Tag Archives: Ryan Fitzpatrick

New England Patriots News, 4-14, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 14, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 04-14 and AFC East Notes.

It is looking like it is going to be another soggy Boston Marathon this year, we’d like to wish all of the competitors the best of luck tomorrow.


As we stated last week we have begun our draft profiles on players that we feel would fit the team, our first on tight ends can be seen here:  And our follow-up post on possible wide receiver fits can be seen here: Our draft profiles on defensive tackles is here:

ICYMI: Our second Mock Draft 2.0 attempt at building the 2019 Patriots roster is in the books. You can recap it here: I believe we all expect the Patriots to be very active in this one, possibly packing some picks for a trade or perhaps moving around the board as they are very used to doing. Mock Draft 3.0 will be coming out early this week.

Derek Havens and I have been doing a special podcast highlighting the upcoming NFL Draft in addition to the regular one we do with host Russ Goldman. This week, we’re planning on having ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates with us to discuss the draft, what the Patriots may do, especially in the early rounds and about the NFL in general. Please do check that out around mid-week.

Last week did a draft mailbag podcast which can be listened to here:

Quick Hitters:

Tom Brady was on his Instagram account beginning his offseason work at his home. The interesting thing about that was he was still picking confetti from the Super Bowl out of his helmet. Speaking of which, he can no longer wear his old one and must wear the newer version which he tried a few times last year.

Chris Hogan signed a one-year deal with the Panthers. Hogan had quite a few memorable moments and catches in his three years in New England, helping the team get to three Super Bowls and winning two. But his leaving this spring is not a surprise, it seemed like a long shot for him to return.

Pat Chung has signed a one-year extension according to NFL.com, locking up the Patriots safety thru the 2021 season. Ian Rapoport was the first to report the news. Chung broke his arm in the Super Bowl but is expected to be fully healthy by training camp

Tim Tebow was in Pawtucket playing the Paw Sox for the Mets minor league affiliate and was asked about his brief time with Tom Brady. Tebow gave a long answer, gushing over the qualities of Brady as both a QB and a teammate. Then apologizing for giving an answer that was too long.  Tebow was and is always a class act.

RIP Forrest Gregg the longtime Packer great offensive lineman who passed away at age 85 this week. Gregg set a record (since broken) of playing in 188 straight games and later became the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, and Green Bay Packers. Vince Lombardi called Gregg, “the greatest player I ever coached.”

The Patriots were supposedly interested in making a trade for NY Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepherd, but for the second year in a row, the Giants when they found out there was interest in their player (OBJ last year), gave the player a fat extension. In Shepherd’s case a 4-year, $41 million dollar extension.

Seferian-Jenkins Is Excited to Play in New England:

With the signing of TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins this week, it was a move we immediately pegged as a win but then turned around and stated that he probably would not be a #1 tight end here. And we’ll double down on that. The move was for the veterans’ minimum salary with just a $50,000 signing bonus and incentive bonuses totaling only another $40,000. That is peanuts; so the outlay of cash and risk for the team is very minimal.

Seferian-Jenkins could….could step into a #1 role for the Patriots, but they don’t obviously think that is so or they would’ve enticed him earlier with more money. It will be interesting to see how he works out with the team in the spring. And if he can stay healthy and on the field.

A best-case scenario for the team would be for them to get one of the top TEs in the draft (which is still a big need) and have Seferian-Jenkins step into the #2 role as a complementary receiver.

Jenkins took to social media posting a picture of the original Pat the Patriot (he immediately got high marks from here) and thanked the Patriots and stated “I am ready to go to work.” And why wouldn’t he be? Look at the QBs he’s played with and he’s never been on a playoff team.

Belichick Praises Caserio, Scouting Dept. Ahead of the Draft:

Bill Belichick held a pre-draft press conference at Gillette on Weds. and opened with nearly a 7-minute statement praising the work of Nick Caserio, the Pats Director of Player Personnel.

With a big turnover in the coaching staff, Belichick said that there was less scouting of college prospects by the coaching staff than in previous years. But he raved about the job that Caserio and the Director of College Scouting Monte Ossenfort and Pro player Scouting Dave Zigler have done. With the absence of so many coaches, Zigler and his staff jumped in to help with the process.

“So it gives us a tremendous opportunity for him to connect with the coaches and understand the schematics of what’s going on with the coaching side of it, and to try to integrate and correlate the players we’re evaluating on all different levels,” Belichick said of Caserio.

Belichick added that the goal, as always is to come away “as good a predictor as possible as to how the player will fit in and perform on our team, and in our system, (emphasis mine),  in New England regardless of what the league value is for the player. It’s really what the player can do for us is what the final evaluation goal we’re trying to achieve.”

Patriots and Titans Will Hold Joint Practices This Summer:

The Patriots always try to conduct joint practices during training camp and this season will be no exception. Prior to their Week 2 preseason game against the Tennessee Titans, the two teams will conduct joint practices against one another at the Titans’ facility.

“Sure, we are going to practice against the Patriots,” Vrabel said on Friday.

“They’re going to come down here, and it’ll be great for our fans to come out here and see a lot of great players, the team that won the Super Bowl last year. And they’ll be able to watch those practices and see our work and see how we compete against each other and try to improve.”

That immediately set off a lot of good-natured trash talking between old friends and former Patriot Logan Ryan, Devin McCourty, and Pat Chung. Ryan said he was going to play one snap at WR to burn the McCourty Twins. He tweeted, “Easy money, he getting old.”  Which immediately got a response from Devin where he answered, “Which one? I guess it don’t matter, I don’t like you vs anyone!” Chung jumped in with “I mean damn, Let’s do it!…LOL.”

The two teams will meet there in Nashville during the week of August 12. If fans are looking for a nice vacation trip…Nashville is nice any time of the year.

Seahawks and Patriots Trading for #21 Pick in the Draft?

The Seattle Seahawks are expected to be trading back from the #21 pick in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft. And depending upon how the board plays out, the Patriots with a plethora of draft picks could be in a prime position to move up if one of the tight ends they covet are there or perhaps one of the premier edge guys like Clelin Ferrell.

Seattle has only four picks in the upcoming draft, (1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Rounds) so creating a few more would seem to be the order of the day for Pete Carroll. According to the Draft Value Chart, Seattle’s pick at #21 is worth an even 800 points. So to give them adequate compensation, the Patriots could package their first round pick at #32 (590 points) and #73 (225 points) to give Seattle a slight perceived edge or you could delve really deep and package #32, and some of the Patriots mid-to-later round picks for the Seahawks #21 and one of their mid-round picks.

Of course, they won’t be alone. Everyone knows that Seattle may be looking to trade back and that means the Seahawks brass will be looking for the best deal for them. That’s what makes this time of year so interesting.

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Speaking of the draft, I was talking about Boston College OL Chris Lindstrom to a high school coach that coached against him in school last week and he remembered how impressive the former Shepherd Hill OL was back then. “They ran those tight formations (Double Wing) and watching him pull out and road grade thru the defenses was impressive,” he said.  “Back then he was about 270 (pounds) and he was still one of the faster players on the field. You could tell he was going to a really special player.”

We say that because don’t go to sleep on a player like Lindstrom. He played right tackle for the Eagles, but projects to be an interior OL at the next level. But he has the versatility to maybe do both.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Looking For A Big Draft to Upgrade Offensive Weapons:

The Buffalo Bills were very active in free agency and signed six offensive linemen as well as two wide receivers during the early going of free agency. Don’t expect the Bills to stop there. Buffalo has 10 picks in the upcoming draft and they have the flexibility to move around the draft to search for the weapons to surround 2nd year QB Josh Allen with the talent he needs to succeed.

The Bills OLwas a mess in 2018 and they signed three guards, two tackles and one excellent center to help protect their franchise QB. They also added WRs John Brown, Cole Beasley and TE Tyler Kroft to the mix.

