Tag Archives: Rob Gronkowski

Patriots Fourth And Two Podcast: Eagles vs. Patriots Pre-Season Game Review

Russ Goldman
August 17, 2018 at 2:26 pm ET

In this episode. we analyzed the second pre-season game, as the Patriots faced the Eagles at Gillette Stadium. We also shared our thoughts on the first pre-season game.

Patriots – Eagles Preseason Week 2, What to Watch For

Steve Balestrieri
August 16, 2018 at 8:30 am ET

The Patriots hit the field on Gillette for their last home preseason game tonight as they’ll take on the World Champion Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2 of the preseason. The game will be televised on WBZ-TV 4 with Bob Socci on the play-by-play, Scott Zolak doing color commentary with Rob Ninkovich the sideline reporter and Andy Hart and Paul Perillo providing commentary from the studio.

The stakes are much lower for both teams since they last met in February for the Super Bowl where the Eagles won 41-33 for their first Lombardi Trophy. But although it is just preseason and the score ultimately doesn’t mean anything at the end of the day, each team is looking to accomplish several things and solidify their rosters. WIth the limit at 90 players right now (the Patriots have 89), the teams will have to get down to 53 in just a couple of weeks now. Each team has several spots up for grabs.

Neither Tom Brady, Carson Wentz or Nick Foles played in their team’s preseason opener but all three should see some playing time this week as it is time for the QBs now to work off the rust.

There have been some interesting newsworthy stories this week, especially so since this is a preseason game. Lane Johnson continues to talk smack about and to the Patriots as well as Patriots fans. His “look at me” schtick will no doubt continue after the game as regardless if he plays a down, as he’s a self-styled expert on all things about the Patriots locker room although he’s never played here.

And Philadelphia fans have purchased a billboard on Route 1 leading into the stadium in a hilarious dig at the Patriots similar to the 28-3 trolling New England did to Atlanta. Crazy to see these things before a preseason game.

So from a Patriots perspective, as there is a football game to be played here is our list of things we’ll be looking for this week as the Patriots play the next preseason game against a very good Eagles team.

How Long Will Tom Brady Play? Brady after having his snaps reduced in training camp for about a week has been right back at it this week, looking like he got a typical workload for training camp.

Jim McBride from the Globe reported that Brady was suffering from a sore back last week, although Brady probably could have played if it had been a regular season game, he sat out the 1st preseason contest. He typically doesn’t play in the first one anyway so he was a cheerleader on the sidelines for Brian Hoyer and Danny Etling.

I would expect Brady to play about midway thru the first quarter and try to get some chemistry going with his wide receivers, several of whom are banged up right now. But it is important that Brady gets his own work in before the regular season. This week and next are his two games to knock off the rust. The final preseason game is usually a final look at guys on the bubble and one he normally doesn’t play in. We expect to see him hook up with Rob Gronkowski a bit this week as Gronk sat last week as well.

Wide Receiver Reps Time For Stepping Up: Kenny Britt hasn’t been a full participant all summer and at the end of practices both Phillip Dorsett and Julian Edelman came up limping a bit. So the WR position has yet to look like the coaches have envisioned it for the regular season thus far. It is imperative that all of the wide receivers get some work in with Brady and build up their chemistry, timing and trust factor with the starting QB. Britt probably won’t play again and it will be interesting to see if Edelman and Dorsett make it on the field this week.

Of course, it is also an opportunity for everyone to showcase their talents, especially those players who are on the bubble. And in the case of Eric Decker, whom the team brought in just a couple of weeks ago, it should be a very important week. Decker is a player who has been very productive in the league but after a couple of serious injuries and at an age where it is fair to wonder if his best days are behind him, Decker is far from a lock at this point. Especially considering that he was just brought in. He doesn’t know the offense well yet and was plagued earlier in the week with several drops. Tonight’s game and next week will be a big measuring stick for him.

Cordarrelle Patterson is another guy who has had a strong camp but hasn’t had a ton of reps with or catches from Brady during the practice sessions. Tonight would be a prime opportunity for him to build some of the trust factor with #12 and work into an integral role in the offense. Ditto for young guns Devin Lucien, Braxton Berrios and Riley McCarron.

