After a long offseason here in New England where it seemingly dragged on forever, the defending World Champs were finally back on the field for their first public practice of the 2019 Patriots Training Camp.
It was a busy day at Gillette Stadium as fans and media were on hand to get their first glimpse as the team took the practice field Thursday and here’s a full rundown of what we learned from the session.
Did Not Participate: Nate Ebner (PUP), Michael Bennett (Personal Absence), Deatrich Wise, David Andrews, Julian Edelman (NFI – thumb), Sony Michel (PUP), Ken Webster (PUP), Cole Croston (PUP), Demaryius Thomas (PUP), Yodni Cajuste (NFI).
Red non-contact jersey: Patrick Chung
PLAYERS WHO STOOD OUT:
N’Keal Harry – The rookie wide receiver made his presence known on Thursday, making a terrific touchdown grab close to the goal line from veteran quarterback, Tom Brady. One of the things that seems to stand out is his athleticism, with Harry showing terrific quickness and good body control. He went up after the football, leaping into the air and high-pointing several of Brady’s throws. He’s also a big player, with some saying that he has the build of a linebacker, which should make him a tough match-up for smaller defensive backs. Coincidentally enough, the rookie, for now, is currently wearing #50.
Danny Etling – Etling caught the eye of fans and media primarily because of the fact the quarterback was no longer donning a red jersey and was instead working at receiver. Etling is a pretty athletic player, but all reports seem to indicate that he’s got a lot of work to do as he looks to establish himself at a new position. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could someday contribute and if he’s willing to put in the work, given the speed he showed on his 86-yard touchdown last preseason, it could be fun to see how this develops.
Isaiah Wynn – He took reps at left tackle with the first team, but reportedly came off the field during the 11-of-11 portion of the workout as the team appears to be taking their time working him back in. It was the first action he’s seen since rupturing his Achilles’ last preseason, with Wynn taking his first steps toward trying to hopefully restablish himself on the offensive line. In Wynn’s absence, teammate Joe Thuney got the reps, along with Dan Skipper. Obviously, knowing how critical that position is, this will be one of the more interesting positions to keep an eye on this preseason.
J.C. Jackson – Flashed again on Thursday, breaking up several passes and really doing a great job of blanketing each of the receivers he was covering. After a strong finish last season, it appears he’s off to a good start here in 2019.
Stephon Gilmore – He was so good on Thursday that, according to multiple reporters, none of New England’s quarterbacks attempted a throw his way. Gilmore remains a key component of the Patriots defense and so far, he looks like he’s in terrific form early in this training camp.
Ben Watson – For a player who is 38-years old, Watson certainly didn’t show it. He showed terrific speed, including a nice grab up the seam for a big gain. For a player who had seemed ready to walk away, all indications seem to point to the fact he still has something left as the Patriots try and move on from Rob Gronkowski. Watson got a fair amount of work in Thursday, including some red zone work on goal line throws with Brady on the adjacent field.
Tom Brady – For anyone looking for a drop-off in play, Brady hit the field with the same intensity he’s always had. The veteran quarterback looked just as sharp as ever as he gets set to begin another season, picking apart the defense and spreading the football around to quite a few players. While the defense did pick him off twice, Brady won the rest of the time and looks like a player ready to make another championship run.
Braxton Berrios – Berrios had a nice day on Thursday, showing off his speed and quickness but also saw himself lose a battle against defensive back Jonathan Jones, who out-leaped Berrios to pick off a pass attempt from Brady, and also had another pass broken up. Berrios was also among players who also saw work returning kickoffs.
Ryan Davis – The undrafted rookie wideout had a few nice moments on Thursday, including a fantastic reception in the back corner of the end zone where he caught a perfect throw from Brady on a fade route for a touchdown. It’s always fun to see undrafted players succeed and earn a role for themselves and while it’s still early, Davis appears to be off to a nice start.
Jonathan Jones – Jones made his presence known on Thursday, finishing the day with several pass break-ups on a day where he was blanketing his opponents and making their lives difficult. Jones also finished the day with an interception against Brady, which came during his aforementioned match-up against Berrios.
