Tag Archives: Rob Ninkovich

Patscap Podcast: Do I Care About The Patriots Possibly Going 19-0 This Season?

Russ Goldman
July 19, 2017 at 10:45 am ET

In this episode, Miguel discussed if he cared about a possible 19-0 season for the Patriots. He also updated the current state of the cap for the Pats. Later on, he compared the Patriots 2007 team to this current team heading into Training Camp.

New England Patriots Training Camp Primer: Defensive Line

Steve Balestrieri
July 17, 2017 at 6:30 am ET

Versatility and Physicality Mark The Pats DL

The Patriots head into training camp in ten days and there should be no shortage of competition at a number of spots. As a lead-in to the beginning of camp, we’ll break down the positions and give our take on who is a lock, a near lock for the 53-man roster and who is on the bubble. Next up on our primers is the Defensive Line position.

Bill Belichick likes to say that the spring’s OTAs and Minicamp is a learning exercise and that the real competition begins in training camp. With a roster of 90 players and no cuts needed before the final 53-man roster cut down, there will be plenty of time for evaluation.

So, we’re going to look at the Patriots Defensive Line and how they shake out. There is much versatility here and that what makes the Patriots defense so effective. In a sack driven league, they’re rather pedestrian at them despite leading the league in points against in 2016.

DL Malcom Brown will be expected to be more consistent in 2017. (SBalestrieri photo)

It wasn’t smoke and mirrors, the team uses a variety of different looks and squeezes offenses from running the ball and then with their pass rushers, do not let opponents out of the pocket where big plays tend to happen. They demand their edge players set the edge first, they’re not and have never been a “sell-out” pass rush team.

The team lost defensive ends, Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long, this spring but drafted two younger guys in Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise while picking up Kony Ealy from the Panthers in a steal of a trade, during the NFL Draft. The team also picked up the versatile and underrated Lawrence Guy from Baltimore. Trey Flowers was arguably their best DL down the stretch and into the playoffs and Alan Branch was outstanding all season.

Roster Locks: Trey Flowers, Kony Ealy, Rob Ninkovich, Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise, Alan Branch, Malcom Brown
Everything starts with the big men in the middle and Branch and Brown were very good in 2016. Branch frequently plays over the center and is outstanding at stuffing the run. Brown is as well. Their job is to force everything outside where the defensive ends and linebackers are supposed to clean it up. They each got a little bit of push in the passing game but that is something that Brown could do a bit more of as well as be more consistent in 2017.

Patriots rookie DE Deatrich Wise in action at minicamp in June. (SBalestrieri photo)

Ealy will be an intriguing guy to watch this year. He’s in a contract year and has been given a clean slate by the coaches in New England.  The biggest knock against him was that he didn’t buy in when he was in Carolina. He seems to be doing that right off the bat here, which is a good sign. When he’s on, he’s a difficult man to block. Just rewind to Super Bowl L and watch him against the Broncos.

Big things are expected of Flowers this season, and after the way he finished 2016, he seems to be the go-to guy in the pass rush. Flowers, like many others in the Pats defense, is versatile and can rush from the edge or push inside as an interior pass rusher.

Ninkovich is a guy who is always at his best in clutch situations. He may be losing a step but he’s another versatile guy who can line up as a defensive end or drop as an outside linebacker.

Rob Ninkovich has been a clutch performer for the Patriots defense. (SBalestrieri photo)

Rivers and Wise by virtue of their draft stock are untouchable this season. Rivers is another guy who can play DE or OLB and was the Patriots top draft choice this season. Wise is another big DE in the Patriots mold that is an edge setter first and a pass rusher second. He was hurt in his senior season in college but had a very impressive 2015.

With the depth listed above, these rookie edge players, they won’t have a ton of pressure put on them to produce much this season. They will be able to learn the defense, get used to the speed of the pro game and get some reps here and there.

Near Roster Locks: Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine
Valentine showed some nice flashes last year in his rookie campaign. He’s another big body who can stuff the run on the inside. Guy is a versatile, movable piece and plays the 1-technique or out to the 5-technique. He seems like he’s going to be a nice fit in the Patriots defense. We’ll have to see if he can translate that to the field.

It is going to take some hard work from the guys below to unseat either of these two players. But stranger things have happened. Unless someone gets hurt or a case of the Foxboro Flu.

On the Bubble: Geneo Grissom, Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo, Josh Augusta, Adam Butler
The clock is running out on Geneo Grissom. He’s a guy that was drafted ahead of Flowers and was thought to have all kinds of versatility. But it hasn’t happened for him, he’s been unable to make a dent in the defense. Hamilton made the team a year ago but with the addition of Guy from the Ravens, he’s going to have to turn it up… a lot.

Augusta is a big-body, run stuffer in the Vince Wilfork mold, he’s listed at 6’0, 335-pounds…which may be wishful thinking. Passing the conditioning test on Day 1 will be a tough task for the big man, who failed to complete a lap during minicamp…twice.