Will To See See More From Ju’Whaun Bentley and J.C. Jackson: The two rookies both had strong outings in the first professional, albeit, preseason games. Both got off to impressive starts last week against the Redskins and this week, we’ll see if they can continue to build off of that against a much better football team in the Eagles.

Bentley showed the type of physicality on the goal line that the coaches love, where he read the play, and then flew up into the hole and blew up the play for no gain that we expect from Dont’a Hightower. But for a rookie, he showed a surprising level of comfort within the defense to call the plays and wear the green dot communication device. That shows a level of trust from the coaches and also that his development is coming along quickly, something Hightower alluded to early in training camp.

Jackson began turning heads at OTAs this spring and has carried it thru minicamp, training camp and the first preseason game. The UDFA rookie from Maryland has been impressive with his technique and compete level from Day 1 and was thrust early in the process opposite of Stephon Gilmore to show what he could do. The results have been very impressive thus far. He’s definitely in line to earn himself a roster spot on this year’s team and he’ll be a player to watch tonight.

And we could say the same thing about young RB Ralph Webb who looked strong in his professional debut last week. He still has a long way to go, can he parlay a strong performance into added reps and production two weeks in a row.

Jason McCourty’s Time to Shine is Now: Speaking of cornerbacks, the case of Jason McCourty has been a strange one thus far of his time in New England. He has been a regular member of the second rotation at the corner so far during training camp but didn’t play a snap against the Redskins. If the absence was injury related, McCourty didn’t say anything to the media about it.

Of course, Bill Belichick isn’t going to say much on the subject. He waxed mid-season form Bill when approached on McCourty’s lack of playing time last week.

“The guys we play, we play. The guys who didn’t play… didn’t play,” Belichick said on Monday. “We’ll play other guys this week, and we’ll see how it goes.

“We all know I’m not talking about anybody’s injuries, so there’s no point in bringing that up or going through that. Can’t look at everybody every week. There’s just too many guys. Some guys will play one week, some guys will play more the other week.”

We expect to see a lot more of McCourty this week against Philadelphia and perhaps get an extended amount of reps. He did practice with the first team unit on Monday so perhaps it was just a case of Belichick knowing what he has in some players and letting them sit to that he has an opportunity to gauge other players. Tonight will be an interesting one to see what McCourty brings to the table.

Eddie Pleasant or Jordan Richards: Most Patriots fans every summer have Richards circled on the cut list but he’s now in his fourth year with the team. He has been a good STs performer but has struggled mightily when asked to play defense. Last year, because of injuries, he played an extended role defensively and things didn’t go well at all for him, most notably in the Super Bowl. That carried over to the first preseason game against the Redskins where he missed several tackles due to taking a poor angle, something we’ve mentioned time and again here.

Pleasant is an established veteran who played for several years with the Texans as a player who fits the same mold. He’s been a solid STs presence who can fill in defensively when needed. Pleasant has looked better than Richards defensively so far, although that is almost like damning with faint praise. If he can pick up the STs role as well as Richards, he may supplant the veteran from the roster.

Both may see the intriguing rookie tight end Dallas Goedert on the field tonight. We really liked Goedert during the draft process, the rookie from S. Dakota St. had a very impressive debut of his own against the Steelers last week, he caught 4 passes on five targets for 66 yards and a touchdown.

Strong Play on the Edge From Wise/Rivers: The two second-year players on the edge had very solid games a week ago against Washington and we are looking to see more from them as they continue to progress this summer. With Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn, the Pats are looking to build a solid rotation on the edge, something that was woefully missing last season.

Wise has looked very solid in his second season and appears stronger with a better array of moves in rushing the passer this season. He had a good rookie campaign in 2017 and it was expected that he’d make a big jump in production with a year in the system and getting bigger and stronger in the strength and conditioning program.

Rivers seems completely recovered from his ACL surgery and looks bigger and stronger than he did a year ago after being the team’s top draft choice after coming from a small school in the NFL Draft. He showed good explosion off the line and good speed to power, pushing the offensive tackle backward on roller skates. It was a very encouraging sign that he’s all the way back.

If the team can keep getting similar production from their two 2nd year edge players, one of the bigger worries about the defense, their pass rush should be significantly better in 2018.