But now they are poised to make some noise in the draft. With the #9 pick in the draft, ESPN’s Mel Kiper has them taking Iowa T.J. Hockenson and then adding Arizona State WR N’Keal Harry with their 40th pick. The Bills just had the other Iowa TE Noah Fant in for a visit.  Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll doesn’t need to see Alabama TE Irv Smith up close for a visit, he coached him with the Tide.

The Bills also signed FA DE/OLB Eli Harold this week. Harold played two seasons for the 49ers and last year with Detroit where he had eight tackles, four sacks and a pass deflected in 13 games for the Lions.

Dolphins To Pass on Early QBs in the Draft? Quite Possible:

The Miami Dolphins and new head coach Brian Flores have a lot of holes to fill in the 2019 roster. After the jettisoning of Ryan Tannehill and the signing of journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, most experts believe the Dolphins may reach early for the next potential franchise QB at #13 in the draft. Not so fast…

If someone they like is still around at #13 could Miami pounce on them, but with big holes to fill at DE, the offensive line, running back and corner, they Dolphins may wait to select a QB they can develop in the middle rounds.

Fans may scream given Fitzpatrick’s track record as a starter, but with Brian Flores coming from the Belichick regime, they may be looking at the long-term best solution first rather than trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, which is how they ended up in this predicament.

Jets Ink Montgomery, Maybe the End of the Line for Powell:

The New York Jets signed RB/WR/KR Ty Montgomery this week to back up Le’Veon Bell. The former Ravens player was also reportedly being courted by the Miami Dolphins. A talented kick returner, Montgomery was cut by Green Bay after an ill-advised return at the end of a game with the Rams. Montgomery was told to take a knee and returned it out of the end zone and then fumbled.

He was dealt to the Ravens where in six games he rushed for 83 yards on 15 carries, with no touchdowns. He also caught 10 passes for 65 yards. He began his career as a WR and switched to RB with the Packers. It is expected that head coach Adam Gase will try to find a niche role for him behind Bell.

But that news is probably the end of Bilal Powell’s time as a New York Jet. He suffered a neck injury last season but was thought to be able to continue his career fully. In his eight seasons with the Jets, the 30-year old Powell rushed for 3,446 yards and 15 touchdowns, while catching 204 for 1,567 yards and five touchdowns. He was never the Jets #1 running back but led them in scrimmage yards in both 2013 and 2016.

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We’ve all seen those commercials “Want to Get Away?” When someone does something silly or just plain dumb… How about the editorial staff on Sportsnaut? This week they published a piece on “NFL stars about to fade in 2019” and who leads off the list? Danny Amendola. Okay you say, that could happen, but what? Danny Amendola of the New England Patriots.

“This veteran receiver will likely see an uptick in targets next season now that Rob Gronkowski has retired. In no way does this mean the 33-year-old Amendola is going to be as efficient as we’ve seen in the past.” Ouch. Ummm Amendola hasn’t been with the Patriots since 2017, having spent the 2018 season with Miami and now with Detroit.

The facts checker took the day off it seems. Want to get away? …

“Is it time for the Draft yet? So, how was your week?”

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

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

Patriots Maul Listless Jets 41-3, Observations

Steve Balestrieri
December 25, 2016 at 8:29 am ET

No Let-down This Year, Team Remains Focused

The Patriots left little doubt this time that there wasn’t going to be a late season swoon against the New York Jets like what happened in 2015. The Patriots dominated in all three phases of the game from the opening snap and demolished a beat up and demoralized Gang Green to the tune of 41-3.

The last time the Patriots won by 38 points was back in the 2014 AFC Championship Game when they throttled the hapless Colts in what became the Def … well, we aren’t going there.

The win was Bill Belichick’s 200th win as a head coach of the Patriots and only four other coaches have that many wins with one franchise. George Halas, Curly Lambeau, Tom Landry, and Don Shula. Some pretty heady company there. It was probably made a bit sweeter being against the Jets.

While every game since the Jets “Butt Fumble” game has been by one score, this one was never in doubt. The Jets barely showed up for the Miami game a week ago, where they were handled with ease. For the most part, other than a few young players looking to carve out a role, this team had already checked out and was ready for their spring vacation.

Coach Todd Bowles was in the hospital on Friday for a combination of kidney stones and gallstones. He was released from the hospital and flew up to meet the team in New England. He did coach from the sideline, but probably wished he stayed put in the hospital back in New York.

With young QB Bryce Petty at the helm, the Patriots decided they were coming after him and the results were startling. Petty was 0-3 with an interception and was sacked twice. He had trouble throwing in the downpour that the teams suffered early in the game. And he was injured trying to recover a fumble. Khiry Robinson on his first carry of the season was hit in the backfield by Elandon Roberts in a terrific collision. Roberts helmet popped the ball loose.

Malcolm Butler was in a position to scoop up the ball, Petty seeing he was too late, tried to tackle Butler and hurt his left, non-throwing shoulder as he bounced to the turf. It was a rough ending for Petty again as he was sandwiched between two Dolphins on a scary hit last week and forced to leave the game.

In came Ryan Fitzpatrick and he wasn’t the guy who seemed to be in control the last time the two teams met. Fitzy has nine lives; every time it seems he’s relegated to the bench and is done, he resurfaces. Yesterday wasn’t a good day for him.

Without the benefit of the All-22 film, which isn’t available yet, other observations include:

Brady very sharp and focused: After a so-so week in Denver, QB Tom Brady wanted to get the passing offense going quickly and he did. Brady was sharp and was getting a lot of time to throw from the pocket. And he continues to move extremely well in the pocket. He did a spin-o-rama like Aaron Rodgers and got away from pressure and scorched a laser to Edelman for a 28-yard gain.

He was getting all of his receivers involved and was picking the Jets apart. On the first series, the Patriots stalled in the red zone but on the third down incompletion, Brady missed Julian Edelman all alone and wide open in the back left corner of the end zone. But all three touchdowns were nice throws, to Bennett, to James White and Matt Lengel. A true MVP type performance

Overall, he had a fantastic day completing 17 of 27 for 214 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. So complete was the blowout, Brady was removed near the end of the third quarter and gave way to Jimmy Garoppolo, his first work since the Miami game.

Malcolm Butler gets Pro Bowl Snub, has a Fantastic Day: Butler the Patriots best cornerback had himself quite a day. One of our players to watch in the game, Butler turned in one of his best performances.

Butler had two interceptions and the recovered fumble and once again played some stellar defense. He’s not Revis in his prime, but he’s plenty good enough and the Patriots defensive system is a perfect fit for him.

Who Is to Blame Now For this Defensive Gem: After all the hand-wringing about the Patriots defense early in the season, they’ve made a remarkable turnaround. Now, every time they put forth a very good effort, the first thing out of the expert’s mouths are the weekly marginalizing of their work by denigrating the opponent. Matt Patricia has done a fantastic job of finding everyone a role and all of the players buying in.

Yes, we know the Jets offense is putrid and Fitzpatrick is on his way out the door. But you play the games on your schedule and if you’re going to line up at the Tobin Bridge when they give up 300 yards and 17 points, then given them credit when the give up three points and 130 yards. Jets QBs were 8-24 for just 128 net yards with zero touchdowns and three interceptions. They were 1-11 on third down.

This defense resembles nothing of the unit that struggled so badly earlier in the season. They’re now the #1 scoring defense in the NFL and haven’t allowed a touchdown in two weeks. So talk all you want about the weak sisters….or “tomato cans” if you will. The bottom line: They’re doing their job. Haven’t we heard that before?

Bowles Timeout Call, A Bad, Bad, Decision: One of the craziest decisions, other than Chuck Pagano’s fake punt from 2015 was the Jets decision to call timeout with under two minutes to go in the half.

The Jets punted and put the Pats on their 13-yard line with a minute and a half to go. The Patriots were leading 20-0 and at that point, the Jets offense had done nothing. The Patriots, due to field position and the fact they’d receive the second half kickoff, were content to run out the clock. They ran Dion Lewis up the middle twice for six yards.