Butler is a definite under the radar guy. Signed as a UDFA from Vanderbilt, the 6’4, 305-pound DL can be a run-stuffing tackle or a penetrator from the interior on passing downs. He played OL in college before switching over. He’ll be a guy to watch to see if he can turn some heads.

Kilgo was drafted by Denver and appeared in 18 games in two seasons before being released last November. The Pats signed the big 6’3, 320 DL to the practice squad where he spent the remaining part of the season.

Our next primer will have the Patriots Linebackers… stay tuned.

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.

Podcast: Positional Grades Heading Into Patriots Training Camp

Russ Goldman
July 10, 2017 at 12:28 pm ET

In this episode, we graded all of the positions on offense and on defense heading into Patriots Training Camp. We also discussed the signing of David Harris.

Patriots Early 53-Man Roster Projection 1.0 – Pre-Training Camp

Steve Balestrieri
July 3, 2017 at 6:30 am ET

The New England Patriots will have many difficult decisions to make at the end of training camp this summer. They enter the 2017 season fresh off a Super Bowl win and have re-tooled their roster to an even more dangerous (on paper) group that was victorious in February.

They seem to have more than made up for the players that they’ve lost in free agency and appear poised for another deep playoff run in 2017. Bill Belichick went against the grain once again and traded most of his draft picks in what was considered a very deep draft and came away with a slew of established veterans.

The team only drafted four players in April with two each from the offensive and defensive lines, but even those are with an eye to 2018 as this team appears loaded. First up are the key players lost and then the ones added.

Key Players Lost:
TE Martellus Bennett
DE Jabaal Sheard
DE Chris Long
RB LeGarrette Blount
CB Logan Ryan
LB/ST Barkevious Mingo
WR Michael Floyd
RT Sebastian Vollmer (injured/retired)

Key Players Added:
LB Dont’a Hightower (re-signed)
DL Alan Branch (re-signed)
S Duron Harmon (re-signed)
FB James Develin (re-signed)
RB/ST Brandon Bolden (re-signed)
CB Stephon Gilmore
DL Kony Ealy
DL Lawrence Guy
WR Brandin Cooks
TE Dwayne Allen
TE James O’Shaughnessy
RB Mike Gillislee
RB Rex Burkhead
WR Andrew Hawkins
LB David Harris

This doesn’t take into account their four draft picks and the UDFAs that they’ve signed thus far. While the inevitable injuries will occur, as its part of the game, the team seems in very good shape to handle whatever gets thrown at them in 2017.

First up is the offense…

OFFENSE (24)
QUARTERBACK (3): Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett

New England is stacked at QB with Brady, Garoppolo and Brissett for 2017. (SBalestrieri photo)

Out: None
New England has an embarrassment of riches at the position. They have three QBs that have started and won games for the team. Garoppolo was the guy everyone had being traded this spring but they held on to him … at least for this season. And can we please cease and desist with the “is Jimmy G injury prone?” talk? He has proven he can take over the team in a pinch and he’ll be watched closely this summer to see where his progression is at.

Brissett stepped in cold and split two games after receiving very few snaps in the preseason. He still has a long way to go in his development but he’s in the perfect place to do so. And that old guy at QB? I think they keep him around a bit…don’t you?

RUNNING BACK (5): James White, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis, James Develin

Out: D.J. Foster, Brandon Bolden, Glenn Gronkowski, LeShun Daniels
With the depth of the position (wasn’t it just a year ago we were lamenting the depth?), the Patriots are going to cut a couple of guys that you hate to see leave. I love the Gillislee signing, a one-cut power runner who hits the holes quicker than LG. White is coming off of a Super Bowl performance of a lifetime. Burkhead was signed from Cincy and Lewis looks to be completely healthy this spring.

That said, I hate to see Foster go. He can play in this league and will probably get a shot elsewhere. Daniels will probably get stashed on the practice squad or get a case of the Foxboro Flu. Bolden is another tough cut… he has been a core STs performer.

TIGHT END (3): Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, James O’Shaughnessy,

Out: Jacob Hollister, Matt Lengel, Sam Cotton
Dwayne Allen replaces Martellus Bennett and will be looked to for his blocking skills mainly. When healthy, nobody is better than Rob Gronkowski and it will be curious to see how the team manages his snap counts. But he looks completely ready to go.

The fight will be for the 3rd tight end spot and right now, we have Shaughnessy taking it. But Hollister is going to be kept around on the practice squad. Those too and Lengel will be battling for reps.

WIDE RECEIVER (5): Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola

Out: Devin Lucien, Andrew Hawkins, Austin Carr, Cody Hollister
Brandin Cooks was the big addition this spring, at the cost of the Patriots 1st round draft pick. But he’s a proven commodity in the league and is only 23. He, Edelman, and Hogan all can move inside or outside and create matchup nightmares.

