college was he was always double catching passes. Sweeney is a very physical presence and a good blocker but limited athletically and in the passing game.
Jason Croom was the lone holdover from the 2018 Bills, catching 22 passes for 259 yards and one touchdown. Which was more than starter Charles Clay who was let go. Croom isn’t a lock for the roster but if Kroft is out for the beginning of camp he will get a chance to carve out a nice role for himself.
Lee Smith who spent the first four years of his career in Buffalo was also brought back this spring.
Dolphins Norton Cited For Crash That Cost Him His Arm:
The Miami Dolphins Kendrick Norton was cited for the accident last week that caused emergency personnel to amputate his left arm at the scene, police officials said this week.
Norton, according to the Florida Highway Patrol, made an improper lane change prior to the two-car crash on State Road 836 near Miami in the early morning hours of July 4. Police officials said his black 2017 Ford F250 cut off a gray 2015 Maserati Quattroporte, driven by Jessie Pena and sideswiped the vehicle.
Neither Norton, nor his passenger, identified as Shakira Williams were wearing seatbelts. Williams wasn’t hurt. Norton however, was focusing on the positive rather than what he has lost.
“I am alive,” he said. “To be here, I am alive. One thing keeps me going and that is that I am still able to be here. Seeing my family is so important. It is very good that I have this support system. It keeps me strong and it keeps me tall.
“But I realize that I will not be able to play for anyone. We are working past that, you know. That reality is sinking in. I am alive and I am grateful. Now I want to organize a blood drive.”
Jets Herndon Suspended for First Four Games of 2019:
The New York Jets TE Chris Herndon will be suspended for the first four games of their 2019 season in the aftermath of a DUI arrest. The Jets first four games are at home against the Bills and the Browns; on the road at New England against the Patriots and Week 5 in Philadelphia against the Eagles. The Jets have a bye week early in Week 4 this season.
Herndon developed very good chemistry with QB Sam Darnold in 2018 and was second on the team with 39 catches for 502 yards and four touchdowns. He is expected to be an even more important piece of the offense in 2019.
With Herndon out, the Jets have journeymen Daniel Brown, Eric Tomlinson, and rookie Trevon Wesco on the roster.
“There is an old saying about the strength of the wolf is the pack, and I think there is a lot of truth to that. On a football team, it’s not the strength of the individual players, but it is the strength of the unit and how they all function together.” Bill Belichick
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 06-30 and AFC East notes this week.
Jared Veldheer – retired shortly after signing with the Patriots on May 13. He recently came out and stated why in an interview he did earlier last week with MLive.
“It was easy (decision) because of knowing what my body was telling me, but it was hard because I was leaving a very good situation being with the Patriots,” Veldheer said. “(Belichick) understood, and everyone in the NFL building understands that the sport can do a number on your body and different guys have different timelines on how long they can make it through.”
Veldheer said that his hips, “Particularly my left one, was in pretty bad shape (after the season).”
DeAngelo Hall – former NFL DB was a guest on Good Morning Football and stated that Tom Brady was the best QB he ever faced and added that he didn’t have many regrets in his NFL career but one was not signing with the Patriots when they offered him a good deal but less money than he eventually signed for. The Patriots offered him 3 years and $27 million and the Redskins offered 3 years and $30 million. Hall said he now regrets not taking a little less and having a chance at a Super Bowl.
Isaiah Wynn – Is running at full speed and should be ready for training camp according to Jeff Howe of the Athletic. He reported that Wynn should be a full go at training camp which is a very good sign for the 23rd player selected in 2018 NFL Draft. And the Pats offensive line.
Patriots Charitable Foundation – Patriot Place and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care are teaming up to build an adaptive home for an American veteran. Chelsea resident Brandon Korona lost a leg to an IED in Afghanistan. On Friday morning, the Patriots invited Korona and his family to Patriot Place to break the news that the three organizations will donate $50,000 to adapt his home for his needs. WCVB Channel 5 was the first to break the news.
Rob Gronkowski – has really trimmed down since announcing his retirement from the NFL. After seeing pictures of him recently, anyone harboring hopes of a comeback from the big guy and not being realistic. And any thoughts of him joining the WWE seem far-fetched as well.
Jonah Williams – Tough to see arguably, the best OL in this year’s draft go down with an injury before training camp starts and be lost for the season. Williams tore the labrum in his shoulder and required surgery which will sideline him for the entire 2019 season. The Bengals drafted Williams in the 1st round, 11th overall in the recent draft.