Inexplicably, Bowles called timeout. On 3rd and 4 from the 19 with 46 seconds to go. Brady delivered a nine-yard pass to Julian Edelman at the 28. Then the Patriots called timeout. On first down, Brady delivered a perfect bomb on a post route run by Malcolm Mitchell who had beat two Jets defenders. Doug Middleton tried to prevent a touchdown and grabbed Mitchell’s arm resulting in a 47-yard penalty.

On first down from the 25, Brady hit James White for a 25-yard touchdown pass with 31 ticks left in the half. The Patriots went 87 yards in a minute and six seconds. They went into the half up 27-0. Game, set, match.

Floyd, Lengel Get Into the Act: New Patriots wide receiver Michael Floyd saw his first action as a member of the Patriots on Saturday, getting a few snaps early and then some extensive work late in the game, trying to assimilate into the offense.

He made a nice catch on an early deep ball by Brady, but the throw led him just a bit too far and he made the catch out of bounds. He did make his first catch as a Patriots later in the game, a short six-yard catch from Jimmy Garoppolo.

Backup tight end Matt Lengel made his first NFL catch today on the Patriots fourth scoring drive. The 6’7, 265 blocking tight end was picked up off of the Bengals practice squad earlier this season. On a 2nd and 8 from the Jets 18-yard line, he ran a post. Brady looked elsewhere first but saw Lengel had a step on his coverage. He uncorked a fastball where Lengel hauled it in for the touchdown.

First NFL catch, first NFL touchdown from Tom Brady. The telling moment was watching Brady rush down the field to congratulate the big guy on his first catch and score. Tells a lot about this team. Lengel’s brother Mike took to Twitter and exclaimed, “My Brother Just caught a TD pass from Brady!”

Running backs are an Eclectic Lot: While the yards per rush wasn’t anything to write home about today, the Patriots once again showed patience in the running game and stuck with, rolling up 114 yards in the process. LeGarrette Blount is having a fantastic 2016 with 1110 yards and 17 touchdowns. The big man has been much better than anyone could have hoped for after suffering a serious hip injury in 2015.

James White is a dangerous back out of the backfield, (see his 25-yard touchdown), he may have had another. On a third down, Brady laid a perfect arcing pass in his hands, as he beat his coverage cleanly, but he dropped it. But Brady isn’t afraid to go right back to him. He’s also excellent in blitz pickup and is improving in that aspect weekly.

Dion Lewis is quickly rounding into form and is looking more and more like the elusive, shifty back we saw in the first half of the 2015 season. For his size, he’s a surprisingly good runner between the tackles and an excellent receiver as well out of the backfield.

The Patriots offense has plenty of weapons for Brady to use. The running back position, something a lot of people (including here) were picking on as not having done enough in the spring to improve has been fantastic.

Well, it is time for Santa to come down the chimney…I hope all of you have a Merry Christmas day with your families.

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.

Patriots – Jets II Keys, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
December 23, 2016 at 6:00 am ET

The New England Patriots return to the friendly confines of Gillette Stadium in Foxboro for their final regular season home game to take on the New York Jets. The game is scheduled for Saturday Christmas Eve, at 1 p.m.

CBS will televise this week’s game and it can be seen locally on WBZ Channel 4 in Boston. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Dan Fouts as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Cappello.

The Patriots (12-2) improved to 7-0 on the road this season with a convincing 16-3 win over the Denver Broncos. Dion Lewis rushed for 95 yards and the Pats got three turnovers while holding the Broncos to just three points and shut them out for the final 53 minutes of the game.

The Jets (4-10) were hammered by Miami last week. Career backup Matt Moore threw for four touchdowns in the win. QB Bryce Petty was hit hard and had to leave the game but is expected to play this weekend.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2016 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:
The Patriots and Jets meet for the 116th time on Sunday in an intense rivalry that dates back to 1960. The Patriots hold a slight all-time 60-54-1 edge in the series that has been incredibly even and always tough.

The Patriots hold a 32-25-1 edge overall at home and have won 9 of the last 11 meetings. The Pats won a close 22-17 win in the Meadowlands in the first meeting this season as Tom Brady hit Malcolm Mitchell with the game-winning touchdown pass with less than two minutes to go. Mitchell had a pair of touchdowns in the game.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Brady Leads Patriots To Big Win Over the Jets…Again

Steve Balestrieri
November 28, 2016 at 7:16 am ET

The Patriots offense scuffled for most of the afternoon against the New York Jets on Sunday. But with 5:04 to go and 83 yards away from the end zone, Tom Brady rose his game up and carried the team on his back, as he’s done so many times before. Brady led the game-winning drive hitting Malcolm Mitchell for the game winner and the Patriots had a gritty come-from-behind 22-17 win over the Jets.

Like all games against Gang Green, it was a marathon, not a sprint and the Patriots had to slog their way thru a variety of factors. The loss of Rob Gronkowski early in the game, Brady’s own knee injury which definitely was a factor, as his passes were uncharacteristically sailing on him all day long and the Jets themselves, who brought their A-game on an otherwise forgettable season.

The Jets had taken the lead on a tremendous catch by Quincy Enunwa in the back corner of the end zone and had to stop the Patriots and Brady just one more time to come away with their biggest win of the season. Their defense had been playing great all day. But these are the times when Brady, even a wounded one elevates his game.

“I felt good,” Jets WR Brandon Marshall said of their lead, “but I knew that Tom Brady has that thing where it kicks in. He’s a special player. He’s one of the best to ever do it. There’s never a time where he’s out of it.”

Brady appeared laser sharp when it counted most and he hit on some big passes, a 24-yard strike to Julian Edelman got things going. But the biggest was the 4th down, 4-yard pass to James White, who dove for the sticks and just barely made the key first down to keep things going. As usual, Brady deflected praise to others and called it a “championship-type” play by White.

On the next snap, he fired a laser to Chris Hogan deep down the middle to put them in the position to win. By then there was no doubt how that drive would end. Brady then hit Mitchell for the game winner, the rookie WR had a pair of touchdown catches, both against Darrelle Revis and the Patriots had an ugly but very satisfying win against their oldest and most heated rivals.

His day included a number of key milestones. Brady tied Peyton Manning for the most career wins by a QB with 200. He passed the 60,000-yard threshold early in the game and the comeback win was the 50th of his NFL career. Brady stressed the team aspects of his accomplishments and stated that it had been a long week for him and the team. And he improved overall to 22-8 against the Jets.

It was a win that characterized mental toughness and Bill Belichick knew that his comments, as well as those of Brady, echoed that sentiment. They took the Jets best shot and although far from their best found a way to win. Brady, as usual, led the way. Just like he did 199 times before.

Other observations from today’s game include:

Mitchell is rapidly becoming a trusted weapon in the offense: While Mitchell’s numbers on the stat sheet won’t necessarily wow anyone, he made five catches for 42 yards, he converted two of those into scores. The rookie WR had the first two-score game of his career and he’s earning the trust factor with Brady. His numbers on the season are a modest 16 catches for 235 yards and three scores but expect him to earn more looks as the season plays out.

The first score was a broken play where Julian Edelman ran a Jet Sweep and knocked the ball out of Brady’s hand. Brady alertly picked it up and found Mitchell at the back of the end zone, who beat Revis to end an important first half drive to tie things up.

Brady tried the deep ball in the end zone later to Mitchell, the ball was thrown about 3-4 inches too long and just went thru Mitchell’s fingertips. But it didn’t deter Brady to going back to the young WR again at crunch time. The Pats ran a bunch route on the left side and Mitchell had just enough separation from Revis to haul in the pass and just make it inside the pylon for the winning touchdown.

Welcome to New England Chris Long: Okay Long has played well for most of the season but his strip sack of Ryan Fitzpatrick was huge and arguably the biggest play of his professional life, considering he played for so many poor-to-middling Rams teams.