VIDEO: Boston Bruins Players Make Appearance At Patriots Training Camp

Robert Alvarez
August 14, 2018 at 11:30 pm ET

In the latest example of Boston sports teams supporting one another, a few members of the Boston Bruins traded in their hockey skates for the pigskin and visited Patriots training camp Tuesday afternoon.

Spotted at Gillette Stadium was defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk, along with forwards Ryan Donato and Chris Wagner.

Of the four Bruins in attendance, Grezlcyk, Donato and Wagner all grew up in Massachusetts while McAvoy attended Boston University.

The visit continued the long standing friendly relationship between the Bruins and Patriots.

Who could forget Rob Gronkowski’s memorable puck spike following the teams Super Bowl XLIX victory at TD Garden or Patrick Chung skating at the Bruins practice facility last year?

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bme0Z1QA3-W/?utm_source=ig_twitter_share&igshid=3gb0vnc7o140

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bme4mZaAPxS/?utm_source=ig_twitter_share&igshid=1kq3plfo0i9z8

Pretty surreal meeting some of these legends. @patriots thank you for having us!

A post shared by Chris Wagner (@chriswags21) on

Back in January following the AFC title game, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy looked to the Patriots for inspiration to help his young and up and coming team, saying “It’s just an amazing quality that team has…The culture they’ve created there, the identity. We’d love to be that.”

For Boston sports fans, they’d love for both teams to bring home another championship.

VIDEO: Rob Gronkowski Talks Finances, How He Manages Money As Professional Athlete

Robert Alvarez
at 11:01 pm ET

Speaking with Maverick Carter of the Uninterrupted web series “Kneading Dough“, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski opens up about how hes managing his money during his NFL career.

Gronk, who has previously stated he hasn’t spent any of his NFL earnings and only uses his endorsement money, has now become an adviser for younger players seeking financial advice.

Check out his interview below.

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

A post shared by Chris Hogan (@chrishogan_15) on

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.

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.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BmT32NEg0S1/?hl=en&taken-by=turnupwebb7

Starting off the preseason with a W.

A post shared by New England Patriots (@patriots) on

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

A post shared by Jeremy Hill (@jeremyhill) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BmTHUD1hTb3/?hl=en&taken-by=edelman11

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

A post shared by Braxton Berrios (@hnynut_berrios) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BmUNParBnBV/?taken-by=warriormentality

New England Patriots News 8-12, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, Here is your Sunday’s Patriots news 8-12, & AFC East Notes. The Patriots are getting to back work this afternoon after their first preseason game on Thursday night. Bill Belichick has been taking a slower approach to training camp, having given the players several days off already. Belichick did say that the long 2017 season and the increased workload on the players definitely have an effect on how they approach the workload for the current training camp.

And lost in all the Malcolm Butler hoopla was this. On the Packers first drive of their preseason game against Tennessee, Brett Hundley completed a 48-yard bomb to Davante Adams who blew by Butler, giving the Packers a first and goal at the two. Maybe it is the conspiracy theorist in me, but if Butler had picked it off and went to the house, what would you think the odds would be that the play would have been all over the sports talk radio world?

Quick Hitters:  
With many missed tackles in the first preseason game and some general sloppy tackling all around, one reason (other than rust) could be the lack of live tackling and physicality in practice. It will be interesting to watch if that ramps up a bit now.

Ralph Webb had a really nice night in his professional debut scoring a pair of touchdowns and two, 2-pt conversions.  The former Vanderbilt running back was called up by Bill Belichick for congratulations after the team’s win and in his post-game press conference, Belichick had several compliments for the rookie. Washington lost very promising rookie RB Derrius Guice to a torn ACL for the season in the game. They stated that for the time being, they were going to stay with the players they have. However, Webb is still a longshot to make the 53-man roster. If the Patriots try to sneak him onto the practice squad in a few weeks, don’t be shocked if the Redskins make a move to bring him to their squad after his game this week.

Tom Brady’s $5 million dollar incentive clause into his contract was a head scratcher earlier this week. If earned, that $5 million will vault Brady up into the Top 10 of QB salaries, tied with Blake Bortles but less than Sam Darnold, who has yet to throw a pass in the NFL yet. Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston called it a band-aid fix and we’re inclined to agree here. A look at the list of QBs making more money than Brady, other than Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers is a Who’s Who? Of QBs having never accomplished a smidgen of what Brady’s done. So his contract, even at 41 is still a bargain. But tying the $5 million to incentives? Really? I don’t get that one.