Julian Edelman is primed for another big season alongside Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan and Rob Gronkowski in the Pats offense. (SBalestrieri photo)

Mitchell earned Brady’s trust as a rookie, no mean feat and will only improve. Amendola took his yearly renegotiation of his contract and is back. His pedestrian numbers belie the impact his production has at crunch time.

Any of the other four could stick in the event of an injury. Lucien, Carr, and Hollister could wind up back on the practice squad if they’re not picked up by another team.

INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINE (4): David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Joe Thuney, Ted Karras
Out: Jason King, James Ferentz, Chase Farris

Center David Andrews and guards Mason and Thuney were all starters last year and Thuney went wire to wire as the starting LG as a rookie. Karras is tough and can fill in at either guard or center in a pinch. Ferentz may stick on the practice squad.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE (4):  Nate Solder, Antonio Garcia, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming

Out: LaAdrian Waddle, Conor McDermott, Cole Croston, Max Rich, Andrew Jelks
Left tackle Nate Solder enters the final year of his contract. He and Cannon both performed very well in 2016. Cameron Fleming is the swing tackle for the team. Tony Garcia will get a red-shirt type season to learn under Dante Scarnecchia and may be the LT of the future.

McDermott may get the same red-shirt experience on the practice squad. Waddle was a third, blocking tight end but is a victim of numbers this season.

Next up in the defense.

DEFENSE (23):
DEFENSIVE TACKLE (4): Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Vince Valentine, Lawrence Guy

Out: Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo, Josh Augusta, Adam Butler
Alan Branch re-signed with the team and he’s played some quality snaps inside for the team. Brown has shown the type of play that he’s capable of at times and now just needs to be consistent. Valentine flashed at times in his rookie season and Guy should be a versatile piece who can play inside or outside after coming over from the Ravens.

The big bodies give the team the flexibility to play with either a three or a four-man front. This position seems to be very strong heading into camp this year.

EDGE RUSHER (5): Kony Ealy, Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich, Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise

Out: Geneo Grissom
The emergence of Trey Flowers down the stretch and into the playoffs made the loss of Sheard and Long sting a lot less. The team picked up Ealy in a trade with Carolina and the big man has seemed to buy into the Belichick/Patriots way already. Ninkovich is slowing down but is a very reliable, consistent, smart player.

Trey Flowers is primed to be a big factor in 2017 after being the team’s best DL down the stretch in 2016. (SBalestrieri photo)

The Patriots drafted Rivers and Wise this spring and both will be eased into the system and allowed to develop slowly. Time runs out on Grissom who was a valued ST player but could never make an impact on defense.

LINEBACKER (5): Dont’a Hightower, David Harris, Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin, Harvey Langi

Out: Jonathan Freeny, Trevor Bates, Elandon Roberts
Re-signing Hightower this spring was a huge plus for the team, they just didn’t have anyone with his skill set that could step into his shoes, until now. David Harris was a great pickup, he can sub for Hightower or play beside him in a 3-4 situation, he’s a consummate professional who will fit in seamlessly with New England.

Van Noy and McClellin were picked up a year ago and both played valuable roles for the team. Van Noy, in particular, was very impressive in sub-packages and will be looked to do more of the same this year. McClellin can play in the sub-backer role, fill in the middle in a pinch or line up as an edge rusher. The signing of Harris is bad news for Freeny who was a valuable STs contributor and was lost to IR in 2016.

Re-signing Dont’a Hightower was a huge boost for the Patriots this spring. (SBalestrieri photo)

CORNERBACK (5): Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones

Out: Justin Coleman, DJ Killings, William Likely, Kenny Moore, Dwayne Thomas
Malcolm Butler was thought to be a trade loss this spring but the Patriots are bringing him back for 2017. Paired with Gilmore, who’s a bigger corner, this gives the Patriots a very solid pair of corners who can match up with anyone. This Patriots group of corners is among the best the team has had. The third corner spot is open for competition between Jonathan Jones, Eric Rowe, and Cyrus Jones. Depending on the matchups, each of those should see some valuable snaps.

The numbers game strikes Coleman and the feisty Killings who turned some heads this spring. Doubtful that either would pass thru waivers….but we shall see.

SAFETY (4): Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, David Jones

Out: Jordan Richards, Damarius Travis, Jason Thompson
The Patriots enter 2017 with all three starting safeties intact…three you say? Yes, because Harmon was nearly a starter with the snaps he played in the sub-packages. Bringing him back was a nice move for both parties.

Chung plays a physical brand of football and his eventual replacement, David Jones could be the UDFA that makes an impact this season. Richards has disappointed thus far and is too stiff to be a good cover man for backs and tight ends. Jones has the size and physicality and showed some flash in coverage this spring when we watched him. He’s a player to watch this summer.

SPECIAL TEAMS (6): Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Brandon King, Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner

Out: None
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Ryan Allen and long-snapper Joe Cardona are as solid a group as there is in the league. None of them are going anywhere. King, Slater and Ebner are all outstanding Special Teams players and Bill Belichick values STs more than most. It would be a surprise to see any of them going anywhere at this point.