Jakobi Meyers – Made some nice grabs during Thursday’s session, seemingly picking up where he left off back in minicamp. Like Davis, Meyers seems poised to try and compete for a role and it will be fun to see if he can maintain this level of play over the next month.
According to the team’s website, the Patriots will hold their next session Friday morning at 9:15am.
The Patriots have many questions heading into the 2019 season at wide receiver. Julian Edelman returns, the Super Bowl LIII MVP is still at the top of his game but at 33, one has to wonder how much longer he can perform at a high level.
After him, the situation gets murkier. Phillip Dorsett has been fine whenever his number has been called but his production really could use an increase. Demaryius Thomas’s numbers have been steadily going down the past several years and now he’s coming off of an Achilles injury. Josh Gordon is suspended indefinitely and no one knows if he’ll be allowed to play this year.
The Patriots drafted N’Keal Harry in the first round of the draft this spring and expectations with him are high. But rookie wide receivers have struggled to make an impact here in the past. Braxton Berrios had a very strong spring but spent his entire rookie season on IR. Maurice Harris and Dontrelle Inman are coming on to try to carve out roles for themselves after playing for the Redskins and Colts respectively.
So, the opportunities are there for several players to carve out roles for themselves once training camp opens. There are 12 players that should be vying for reps, and possibly 13 if Thomas is ready to go. Gordon is forbidden to enter the facility or work out with the team during his suspension. Let’s take a look at who is in good shape and who has a lot of work to do at the wide receiver position
Check back with PatsFans.com as we’ll go thru the entire roster as our primers for training camp continue before the heavy lifting starts on July 25.
Current roster – Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, N’Keal Harry, Matthew Slater, Demaryius Thomas, Braxton Berrios, Maurice Harris, Dontrelle Inman, Damoun Patterson, Jakobi Meyers, Ryan Davis, Gunner Olszewski, Josh Gordon (suspended)
Locks – Edelman, Dorsett, Harry, Slater
Bubble – Berrios, Thomas, Harris, Inman, Meyers
Long Shot – Patterson, Davis, Olszewski, Gordon
Discussion – Edelman, Dorsett, Slater, and Harry are all locks. Obviously, the conversation starts with Julian Edelman. Yes, Edelman is 33 but if you watched him in the Super Bowl he was uncoverable. The Rams threw several different defensive backs on him and nobody could lock him down. I watched him thru all three days of minicamp and he looks ready to go again.
Dorsett was getting plenty of reps early last year but lost those after Gordon was brought in. The hope here is that he’ll be able to replicate what he did last year, and with an additional year in the system, be able to add to it.
Slater is a WR in name only but is a Special Teams’ captain and one of the best at what he does both on and off the field. Harry is a first-round draft pick who has incredible upside but is just a rookie. With a first-round draft pedigree, he’s automatically on the 53-man roster.
This is where it gets interesting. Berrios had a very strong spring but is in no way a lock at this point. He has a long way to go but is definitely trending in the right direction. The smaller but quick slot receiver recognizes the opportunity in front of him. Mike Reiss of ESPN has written that Berrios has already reported into camp. The hope is that he could fit into that Danny Amendola role in the Patriots offense.
Harris likewise had a very strong spring, catching nearly everything thrown his way with a few nice highlight-reel catches during minicamp. Can he do it again when the secondary players are allowed contact? Inman, on the other hand, didn’t have a good week at minicamp. He didn’t catch a single pass in team drills during the three sessions. He has a lot of ground to make up.
Meyers is an interesting addition. A former QB turned WR, Meyers has good size for the position, (6’2, 203) with very good hands, tight route-running and the willingness to go into contested areas. He doesn’t have great top-end speed but could be an oversized slot receiver. What was intriguing about him was that during a side session with Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, and Josh McDaniels, during minicamp, Meyers was brought in with Harry to work on route selection. May end being nothing, but it could mean they have a plan in mind for him.
Patterson was on the practice squad a year ago but along with Davis, and Olszewski are all facing long odds of making the roster.