Terrible setback for Pats LB Harvey Langi who made the roster in 2017 and then was in an awful car wreck last fall while stopped at a red light. Langi returned this year and had been having a good camp thus far until he took a hit to his side and suffered an internal laceration according to Jeff Howe of the Athletic. Because of concerns to his kidney, he will be out 4-5 weeks.

Very sad news about former Patriots LB Jerod Mayo and his 5-year old Bulldog who went missing after supposedly going for a walk with the dog’s trainer. The family and police searched for the dog and after two months the dog’s body was found in plastic bags inside a closet in the trainer’s house outside of Cranston, RI. The trainer, Amelia Ferreira told Wrentham, MA police the dog Knox, disappeared after slipping his leash at a conservation area in Wrentham. Charges are pending. And hopefully will be severe.

Derek Rivers Looks Strong in First Game Back From ACL Tear:
Less than a year removed from his torn ACL surgery, not only was DE Derek Rivers back on the field, he played at a high level showing good physicality and exceptional strength. The 2nd year player got the start at defensive end and had several good plays.

Derek Rivers during 2016 training camp. (SBalestrieri photo)

Perhaps his best was when he bull rushed Redskins tackle, John Kling. Rivers exploded off the snap and had Kling on roller skates. He then gave Kling a big shove pushing him into QB Colt McCoy and getting his hand up trying to knock down the pass attempt. The move against Kling is a total body type of movement from Rivers who when asked about his ACL and repaired knee from Henry McKenna of USA Today said, “It felt awesome,” Rivers said. “No complaints. Praise God.”

Make no mistake, the mental part of getting over an ACL injury is the biggest hurdle. This summer I spoke with UMass Medical Center Dr. Brian Busconi, who has performed hundreds of ACL surgeries on MLB and NFL as well as college and high school athletes. It was rumored he performed the surgery on Julian Edelman. Busconi would neither confirm or deny it, however, a signed picture of Edelman hangs in the office and a source of ours passed Edelman in the office earlier this summer. So take it for what it is worth.

Busconi said the surgery was only 30 percent of the fix for the athlete. The other 70 percent was doing the rehab work, strengthening the muscles that will atrophy because of the injury and the resultant layoff and most importantly, the mental hurdle to test the joint once it is ready. Edelman admitted last week he “doesn’t have his football legs” back under him yet. He looks to be in terrific shape, it is probably more a mental block more than anything.

That’s why it was so important for Rivers (and Edelman) to get out on the field and run and cut and do all the things they did without thinking prior to their injury. Rivers looked good for the most part, he also had his not-so-good moments as well. On one play, he ducked his head and lost the running back, who zipped past his gap for a big gain.

However, for the first preseason game and after a year layoff from the field, Rivers took a great big leap back to being part of the edge player rotation. With Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn expected to be the starters, he and Deatrich Wise could combine and form a much better group at getting after the QB in 2018.

He leaped over the first hurdle. We’ll be watching him next week closely to see if he can continue to improve and produce when the Patriots play the Eagles in Week 2 of the preseason.

Hightower on the Block? Troy Brown Thinks It Could be a Possibility:

The Patriots welcomed back linebacker Dont’a Hightower in his first game action since October after the big man went on IR last season. Hightower played extensively, into the second quarter. At the time, we thought it nothing more than the coaching staff wanting to shake off the rust after not playing for about 10 months. But after the game, former Patriots WR Troy Brown thought the Patriots may be shopping the big LB.

Dont’a Hightower is back and played into the second quarter against Washington. (SBalestrieri photo)

Brown on NBC Sports Boston said, “Sometimes you gotta put people on the market and let people see what they can do.” At first glance, that stance would appear to be ludicrous, no one was more instrumental to the Patriots defense, Hightower was the one player on defense that they could ill afford to lose. While the talk centered around Malcolm Butler after the Super Bowl loss to Philadelphia, the absence of Hightower was a far greater loss overall.