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.

New England Patriots News 6-18, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
June 18, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 6-18, & AFC East Notes.

The Patriots are now off until training begins in about 5 weeks. With the OTAs and minicamp in the books, the team is good shape getting ready for the upcoming season. The weather was as unpredictable as ever this spring but that probably helps the team as they get used to playing in all weather conditions.

Five of the top news items coming out of the spring both good and bad include:

  • Gronk is 100 Percent Heading into Camp:
    Perhaps the best news to come out of the spring was that TE Rob Gronkowski was present for all of the workouts and that he wasn’t held back or limited in any way. That is particularly good news. As good as this offense was a year ago, it is even better with a healthy Gronkowski on the field.
  • Cooks is Going to be Exciting to Watch:
    Brandin Cooks turned heads here in joint practices last year and now is a member of the Patriots. The Patriots don’t normally have a receiver that has the blistering speed he does and it is going to be fun to watch how they try to integrate the productive WR into their offense.
  • Linebacker Still a Concern Heading into the Summer Break:
    Something we’ve discussed this spring was the depth at linebacker behind Dont’a Hightower. It is still a question of who steps up and wrests the reps away from the others. Shea McClellin, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and UDFA Harvey Langi are among the players who should be looking to compete for playing time once camp begins.
  • Injuries to Monitor:
    With the aforementioned Hightower not participating and obviously on the mend from offseason procedures, there were a couple of other players limited or missing time that will bear watching. Duron Harmon was limited all spring and Lawrence Guy, Kony Ealy, Jimmy Garoppolo and Andrew Jelks all suffered some sort of setback during spring workouts that caused them to miss time. They’ll bear watching once camp opens.
  • Spring is a Great Time for the Under-the-Radar Guys:
    Every spring we always hear or see (in many cases) some players rise up and stand out in the OTAs and minicamp. Or as Chris Price told me in a podcast this week the “Zach Sudfeld Effect.” Jonathan Jones stepped up to play a lot of nickel corner thus far. Other players making an early splash include RB D.J. Foster, WR Austin Carr and DB David Jones. Whether they can continue this will bear watching. Every year there are players who shine early and fade (Sudfeld) and those that continue to play well (Malcolm Butler). That’s what makes training camp so intriguing.

Speaking of Chris Price, the former WEEI Patriots beat writer and author has a couple of books in the works. His book on the 2016 Patriots Super Bowl Season should be on the shelves soon. He is also working on a book about the Hartford Whalers of the NHL. Price told me this week as a kid growing up in Connecticut, the Whalers were a franchise that the fans closely identified with. If these two books are just half as good as his previous work, they’ll be must reading and great gifts for the sports fan in the house.

Price also does a super podcast (Cover 2) with Don Banks on the Patriots website. Besides great Patriots content, they cover the overall NFL landscape and are doing a great job. Some great intriguing guests as well.

Patriots in the Heads of their Opponents Already? It would seem so:
The Patriots and more specifically Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are seemingly lodged firmly in the psyches of their opponents before the season even starts if the latest on Social Media are any indication.

In Pittsburgh, the headlines asked if Sidney Crosby, fresh off of Stanley Cup championship was better than Tom Brady.  But that wasn’t it for the Steel City, as Pittsburgh LB Ryan Shazier was asked if the Steelers have a “Patriots Problem” having lost four in a row to NE. Shazier took it a step further stating the NFL has a Patriots problem and the Steelers feel they can get over the hump this season.

And finally in Miami, Ndamukong Suh, who has a known reputation as large for dirty tactics as much as big plays made the statement at Dolphins OTAs that will certainly have found its way into the bulletin boards of Foxboro. Suh, stated, “I think one of the great things about Miami and this team, we’ve never been scared of the New England Patriots. We never will be. So, with that being said, when we play them late in the season, we’ll be prepared.” Earlier this spring Jarvis Landry predicted that Miami would sweep New England in 2017.

Confidence in one’s team is always fine, bravado is another. If you want to beat Belichick and Brady, take a page out of their book and say nothing about your opponents and tell the media, you’re focusing on yourselves at this early juncture of the spring/summer.

Patrick Chung gets Incentive Boost in his Contract:
The Patriots, with plenty of cap space this year are giving safety Pat Chung the incentives to have a terrific 2017 season. Chung, according to ESPN’s Field Yates is getting an incentive laden boost in his contract that can pay him up to $1.7 million dollars this season.

Chung is signed through the 2018 season and is set to make $900,000 in 2017. His incentives can nearly double his pay, boosting him an additional $800,000. The Patriots have three safeties that they’ve paid on the higher end of the payroll with Chung, Devin McCourty, and Duron Harmon. They gave a similar incentive boost to Rob Gronkowski earlier this spring.

Chung has played much better in his second stint in New England, although his play slipped a bit in 2016. It could be that he was suffering from some ailments that we weren’t aware or it could be that the physical toll of playing the position close to the box as Chung does is finally taking a toll. Either way, the team is giving him the option to excel now and it is a smart move by Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio.

