Tag Archives: Stephon Gilmore

Patriots 53-man Roster Projection 3.0, Several Vets Face the Axe

Steve Balestrieri
August 19, 2019 at 7:30 am ET

With the Patriots now halfway thru their preseason slate, we’re going to take stock of the roster once again and take a stab at predicting a 53-man roster projection. The preseason games in Detroit and Nashville along with several joint practices conducted with both teams have given the coaches much more information and play against an opponent to evaluate.

What is different about this particular projection is that several established veterans may now find themselves on the roster bubble as the coaches now find that the depth of this roster will make them face some really difficult decisions moving forward.

Offense –

Quarterbacks: (3)

Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham
Out: none

No changes here. The Patriots could feel that Stidham can handle the backup duties for Brady, much like they did in 2009 when Brady was returning from his ACL injury and Brian Hoyer was a rookie backup. But Hoyer’s value lies in his experience, he is a sounding board for Brady and does a valuable and underrated job of running the scout team offense during the practice week. This could change, but for now we’re sticking with three QBs.

Running backs: (5)
Sony Michel, James White, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden, James Develin
Out: Rex Burkhead, Nick Brosette, Jakob Johnson* [NFL International Player]

A big change this time around. Develin could be lumped in with the tight ends but regardless of where he is, he’s not going anywhere. The Patriots are deep here and after the game in Nashville, Harris showed his versatility of being able to run the ball and made five catches out of the backfield. Something he shares with Burkhead. 

Could the increased versatility of Michel and now Harris, plus the return of Gordon mean that the Patriots cut Burkhead? Due to the depth and decisions, they have to make on the other side of the ball, [see more below], some very tough decisions will have to be made, and this one won’t be easy. Watch who is playing late in preseason games 3-4 and we may have our answer

Brosette has played well in limited action and lands on the practice squad. Johnson got a number of reps in Nashville who is automatically granted an extra spot on the PS due to his NFL International status

Tight ends: (2)
Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo, **Ben Watson Suspended**
Out: Lance Kendricks, Stephen Anderson, Andrew Beck, Eric Saubert

This all depends on how serious LaCosse’s injury situation is. If he’s going to be out for a while, this could open the door for one of the other veterans to step in. LaCosse has had a solid summer. Izzo is a good inline blocker, remember he made the 53-man roster last year before landing on IR.

Wide Receivers: (6)
Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers,  Braxton Berrios
Out: Maurice Harris (IR), Dontrelle Inman [asked for and granted his release Sunday], Damoun Patterson, Ryan Davis, Gunner Olszewski, Demaryius Thomas [PUP], Cameron Meredith [PUP]

Edelman, Harry, and Gordon project to be the top three. Gordon’s reinstatement puts him right smack on the roster in a lock status. They know his value.   

Meyers has been extremely impressive all summer and is now a lock. Harris was having a terrific spring/summer but he got injured and Tom E. Curran from NBC Sports Boston has reported he could be out “for a while”. So this is where the Pats will place him on IR with the possibility of returning later this season. Dorsett is injured as well. His position seems a bit unsure right now as well.

Berrios goes from out in our last projection to making the roster by virtue of his ability to return kicks and punts. Although they could tag Dorsett/Bolden for that. Thomas, although seen running full speed this week, along with Meredith begins the year on PUP.  With Gordon’s addition, the team will have to carry an extra wide receiver to protect themselves in the event that Gordon’s inner demons resurface. 

Offensive line: (8)
Isaiah Wynn, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Joe Thuney, Dan Skipper, Ted Karras, Hjalte Froholdt
Out: Yodny Cajuste [NFI], James Ferentz, Cedric Lang, Tyree St. Louis, Martez Ivey, Cole Croston

Wynn’s return to action and his performance in the game against the Titans has to be a big relief for the coaching staff. The team keeps Skipper as the swing tackle for now as Cajuste gets a red-shirt IR year. Froholdt and Ferentz battle it out for the final backup spot. But the team could opt for keeping just seven OL as they did at cut-down time a year ago.  