Brown doubled down on his thought by adding, “You have to ask yourself…why is he still out there so long?” Assuming his take is correct, who would they trade Hightower to and what could they get in return that would help the team? Unless they’re making a push to the Raiders with Hightower a piece of a package for Khalil Mack, then it wouldn’t make sense.

From our view, we’re sticking with the “knocking the rust off”  scenario, but we’ve seen stranger things in Foxboro in the past.  

Bentley Makes a Strong Debut at Linebacker:
Ja’Whaun Bentley, the Patriots fifth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft wasn’t highly thought of when he was going thru the draft process, in fact, was considered to be a UDFA and wasn’t even invited to the NFL Combine. But the Patriots liked what they saw from the big Purdue linebacker in his first NFL preseason action.

Bentley had six tackles, two for a loss and QB hit and should have been credited with a forced fumble that the officials ruled forward progress had been stopped. A play Bill Belichick tried to challenge and when told he couldn’t, said it was “F***ing BS.”

Bentley was considered a Brandon Spikes throwback, a two-down run stuffer who couldn’t cover on passing downs. So far, he’s proving the critics wrong. He has had a strong training camp and followed it up with good performance in the opening PS game.

Rookie LB Ja’Whaun Bentley has been impressive thus far thru camp, especially in coverage. (SBalestrieri photo)

“I just wanted to come out and put my best foot forward to do the best I could as far as assignments and just make sure all my guys were ready to go,” Bentley said. “And I feel like we did a good job of that. Of course, we got some kinks to work out, but we did a very good job.”

Bentley also had some time calling the signals with the green dot communication device which is a great learning step for a rookie on the defense to be able to learn his responsibilities but also everyone else’s to call out the signals is a testament to his learning the system quickly.

His best play came in the first half. With the Redskins inside the three-yard line, they tried to pound the ball in the middle for a touchdown. Bentley, at his MLB position, read the play, waited for the right time until the RB committed and flew into the hole, dropping him for no gain.

He still has a long way to go but for now, he’s looking very good and appears to be almost a lock for the 53-man roster.

Jeremy Hill Buys In, And Shows Impressive Burst in Opener:
After a disappointing 2017 from Mike Gillislee, the Patriots drafted Sony Michel this spring and then added veteran Jeremy Hill who had lost his starting gig with the Bengals. Hill is bigger (6’1, 230 pounds) than most of the Patriots running backs, but it is something they need for certain situations, (goal line and short-yardage) with the offense.

Hill, whose snaps and numbers have steadily gone down in Cincinnati, at first glance didn’t seem like a good fit. But Hill had surgery to remove some bone spurs in his ankles. He also bought into the Patriots offseason conditioning system and lost weight in an attempt to add a bit of quickness to his step.

Jeremy Hill had a big game on Thursday night and is looking to turn that into a roster spot. (SBalestrieri photo)

He certainly appeared that way on Thursday night, hitting the holes with authority and showing nice vision cutting back against the grain. He appeared much quicker than Gillislee with the ability to convert those short-yardage situations.

His ability to flash in the passing game helped. Facing a 3rd and 8 from the 30-yard line midway thru the third quarter, Hill caught a short pass from QB Brian Hoyer and then made the first tackler miss and was able to convert the first down by stiff-arming a linebacker and then lowering his head and getting past the sticks.

The Patriots insist all of their running backs pass block as well and Hill had a highlight reel play when he planted LB Shaun Dion Hamilton, giving Hoyer time to hit FB Henry Poggi on a check down out of the backfield.

Again, there is a long way to go, but Hill with his performance didn’t do a thing to hurt his chances to not only make the team but earn some significant snaps. Especially with Sony Michel on the shelf for the time being.

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Allen Has Buffalo Abuzz After Preseason Debut:
The Buffalo Bills played the Carolina Panthers in their Week 1 preseason opener but it was strictly the Josh Allen show for the fans, and who can blame them? The Bills fans have been waiting for that next franchise QB since Jim Kelly retired. And after moving up to take him in the first round of the NFL Draft this spring, fans are excited.

Head coach Sean McDermott wasted little time in letting Allen uncork his arm which is his strongest asset. He lasered a 60-yard pass downfield on his first snap which was caught by WR Robert Foster but just out of bounds.