In a perfect world, Gordon would get reinstated and Thomas would come back better than new. But we don’t live in a perfect world and the fact is, the Patriots can’t rely on Gordon being reinstated any time soon, if at all. And Thomas may end up on PUP to begin the season. That means other players will have to step up….Questions, questions. This will make training camp and the preseason so compelling this summer.
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 05-5 although no AFC East notes this week. They’ll be back next week.
Bill Belichick is always zigging while the others in the league are zagging. Everyone (including here) thought the Patriots would take one, possibly two tight ends in the draft. Eight were taken in the Top 100 picks and 16 overall. The Patriots took zero.
Does this omission mean that the team didn’t like any of the tight ends available in this class? That they planned on picking up another in a trade? Or that the team is moving in a different direction and they plan on putting the emphasis elsewhere and going to stick with what they have?
Tom Brady’s appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel show was a must watch clip. Brady was asked about his contract which is “only paying him” to be the 20th highest paid player in the NFL this year. “I want to win,” he answered, stating that the money the team saved on him allowed them to surround him with good players. He also added, “my wife makes a lot of money.”
Brady took part in the ongoing “feud” between Kimmel and actor Matt Damon. Brady has been in LA working out on his own and was a guest on Kimmel’s show. And the two with Kimmel sidekick Guillermo went to Damon’s house where you can imagine the rest.
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Three Games to Glory – the 5-hour DVD set that sets the tone for the Patriots’ three playoff games culminating in the Super Bowl victory over the Rams is available for order thru the Patriots Pro Shop.
In a video produced to promote the release had players Kyle Van Noy, Jason McCourty, Rex Burkhead, and Stephon Gilmore watch some of the videos and offer some commentary on the game.
DuJuan Daniels is leaving the Patriots “to pursue other opportunities” in the news that was first reported by ESPN’s Field Yates. Daniels joined the staff as a scouting assistant in 2006, and worked his way up to area scout and then for the past three years as a National Scout. The only member of the staff, that holds that title.
Steve DeOssie – former Patriot and Super Bowl XXV winner with the Giants took part in the annual Patriots/Patriots Alumni charity basketball game against a team from the Grafton Police Department. During the halftime break, where fans get to meet and greet current and former members of the team which included Elandon Roberts, Keion Crossen, Brandon King and local Grafton alum Obi Melifonwu, DeOssie was approached by a fan whose father played with him on that Giants SB winner.
Reyna Thompson was a reserve defensive back and Pro Bowl STs player who started the game on defense. For those who don’t remember or were too young to recall, Belichick was the defensive coordinator on the Giants and he started just two DL, three LBs and six DBs including four CBs to slow down the Bills’ offense. Belichick’s game plan now is on display in the Pro Football HOF in Canton.
DeOssie and Thompson’s son had a long conversation about his father and some memories of that Giants team. It was a very cool moment.
DeOssie and Thompson speak about the SB XXV Giants
Some Interesting Players in the 2019 Patriots UDFA Class:
The Patriots have signed several key UDFAs to the team thus far. Let’s take a quick look at each of the new members of the 2019 UDFA Class.
Jakobi Meyers, WR, NC State: Meyers was originally a QB and switched to WR in his freshman year. The last two seasons he’s had tremendous production and developed quite the chemistry factor with QB Ryan Finley.
Meyers has good size at 6’2, 203 and while not fast at all, he’s shown that he can make contested catches from the slot. He has great hands and a very high football I.Q. Last year in Raleigh, he caught 92 passes for 1047 yards with 4 TDs.
Xavier Ubosi, WR, UAB: Ubosi wasn’t on the list of signed players but we’ve heard and read from multiple media members that he intends to sign here. His route tree is a straight line…he ran go-routes, a lot of them in college. But he also averaged 23.9 yards per reception. This should prove interesting.
Ryan Davis, WR, Auburn: Davis was the Auburn slot machine the past two years. He set a school record for receptions in 2017 and led the team again last year. He’s not big, (5’10, 189) but is quick enough to be a good addition to the slot. He also returned punts which could get him a roster spot.
Andrew Beck, TE, Texas: Beck was originally a LB who converted to TE. He’s got good size (6’4, 260) and is known primarily as a blocking tight end. He’s average athletically and in the passing game, he can function reliably as a safety valve underneath.