Kraft’s Touchdown in Israel Brings 18 HOFers to the Holy Land:
Patriots owner Robert Kraft makes an annual pilgrimage to the country of Israel with a bevy of Hall of Fame players to experience first-hand the sights and sounds of the Holy Land and to see the growth of football in the stadium in Jerusalem that bears his name.

This year’s group contains, Lem Barney, Jerome Bettis, Jim Brown, Cris Carter, Dave Casper, Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk, Joe Greene, Willie Lanier, Joe Montana, Andre Reed, Mike Singletary, Bruce Smith, John Stallworth, Roger Staubach, Andre Tippett, Aeneas Williams and Ron Yary.

Kraft told the assembled Hall of Famers on the plane flight to Israel, “My family and I are into spirituality, and no matter what your background, you’ll find a way to be uplifted by the country.” Updates will be posted on the Patriots website.

Pats Heading to W.V. For Joint Practices with the Texans:
The Patriots and Bill Belichick have always believed in joint practices. It breaks up the monotony and dog days of training camp and allows you to evaluate your players against an opponent that they’re not familiar with. Both teams benefit from it and it is an opportunity to improve as a whole.

Not surprisingly, the team has a pair of joint ventures lined up this summer. The Jacksonville Jaguars will visit Foxboro before their preseason game on August 10 for a pair of joint workouts on August 7-8 and now the team has announced that they’ll conduct a pair of practices with the Houston Texans before the preseason game in Houston on August 19.

However, the practices with Houston will be held at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia on August 15-16. It is the second time the Patriots will visit the resort after having held joint practices with the Saints there in 2015. The Saints visited Foxboro last year for joint sessions.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills RT Jordan Mills Draws Raves from the Coaches:
Buffalo Bills right tackle Jordan Mills had a 2016 season that many, including himself would rather forget. The fifth-year tackle allowed seven sacks and was whistled for four holding penalties.

But the new coaching staff of coach Sean McDermott is starting everyone off with a clean slate and one of the most impressive players thus far has been Mills, who put the work in during the off-season. “Jordan Mills has had one heck of an offseason,” McDermott told the Bills media last week.

Mills has settled in because he took the time to watch tape and evaluate his own play which allowed him to fix his mistakes.

“You’ve just got to in the lab in the offseason, learn from it and get better,” Mills said.

“And I felt like I did that every single day that I came back. It’s a different coaching style They expect different things out of us, but mostly my footwork in the run game and pass game, just keeping my hands up, using my hands better and stuff like that. And mentally, too, studying my opponents and looking at other offensive linemen around the league.”

I just focus on what I have to do and execute to the best of my abilities, and I felt like I did all spring.”

Dolphins’ Gase Admits Mistake with Wake in 2016:
Miami head coach Adam Gase has been very upfront and open about his missteps in his first season in 2016, specifically when speaking about the mistakes the team made with Cameron Wake. In 2016, Wake was coming off of a serious Achilles injury and the team erred on the side of caution, easing Wake into the lineup, an issue that Gase is far alone in making. Now he says, that was a mistake.

“I thought we were being smart,” Gase said to the Miami media. “It backfired on us. What we should have done is let him (Wake) play.”

But Gase is taking a similar track with center Mike Pouncey as he returns from a serious injury this year. “He’s on a really, really good track now,” Gase said. No decision has been made yet as to Pouncey’s availability for training camp but the team remains optimistic. “We need him to heal and be there for the duration,” Gase said.

Jets Building for 2018, Will Have $80 Million In Cap Space:
While the Jets prospects for the 2017 season appear dim, they’re laying the groundwork to be building for the future. The Jets are expected to have more than $80 million in cap space heading into 2018, which would be tops in the league.

The carryover from the 2017 season would put them in the $66 million dollar range according to Rich Cimini of ESPN, and they still have $24 million plus that they can spend this season.

The Jets crop of free agents next season include Sheldon Richardson, Morris Claiborne, Marcus Williams, Demario Davis, Wesley Johnson, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Josh McCown. None of whom are indispensable as of today.

The Jets are expected to be looking for the next franchise QB either in the 2018 NFL Draft or via free agency. A couple of the QBs listed by Cimini include the Redskins’ Kirk Cousins and the Patriots Jimmy Garoppolo.

WR ArDarius Stewart is one the mend from not only one but two surgeries on his groin and thumb since being drafted by the Jets in April. Stewart wasn’t able to participate but coach Todd Bowles expects him to be ready for training camp.

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.

Best Of Social Media: New England Patriots Super Bowl Championship Ring Night

Robert Alvarez
June 12, 2017 at 9:42 pm ET

On Friday night, New England Patriots owner and CEO Robert Kraft hosted the teams Super Bowl championship ring ceremony at his Brookline MA home.