Defense –

Edge Players: (5)
Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise, John Simon, Chase Winovich, Derek Rivers
Out: Keionta Davis, Trent Harris, Nick Thurman, Ufomba Kamalu

Rivers makes the cut this time around after very solid play this summer with a big caveat. He was hurt and helped off the field in Nashville. The severity of his injury may come into play here. Hopefully, he’s not injured badly this time around. 

Winovich has been very impressive this summer, Bennett, Simon, and Wise are established veterans. Harris has played well as a sub-rusher and could sneak in if Rivers is hurt more seriously.

Interior Defensive Line: (4)

Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler

Out: Bryon Cowart, David Parry

No changes. Guy and Pennel should be the Week 1 starting combination inside. Shelton returns, as the backup nose tackle. Guy and Butler offer versatility in either inside DL in a 4-3 or as 3-4 DEs playing a five-technique. This is a solid group and Mike Pennel should be an immediate early downs producer. Cowart is playing really well and although pushing for a roster spot will end up on the practice squad. 

Linebacker: (5)
Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Shalique Calhoun
Out: Elandon Roberts, Brandon King, Christian Sam. Terez Hall, Calvin Munson,

Big changes here, once again difficult decisions force the team to part ways with Roberts and King who is a special teams ace. Sam and Munson have looked good in limited availability but are victims of the numbers crunch. Calhoun has gotten better all summer long and brings good pressure off the edge. 

Cornerback: (6)
Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, Jonathan Jones, Keion Crossen
Out: Duke Dawson, Ken Webster, D’Angelo Ross

Another area where changes are made. Gilmore, McCourty, and Jackson give the team three very good outside corners. Jones has clearly outperformed Dawson and will handle the slot. Williams has really come on and has played very well in the past few weeks. 

Will the Patriots cut ties with a 2nd round player [Dawson] who has never played a down? Unfortunately, that is the case.

Safety: (5)
Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, Duron Harmon, Terrence Brooks, Nate Ebner
Out: Obi Melifonwu, Malik Gant, AJ Howard

Ebner is back and edges out King for the STs slot. Toughest cut here is Melifonwu who has played well all summer long. The top three are locked in and Brooks has gotten a lot of work with the top unit. 

Specialists: (4)
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Jake Bailey, long-snapper Joe Cardona, Gunner Matthew Slater
Out: Ryan Allen

No changes here. Gostkowski and  Cardona faced no camp competition, although Gostkowski has missed kicks in consecutive games. Bailey has a huge leg and also can kickoff, he still gets the edge over the established solid veteran in Allen, who won’t be unemployed for long. Slater is tremendous as the Patriots gunner. 

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 and game analysis.

A Collection Of Highlights From The Patriots Visit To The Pro Football Hall Of Fame

Robert Alvarez
August 9, 2019 at 12:35 am ET

Last week the New England Patriots made a brief stop in Canton Ohio to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame before their week in Detroit to play the Lions.

Take a look back at some video and photos from the inspirational field trip through a few players social media accounts.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B0wWFH6BvrX/

A Look Back At The Sights and Sounds From Ty Law’s Hall of Fame Induction

Robert Alvarez
at 12:05 am ET

Last Saturday night, former New England Patriots cornerback Ty Law was formally inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Take a look back at Law’s special night with some sights and sounds shared over social media.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B0tx2S3hzdr/

A few old teammates and some current Patriots made the trip to support Law on his big night.

View this post on Instagram

Congrats @officialtylaw on the HOF #earned

A post shared by Stephon Gilmore (@bumpnrungilmore) on

New England Patriots 53-man Roster Projection 2.0

Steve Balestrieri
August 5, 2019 at 8:30 am ET

With the Patriots first ten days of training camp over, it is time to take another crack at our New England Patriots 53-man roster projection. With eight practices in, several of them fully padded, we’ll look at the early risers and whose falling. We’ll revisit this after a week with the Detroit Lions and their first preseason game.