Nick Brossette, RB, LSU: Brossette had a big year in 2018 at LSU, as he led the team with 240 carries, 1,039 yards, and 14 touchdowns. He has a compact muscular frame and excels at short-yardage. He doesn’t have much of a burst but is solid, reliable and gets better as the game wears on. Keep an eye on him this summer if anyone shows up hurt in training camp.
Malik Gant, SS, Marshall: Gant is a good sized (6’0, 209) very physical strong safety. He thrives in the box where he loves and seeks out contact. He wasn’t tested much in coverage against top competition. But he could provide a favorable matchup against tight ends and running backs. He would be a candidate for the Patriots “Big Nickel” role.
Terez Hall, LB, Missouri: Hall is an undersized, aggressive, downhill linebacker who could provide depth and special teams production. He’s tough and plays with good speed but his aggression frequently caught him out of position. With some coaching and discipline, he has the speed and athleticism to be a good defender in coverage.
D’Angelo Ross, CB, New Mexico: Was a productive corner for the Lobos despite measuring at just 5’8, 185. He is an uber-athletic player who ran a 4.32 at his Pro Day with a 39” vertical leap. He led the Lobos with 54 tackles and 15 passes defensed, but his size…or lack of it will bear watching.
Tyler Gauthier, OL, Miami: Gauthier was the starting center for the last two years at Miami and has good size at 6’5, 300. He is considered very solid in pass protection and allowed no sacks in 2018. He has the versatility to move over to guard.
Calvin Anderson, OT, Texas: Anderson played three years at Rice and graduated before transferring to Texas to get a masters in economics. He’s a bit raw and undersized (6’5, 292). He has good quickness and mirroring skills but requires time to get more strength and power at the NFL level.
Tyree St. Louis, OT, Miami: St. Louis has the size at 6’5, 314 to play in the NFL but is probably just a right tackle at the next level. He started in 34 straight games, so his experience level is excellent. But he’s not the most athletic player and a move inside could be in his future. It will be interesting to see how these last three prospects work out with Dante Scarnecchia.
Winovich is Arguably the Most Intriguing Additions to NE:
Chase Winovich was one of the Patriots’ selections in the 3rd Round (77th overall) of the 2019 NFL Draft. And he is one of the more intriguing characters they selected. He plays with a non-stop motor on the field and exhibits just as much passion off of it.
Don Brown, a Central Mass. native and Michigan’s Defensive Coordinator spoke with the Boston Herald early last week and had several very interesting quotes about Winovich and how he feels he’ll fit in the Patriots system.
“He’s a trip, no question, but he’s a very serious football player,” Brown said. “He’s one of those guys who love the game and plays the game the right way all the time. You never have to worry about his effort. He’s going to give you everything he’s got . . . I think him going into Coach Belichick’s system, this is probably a match made in heaven for him.”
In Michigan’s system, Winovich was asked to rush the QB from the edge but Brown believes he’s capable of much more and thinks the Patriots will use him in multiple ways.
“We stood him up as an outside linebacker. His primary goal was to go hunt the quarterback. But there’s no question, he can drop back and cover,” Brown said. “He has tight end in his background. He has good hands, he can catch. This offseason, getting ready for the combine, he trained a lot standing up, dropping into the flat, playing coverage, working on his hands. So he can do those things. We just didn’t ask him. The priority for us was to get him around the quarterback. But he can do it all. There’s no doubt about that.”
Pro Football Focus had Winovich as their 29th highest rated player going into the draft, so the Pats bringing him in at #77 is pretty good value. It was interesting to see how the board played out. The Jets were picking at #68 and reportedly looking for help on the edge. But they opted for Jachai Polite from Florida and Winovich was there for the Patriots to take at #77.
Here is his phone call from Bill Belichick telling him he’s going to New England.
Colts Finding the Right Players with Ballard/Decker:
One other AFC team that has drafted much better recently is the Indianapolis Colts. While new GM Chris Ballard is the guy who will (and should) get most of the credit, one name that won’t get much airspace is Brian Decker. But Decker is the guy ensuring that the Colts not only draft good players but the right ones.