Yes, his footwork is inconsistent and his decision making can still be suspect but Allen possesses a cannon for an arm and it as well as his playmaking ability were on full display. He completed 9 of 19 for 119 yards and a touchdown while rushing three times for 29 yards, twice converting third downs with his feet.

For now, he’ll remain the 3rd QB on the depth chart and be the future. But Buffalo fans caught a glimpse of that and can’t wait for him to be the present.

Dolphins Tannehill Aces First Test:
The Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill played his first football since the 2016 season in an albeit short but impressive stint against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tannehill played a series and took the Dolphins into field goal range but the most important feature was that he looked comfortable, cool in the pocket and in control of the offense. The offensive line gave him plenty of time to throw, coach Adam Gase said Tannehill was “back there peeling an orange.” to push home the point.

One thing that the Dolphins seem intent on doing is getting Mike Gesicki the ball in the end zone and that combination with the big rookie TE and Tannehill looks intriguing. We’ll expect to see more of it next week against Carolina.

Jets QBs Shine In Preseason Win Over Atlanta:
The New York Jets unleashed rookie QB Sam Darnold in their preseason opener and the rookie taken with the #3 pick in the draft didn’t disappoint. Darnold shined, completing 13-18 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown in a little over two-quarters worth of work. He received thunderous applause from the Jets fans and didn’t disappoint, hitting on eight of his first 9 throws.

Teddy Bridgewater on his first action of the season after returning from an injury was also very sharp hitting on 7-9 for 85 yards including a 16-yard touchdown. Coach Todd Bowles said Darnold looked poised out there and it is clear that the Jets organization is going to give Darnold every opportunity to win the starting job over veterans Josh McCown and Bridgewater.

McCown started the game but played only one series and completed the only pass he attempted for four yards. It will be interesting to see how the Jets decide to play this out. While the temptation is there to get Darnold on the field, with two good veterans, there should no attempt to rush him into the starting lineup until he’s ready for it.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

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.

What to Watch For, Patriots – Washington Preseason Opener

Steve Balestrieri
August 9, 2018 at 7:30 am ET

Football is back…finally. The Patriots begin the 2018 preseason with a home tilt against the Washington Redskins. The kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Gillette Stadium and it is supposed to be hot and steamy around kickoff time.

The game will be broadcast on WBZ TV4 with the Patriots radio crew of Bob Socci, Scott Zolak holding down the play-by-play and color duties, with sideline reporters Rob Ninkovich and Steve Burton.  Andy Hart and Paul Perillo from Patriots Football Weekly will provide frequent commentary from the studio.

This will be the 22nd meeting between the two teams in the preseason. The Patriots and Philadelphia have met 22 times as well and have only played the Giants in the preseason (27 games) more.

However, this game will likely have little bearing on who starts the regular season for the Patriots or the Redskins. While both starting QBs, Tom Brady and newcomer Alex Smith for the Redskins may make a cameo appearance, one wouldn’t expect them to play more than a series, if at all.  

But there are a lot of players on both teams that need to perform well during the preseason as they hope to make each team. Right now the rosters are set at 90 players and each team can keep only 53. On the Patriots, there are probably 39-40 players who are locks to make the roster and another 3-4 more who are near locks. That leaves an awful lot of competition for the bottom half of the roster.

There are some spots were open competition will tell the tale, so the players, matchups etc. that we’ll be watching for from a Patriots perspective are:

Left Tackle Position: The Patriots traded for Trent Brown this spring and after losing long-time left tackle Nate Solder in free agency to the Giants. Brown is huge, 6’8, 380 pounds but moves well for a big man. He’s had a good training camp up to this point but tonight will be his first game action as a member of the Patriots.

The team invested a first-round draft pick on G/T Isaiah Wynn from Georgia just hours before trading for Brown. He’s played mostly tackle with a bit of guard thrown in this summer on the left side but he’ll get some work at both. Wynn is small for an NFL tackle at 6’2, 311 but he makes up for with being gifted athletically.

They seem to be taking the same approach with Wynn as they did with Solder, they’ll let him learn the ropes for a year under Dante Scarnecchia, while getting frequent reps to earn some experience.

While all signs point to the pair being just fine this season, until they get on the field and show some work against opponents, there will be questions. But with Scarnecchia being the tough love teacher, I would expect to see Wynn start at some point this season.