Offense –
Quarterbacks: (3)

Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham
Out: Danny Etling

The Patriots will continue to go with three QBs as Brady, Hoyer, and Jarrett Stidham will man the position this year. It will be interesting to see if Stidham shows enough in the upcoming preseason games to push Hoyer as Brady’s backup in case of emergency.

Running backs: (6)

Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden, James Develin
Out: Nick Brosette, Jakob Johnson* [NFL International Player]

Sony Michel looks good, now that he is back on the field and he and Damien Harris are getting more frequent looks in the passing game. James White looks as good as ever while Brandon Bolden isn’t going anywhere, he’s a good depth guy and outstanding on STs. Develin could easily be posted with the tight ends as he practices with them frequently. If the Patriots decide five is enough would that make Burkhead expendable? Possibly, but for now, he sticks.

Brosette is a victim of the numbers and lands on the practice squad. Ditto for Johnson who is automatically granted an extra spot on the PS due to his NFL International status

Tight ends: (2)
Matt Lacosse, Ryan Izzo, **Ben Watson Suspended**
Out: Lance Kendricks, Stephen Anderson, Andrew Beck

The Patriots have Lacosse being the receiving tight end with Izzo as the blocker who nudges out Anderson, the move tight end thus far. Ben Watson will return after the first month which means they’ll have to make another cut somewhere.

Beck got a fair amount of guaranteed money and could become another fullback option if Develin gets hurt, he’ll be a practice squad candidate.

Wide Receivers: (5)
Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris, Jakobi Meyers
Out: Braxton Berrios, Dontrelle Inman, Damoun Patterson, Ryan Davis, Gunner Olszewski, **Josh Gordon Suspended** Demaryius Thomas [PUP], Cameron Meredith [PUP]

Edelman, Harry, and Dorsett are the top three, Dorsett is still an intriguing case. He has all of the tools to be a very productive receiver but only produces in short flashes. But given the cuts, he’s the only viable kick returner on the roster unless the coaches want to push Edelman or Michel back out there. 

Harris has been the most consistent receiver on the field thus far and Meyers is already beginning to develop the chemistry with Brady that will be needed. Thomas has yet to see the field so no one knows if he has anything left in the tank. Gordon has applied for reinstatement by the league so we’ll be watching to see how that unfolds.  

Berrios can’t get any separation and after a strong showing in the spring, has taken a step back. This coming week with the Lions will be huge for him. Inman has been largely invisible but just began making progress this week. Patterson, Davis, and Olszewski are practice squad candidates.

However, Berrios and/or Olszewski could carve out a role in the return game. Preseason will tell the tale.

Offensive line: (8)
Isaiah Wynn, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Joe Thuney, James Ferentz, Ted Karras, Hjalte Froholdt
Out: Yodny Cajuste [NFI], Dan Skipper, Cedric Lang, Tyree St. Louis, Martez Ivey

Hmm, depth at tackle remains a dicey situation with Isaiah Wynn still not a full go at practice. At this point, they need to start getting him real reps and not a walk-thru if he’s going to be ready for the regular season. The team is giving Dan Skipper every opportunity to win a roster spot but he’s shown that even against the 2nd tier guys, he’s getting beat. Not good for a left tackle.

Cajuste is still on NFI and the longer it drags on, the more it seems that he won’t be ready until midseason. The answer for the short term? Joe Thuney at LT, Karras at LG and now it makes more sense to keep Ferentz. 

Defense –

Edge Players: (4)
Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise, John Simon, Chase Winovich
Out: Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis, Trent Harris, Nick Thurman, Ufomba Kamalu

Bennett and Wise are your defensive ends in a base 3-4, which they’ve run a lot of this spring/summer. Simon and Winovich could easily be lumped in with the linebackers. It is curious if they do run a 3-4, Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler could be 3-4 DEs as well. Rivers has looked good so far, but Winovich is looking just a strong right now and would, IMO get the nod. 