Julian Edelman’s Story Goes to Showtime:
The documentary “100% Julian Edelman” went live on Showtime on Friday night and was mostly filmed during the 2017-2018 timeframe when the Patriots WR was rehabbing from his ACL surgery.
There is a lot of humor in the hour-plus long video but some serious items as well. Edelman grew up terrified of his dad, who was a demanding taskmaster of a coach and demanded the best out of his son every day. The story goes over some of the drills that his father made him perform and they weren’t easy and were designed to make him tougher mentally.
There is also a bit where Edelman talked about only being five feet tall until his senior year of high school, where he went thru a growth spurt where he grew eight inches and his football career, thanks to the hard work with his father paid off.
It delves into some interesting subjects like his PED suspension where he and his Dad didn’t speak for 81 days. Edelman says the pair speak every day and the two disagreed over how it was handled.
Edelman – Welker, Is it Really Necessary to Compare?:
We realize that it is the summer doldrums where there isn’t much shaking…news-wise for the Patriots and these things are just exercises for discussion. We get it but there comes a time when it really doesn’t do either player justice when comparing players and their production to the team.
Which brings us to the Julian Edelman – Wes Welker debate that is all over social media. Edelman, is an icon in New England now, after playing a huge roll in the last three Super Bowl wins, including Super Bowl MVP honors for SB LIII. He’s Tom Brady’s best friend and most trusted receiver.
Welker is now, unfairly remembered mostly for the one that got away. The SB XLVI catch that could have closed out the Giants. And the fact that the Patriots didn’t re-sign him in 2013 and he bolted for Denver to play for the Broncos and Peyton Manning while wearing that ginormous “Dark Helmet” piece of headgear.
But in his six years in New England, Welker was beyond productive catching 112, 111, 123, 86, 122, and 118 passes. The only season he didn’t catch over 100 passes was the 2010 season, where after tearing his ACL in January in a game against the Texans, he returned in September and still put up very good numbers; 86 passes, 848 yards with seven touchdowns.
If there was a knock on Welker, it is that his post-season numbers didn’t quite match up to his regular season excellence. But make no mistake, the numbers were still very good. But if one cares to recall, the Patriots were perhaps, too reliant on Welker, something Bill Belichick himself was recorded as saying on the sidelines. Welker in reality, despite the one pass in Super Bowl XLVI, had better hands than Edelman.
Edelman has upped his game in the post-season, especially in the Super Bowl. His three games, 9-109 and the game-winning touchdown against Seattle, in addition to that mammoth hit he took from Kam Chancellor down the middle, was the stuff of legend.
Against the Falcons, he had five catches for 87 yards, including that incredible catch in traffic at crunch time where he snagged the ball just before it hit the turf. It is one of the more iconic Super Bowl catches ever, up there with the Lynn Swann catch of the 70s.
And of course, the SB MVP game against the Rams (10 catches, 141 yards) where he was basically uncoverable the entire game. The Rams tried everyone to slow him down and no one could. For a guy who doesn’t fit the poster image as a dominant wide receiver, it was one of the most dominant wide receiver performances in the history of the Super Bowl.
Welker should receive his red jacket and his rightful place in the Hall soon. If you don’t remember how good he was, play back his very first game in a Patriots uniform. Belichick was called out by the bobos on talk radio for giving up multiple draft picks for a guy who couldn’t hack it with the Dolphins and Bolts. That first game against the Jets answered all of those questions. You could see it happening right before your eyes.
Do we really have to go thru these mental gymnastics that are all the rage over, “Is so-and-so the best ever?” Be thankful we had both, and a seamless transition between when Welker left and Edelman truly took over. The offense was different then, it evolved and has become even better than it was then. In a big game, give me either in his prime and I’m confident that I’ll win.
Attention Belichick GM Haters…PFF Has the Patriots With the Best Roster in the NFL:
The site Pro Football Focus (PFF) is bound to be taking heat amongst the Bill Belichick haters, especially among the ones that are always beating the drum that “GM Bill is hurting, Coach Bill” and that “Belichick can’t draft.” Sound familiar?
PFF put together a piece for ESPN where they compared every roster in the NFL and despite losing Trey Flowers, Trent Brown, and Adrian Clayborn in free agency and Rob Gronkowski to retirement, the Patriots still have the best roster in the league.