That caused the second and most importantly last turnover of the day for the Patriots defense. Earlier Malcolm Butler, who didn’t have the greatest afternoon, forced a fumble ending another Jets drive.

Long showed great explosion off the snap and beating his man on the edge and just got his hand on Fitzpatrick’s arm causing the fumble that the Patriots recovered and put the game away. For a defense with still in search of an identity, it was a huge moment.

Still Questions at CB and LB: The Patriots are still mixing and matching at both the cornerback and linebacker positions and we may see that depending upon individual matchups the rest of the season. But the Jets second WR, Quincy Enunwa, who had struggled for the past two games lit up the secondary for five catches, 109 yards, and a touchdown. After a hot start with five catches in the first half, Brandon Marshall had just one in the second half.

The Pats mixed up a combination of Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, and Logan Ryan and will probably stick with that for the foreseeable future. With big games looming against the Ravens and Broncos, they’ll have to step up their game.

At linebacker, they once again used several players opposite Dont’a Hightower, getting Elandon Roberts, Shea McClellin, and Kyle Van Noy in the mix. Each had some good and bad moments but overall the effort was good enough.

Overlooked aspect, the run defense: Coming into the game, the two keys the team wanted to stop was the Jets running game and their backs out of the backfield. And they accomplished both. The Jets were 3-0 when Matt Forte had 25+ carries and the Patriots knew this.  Both Forte and Bilal Powell are dangerous receivers out of the backfield as well, something the Patriots have struggled with.

They did a bang-up job against the run holding Jets runners to just 64 yards on 23 carries, a 2.7 yard average on the day. The Jets longest run on the day was just seven yards. And they held their backs to just four catches for 30 yards out of the backfield. It wasn’t perfect, Van Noy was beaten by C.J. Spiller on a wheel route but Fitzpatrick’s pass fell short, but overall this was a big factor in the Patriots victory.

Is Gostkowski a player they can rely on? This question would have sounded ludicrous a year ago, but after 11 games it is now a legitimate one. The kicker’s struggles continue and today, he missed a very makeable 39 yarder that before was automatic. He did make three more field goal attempts on the day as well as two extra points, but he’s not the same guy he was before that costly miss in Denver.

Was the Patriots decision not to attempt a game-winning 52-yard field goal and go for it on 4th and 4 as well as an earlier attempt just gamesmanship by Belichick or was it a lack of trust in the kicker? We’ll hear more of that as the week drags on but it is the $64,000 question now.

Too Cerebral? Defense Seems to Be Passionless at times: Perhaps this is overstating it but there are times when the Patriots defense seems to be overthinking things a tad and trying to be coming up with a perfect answer and not playing with the speed that they are capable of. We know that this is a cerebral defense, but sometimes it seems like they are competing against themselves out there.

It was General George S. Patton Jr. who stated that “A good plan violently executed today, beats a great plan executed next week.” Sometimes, just pinning your ears back and attacking midrange to poor quarterbacks such as Fitzpatrick may be a better equation than always trying to outsmart them.

Granted….once again they allowed only 17 points but the game certainly had a different feel to it.

Blount and Bennett get high marks: Martellus Bennett was leaned on with Gronkowski getting injured early in this one and then he got his ankle rolled up and played the rest of the game, like Brady in pain and obviously limited. He gets big kudos for gutting it out.

Blount only got 11 carries on Sunday but against a tough Jets front seven, he made it count for 67 yards, especially when the team was trying to close things out. These two symbolized the team-first, can-do attitude that was a big factor in the team’s win.

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.

Patriots – Jets Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
November 25, 2016 at 9:00 am ET

The New England Patriots travel to the NJ Meadowlands to take on the New York Jets in the first of two divisional matchups between the two teams. The game was initially scheduled for Sunday Night Football but has been flexed by the NFL to a 4:25 p.m. kickoff.

This week’s game will be televised by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ Channel 4 in Boston. Greg Gumble will handle play-by-play duties with Trent Green as the color analyst. Jamie Erdahl will work the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Cappello.

The Patriots (8-2) improved to 5-0 on the road this season with a 30-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers. Tom Brady was the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for the 27th time in his career with a four touchdown-zero interception effort. LeGarrette Blount led the running game with 124 yards on 19 carries.

The Jets (3-7) are coming off their bye week. Two weeks ago, they lost to the LA Rams 9-6 as QB Bryce Petty in his first NFL start subbing for an injured Ryan Fitzpatrick could only lead the Jets to a single touchdown drive. Fitzpatrick is healthy this week and has been given the nod by coach Todd Bowles as the starter.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2016 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:
The Patriots and Jets meet for the 115th time on Sunday in an intense rivalry that dates back to 1960. The Patriots hold a slight all-time 59-54-1 edge in the series that has been incredibly even and always tough.

The Jets hold a slim 29-27 edge overall at home. The Patriots have won 8 of the last 10 meetings, however. The teams split a pair of close games a year ago. The Patriots held serve in Foxboro with a 30-23 win and the Jets in the Meadowlands won a 26-20 overtime win on December 27. The Patriots won the toss and deferred, and Fitzpatrick led the Jets to a quick touchdown drive

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots 2016 Opponents, 5 First Impressions of the Jets

Steve Balestrieri
November 23, 2016 at 8:51 am ET

Toss Out Jets Disappointing 2016 On Sunday

The Patriots go back out on the road on Sunday afternoon as they’ll go down I-95 to the NJ Meadowlands to take on their heated rival, the New York Jets. It will be the first meeting between the two teams this season and the games are always close and hard fought. Forget about the records when these two teams meet.

The Patriots (8-2), are coming back from the West Coast and a win over the San Francisco 49ers 30-17 on Sunday. LaGarrette Blount ran for 124 yards on 19 carries and Tom Brady threw for four touchdowns and zero interceptions, the 21st time he’s done that in his career.

The Patriots hold a two-game lead in the division over the 6-4 Miami Dolphins who have won five in a row. The Pats are now tied for the best record in the AFC with Oakland but the Raiders now hold the tie breaker for the time being, given their win over Houston.

The Jets (3-7), were thinking playoffs after last season’s 10-win season but a tough early season schedule coupled with poor QB play has Todd Bowles’ group looking down at another disappointing finish. They went from QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to Geno Smith, back to Fitz, and gave rookie Bryce Petty the start before their bye week in the loss to the Rams. Now, Bowles is going back with Fitzpatrick this week.

Here are our Five First Impressions of the Jets:

Bowles Going With Fitzpatrick, the right move this week: The QB carousel for the Jets is swinging back to Ryan Fitzpatrick this week and Bowles is hearing it from not only the media but Jets fans as well. And in part, the criticism is justified.

The Jets went thru a protracted salary negotiation with Fitzpatrick this spring/summer and the QB ultimately bet on himself with essentially a big one-year deal. That has failed for both the QB and the team. Fitzpatrick has struggled mightily this season and leads the league in interceptions with 13 despite playing in less games than most of the starting QBs in the NFL. And with Fitzpatrick not in the Jets plans after this season, the time is right to see what they have in Petty.

Petty started Week 10 while Fitz rested a knee injury and played fair in a 9-6 loss to the Rams. He completed 19-32 for 163 yards with a touchdown and interception. Bowles, however said now that Fitzpatrick is healthy, that he’s the starter and gives the Jets a better chance to win. And he’s right.

We’ve seen Fitzpatrick play poorly, he’s a gunslinger and will take chances that may seem foolhardy at times. We’ve also seen him play well and that is the guy the Jets are hoping can turn things around this week. Facing a Patriots team with Bill Belichick, even with a defense that has been scuffling along lately, Petty in just his second NFL start was bound to see looks that he wouldn’t recognize and would no doubt struggle.