The headliner for the night began with news the 2016 ring contained quite possibly one of the greatest subtle tributes to the teams historic comeback victory. The ring contained exactly 283 diamonds, meant to commemorate the 28-3 deficit the team overcame in the second half and included an engraved message that read “Greatest Comeback Ever.”

The social media posts that followed as the night progressed would make any Patriots fan light up like it was February 5th, 2017 all over again, so without further ado below are some of the best sights and sounds.

Date night ❤ #Patriots super bowl ring ceremony

A post shared by Gisele Bündchen (@gisele) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVJI9XYBVgM/?taken-by=tombrady

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVJT6mLhPdS/?taken-by=tombrady

Turn Up Champs!

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

A rare occasion for Head Coach Bill Belichick as he was spotted wearing all of his championship rings from his NFL career. Seven Super Bowl titles across the Giants and Patriots including three AFC Championship rings from 1996, 2007 and 2011.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVLAXCGgVyf/

This happened last night ~ and then this happened! #MagicalNight #TheGreatestCombackEver *Scroll through!

A post shared by Linda Holliday✨ (@lindaholliday_) on

@bombsquad #family

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

#sundayze

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

That feeling when you see your Super Bowl ring.

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

"I'm so Icyyyyy" – @laflare1017

A post shared by LeGarrette Blount (@l_blount29) on

A crazy/fun night to remember!! #Blessed

A post shared by LeGarrette Blount (@l_blount29) on

Last night was dope @tombrady . Tonight will be even better. #Celebrating6

A post shared by Martellus Bennett (@martellusb) on

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

LEGENDARY NIGHT #2timechamp -Dmac

A post shared by Jason+Devin McCourty (@mccourtytwins) on

Wow–just a small sample of the night we all had!! #superbowlchamps #rings

A post shared by Robert Ninkovich (@nink50) on

2X W O R L D C H A M P I O N #PATSNATION

A post shared by Malcolm CB Butler (@mac_bz) on

It was lit !!!!!'

A post shared by Dion Lewis (@d_lew33) on

2X

A post shared by Nate Ebner (@ebs43) on

Special teamer Nate Ebner shared his unique collection of hardware, both of his Super Bowl rings along with the one given to him by the United States Rugby Olympic team when he participated in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio last year.

LI… Rio 16'… XLIX

A post shared by Nate Ebner (@ebs43) on

Long Snapper Joe Cardona sported his US Naval Academy graduation ring with his new bling.

https://twitter.com/zeus30hightower/status/873150240798461953

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVKi_tpAWKZ/?taken-by=_boomtower

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVLKu4nF-_0/?taken-by=iii_flowers

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVLfRRlBeaW/?taken-by=sweetfeet_white28

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVKSZRMnT-B/?taken-by=vrvj99

"…Big rings, champagne…"

A post shared by Matt Lengel (@matthewlengel) on

https://twitter.com/EricRowe32/status/873300301650030594

Following the presentation of the rings, guests were treated to performances by rappers Snoop Dogg and Gucci Mane.

https://twitter.com/gucci1017/status/873580366505938944

https://twitter.com/SBNation/status/873537175605846016?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.sbnation.com%2Flookit%2F2017%2F6%2F10%2F15774972%2Fnfl-super-bowl-2017-patriots-ring-ceremony-gucci-mane-popeyes

All in all it was a very special night that officially closes the door on the 2016 Patriots season, as Quarterback Tom Brady would say the best ring is “The Next One”.

Patriots Photo Gallery Minicamp Session 6-7

Steve Balestrieri
June 7, 2017 at 8:12 pm ET

Our guys were at Patriots minicamp today and here are some of the photos from the day’s action. Be sure to check back later as we’ll have our observations on what went down on Day 2 of Minicamp and what to look for on Thursday.

Best Of Social Media: The New England Patriots Honor Memorial Day

Robert Alvarez
May 30, 2017 at 10:30 pm ET

On social media Monday, multiple members of the New England Patriots took time out of their Memorial Day holiday to pay their respects to the true Patriots that paid the ultimate price serving in the United States armed services.

Below are some of the best postings beginning with one by quarterback Tom Brady featuring a quote from President Ronald Regan.

"We are gathered at the National Cemetery, which provides a final resting place for the heroes who have defended our country since the Civil War. This amphitheater, this place for speeches, is more central to this cemetery than it first might seem apparent, for all we can ever do for our heroes is remember them and remember what they did — and memories are transmitted through words. Sometime back I received in the name of our country the bodies of four marines who had died while on active duty. I said then that there is a special sadness that accompanies the death of a serviceman, for we're never quite good enough to them — not really; we can't be, because what they gave us is beyond our powers to repay. And so, when a serviceman dies, it's a tear in the fabric, a break in the whole, and all we can do is remember. It is, in a way, an odd thing to honor those who died in defense of our country, in defense of us, in wars far away. The imagination plays a trick. We see these soldiers in our mind as old and wise. We see them as something like the Founding Fathers, grave and gray haired. But most of them were boys when they died, and they gave up two lives — the one they were living and the one they would have lived. When they died, they gave up their chance to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers. They gave up their chance to be revered old men. They gave up everything for our country, for us. And all we can do is remember." – Ronald Reagan Thanks for the inspiration @domraso #Honor