PFF cited the Pats strength down the middle and it begins with QB Tom Brady. Brady, according to PFF had his fourth “elite” season in a row, (oopsie to the Simms, Kellerman trolls).
Despite always picking at the bottom of every round in the NFL Draft, Belichick has put together the top roster of the league. The Rams, Saints, and Eagles round out the Top 4. PFF listed, not tight end but the pass rush as a potential weak spot…more below.
Is the Patriots Pass Rush a Worrisome Spot? Not Presently:
In the ESPN piece that was referenced above, as we said the Patriots pass rush was listed as a potential problem spot. After losing Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn during free agency, the Patriots who finished 31st in sacks in 2018 could be conceivably on the short end of the pass rush totals again this season.
Trey Flowers had 7.5 sacks but was very versatile, fulfilling a variety of roles for the defense. Clayborn had just 2.5 sacks during the regular season but upped his play in the post-season.
The post-season was a different story. The Patriots were much more aggressive and after logging just 30 sacks in 16 regular season games, they logged 10 in just three playoff tilts. And it wasn’t from one player, they got contributions from everyone. Kyle Van Noy led the team with three, while Dont’a Hightower and Flowers each had two apiece.
In the Super Bowl, quite a difference from the year before, the pass rush hounded Jared Goff all game long. The defense had 13 QB hurries, eight QB hits, and four sacks. One of the pressures on Goff resulted in Stephon Gillmore’s interception at the end of the game.
But the team didn’t stand pat and signed free agent Michael Bennett from the Eagles and then drafted Chase Winovich in the 3rd round. And if the spring workouts with the unpadded workouts and no contact are any indication, LB Jamie Collins should be in-line for some quality playing time.
Bennett, despite being 33 is still a quality pass rusher and like Flowers, has the ability to move inside and bring pressure up the middle. Winovich was somewhat of a steal, with the Patriots snagging him with the 77th overall pick. While neither has played a snap with pads on yet, this isn’t to suggest that either is a cure-all but the cupboard isn’t bare either.
Deatrich Wise can kick inside and will have to up his play this season, while John Simon, Hightower, and Van Noy all have shown the ability to rush the QB on occasion. Collins is the wild card, having had a very good spring. Will the Patriots ever reap any reward out of Derek Rivers? He lost his rookie year to a torn ACL. Last year, he didn’t show much and will be under the microscope in Year 3.
So, this will be an area to watch for sure during training camp, especially when the one-on-one battles take place between the OL and the DL. But the scheme will play a huge role as well. Will the defense continue their aggressive ways after a very successful playoff run in 2018-19?
We aren’t predicting a Top 5 sack season, but we aren’t looking for them being near the bottom either. As always, the defense will no doubt start off slowly. Bill Belichick, as always, adds elements to it as the year progresses. A weakness? Not right now it isn’t. But like every year, we’ll have to watch for injuries and players to step up first. Our view here is that the 2019 version of the defense should be much better in the pass rush department….we’ll see.
AFC East Notes will return soon….
Julian Edelman’s motto for 2019? “Just got to keep it going.” That is a good motto for the team as they try to keep “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door.”
Rob Gronkowski may no longer be making an impact on a football field, but it remains business as usual in the community helping others.
On Wednesday, Gronk and his brothers traveled to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland Maine to spend time with the patients and donate a $25,000 check.
“We saw about a dozen kids, to put a smile on their face meant a lot,” Gronkowski said of the visit. “To see them come up and joy, cheers of joy, just have a blast, talk to them, have them ask questions about sports, it was awesome to see and awesome to put a smile on the kid’s faces.”
Check out the full CBS News report from Gronk’s visit in the tweet below.
The good deeds didn’t stop there, Gronk also hosted his annual kids camp last weekend and shared a recap of the event over Instagram.
The kids also asked some tough questions.
Despite his playing days coming to an end, Gronk keeps finding new ways to put smiles on faces.
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 05-12 and AFC East notes this week. And a very Happy Mothers Day to all those great Moms out there, not only in Patriots Nation but worldwide as well.
Rodney Harrison was the 2019 fans’ choice for induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame, he’ll join the veteran selection Leon Gray in being inducted this summer. That is scheduled for Monday, July 29, which should coincide with the first weekend of training camp. Circle the date folks, this ought to be a good one to attend.
Julian Edelman is finishing off his college degree this weekend at Kent State, something he began in 2006 and after nearly a decade in the NFL, he’s going to graduate. Edelman said on social media that he wanted to be a positive role model for his daughter and to finish something he started. Congrats.