Nobody is closing the door on Davis, Harris, Thurman, or Kamalu at this point. All of them have had good moments in camp. Plenty can happen in the next few weeks, but as of today, they’re on the wrong side of the numbers crunch.

Interior Defensive Line: (4)

Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler

Out: Bryon Cowart, David Parry

Guy and Pennel should be the Week 1 starting combination inside. Shelton returns, as the backup nose tackle. Guy and Butler offer versatility in either inside DL in a 4-3 or as 3-4 DEs playing a five-technique. This is a solid group and Mike Pennel should be an immediate early downs producer. 

Cowart and Parry have some ground to make up but are for the time being, outside looking in. 

Linebacker: (6)

Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Elandon Roberts, Brandon King
Out: Christian Sam. Terez Hall, Calvin Munson, Shalique Calhoun

Linebacker is a position of strength and the Patriots could still play Winovich and Simon here as well. If they were to add another roster spot for extra depth, Sam, who is having an under the radar camp or Calhoun who has played well in limited reps could find their way on the roster. 

Hightower, Bentley, and Roberts will handle the inside duties while the others will play outside, but moving players around seems like a given this year. 

Cornerback: (7)
Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, Jonathan Jones, Duke Dawson, Keion Crossen
Out: Ken Webster, D’Angelo Ross

You can never have enough talented corners…right? Gilmore, McCourty, and Jackson give the team three very good to excellent boundary corners. Jones and Dawson will handle the slot. Williams is a big corner (6’4) that allows him to play against the bigger WRs or matchup with tight ends. 

The versatility and depth of this group give the Patriots their deepest part of the roster. Both Ross and Webster are candidates for the practice squad.

Safety: (4)
Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, Duron Harmon, Terrence Brooks
Out: Obi Melifonwu, Malik Gant, Nate Ebner [PUP], AJ Howard

Brooks has been seeing a lot of reps on defense with the top unit and the veteran ST’s ace edges out Obi Melifonwu right now. Obi has had a good camp and has gotten a lot of reps himself with the top unit. His size and athleticism make this one a tough choice. But the competition continues. 

Ebner is on PUP for now and Gant is a candidate for the practice squad.

Specialists: (4)
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Jake Bailey, long-snapper Joe Cardona, Gunner Matthew Slater
Out: Ryan Allen

Gostkowski and  Cardona aren’t facing any competition in camp and other than Brady, perhaps, these two should rest easiest in training camp. Bailey the strong-legged punter and Allen are locked in a good camp battle. Bailey has a booming leg with incredible hang time while Allen is the steady vet. But Bailey can also kickoff and fill in for Gostkowski on FGs if need be. Slater practices hard on his own all session long with a staff member, working on his gunner skills. 

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 and game analysis.

Patriots Training Camp Day 6 Observations

Steve Balestrieri
July 31, 2019 at 5:25 pm ET

Sloppy Affair For the Offense

The Patriots conducted their sixth practice of training camp and their third in full pads on the fields behind Gillette Stadium on a very hot, humid Wednesday morning. It was perhaps the worst showing of the summer by the offense who were plagued by dropped passes. Between the heat, humidity and the Patriots defense, the offense had a rough session. They never looked in sync and had a hard time stringing any plays together.  

Not Practicing – Julian Edelman and Yodny Cajuste remain on NFI, Demaryius Thomas is still on PUP along with Nate Ebner and Ken Webster.

Byron Cowart and Dontrelle Inman returned after missing three practices and two respectively. Cowart worked on conditioning while Inman jumped right back into team drills. After warmups and stretching, Rex Burkhead retreated to the lower practice fields for work with the training staff. About halfway thru practice, Lance Kendricks left with a member of the training staff, which could have been a heat issue. 