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BUrqLxog8Ds/?taken-by=gronk&hl=en

https://www.instagram.com/p/BUsNF23BEHi/?taken-by=edelman11&hl=en

Happy Memorial Day!!! Thank you!! #memorialday #thankful

A post shared by Robert Ninkovich (@nink50) on

https://twitter.com/SweetFeet_White/status/869315556473745412

Best of Social Media: The New England Patriots Celebrate Mother’s Day

Robert Alvarez
May 15, 2017 at 6:20 pm ET

Former and current members of the New England Patriots took to their social media accounts on Mother’s Day to pay tribute to and celebrate the moms in their lives. Check out all of the best heartfelt messages and pictures below.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BUE0Z9mhmWB/?taken-by=tombrady

https://www.instagram.com/p/BUFn0JoAK-1/?taken-by=gronk&hl=en

https://www.instagram.com/p/BUFOjGjjXMc/?taken-by=nink50&hl=en

https://www.instagram.com/p/BUE9775gt5I/?taken-by=_boomtower

Happy Mother's Day beautiful.

A post shared by Jacoby Brissett (@jbrissett7) on

An Early Projection for the Patriots Starting Lineup, Better, Stronger, Faster

Steve Balestrieri
May 8, 2017 at 9:08 am ET

The NFL Draft is in the books, free agency has been fruitful, and the Patriots have made a flurry of initial UDFA moves. Barring any late moves or last minute trades, the initial roster of the 2017 Patriots should now be set.

As it stands now on paper, the roster for this season’s team looks better than the one that just won the Super Bowl. But as Bill Belichick has frequently said, you never really know what each season’s team will be like until Thanksgiving. Lots of things can and will change, injuries occur, and some players’ production will either rise or fall inside the system. Tweaks to the roster always occur during the season.

But what we see now should constitute the bulk of this year’s team. Confidence is high as always in New England. And for a team that has won 10 or more games for 14 straight seasons, why should there be any other feeling?

So here is a quick projection for the starting lineup for the 2017 Patriots

Offense:
Quarterback:

Tom Brady: Well duh? No change from last year or the 15 years prior. While the talk remains that eventually, his play is going to fall off a cliff due to his age, at this point, it is a lot of wishful thinking for a lot of non-Patriots supporters. His play, especially in the 2nd half of Super Bowl LI shows he’s still at the top of the heap in regard to NFL QBs.

His backups remain Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. The rumor mill for Jimmy G. had him being traded this offseason but he’s still here, at least for 2017 and should any injury occur, he’ll be ready to step in.


James White is among a crowded Patriots backfield this season.

Running Back:

James White: After a Super Bowl where he could have easily been named the MVP, White has been given a nice raise and contract extension. And with the Patriots being a passing team first, White has proven to be a trusted, capable weapon in the offense.

But the Patriots are a matchup team that uses a rotation of running backs so their roster of backs doesn’t really have a starter per se, it will depend on how they match up against an opponent. Mike Gillislee will have a big role, taking over the big back i.e. LeGarrette Blount role. Something to consider, New England runs the ball on third down much more so than most fans would believe, so Gillislee will have a big role.

Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis, who should be completely healthy now round out the RB options. James Develin remains the fullback. Brandon Bolden, D.J. Foster, and LeShun Daniels are longshots for the roster at this point.

Wide Receiver:

Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks: The Patriots brought in the speedster Cooks who was very productive in New Orleans this offseason. He’ll move around from outside to the slot depending on the matchups. A look at the top three with Edelman, Hogan, and Cooks shows that all of them can do the same. That makes for a very difficult group to cover. The versatility factor makes this group even more dangerous.

Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola are the primary backups and they’ve shown that they’ve earned Brady’s circle of trust. Mitchell came on in the second half of his rookie season and should be ready for more production in Year 2.

Devin Lucien, Devin Street, and Cody Hollister are longshots for the roster.


Rob Gronkowski is once again the Patriots top TE Option heading into 2017.

Tight End:

Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen: Gronkowski returns healthy for 2017 and Allen was brought over in a rare trade with the Colts, replacing Martellus Bennett who left in free agency. Gronk, when healthy remains the gold standard for NFL tight ends. Allen is an excellent blocker that can be very productive in the passing game who can attack the seams of the defense.

There is now plenty of depth behind them with James O’Shaughnessy, Matt Lengel, Rob Housler and Jacob Hollister fighting it out for a roster slot and repetitions. Training camp competition will be interesting to watch here.

Tackle:

Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon: No changes here from 2016. Solder returned from IR and played very solid in 2016. He’s in the last year of his contract and the Patriots must decide this year if they want him to return in 2018. Cannon was the biggest pleasant surprise of 2016. He parlayed a contract extension into a very solid campaign under the able tutelage of Dante Scarnecchia.