Jarvis Green, the former Patriot defensive end is now a CEO of a shrimp company, Oceans 97, a salute to his uniform number. Green learned about the shrimping business from a friend and now his gourmet line is available all across New England and features easy-to-cook meals of shrimp packaged in bags with four sauce flavors to choose from, New Orleans Style BBQ, Cajun Curry, Chimichurri, and Garlic Butter.
Rookie Mini-camp for the Patriots begins tomorrow. The most recent draft picks and UDFAs will report to Foxboro, get physical examinations, meet the coaching staff, get down the daily routine and be introduced to the Patriots’ schemes that they’ll be expected to learn and quickly. These on-field sessions are not padded and no contact is allowed. For the 21 newest Patriots it is their first day of work in the NFL.
OBJ – caught a lot of flak last week for saying “I plan on being there for the next five years and trying to bring as many championships there as possible. Turning (the Browns) into the new Patriots,” There is nothing wrong with that at all. That SHOULD be the team’s goal, not just his.
I did poke some fun at him on Twitter for saying “I” instead of “we”, for failing to get the entire team thing mantra that is New England, but honestly, no one should have any problem with it. Tempering expectations, a least early? Sure, but as the old saying goes, “fortune favors the bold.” The Browns have a legitimate reason to be excited this year. When was the last time that happened.
White House Visit upcoming? The Patriots didn’t get a chance to visit the White House as is the tradition because of conflicts with dates, usually, it is done right after the NFL Draft. But there should be a date coming soon for the team to visit the White House and be recognized by the President soon.
Some Big Changes in the Coaching Staff, Joe Judge Gets Added Responsibility:
The Patriots have had a lot of turnover in the coaching ranks this offseason. Brian Flores is now the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, taking with him WR coach Chad O’Shea, CB coach Josh Boyer, and assistant QB coach Jerry Schuplinksi. DL coach Brendan Daly went to Kansas City in a lateral move.
With a smaller staff in 2019, the Patriots always have one of the smaller staffs in the NFL, the Patriots coaching staff now consists of the following:
Head coach: Bill Belichick Offensive coordinator/Quarterbacks coach: Josh McDaniels Special teams coordinator/wide receivers coach: Joe Judge Running backs coach: Ivan Fears Tight ends coach: Nick Caley Offensive line coach: Dante Scarnecchia Defensive line coach: Bret Bielema Inside linebackers coach: Jerod Mayo Outside linebackers coach: DeMarcus Covington Safeties coach: Steve Belichick Defensive backs coach: Mike Pellegrino Assistant special teams coordinator: Cameron Achord
The biggest changes occur on the defensive side of the ball. Bielema was primarily working with the defense last year and he takes over the DL and will probably inherit the job of making the calls. He’s been a defensive coordinator and head coach in the college ranks. Jerod Mayo has been brought in to coach the inside linebackers while Demarcus Covington takes over the outside linebackers. Mike Pellegrino is listed as a “defensive backs” coach but will probably coach the cornerbacks only. The only returning defensive coach is Steve Belichick who remains the safeties coach.
Joe Judge gets more on his plate as he retains his Special Teams coordinator position but also picks up the new title of WR coach as well. But with OC Josh McDaniels, OL coach Dante Scarnecchia, and RB coach Ivan Fears to return, the offense should be in really good shape.
Patriots Welcome N’Keal Harry Finally to New England:
The Patriots brought in N’Keal Harry to meet with the media on Friday and he was finally officially introduced as the Patriots first draft pick of 2019, (32nd overall in the first round). He posed for pictures with Robert and Jonathan Kraft and spoke with the press. Some of the highlights included:
On being drafted by the Patriots: “It means the world to me. This is a great organization. I feel like I couldn’t have been put in a better situation. I’m learning from the best of the best and I’m just excited to get to work and soak in as much information as possible.”
Asked about Tom Brady being hard on his WRs, Harry embraced the challenge. “That’s something I’m looking forward to. I’m the type of player that wants to get better, I want to get coached hard, so I’m looking forward to that.”
Harry spoke about giving back to his home on Saint Vincent and how much of an influence his grandmother was in his life. “She’s been everything. There’s no way I would have been in this position if my grandmother wasn’t a part of my life. She’s been a great role model. That’s where I get my work ethic from, just seeing how hard she works, seeing her come from a different country and having to start over. I really do know there’s no way I would be in this position without that woman.”