Bowles doesn’t care about the media and fan criticism. His job is to win football games. And his job depends on that. There is still time to do a proper evaluation on Petty. The Jets aren’t going to make the playoffs, even if they were to run the table. And the cries of derision for him on Monday will turn to cheers from the fickle fans if Fitzpatrick can coax a victory over the Pats this week.

Bilal Powell is the “X-Factor” for Gang Green This Week: The Jets brought in veteran running back Matt Forte this season and he’s the primary running back for Gang Green this season. He’s rushed for 732 yards and the Jets are 3-0 when he carries the ball 25+ times. But he’s been used less as a receiver this season than in his time with the Bears. That player has been Bilal Powell and he has the capability to be a game changer for the Jets this weekend.

Powell only carried the ball 40 times this season but has racked up 272 yards and a touchdown, good for a stellar 6.8-yard average. He’s also hauled in 36 passes for 240 yards and a score. He’s gotten hot in the past two games with 11 pass receptions and the Jets only score against the Rams.

Last year he had just 12 touches against the Patriots in the Meadowlands but went for 90 yards with seven rushes for 56 and five catches for 34 yards in the OT win. With a NE defense struggling to defend the wheel route and backs out of the backfield in general, look for the Jets to get him involved early and often.

The Patriots Must Account for Williams on Every Snap: The Jets have underperformed as a group this year, but for Leonard Williams, their top draft choice of 2015, the season has been a success. Williams leads the Jets with six sacks and is tied for the team lead in QB hits with 15.

Although the Jets as a unit have registered only 19 sacks (two less than the Patriots), NY defensive line coach Pepper Johnson thinks his group has played well. “They’re playing very well. These guys made me defensive line coach of the year last season,” he said, (awarded by ProFootballFocus). “I think they’re doing better this year.”

Williams leads a very stout Jets run defense that allows just 85.4 yards per game and has 10 tackles for a loss included in his stats this season. While there have been some issues with his teammates Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, specifically their tardiness in the news, Williams has soldiered on and is the guy the Patriots OL must account for on every play.

Enunwa and Marshall Are the Go-To Guys in the Passing Game: Jets wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Quincy Enunwa are going to be the two main focuses of the Patriots secondary this week. Both got off to great starts in 2016, but with the slide of their QB play, their numbers are going down in recent weeks. Expect the challenge of playing NE this week to change that in a big way.

Enunwa was a steal for the Jets when they drafted him in the sixth round (209th overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft. He’s caught 38 passes this season for 534 yards and three touchdowns this year, but in recent weeks, the Jets have really missed Eric Decker who was placed on IR. He’s caught just one pass each in the last two games, look for Fitzpatrick to get him involved early this week.

Marshall is on pace for one of the least productive years of his career. The 11-year vet has 43 catches for 601 yards and just two touchdowns after having 62 for 800 and seven touchdowns in 2015. Part of the problem has been the QB play, part on the loss of Decker, but a foot injury suffered early in the season may be the most to blame.

Will the Patriots Try “Revis Island” This Week? No one has slipped more this season than the Jets $70 million-dollar man. However, don’t make a mistake about this, while the Patriots are being given lots of kudos for passing on Revis’ 5-year, $70 million-dollar deal with $39 million fully guaranteed, they still were offering big bucks for the talented corner to return.

But if Revis did show signs of slowing down last year, then he’s definitely sliding in 2016. By his own account, his body is breaking down on him and the the air of invincibility of him is gone. No longer are teams only looking at the other side of the field, they can now specifically target Revis in their game plan. That thought was blasphemous not long ago.

It will be interesting to see if the bye week rejuvenates Revis to play at least for a week, to the level we’ve become so accustomed to. But it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Patriots test the waters of Revis Island this week.

Check back with us later in the week as we’ll break down the key matchups for the game right here on PatsFans.com.

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 7-17, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
July 17, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s New England Patriots news 7-17 notes and what’s happening around the AFC East.

Brady’s role in Deflategate Ends, The Battle Will Recommence in 2020:
In a surprise move on Friday, Tom Brady capitulated to the NFL and will not be part of the NFLPA’s petition to the Supreme Court if indeed they continue the case. In opting to give in and accept his punishment, Brady will serve his four-game suspension.

But make no mistake, Deflategate isn’t over. Brady’s portion of it is. He’ll sit out Weeks 1-4 in what has to be the most overblown league generated fiasco ever. So while the legion of Pats haters does a victory lap, the players association braces for the fight that is coming when the next CBA comes due in 2020.

And you can bet there will be a work stoppage because the league and Roger Goodell are not going to give up the absolute power that he now holds over the players. And they, at least the smart ones know that he can suspend any of them whenever he wants because the courts say he has the power to do so. And evidence-smevidence… who cares about that. Goodell doesn’t need any. So Deflategate ISN’T over.

Brady’s Decision Was His but Not Necessarily the Best One:
No one knows what kind of strain Brady has gone thru for the past 18 months. But one can only imagine what a tough, roller coaster the past two seasons have been like. First dealing with the calls of he was done and no longer a top NFL QB. Then after catching fire and on the verge of returning to the Super Bowl, having your integrity and legacy called into play? And playing last season with a suspension looming over his head.

So if he just got worn down by the entire fiasco and mentally couldn’t put up with any longer, then so be it. We don’t sit in his shoes and can’t imagine what it’s been like for him.

Brady-lets-it-fly

We also heard that IF the Supreme Court agreed to hear his case, and a stay was issued that a ruling against him could impact him later in the season and even during the playoffs. While that scenario would be a nightmarish one for the Patriots 2016 season, it is exactly why he should have stayed in the fight.

This is not only about the ridiculous 4-game suspension that Goodell levied, nor just about his legacy but about how this will effect NFLPA members down the road.  Goodell’s power trip will affect many players down the road and this is an opportunity to fix that without going thru a work stoppage in the future. This case would be a benefit to all NFL players, present and future. Regardless of how difficult this fight wouldn’t have been to win; this was one that should have been seen thru to the end.

You don’t just fight the fights you can win; you fight the fights that need fighting. He should have stuck it out.

Did Kraft Blast the League or Did His Words Ring Hollow?
After Brady announced his decision not to contest his suspension, Patriots owner Robert Kraft released a statement that seemed to put the hammer down on the league.

Kraft wrote, ““From day one, I have believed in Tom and given him my unwavering support in his pursuit to rightfully clear his name of any wrongdoing. That support extends throughout our organization and has only grown more steadfast as the preponderance of scientific evidence has exonerated Tom. Unfortunately, this stopped being about air pressure a long time ago.” (emphasis is mine)

He further added, “This entire process has indelibly taken a toll on our organization, our fans and most importantly, Tom Brady. His reluctant decision to stop pursuing further action and to put this situation behind him is what he feels is best for the team in preparation for this season and is fully supported by me and our entire organization.”

Kraft called the sham investigation of Ted Wells, “flawed and biased from the start,” and said that Brady wasn’t given due process. Strong stuff.

So it is difficult to compare those strong words with some of the confusing actions on his part. Because, as popular as he is as an owner, and he’s been the best this organization has ever seen, he’s played both sides of the fence.

After coming out like gangbusters before the Super Bowl and demanding an apology, he went to the owners meeting and finding no support among the Jones, Rooneys, and Maras…who wanted their pound of flesh, he caved. He caved quicker than a paper house in a typhoon. In a statement, he meekly accepted the NFL’s punishment of losing two draft picks, a $1,000,000 fine and having his QB get socked with a 4-game suspension.

He flipped-flopped again telling the media and fans that it was wrong for him to have put his trust in the league.  But the pull of the billionaire boys club is strong and both he and Goodell have been seen schmoozing for the press on a number of occasions since.

Now this latest statement after Brady’s decision doesn’t feel like the slam that fans and some of the media are saying it was. Those words are ringing a bit hollow. One has to wonder what Brady truly feels about all of this. We’ll probably never find out.

Oh to be a fly on the wall here...