Cornerback: With Malcolm Butler now a Tennessee Titan, the Patriots had a hole at the CB spot opposite of Gilmore. Many of the national sites are calling Butler’s loss the Patriots top CB last year. But in reality, since about halfway thru the season, it was Gilmore who was the better of the two and down the stretch and into the playoffs there was no doubt about that.

Now there seems to be a two-way battle between veterans Jason McCourty and Eric Rowe. Both have had their good moments during training camp And each brings a little something different to the table but it may end up being more a case of who the opponent is, the coaches may decide to go with the better matchups.

However, waiting in the wings is unheralded rookie J.C. Jackson from Maryland. Jackson turned some heads during OTAs and minicamp and got some reps opposite Gilmore. He has since gotten more in training camp and looks like he belongs. He’s not overwhelmed at all  Second-year player Ryan Lewis has the prototypical size that teams are looking for and has turned in a solid training camp as well.

In the slot, rookie Duke Dawson has gotten a lot of reps and has played well. But Jonathan Jones just came off of PUP and will have something to say about that. It is doubtful, however, that Jones will play so soon.

Running Back: With 1st round draft pick Sony Michel on the shelf after getting fluid from his knee drained, it leaves a decent sized hole that two veterans will be fighting for a roster spot over. The Patriots brought in Mike Gillislee last year, but overall he’s been disappointing. He’s missed some playing time during camp this summer, which isn’t helping his cause.

The team signed former Bengals back Jeremy Hill this offseason and he’s had the upper hand so far during training camp. Hill brings an element in the passing game that Gillislee doesn’t have and has run the ball pretty well so far.

These two are probably fighting over one roster spot so these preseason games all become very important for each of them.

Edge Rushers: The Patriots defense was not good getting after the quarterback a year ago. Trey Flowers had a good year and the team got a decent rookie season from Deatrich Wise but had little else. They’ll have to be much better this year at getting pressure on opposing QBs.

During free agency, the team went out and got veteran Adrian Clayborn. They also got back last year’s top draft pick Derek Rivers as well as Dont’a Hightower on the defensive front seven. Rivers is starting to round back into form from his torn ACL from last preseason and it will be a test for him to get back into game action.

He should be part of a four-man rotation with Flowers, Clayborn, and Wise, who is having a terrific camp thus far this summer.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

ICYMI PHOTOS: Tom Brady Celebrates Birthday On Friday

Robert Alvarez
August 6, 2018 at 8:25 pm ET

On Friday New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady celebrated his 41st birthday.

To honor the occasion, a few current and former teammates shared wishes to the future Hall of Fame QB while the fans sang Happy Birthday at practice.

https://twitter.com/Patriots/status/1025375328041160706

https://www.instagram.com/p/BmBJMlnlq57/?utm_source=ig_twitter_share&igshid=1ric0p2elnajl

https://www.instagram.com/p/BmBcuGZhuLh/?hl=en&taken-by=edelman11

41 and still pliable. Happy Birthday TB!

A post shared by Tedy Bruschi (@tedy_bruschi) on

Patriots 53-man Roster Projection 2.0, Training Camp Opens

Steve Balestrieri
at 7:30 am ET

With the first week-plus of the Patriots 2018 training camp in the books, it is time to do another look at our New England Patriots 53-man roster projection. So far, without the benefit of an actual game situation of a preseason game, we’ll have to go with what we’ve seen in the practice sessions thus far.

This week’s first tilt against the Redskins ought to be very interesting of how things begin to play out, especially with some players being hurt already.

Offense –
Quarterbacks: (2)
Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer

In our first roster projection, we had them going with three QBs and Etling making the 53 man roster. In this one, he’s going to the practice squad as they’ll need that slot elsewhere. Is there a chance someone swoops in and takes him away? Not really at this point. So he should be safe

Sony Michel is currently on the shelf with a knee injury. (SBalestrieri photo)


Running backs: (6)

Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, Jeremy Hill, Brandon Bolden, James Develin

Sony Michel suffered a knee injury on Wednesday that will have him out for a while after having his knee drained of fluid. It is a big setback for his development. But Burkhead, White, and Hill seem poised to be fine for now. Hill could lose his spot if Michel is given a clean bill of health early.  Bolden makes the cut this time for his STs ability. Develin is the fullback and isn’t going anywhere.