And asked what’s he’s been doing since being drafted, how he answered should be music to Patriots’ fans ears. “These past couple of weeks, my biggest things have been making sure I stay in shape and just making sure I’m studying a lot, watching a lot of film. I want to be the type of player that comes in and can be accountable from day one… with this transition, it’s all the work you put in, the time you put in, the effort you put in. So that’s what I’ve been doing the past couple of weeks and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”
Patriots Sign Watson and Several Draft Picks:
Ben Watson is returning to the place where his NFL career began with the Patriots. The team announced the signing of the 15-year NFL veteran who spent the first six seasons in the NFL with the Patriots before signing with Cleveland. He also played for the Ravens and Saints. Watson has played in 195 games with 135 starts and has 530 catches, for 5885 yards and 44 TDs.
The Patriots also announced the signings of second-round draft pick DB JoeJuan Williams, third-round draft pick OL Yodny Cajuste, fourth-round draft pick OL Hjalte Froholdt, fourth-round draft pick QB Jarrett Stidham, fifth-round draft pick DL Byron Cowart, fifth-round draft pick P Jake Bailey and seventh-round draft pick DB Ken Webster.
Only three draft picks remain unsigned, top draft pick N’Keal Harry, and third-round picks Chase Winovich and Damien Harris. Those shouldn’t be too long in coming
Adjustments Are Just a Walk in the Park for the Patriots:
For the past couple of months, the fans and media have been discussing how the team will handle so many losses thru free agency, coach-poaching, and retirement.
“No Josh Gordon, Hogan, Patterson at WR…Who will Brady throw to?” “RobGronkowski retired and the top three tight ends from last year are gone…how will the team adjust?” “The team lost Trent Brown and LaAdrian Waddle at tackle…who’s going to protect Brady?” “All of these changes at the coaching staff, does the rest of the AFC catchup in 2019?”
These are just a few of some of the questions we’ve all been hearing, or asking ourselves this spring. But as always, if there is one thing the Patriots do better than anyone is to adjust. No team has been better than adjusting to changing personnel, coaches, situations …whatever. They always figure it out. It has been a hallmark of this team for the past two decades is that they always figure it out.
So, while we’re all lamenting the loss of Gronk and openly wondering (as I did here) if they’re going to put an emphasis elsewhere, Belichick, McDaniels and don’t forget Brady will figure out a way to get this done. And until they don’t figure it out, I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt.
I found it intriguing this week that the Patriots were omitted from the NFL.com’s predicted “Top 10” offenses of 2019. I can think of nothing that will motivate Brady more. The Patriots love to play the role of the underdog and something tells me, the same people who omitted them from the list will be ridiculing New England for playing the underdog role next winter.
Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:
Bills Get No Love from ESPN, Network Predicts a Losing Season:
The Buffalo Bills had a strong offseason in free agency and followed that up with a strong 2019 NFL Draft. There they landed DL Ed Oliver, OT Cody Ford, RB Devin Singletary, and TE Dawson Knox in the first three rounds but are picked by the experts at ESPN to win just six games.
Buffalo fans are used to the media pundits taking shots at their team but from a perspective standpoint, the same experts had the Kansas City Chiefs as the best in the league with a probability of just 10.3 wins.
While much of how the season unfolds will depend on the 2nd year jump by QB Josh Allen, at first glance this doesn’t look like a six-win team.
Dolphins Defense Looking For a Hybrid Identity:
The Miami Dolphins are trying to build a defense that looks at times like a 4-3. At other times a 3-4. The base defense may have five defensive backs on the field. Their plan is to run a hybrid defense that morphs into whatever their opponents struggle against. I
If that sounds vaguely familiar, it should. That is the kind of defense Brian Flores ran with the Patriots and he and Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham plan on running with the Dolphins.
But both Graham and Flores know that if the defense is going to be successful, then they’ll have to improve a woeful 2018 run defense. Miami allowed a whopping 2325 yards on the ground and 4.8 yards per rush. And in playing in a hybrid front, the players will have to set the edge, something that Graham is well aware of.
“There will be a bunch of guys who will learn to set the edge,” Graham said to the Sun Sentinel this week. “The edge comes down to this. You’ve got to get a feel for it. The traditional edge we grew up knowing, where [the offense] lines up with two tight ends and they are going to run outside, that doesn’t happen that often (anymore).