Oh to be a fly on the wall here…

___________________

Good luck to Nate Ebner who should find out his fate on if he makes the National Rugby team soon. The US National Team is expected to announce their roster tomorrow for the 2016 Summer Olympics. If Ebner makes the cut, he will be in Rio and take part in the Olympic tournament that begins on August 6.

Be sure to keep checking PatsFans.com as training camp approaches. We are doing primers by position and we’ve already posted ones on the running backs, tight ends, and wide receivers.

Be sure to check out our podcast “Patriots 4th and 2”. We’ve been doing a series of podcasts lately dealing with the Pats opponents in the AFC East and conducting a season preview of each team. We recently sat down with Dolphins beat writer Antwan Staley and took a look at Miami.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Dolphins Landry, the New Face of Miami Sports?
With the departure of Dwayne Wade from the Miami Heat via free agency, there is a void on who is the new face of sports in the city of Miami. Well, the Dolphins may just have an answer for that in the name of Jarvis Landry.

There was a nice piece on NFL Spin Zone that spelled out Landry’s qualifications among them, “the personality, is a big-time playmaker and has a silly haircut that seems to be popular with the kids. Oh, yea, and a cool nickname.”

And of course, Landry is an outstanding talent that we watch at least twice a year. If Landry keeps improving and plays like he’s expected to in 2016, he could easily be the new face of Miami sports.

Jets Deal with Mo Wilkerson, Opens the Door for Fitz:
The Jets, to no one’s surprise, finally got a deal done with Muhammad Wilkerson their Pro Bowl DT. Wilkerson is one of the best DTs in the game and was rewarded with a 5-year deal worth $86 million dollars, with $37 million guaranteed in the first two years and $54 million guaranteed by year three.

But the low cap hit on the 2016 year of his deal opens the door for an offer if they choose to, to finally get QB Ryan Fitzpatrick back in the building. Prior to the Wilkerson extension, the Jets were sitting on just $3.7 million dollars in salary cap room. Now they can offer Fitz closer to what he’s looking for. Stay tuned…

Bills’ Williams Suspended First Four Games of 2016:
Shortly after trolling the Patriots with a silly meme on hearing the Tom Brady suspension news, the Bills got bad news of their own. Running back Karlos Williams will be suspended for the first four weeks of the season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

Williams is expected to take a heavier workload in 2016 to keep LeSean McCoy fresh and healthy this season. He scored nine touchdowns in 2015, tied for tops on the Bills. Now he’ll have to wait to make his first appearance until after the first New England game on October 2. He’s eligible to return to the team on October 3.

And it compounds with the news of rookie running back Jonathan Williams being arrested for suspicion of DWI in Arkansas this week. He’s facing a two-game suspension but it probably wouldn’t be enforced until 2017.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast 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

Wednesday Daily Rundown 6/1: New England Patriots News and Notes

Ian Logue
June 1, 2016 at 8:42 am ET

A quiet morning on this Wednesday, but here’s a quick rundown of this morning’s top stories.

Brady Gets Some Help – Patriots quarterback Tom Brady got a little help last week from a group of independent scientists as well as Robert Kraft, with both filing “friend of the court” briefs in an effort to bolster Brady’s shot at getting a rehearing in front of the U.S. Second Court of Appeals.  However, Tuesday a report came out that saw a key player step forward and file a brief that could hopefully tip the scale and get Brady’s case back in front of the judges.

According to reports, the AFL-CIO joined the case, with the Federation of Labor Organizations filing a brief that certainly hits home with what’s transpired over the last year-plus.

The brief leads off with a key point as it pertains to collective bargaining agreements with discipline, and feels Roger Goodell didn’t fairly handle the arbitration process.

“The AFL-CIO is a federation of 57 national and international labor organizations representing approximately 12.2 million working men and women,” the brief, prepared by attorney James Coppess, stated.  “Most collective bargaining agreements negotiated by AFL-CIO-affiliated unions contain arbitration provisions to resolve disputes over the meaning of the contract, including with regard to discipline. As a result, the AFL-CIO has extensive experience with the operation of arbitration procedures in the disciplinary setting and a significant interest in the application of the proper standard for judicial review of decisions rendered pursuant to arbitration procedures.”

From there, the brief gets right to the point and immediately points out what most of us already know, which was this whole procedure was never fair and Brady never had a shot at a proper arbitration hearing, which – like most of us obviously feel about the entire investigation – was never neutral.

“Because the Commissioner – who issued the discipline to Brady in the first instance – failed to follow basic procedural fairness and acted arbitrarily as an employer seeking to justify his own disciplinary decision rather than as a neutral arbitrator considering an appeal – his decision should be vacated,” the brief stated.

“While the NFL and NFLPA bargained to allow the Commissioner to hear appeals of disciplinary decisions, they did not agree to let the Commissioner, sitting as an appellate arbitrator, to act in a manner that is arbitrary and capricious. Regardless of who hears appeals, labor arbitration always must be fundamentally fair.”

“Fundamentally fair” is hardly how anyone would describe what’s gone on.  In fact, the brief goes on to point out one key fact that “rather than limiting his review to his initial
rationale for the discipline,” the Commissioner “instead “changed the factual basis for the
disciplinary action after the appeal hearing concluded.”  From there Goodell, “rather than engage with this issue to test ‘the correctness of [the discipline]’ based ‘upon the reason given at the time,’ the Commissioner “attempted to strengthen the employer’s defense.”

Obviously when a key labor organization can see the obvious, that should hopefully be enough to give Brady another shot at beating this thing.  It backs attorney Ted Olson’s argument about the fact this ruling goes well beyond football, and now places even more importance on the outcome of the case given the precedent it will obviously set.

This whole thing hasn’t been fair since it started, and seeing anyone lose in a situation where they never had a fair chance is always frustrating.  A decision on whether or not the Second Circuit will rehear the case will reportedly be made the end of June.  Most experts, including SI.com and UNH Professor Michael McCann, thought it would be a long-shot that Brady would get that chance.

After Tuesday, things are certainly a little more encouraging.


Another player threw their hat into the ring in support of Brady this week.

Butler To Show Up at Patriots OTAs – Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reported on Tuesday that Patriots defensive back Malcolm Butler will be at OTAs this week, despite Mike Reiss’ report about the fact he’s unhappy about his contract.

According to Howe, Butler’s absence last week had nothing to do with his current contract situation.

“The Herald was given a strong indication Butler’s absence last week was not related to his contract,” Howe wrote on Tuesday. “Furthermore, Butler doesn’t want to draw any added, unnecessary attention to himself this offseason, particularly as it relates to his contract, after last offseason when he missed a flight and reported late for OTAs.”


Malcolm Butler will be at the OTAs this week and Jeff Howe from the Boston Herald is reporting that his absence last week had nothing to do with his contract situation. (USA TODAY Images)

Having Butler back at work is obviously a big key as now is the time to start building some continuity among some of the new players who will be in the locker room this season.  After the Patriots finish these final practices, they’ll break one last time before training camp starts next month.

With Butler back in the fold, that will certainly help shift the focus back to where it should be, with Butler seeing if he can’t help get his team back to playing at a championship level one more time.

Jets See Decker and Marshall Return – If you’ve been following the disaster going on down in New York, their situation finally settled down a bit this week.

After skipping workouts in support of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall were back at voluntary practice despite the fact no deal has been reached to keep their QB in the fold.

According to reports, the offer on the table for Fitzpatrick is 3-years, $24 million which includes $15 in guaranteed money.  Part of that guarantee includes $12 million in the first year, but from there it starts to come to light as to why Fitzpatrick remains at odds.

According to ESPN’s Rich Cimini, Fitzpatrick’s compensation over the final two seasons drops to $6 million per season.  Fitzpatrick isn’t a dumb guy, having come from Harvard and he likely knows how important his role is to keeping the Jets on the upward trajectory they finished on last season.  They have a good nucleus in place and bringing Fitzpatrick back once again makes them a dangerous team heading into 2016 that could surprise people.