Decker was hired by Ballard right off and is the Colts Director of Player Development. If you’ve never heard of him, you should. Analytics are becoming more and more important across all of sports and Decker has a unique career path. While Ballard and the staff scout football players, Decker’s job is finding the right ones.
A few years ago Decker was a Green Beret major and was tasked to find out why there was a marked increase in the number of candidates that were washing out of Green Beret training.
He totally revamped the system on how the Army, identifies, assesses, and evaluates prospective Green Berets. He then took his system of evaluating the “right people” with the NFL. In speaking with the Colts.com, he said it simply about finding character among the successful Special Forces candidates and NFL people.
“When you take the sport away and you look at the mindset of the people we’re dealing with, they’re the same people.”
What the Colts are doing now is what the Patriots under Belichick have done for the past two decades. They’re building a team and no longer just trying to collect talent. And from the gist of things, it would seem like the Colts draft board is much smaller these days much like New England’s.
“We try to learn as much as we can about a player by answering five questions,” he said. And those questions are:
Does he have a favorable development profile
Does he have a favorable profile that will predict performance under pressure
Does he have an intellectual profile that will allow him to learn and make decisions on the field
Background data, does his background pose any risks to his development
Selecting people who are a good fit with what the team is trying to do. Character matters, players have to buy in.
Under Decker’s watch, his system identified potential Green Berets and now Colts players by learning that each successful candidate responded to stress in their lives with a heightened sense of motivation.
The biggest character trait he looks for is desire. “Desire is the one thing, you can’t coach and can’t teach,” he said. “It is the desire that ultimately fuels the motivation.” He pointed out that desire will make a prospect develop great work habits that lend itself to great performance on the field.
They are trying to implement a system where they identify smart players who thrive in a pressure-packed environment. The successful player won’t be looking for external solutions to problems but internally within the group. They’ll have excellent work habits, be mentally and physically tough, have confidence which comes from practice and preparation and the optimism and belief that they can achieve anything together.
Keep your eye on the Colts this season and moving forward. Right now, I’d put them as the #2 team in the AFC and they’re getting an identity.
Two years ago, I did a couple of interviews with Decker for SpecialOperations.com and spoke about the process of identifying, assessing and evaluating Green Berets, but the same process applies equally.
The NFL is revamping the overtime rule to allow each team a possession. It is expected to pass when the league brings it up for a vote. Of course, this is because the Patriots defeated the Chiefs in O.T. during the AFC Championship Game where the Chiefs never touched the ball.
Cowboys C.O.O. Stephen Jones was firmly behind the Chiefs’ proposal.
“I certainly tend to lean toward the new rule,” Jones said. “I certainly watched every play of that Kansas City-New England game, and you kind of would have liked to have seen what would have happened if Kansas City got another shot at it, and then how the thing would have ended up. It was football, in my mind, the game at its best. I certainly don’t have a problem with guaranteeing each team a shot at it. … It’s certainly something that had some traction there in the room, and certainly saw some people who were very interested in it. But we’ll get on a call there, take a long, hard look at it, and I’m sure membership’s gonna get to see it.”
One has to truly wonder if Jones would have wanted to see the rule changed if the opposite had happened or wanted to see Brady get a chance at the ball.
This just reeks of sour grapes. Kansas City had the Patriots at third and long three times in that overtime drive. They didn’t stop them, hold them to a FG or even bothered to use one of their timeouts when their atrocious defense was obviously gassed in OT.
Are you surprised? You should be. Let’s look at some of the other New England rules after playoffs and Super Bowl wins.
“Point of emphasis” on contact with WRs
No more leaping FG or extra point blocks
No more tricky formations with ineligible WRs
Medical Spotters added in case a player is concussed
PSI checks, that went the way of the dinosaur quickly
Catch rules (which happened to be changed in the SB LII
But what happens when the Patriots have one of these rules work in their favor? “Put an asterisk on that one!” Child please.
“Rob Gronkowski was a presenter at the Billboard Music Awards last week and confirmed he was retired…then left the door open for a return. Hmm. So, how was your week?”