“Setting the edge is really getting a feel for it, and being physical at the point, using proper angles with our body. We’re teaching a bunch of guys to learn how to do it. It can be a safety. It can be a defensive end and outside linebacker…
Polite Getting a Fresh Start with the Jets:
The New York Jets picked up Jachai Polite in the 3rd Round of the 2019 NFL Draft after the very talented edge player from Florida began to fall in the draft. Polite seemed like a sure-fire 1st rounder after a 2018 season that saw him produce 17.5 tackles for a loss, 11 sacks and six forced fumbles.
But he tested poorly at the NFL Combine and again at Florida’s Pro Day, prior to the draft. This, coupled with what was perceived as several poor interviews caused his draft stock to plummet.
But Jets coach Adam Gase isn’t worried about any of that. He said, “Well right now, we have a guy with pretty much a fresh start. What happened in the past is irrelevant to me.”
Gase added, “Moving forward it’s going to be about doing the right things, worrying about what he can control which is showing up every day, being on time, practice hard. If he does that, it’ll be smooth sailing for him.”
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 05-5 although no AFC East notes this week. They’ll be back next week.
Bill Belichick is always zigging while the others in the league are zagging. Everyone (including here) thought the Patriots would take one, possibly two tight ends in the draft. Eight were taken in the Top 100 picks and 16 overall. The Patriots took zero.
Does this omission mean that the team didn’t like any of the tight ends available in this class? That they planned on picking up another in a trade? Or that the team is moving in a different direction and they plan on putting the emphasis elsewhere and going to stick with what they have?
Tom Brady’s appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel show was a must watch clip. Brady was asked about his contract which is “only paying him” to be the 20th highest paid player in the NFL this year. “I want to win,” he answered, stating that the money the team saved on him allowed them to surround him with good players. He also added, “my wife makes a lot of money.”
Brady took part in the ongoing “feud” between Kimmel and actor Matt Damon. Brady has been in LA working out on his own and was a guest on Kimmel’s show. And the two with Kimmel sidekick Guillermo went to Damon’s house where you can imagine the rest.
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Three Games to Glory – the 5-hour DVD set that sets the tone for the Patriots’ three playoff games culminating in the Super Bowl victory over the Rams is available for order thru the Patriots Pro Shop.
In a video produced to promote the release had players Kyle Van Noy, Jason McCourty, Rex Burkhead, and Stephon Gilmore watch some of the videos and offer some commentary on the game.
DuJuan Daniels is leaving the Patriots “to pursue other opportunities” in the news that was first reported by ESPN’s Field Yates. Daniels joined the staff as a scouting assistant in 2006, and worked his way up to area scout and then for the past three years as a National Scout. The only member of the staff, that holds that title.
Steve DeOssie – former Patriot and Super Bowl XXV winner with the Giants took part in the annual Patriots/Patriots Alumni charity basketball game against a team from the Grafton Police Department. During the halftime break, where fans get to meet and greet current and former members of the team which included Elandon Roberts, Keion Crossen, Brandon King and local Grafton alum Obi Melifonwu, DeOssie was approached by a fan whose father played with him on that Giants SB winner.
Reyna Thompson was a reserve defensive back and Pro Bowl STs player who started the game on defense. For those who don’t remember or were too young to recall, Belichick was the defensive coordinator on the Giants and he started just two DL, three LBs and six DBs including four CBs to slow down the Bills’ offense. Belichick’s game plan now is on display in the Pro Football HOF in Canton.
DeOssie and Thompson’s son had a long conversation about his father and some memories of that Giants team. It was a very cool moment.
DeOssie and Thompson speak about the SB XXV Giants
Some Interesting Players in the 2019 Patriots UDFA Class:
The Patriots have signed several key UDFAs to the team thus far. Let’s take a quick look at each of the new members of the 2019 UDFA Class.
Jakobi Meyers, WR, NC State: Meyers was originally a QB and switched to WR in his freshman year. The last two seasons he’s had tremendous production and developed quite the chemistry factor with QB Ryan Finley.
Meyers has good size at 6’2, 203 and while not fast at all, he’s shown that he can make contested catches from the slot. He has great hands and a very high football I.Q. Last year in Raleigh, he caught 92 passes for 1047 yards with 4 TDs.