But that won’t happen unless they lock up Fitzpatrick, and give him credit for playing hardball.  Their current stance reportedly has the veteran frustrated, to the point they’re even worried about him taking less money out of spite.  The New York Post suggests making the deal a one-year contract at $12 million and letting Fitzpatrick gamble and see if he can cash in during free agency in 2017.

At 33-years old, he’s still got some good years left.  But at this point it’s been a contentious offseason and not having him around certainly isn’t helping their preparation.  That’s certainly fine for everyone following this story here in New England.  It’s always fun watching the Jet squirm, and it looks like this current mess is definitely far from over.

New England Patriots News 5-29, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
May 29, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 5-29 notes and what’s happening around the AFC East.

Memorial Day Denotes Sacrifice: We wish all of our readers a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend. But at the same time take an opportunity to remember the countless Americans who’ve paid the price to keep our way of life intact.

Freedom isn’t free and it isn’t a right that everyone in the world is blessed with. Our freedoms to choose our own path were paid for by Patriots who paid the ultimate price. The New England Patriots are fortunate to have both a coach in Bill Belichick who spent his early life at the Naval Academy and a player in Joe Cardona who know and respect the commitment that goes with protecting those freedoms.

Balestrieri family WWII

Growing up in a military family that saw my father and his five brothers serve in combat in WWII, the appreciation was inbred at an early age. Growing up two of my favorite NFL players were Roger Staubach who after winning a Heisman, went to Vietnam and Pittsburgh Steelers’ running back Rocky Bleier who was wounded in the same conflict and was thought to have no chance of resuming an NFL career as a result. And of course, Pat Tillman who gave up a million-dollar NFL career and died in Afghanistan.

And today there are many Americans serving far from home in harms’ way that are still serving and protecting our freedom. To them we thank you.

“When you go Home, tell them of us and say, for your Tomorrow, we gave our Today” John Maxwell Edmonds 1916

Patriots Conduct OTAs, Let the Overreactions Begin:
With the Pats back on the field doing football-type stuff initially in 2016, it was an opportunity to see many of the players in a Patriots uniform for the first time.

And as frequently happens in the early going, a fair amount of overreaction occurs in regards to who is or isn’t present and who is making the big plays of the day. Many fans were upset at the high number of veterans who weren’t present at the only media portion of the week’s practices. But many could be explained away as being vets, perhaps they were given the final practice of the week off.

It’s important to remember the beat writers can only report on what they are seeing in front of them. But also remember this, it is still only May, and the players are in pads yet.

There are still a lot of practices to go before they even get to the pads of training camp and then plenty of work between July 27 and the first regular season game in Arizona. With that in mind….let’s take a look at who was starting quickly this spring.

Bennett wastes no time in working closely with Brady:
New tight end Martellus Bennett, signed this spring away from the Bears was, to no surprise a frequent target for Tom Brady in the Thursday’s practice. With Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola not present, it was Bennett who was getting frequent attention in the passing game with Brady.

As we pointed out early in the week about OTAs, the big thing to take away from the early work was building the rapport and “trust factor” with Brady. And right away, as soon as the team broke down into a special teams’ exercise, Brady and Bennett moved off to the side and began working on situational football. Later they were reportedly joined by TE Clay Harbor and FB/TE/HB James Develin.

That’s the big takeaway from the early work here. Bennett and Gronkowski who is already wired in tight with Brady will be his first reads in the red zone and the possibilities with the two are intriguing, to say the least.

Good Battle Brewing at Center with Stork/Andrews:
One of the more intriguing positional battles this year will be at center. Bryan Stork played well for the Patriots during the Super Bowl run but began 2015 on the IR-designated to return list. David Andrews, a UDFA center from Georgia, started the first nine games until Stork returned.

Now the two are seemingly locked in a tough positional battle heading into mini-camps and training camp. Stork is a versatile player that can play guard and even slid out to tackle during a pinch last season, while Andrews is strictly just a center. It should be an intriguing battle to watch.

Darryl Roberts Picks Up Where He Left Off:
After an impressive start to training camp last year where he earned the start in the team’s first preseason game, CB Darryl Roberts suffered a wrist injury that landed him on IR and he missed all of the 2015 regular season.

Roberts-breaks-up-pass-to-T

Now with all eyes on this year’s top draft choice Cyrus Jones, the 2nd year corner from Marshall is out to make people stand up and take notice again. With both Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan not present on Thursday, Roberts made the most of his opportunities, just like last year where he led the team with 10 passes defended in camp. Just don’t call these chances “first team reps”.

“I wouldn’t say really first-team reps. We don’t really have starters,” Roberts said to the media Thursday. “Everybody just out here having fun, flying around and competing, so with those guys not being here, I’m just trying to step up and try to help the team any way I can.”

“I’m just trying to come out here and grind and try to compete and get better each day,” Roberts added.

If last summer’s performance was any indication, he should be ready to compete for not only a roster spot but some playing time.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Dolphins Parker Ready for Year 2 Jump/Misi Involved in Bar Fight:
After at times frustrating rookie season, Miami WR DeVante Parker seems poised to be the playmaker he was envisioned when the Fins drafted him in the first round of the draft. Miami’s prior regime seemed reluctant to cut the rookie loose and it wasn’t until after Rishard Matthews got injured that Parker was able to make an impression.

He finished with 26 catches for 494 yards and three touchdowns with 22 of his grabs coming in the final six weeks of the season. Now he’s ready for a bigger role and new coach Adam Gase and his QB thinks he’s going to produce.

“I expect big things out of him,” Ryan Tannehill said. “I expect him to be a heck of a football player — a guy that other teams fear because he can make big plays down the field and inside.

“He’s a big-bodied guy. He’s a guy that we’re going to want to use in the red zone and we’re going to want to use him on third downs and to stretch the field.”

In other news, Miami LB Koa Misi was involved in a bar fight where another man got knocked to the ground and needed medical attention. In a story from Ft. Lauderdale’s Local News 10, Misi apparently had words with a patron then rushed back to the entrance of the bar and assaulted a man, knocking him to the ground.

A police officer detailed to the establishment had his statement posted to the story and tried three times to bring Misi to the ground but he each time Misi was assisted by 10-15 members of his entourage (Cris Carter must surely approve). Eventually, Misi was released as the victim declined to press charges. Not a good look for the player or the team there.

Jets Offer to Fitz Reported $12 Million in Year 1:
While QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets haven’t yet come to terms with a contract for the 2016 season and beyond, it is now being reported that the two sides weren’t as far apart as previously reported.

ESPN’s Rich Cimini has reported that the Jets offer, originally thought to be around $8-million was in fact in the neighborhood of $12-million in Year 1 however, the exact amounts and the guaranteed amount of money haven’t been specified. So now the game has resorted to a he said-she said.

Fitzpatrick certainly has the backing of many of his teammates. Both Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall have stayed away from OTAs, Decker was openly stating that he was doing so to support the QB while Marshall’s reasoning, although technically not known was reported to be a show of support as well.

Rob Ryan Says Bills Will Beat the Patriots:
There are two Ryans in Buffalo this season, so the rhetoric is bound to be ratcheted up even more in 2016. So not surprisingly,  the first shot fired across the bow was not done by Rex, but by his brother Rob whom he hired to run the defense for the Bills.

“All the respect in the world for Bill Belichick. That was fantastic training, working for him for four years, and I learned a ton,” Rob Ryan said. “Look, he is the No. 1 nemesis of every coach in this league. So it’s not just Rex. Rob was an assistant coach with the Patriots from 2000-2004.

“But I know one thing, we are going to beat them. We are together, we’re going to beat the best. It’s two against one. Him one-on-one against any coach in the league, that guy is pretty damn good. And he’s also got his best buddy Tom Brady with him. He trained him, and he single-handedly made him great as well.”