Tight ends: (3)
Rob Gronkowski, Jacob Hollister, Dwayne Allen

No changes here. Hollister is having a very solid summer and is working his way into Tom Brady’s “Circle of Trust” which is a very good sign. No one is stepping up to challenge Allen for his blocking TE prowess and he’s looking better in the passing game. Gronkowski looks to be on a pitch count and has been very sharp.

Patterson is working his way into the offense. (SBalestrieri photo)


Wide Receivers: (6)
Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Eric Decker, Cordarrelle Patterson, Kenny Britt, Matthew Slater, (Suspended: Julian Edelman)

Edelman’s suspension is a big loss for the first month but may prove to be a blessing. He was complaining this week, that he’s not feeling in shape yet, or as he termed it, “football shape.” Jordan Matthews’ injury was also a blow and then the team signed Decker, who isn’t a lock yet and has only practiced once. But he’ll have to show he fits in. For now, he’s in.

Dorsett is having a good summer (Ditto for Patterson),  and his move inside is looking like a smart one. Britt is just getting back on the field but has plenty of time to get caught up now. Both Riley McCarron and Braxton Berrios go to the practice squad but are just a step away from active roster because of punt return duties, however, if anyone else gets hurt or stumbles, they could move up. Slater who is a WR in name only makes the cut too.

Offensive line: (8)
Trent Brown, Isaiah Wynn, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Joe Thuney, Brian Schwenke, LaAdrian Waddle

The state of the offensive line is still a bit in flux, but Trent Brown is looking like the left tackle for now. Isaiah Wynn has struggled with his consistency right now, not surprising for a rookie but he’s going to challenge for either the LT or LG position soon. I could see Cole Croston or Ted Karras easily slipping up here as well.

Defense
Defensive line: (8)
Trey Flowers, Malcom Brown, Danny Shelton, Adrian Clayborn, Deatrich Wise, Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine, Derek Rivers

No changes here, Adam Butler could easily step into a spot here. Wise has looked outstanding thus far. Flowers and Clayborn have been ok, but are probably pacing themselves. Rivers is coming on again and will be really intriguing to watch. I like what I’ve seen from 2nd-year edge player Keionta Davis in very limited views. He may rate a practice squad role.

Dont’a Hightower’s return is a big key for the Pats defense. (SBalestrieri photo)

Linebacker: (7)

Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Harvey Langi, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Marquis Flowers, Elandon Roberts, Brandon King

Christian Sam has been invisible so far and goes to the practice squad. Both Roberts and Bentley make the roster and each has had good moments. Having a healthy Hightower back this fall is a must. Van Noy and Flowers are having good camps thus far.  King is an ST ace but practices with the LBs.

Cornerback: (6)
Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, Eric Rowe, Duke Dawson, J.C. Jackson, Ryan Lewis (PUP: Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones)

Gilmore is having a tremendous offseason. McCourty and Rowe and rounding into form. Dawson has looked mostly good in the slot. But Jackson, who shined in minicamp continues solid play. Lewis, the 2nd year corner from the practice squad, has the size and has played very well this summer. His rise bumps 7th rounder Crossen off the roster as the rookie has had trouble staying on the field with back spasms.

Cyrus Jones could still be the team’s punt returner but he hasn’t been seen on the field yet, still recovering from ACL surgery and begins the year (with Jonathan Jones) on PUP.

Stephon Gilmore, seen here breaking up a pass to Hogan has had a terrific offseason. (SBalestrieri photo)

Safety: (4)
Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner

Once again I’m leaving Jordan Richards off the roster but Bill will prove me wrong again. He actually has made some good plays so far in camp but has also been roasted fairly regularly. Eddie Pleasant could easily change the coaches’ minds about his status and has been okay. The position is solid with the top three…but I am still stinging over the Titans signing Kenny Vaccaro this week.

Specialists: (3)
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Ryan Allen, long-snapper Joe Cardona

Allen now noses just above Corey Bojorquez, who has the much stronger leg but still struggles with his consistency. But this battle will go back and forth right until the final roster cuts. Gostkowski and Cardona have no competition in camp and are locks.

 

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.