Xavier Ubosi, WR, UAB: Ubosi wasn’t on the list of signed players but we’ve heard and read from multiple media members that he intends to sign here. His route tree is a straight line…he ran go-routes, a lot of them in college. But he also averaged 23.9 yards per reception. This should prove interesting.
Ryan Davis, WR, Auburn: Davis was the Auburn slot machine the past two years. He set a school record for receptions in 2017 and led the team again last year. He’s not big, (5’10, 189) but is quick enough to be a good addition to the slot. He also returned punts which could get him a roster spot.
Andrew Beck, TE, Texas: Beck was originally a LB who converted to TE. He’s got good size (6’4, 260) and is known primarily as a blocking tight end. He’s average athletically and in the passing game, he can function reliably as a safety valve underneath.
Nick Brossette, RB, LSU: Brossette had a big year in 2018 at LSU, as he led the team with 240 carries, 1,039 yards, and 14 touchdowns. He has a compact muscular frame and excels at short-yardage. He doesn’t have much of a burst but is solid, reliable and gets better as the game wears on. Keep an eye on him this summer if anyone shows up hurt in training camp.
Malik Gant, SS, Marshall: Gant is a good sized (6’0, 209) very physical strong safety. He thrives in the box where he loves and seeks out contact. He wasn’t tested much in coverage against top competition. But he could provide a favorable matchup against tight ends and running backs. He would be a candidate for the Patriots “Big Nickel” role.
Terez Hall, LB, Missouri: Hall is an undersized, aggressive, downhill linebacker who could provide depth and special teams production. He’s tough and plays with good speed but his aggression frequently caught him out of position. With some coaching and discipline, he has the speed and athleticism to be a good defender in coverage.
D’Angelo Ross, CB, New Mexico: Was a productive corner for the Lobos despite measuring at just 5’8, 185. He is an uber-athletic player who ran a 4.32 at his Pro Day with a 39” vertical leap. He led the Lobos with 54 tackles and 15 passes defensed, but his size…or lack of it will bear watching.
Tyler Gauthier, OL, Miami: Gauthier was the starting center for the last two years at Miami and has good size at 6’5, 300. He is considered very solid in pass protection and allowed no sacks in 2018. He has the versatility to move over to guard.
Calvin Anderson, OT, Texas: Anderson played three years at Rice and graduated before transferring to Texas to get a masters in economics. He’s a bit raw and undersized (6’5, 292). He has good quickness and mirroring skills but requires time to get more strength and power at the NFL level.
Tyree St. Louis, OT, Miami: St. Louis has the size at 6’5, 314 to play in the NFL but is probably just a right tackle at the next level. He started in 34 straight games, so his experience level is excellent. But he’s not the most athletic player and a move inside could be in his future. It will be interesting to see how these last three prospects work out with Dante Scarnecchia.
Winovich is Arguably the Most Intriguing Additions to NE:
Chase Winovich was one of the Patriots’ selections in the 3rd Round (77th overall) of the 2019 NFL Draft. And he is one of the more intriguing characters they selected. He plays with a non-stop motor on the field and exhibits just as much passion off of it.
Don Brown, a Central Mass. native and Michigan’s Defensive Coordinator spoke with the Boston Herald early last week and had several very interesting quotes about Winovich and how he feels he’ll fit in the Patriots system.
“He’s a trip, no question, but he’s a very serious football player,” Brown said. “He’s one of those guys who love the game and plays the game the right way all the time. You never have to worry about his effort. He’s going to give you everything he’s got . . . I think him going into Coach Belichick’s system, this is probably a match made in heaven for him.”
In Michigan’s system, Winovich was asked to rush the QB from the edge but Brown believes he’s capable of much more and thinks the Patriots will use him in multiple ways.
“We stood him up as an outside linebacker. His primary goal was to go hunt the quarterback. But there’s no question, he can drop back and cover,” Brown said. “He has tight end in his background. He has good hands, he can catch. This offseason, getting ready for the combine, he trained a lot standing up, dropping into the flat, playing coverage, working on his hands. So he can do those things. We just didn’t ask him. The priority for us was to get him around the quarterback. But he can do it all. There’s no doubt about that.”
Pro Football Focus had Winovich as their 29th highest rated player going into the draft, so the Pats bringing him in at #77 is pretty good value. It was interesting to see how the board played out. The Jets were picking at #68 and reportedly looking for help on the edge. But they opted for Jachai Polite from Florida and Winovich was there for the Patriots to take at #77.
Here is his phone call from Bill Belichick telling him he’s going to New England.