Although Ryan-coached teams always play the Patriots as tough as any team, he’s still only 4-11 head-to-head against Bill Belichick. And the Bills are just 4-28 against Bill Belichick since he took over the reins in 2000. So while the results have been decidedly one-sided, the hype just increased quite a bit this season.

The first meeting between the two teams is slated for Week 4 at Gillette Stadium on October 2.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast 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 4-17, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 17, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 4-17 notes and what’s happening around the AFC East.

WR? Patriots Have Had Issues Finding a Penetrating DT:
With the release of former 1st round pick Dominique Easley this week, it brings to light the struggles have had finding that elusive interior defensive lineman who can rush the QB. While much has been made about the Pats inability to develop wide receivers, the interior pass rushing presence has been missing for quite some time.

The Patriots whiffed on DT Ron Brace who they spent a 2nd round draft pick on back in 2009. They instead got a little production from Mike Wright and Gerard Warren. They tried CFL DT Armond Armstead but health problems prevented him from ever taking the field. Ditto for free agent Jonathan Fanene. Tommy Kelly got off to a good start with the team but a knee injury derailed his season and he was cut loose a year later.

They drafted Easley with that thought in mind, a slightly undersized DT that can penetrate and disrupt the passing game with explosion off the snap. Although both of his seasons in a Patriots uniform were cut short due to injuries, he flashed some of that known explosion in his time here.

So it is back to the drawing board (NFL Draft) for the team. They can expect 2nd-year player Malcom Brown to provide more production there but the rest of the tackles, Alan Branch, Terrance Knighton, Markus Kuhn, Frank Kearse and Joe Vellano are all more of the ‘big bodied run stuffers’ than penetrating pass rushers. We’ve profiled some of the draft possibilities and the Pats will be sure to look for help with this draft class which is considered very deep.

Patriots Also Release DL Jones and Kitchen:
The Patriots also released two more interior defensive linemen this week cutting Chris Jones and Ishmaa’ily Kitchen.

While Kitchen was viewed as mainly a depth player, Jones logged some quality snaps. He played in 28 games (23 starts), over the 2013-2014 seasons with the Patriots and notched 83 tackles, nine sacks and a big blocked field goal against the Jets. He added nine tackles and one sack in four postseason games. In 2015, Jones spent the entire year on the reserve/physically unable to perform list. 

His base pay was due to jump from $585,000 to $1.67 million in 2016 so the team may have decided that the value wasn’t there for that kind of money. In which case he could very possibly return at a reduced hit against the cap.

Jones could occasionally push the pocket from the inside and while they sometimes push their defensive ends inside in obvious passing situations, the need for an interior pass rusher has resurfaced. Bringing back Jones would be a small band-aid.

Easley Story Takes More Twists: The release of Easley unleashed some very “unPatriot-like” behavior with some of the players. When we learned of his trip to Germany ostensibly to seek alternative treatment for his ailing knees, we knew his career wouldn’t be a long one. The rumor was that his release wasn’t only an injury related one. Tom E. Curran from CSNNE spoke at length about how Easley “wasn’t always on the program” and that the timing wasn’t entirely unexpected.

But here is where some things go awry, usually the Patriots players toe the line and flash the party line but Ben Volin of the Boston Globe reported that one unnamed Patriot player called Easley “a locker room cancer.” On Saturday, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald had another un-named Patriot player call Easley “a great teammate.”

No one really knows the entire story, perhaps the Germany trip was a deal breaker. When we learned of it, we reached out to an insider and asked if the Patriots were onboard with this treatment. The insider stated that although it was known Easley would seek alternative treatment for his knees, he knew nothing (which probably means the Patriots didn’t either). That alone could have been enough for them to wipe their hands of the entire situation.

Patriots Face Challenges, Questions with 2016 Schedule:
The Patriots 2016 schedule was released (albeit a bit premature) on Thursday evening and a couple of things jump right out. First, if the NFL’s suspension of Tom Brady is re-instated, Jimmy Garappolo will have three straight home games after opening the season in Arizona. But it should be noted that two of those games are against division rivals so those games could factor in the Patriots late-season visits to the Jets and Dolphins.

The Patriots will play in no less than five prime-time games this season so nearly a third of the season will consist of late nights for the team and the fans.

The bye week comes at a perfect time for the Patriots in Week 9, smack dab in the middle of the season. After the injury-plagued campaign of 2015, the rest in the middle of the season is a perfect time for Belichick and Co. to re-charge their batteries.

There is a tough stretch in the middle of the year with a home game against the Bengals, then on the road against the Steelers and Bills. We should learn a lot about this 2016 team after that stretch.

The Seattle Seahawks come to Foxboro for a prime-time game which promises to be a tough one but it comes right after the bye week so the Patriots will have two weeks to prepare for Russell Wilson, Pete Carroll, and Co.

Patriots Hall of Fame Finalists Down to Clayborn, Faulk, Vrabel:
Also on Thursday, the Patriots announced three finalists for this year’s induction into the team’s hall of fame. This year’s finalists are CB Raymond Clayborn, RB Kevin Faulk, and LB Mike Vrabel.

Most fans are well versed in the exploits of Faulk and Vrable who were instrumental in the first three Patriots Super Bowl wins. Clayborn played for the Pats in an early era (1977-89) and was a three-time Pro Bowler. He set a franchise record for playing in 161 straight games.

Congratulations to all three finalists; you can read more on each and vote for your choice to be named to the Patriots Hall of Fame here: The Patriots are the only team in the NFL that allows the fans to vote and have a voice in who belongs in the team’s Hall.

Voting will be open until May 14. The Pats will announce the winner (the 25th member to be inducted), later this spring and the winner will be inducted later this summer, probably prior to one of the first two pre-season games either against the Saints or the Bears.

The Patriots Hall of Fame induction ceremony is held on the NRG Plaza just outside The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon. The outdoor ceremony is always free and open to the public.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Dolphins’ Gase Will Put Feet to the Fire Early:
The Miami Dolphins have a new coach in Adam Gase and the schedule makers at the NFL did him no favors. The rookie head coach will take his team on the road to two very tough venues to start the season. To Seattle and then to New England.

Making matters even tougher is the fact that Miami has been notoriously slow starters at the beginning of each season, going a combined 11-22 in September since 2006. Gase will have to buck that trend quickly if he wants to get his team off to a good start.

Of course, if Tom Brady’s suspension is reinstated, it will make the Dolphins’ job quite a bit easier. Miami’s final four games to end the season isn’t easy either, at home against Arizona, on the road to face the Bills and Jets (who BTW swept Miami in 2015) and back home against New England…Welcome to the NFL Mr. Gase.

Jets Get No Love from the NFL Schedulers:
The Jets are facing a daunting task in Todd Bowles second season, their schedule has them playing six of their first nine games on the road in 2016. Gang Green opens at home against the Cincinnati Bengals then goes on the road for four of the next five weeks, including prime-time games against the Bills and Cardinals. Intermingled in their road trip are games in Kansas City and Pittsburgh. Their next home game? Seattle.

Still no movement on the QB situation with Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Jets have an offer of reportedly $8 million on the table. There is also talk of trading Muhammad Wilkerson and moving up in the top 10 to take either QB Carson Wentz or QB Jared Goff.

Bills WR Percy Harvin to Retire at 27:
A month after saying thru sources “that he was definitely planning to play” Bills WR Percy Harvin’s hip injury may be forcing him into early retirement.

Harvin is only 27 but has been beset by migraines for several years and now this hip ailment that forced him onto IR last season with Buffalo.

After wearing out his welcome in Minnesota, he went to Seattle where he played brilliantly at times and others fought with his teammates even during a year where they won the Super Bowl. The Seahawks traded him to the Jets for the final eight games of 2014 and from there he signed a one-year $6 million-dollar deal with Buffalo.

He played well for the Bills until his hip landed him on IR. Harvin was an extremely talented player who was a threat to score every time he touched the ball.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast 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.