Ben Watson speaks after practice on 7-31. (SBalestrieri)

The practice was conducted in full pads. Our observations included:

  • Once again a big part of the focus on Wednesday was the running game. Early in the session, James White was leading the way 
  • N’Keal Harry had a rough go of it, the worst of his career with four (4) drops one of which irritated Brady and he let the rookie know it. 
  • Braxton Berrios didn’t have a great session either, he had a drop from Brady and another from Hoyer. 

On the subject of Berrios, with Edelman out, he was expected to really compete and get work with the top unit on offense. After a really solid spring, things haven’t worked out. He hasn’t stood out at all. And worse yet, he isn’t getting any separation from the corners and he’s been mainly going against the second-tier guys. 

Maybe in the preseason, they’ll scheme up something to get him open more. Right now, I thought he’d be rapidly becoming the Amendola option to this offense. Although there is still a long, long way to go, right now, I’d put him on the outside looking in. 

Back to observations…

  • Jakobi Meyers is having a pretty impressive camp along with Maurice Harris. While he isn’t getting the reps that Harris is, whenever he’s being called, he is producing. He used his height to outleap Keion Crosson and brought down a pass from Stidham. I’d put him over Berrios…right now.
  • During the first 7-on-7 period, the offense struggled with drops on three plays. Berrios dropped a pass from Stidham, then he dropped one from Brady as the ball sailed right thru his hands. 
  • Harry dropped one on a quick drag route close to the line of scrimmage. 
  • Harry then ran a nice comeback route as Brady gunned the ball to his back shoulder. The rookie made the nice difficult catch on that one. 
  • During 11-on-11, Harry dropped a quick slant where Brady put the ball right in his hands. 
  • Brady just missed hitting Ben Watson with Devin McCourty providing tight coverage. The window was tight and he just missed him.
  • When Brian Hoyer came in, he tried to hook up with Phillip Dorsett but Jason McCourty did a nice job of breaking up the pass.
  • Stidham hit Damoun Patterson on a drag route close to the line of scrimmage. Then he threw behind Patterson on the next snap. 
  • During the final 11-on-11 which looked to be a hurry-up offensive series Brady laid out a deep seam pass for Harry but he dropped it. This was one of the only plays of the summer where Gilmore was beaten clearly.
  • Jonathan Jones made a really nice play of breaking up a pass intended for Berrios. Jones is having an outstanding camp thus far. Perhaps only Gilmore is playing better in the secondary right now.
  • Hoyer attempted to split double coverage with a deep seam pass to Watson. Terrence Brooks got a piece of it and Duron Harmon picked it off. 
  • Joejuan Williams had his best day of camp and broke up another pass to Watson. He had a couple on nice breakups today. 
  • Dan Skipper was getting the majority of first-team reps at left tackle but in the 1-on-1 drills he was beaten cleanly by Shalique Calhoun, who quietly is having a good camp and later was pancaked by Ufomba Kamalu. Not a good sign.
  • David Andrews and Joe Thuney held their own in the drills with good, solid stops. 
  • Backup defensive lineman Nick Thurman looked impressive in his individual 1-on-1 against Tyree St. Louis. 
  • New offensive lineman Martez Ivey was in uniform and has a long, long way to go with his conditioning.  Forced to run a penalty lap, he was so slow that the trainers came out to check on him….time to hit the hills. 
  • Punt returners today were Chung, Berrios, Olszewski, and Dorsett. 
  • Jake Bailey did a good job both on hanging his punts high in the air and on holding for Stephen Gostkowski’s field goals….hmmm.

The next practice session is slated for Thursday morning at 9:15 a.m.

Brady speaks to the media after practice. (SBalestrieri)

Brady, Watson, James White, and Dont’a Hightower all spoke with the media after practice. Brady spoke about the difficulties working against this defense and getting the new players up to speed.