Colts Finding the Right Players with Ballard/Decker:
One other AFC team that has drafted much better recently is the Indianapolis Colts. While new GM Chris Ballard is the guy who will (and should) get most of the credit, one name that won’t get much airspace is Brian Decker. But Decker is the guy ensuring that the Colts not only draft good players but the right ones.
Decker was hired by Ballard right off and is the Colts Director of Player Development. If you’ve never heard of him, you should. Analytics are becoming more and more important across all of sports and Decker has a unique career path. While Ballard and the staff scout football players, Decker’s job is finding the right ones.
A few years ago Decker was a Green Beret major and was tasked to find out why there was a marked increase in the number of candidates that were washing out of Green Beret training.
He totally revamped the system on how the Army, identifies, assesses, and evaluates prospective Green Berets. He then took his system of evaluating the “right people” with the NFL. In speaking with the Colts.com, he said it simply about finding character among the successful Special Forces candidates and NFL people.
“When you take the sport away and you look at the mindset of the people we’re dealing with, they’re the same people.”
What the Colts are doing now is what the Patriots under Belichick have done for the past two decades. They’re building a team and no longer just trying to collect talent. And from the gist of things, it would seem like the Colts draft board is much smaller these days much like New England’s.
“We try to learn as much as we can about a player by answering five questions,” he said. And those questions are:
Does he have a favorable development profile
Does he have a favorable profile that will predict performance under pressure
Does he have an intellectual profile that will allow him to learn and make decisions on the field
Background data, does his background pose any risks to his development
Selecting people who are a good fit with what the team is trying to do. Character matters, players have to buy in.
Under Decker’s watch, his system identified potential Green Berets and now Colts players by learning that each successful candidate responded to stress in their lives with a heightened sense of motivation.
The biggest character trait he looks for is desire. “Desire is the one thing, you can’t coach and can’t teach,” he said. “It is the desire that ultimately fuels the motivation.” He pointed out that desire will make a prospect develop great work habits that lend itself to great performance on the field.
They are trying to implement a system where they identify smart players who thrive in a pressure-packed environment. The successful player won’t be looking for external solutions to problems but internally within the group. They’ll have excellent work habits, be mentally and physically tough, have confidence which comes from practice and preparation and the optimism and belief that they can achieve anything together.
Keep your eye on the Colts this season and moving forward. Right now, I’d put them as the #2 team in the AFC and they’re getting an identity.
Two years ago, I did a couple of interviews with Decker for SpecialOperations.com and spoke about the process of identifying, assessing and evaluating Green Berets, but the same process applies equally.
The NFL is revamping the overtime rule to allow each team a possession. It is expected to pass when the league brings it up for a vote. Of course, this is because the Patriots defeated the Chiefs in O.T. during the AFC Championship Game where the Chiefs never touched the ball.
Cowboys C.O.O. Stephen Jones was firmly behind the Chiefs’ proposal.
“I certainly tend to lean toward the new rule,” Jones said. “I certainly watched every play of that Kansas City-New England game, and you kind of would have liked to have seen what would have happened if Kansas City got another shot at it, and then how the thing would have ended up. It was football, in my mind, the game at its best. I certainly don’t have a problem with guaranteeing each team a shot at it. … It’s certainly something that had some traction there in the room, and certainly saw some people who were very interested in it. But we’ll get on a call there, take a long, hard look at it, and I’m sure membership’s gonna get to see it.”
One has to truly wonder if Jones would have wanted to see the rule changed if the opposite had happened or wanted to see Brady get a chance at the ball.
This just reeks of sour grapes. Kansas City had the Patriots at third and long three times in that overtime drive. They didn’t stop them, hold them to a FG or even bothered to use one of their timeouts when their atrocious defense was obviously gassed in OT.
Are you surprised? You should be. Let’s look at some of the other New England rules after playoffs and Super Bowl wins.
“Point of emphasis” on contact with WRs
No more leaping FG or extra point blocks
No more tricky formations with ineligible WRs
Medical Spotters added in case a player is concussed
PSI checks, that went the way of the dinosaur quickly
Catch rules (which happened to be changed in the SB LII
But what happens when the Patriots have one of these rules work in their favor? “Put an asterisk on that one!” Child please.
“Rob Gronkowski was a presenter at the Billboard Music Awards last week and confirmed he was retired…then left the door open for a return. Hmm. So, how was your week?”