The team drafted a potential replacement for Solder in 2018 or beyond with Antonio Garcia. They added another tackle in the late rounds of the draft with Conor McDermott. He’ll be fighting backups Michael Williams, Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle for reps and a roster slot.

Guard:

Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason: No changes here from 2016. Thuney came in and started from Day 1 at left guard. As can be expected, he struggled a bit as a rookie and needs to come back stronger for his second season. Mason is a tough, road grader in the running game and will be looking to improve as well in 2017.

Primary backups should be Jamil Douglas who was brought over in midseason from Miami who was a 4th round draft pick in 2015 and Chris Barker.

Center:

David Andrews: No change here from 2016. Andrews is a bit undersized for the position but is smart and tough. He won over Tom Brady during training camp last year because of his ability to make the line calls and seeing the field much like Brady did.

His backup remains Ted Karras, the tough but less mobile version of Andrews. Karras can also play guard as well, the versatility that the coaching staff loves.


Flowers had a strong showing in 2016.

Defense:
Defensive End:

Trey Flowers, Kony Ealy: Lots of changes here. Gone are last season’s Week 1 starters Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard via free agency. But Flowers, who came on strong in the 2nd half of the season was the team’s best defensive lineman down the stretch and should be primed for a very solid 2017. Ealy was brought over from the Panthers as well as a 3rd round pick for the Patriots 2nd rounder.

Lots of good depth here now, Rob Ninkovich will play both DE and OLB and fill in where he’s needed and may still lobby for starting duties. Top draft choice Derek Rivers gives the team the speed and athleticism from the edge. Deatrich Wise is a bigger, edge setting end who can kick inside as an interior pass rusher. Lawrence Guy is another big man who can play inside as an interior tackle or on the edge. Geneo Grissom is on the outside looking in this year.

Tackle:

Malcom Brown, Alan Branch: No changes to the starting lineup. Brown played solidly in Year 2 but could stand to improve his pocket push in 2017. Branch was excellent against the run in 2016, eating up a ton of space. He returns with a new deal and has played the best football of his career since coming to New England.

Backups include Vincent Valentine, Woodrow Hamilton, Guy, Darius Kilgo, and UDFA Josh Augusta who is one of the players to watch in training camp. He’s a huge space eater who could be one of the surprise players to stick on the roster.

Linebacker:

Dont’a Hightower, Jonathan Freeny: Wait, what? People forget Freeny, a Bill Belichick favorite was a starter for the defense a year ago until landing on IR. Hightower got a new deal after testing free agency and not finding the market he envisioned out there. He’s the glue that holds the defense together for the Pats. He calls the defense and is the guy they need in the middle. He can do it all, stuff the run, cover in the flat and blitz up the A-gaps. Hightower’s starting slot is secure, Freeny will have to re-earn his spot this summer. But for now, he’s in.

Backups include sub-package third down players Shea McClellin and Kyle Van Noy, run-stuffer Elandon Roberts, Ninkovich, Trevor Bates and UDFA Harvey Langi. Langi is one of my players to watch this summer.

Since the Patriots spend so much time in sub-packages, we only include two starting linebackers, therefore…


Butler’s potential return solidifies a terrific secondary.

Cornerback:

Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe: The team gave Gilmore a big money contract this spring during free agency. And after a contentious period with Butler, he signed his free-agent tender and has been in for off-season workouts. Rowe is a big matchup corner and gives the Patriots a very solid starting three. Each has the versatility to be shifted around and play outside or in the slot depending on how Belichick and Matt Patricia choose to use them.

Backups include Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Coleman, Jonathan Jones, and intriguing UDFA D.J. Killings who for now, is a long shot for the roster.

Safety:

Devin McCourty, Pat Chung: No changes here from 2016. McCourty is the QB for the secondary and always ensures that the players in are in the right position. He plays the centerfield position in the base defense and can slide up to play in the slot in the “big nickel”. Chung is the guy in the box, he plays physical against the run and he’ll cover tight ends in the short to intermediate range.

Duron Harmon was brought back with a nice deal in free agency. He plays a lot of snaps and replaces McCourty as the center fielder in big nickel coverage. Jordan Richards has been disappointing thus far. Nate Ebner and Brandon King are special teamers.

Special Teams:

Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Matthew Slater: The team’s specialists remain the same. Gostkowski will have training camp competition for the first time in a while from Josh Gable, known more for his trick shots. Punter Ryan Allen and LS Joe Cardona face no competition. Slater is a perennial Pro-Bowl gunner.

So, with the additions made in the draft and free agency, the Patriots look …on paper in a prime position to compete for another Super Bowl bid. Of course, injuries and other factors always weigh in but there are no holes on the roster as it currently stands. They’ve addressed their needs across the board and look even better than the team that won 14 games in the regular season and three more in the playoffs in 2016.

Is it time for mini-camp yet?

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.