“They’re all new players, so we’ve got to figure out how to get them up to speed to what our expectations are, the level of competition on a daily basis,” Brady said after practice. “We have a very good defense this year. Those guys are challenging us on every day. It’s hard to complete passes on our secondary. That’s just the reality. So, it’s actually great work for our offense to see how we measure up against a very good defense.

“Days like today are frustrating for us and we’ve got to learn from the corrections and try to come out and have a better day tomorrow.”

Play of the Day:

Okay, now that we got Harry’s struggles covered, he also had the play of the day, so that his day wasn’t a total loss. One play after dropping an easy catch, Harry made the very difficult one. He attacked the seam and was facing tight coverage from Jason McCourty . He went up and made an incredible leaping catch where he came down hard on his back. He was shaken up for a few seconds but quickly returned to the huddle and continued. 

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.

Taking Stock of the First Week of Patriots Training Camp

Steve Balestrieri
July 29, 2019 at 8:18 am ET

A shortened week is now complete with two padded and two unpadded practices for the Patriots as they began their 2019 training camp. This week, they’ll begin by enshrining Rodney Harrison and Leon Gray into the team’s Hall of Fame and then conduct their in-stadium practice on Monday night. Unlike the other training camp practices, this one is open only to season ticket holders and I believe Foxboro residents.

So let’s take a look at the first practices and get some of the highlights of the camp thus far and how the team is shaping up in the early going. 

Health Still a Concern In Some Areas:

Julian Edelman and Yodny Cajuste are still on the NFI. Cole Croston, Demaryius Thomas, Nate Ebner, and Ken Webster are on PUP. Sony Michel, Isaiah Wynn, and David Andrews have returned to practice in a limited way while Dontrelle Inman and Bryon Cowart missed the last sessions. 

With Cajuste and Croston out and Wynn limited, it has been pushing the depth at tackle, especially left tackle…more to that below. 

Defense Looking Very Strong in Early Going:

The Patriots defense thus far in the camp has been very impressive. As is the norm in training camp, the defense begins usually slightly ahead of the offense. And this year is no exception. They look better (at this point) than the team that took the field for the Super Bowl in February. 

Deep, Talented Secondary – We’ve been writing that all spring long and they’ve been giving the receivers a tough time. Stephon Gilmore has continued right where he left off in the Super Bowl. He’s only been targeted twice that we’ve seen in team drills and hasn’t given up a reception. J.C. Jackson is steadily improving over his very solid rookie season and will push to be the starter opposite Gilmore. Jonathan Jones is quietly having a very good camp, something he’s used to, he’s rarely if ever mentioned as one of the better slot corners in the league, but he is and appears entrenched as a starter thus far. 

The safeties are deep with Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, and Duron Harmon all returning and on the field, although Chung is still wearing a red no-contact jersey. But the competition behind them is getting intriguing to watch. Terrence Brooks is the next man on the depth chart, he was given a nice contract with $1.3 million guaranteed, he’s a special teams ace who can fill in on defense. He’s battling with Obi Melifonwu who has stood out in limited action with three interceptions thus far. With Ebner on PUP, Melifonwu got some extended looks with the STs units. Something to monitor. 

Linebackers Are Stacked – The Patriots return Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Elandon Roberts from their playoff run, but they added Jamie Collins and got back impressive 2nd-year player Ja’Whaun Bentley from IR and appear even better heading into 2019. 

The depth allows them to move Collins, Hightower, and Van Noy around to attack favorable matchups and be more aggressive. How they plan on utilizing Collins should be a fun thing to watch. Unheralded Calvin Munson, a long-shot to make the roster is quietly having a good camp in the early going. 

D-Line Much Better Suited to Stopping the Run – When free agency rolled around, we were touting that the Patriots needed to sign Mike Pennel, the run-stuffing nose tackle from the Jets. That met with a lot of “who?”, even from our own podcast. But Pennel and Lawrence Guy appear to be a solid tandem in the middle. During goal-line drills on Sunday, Pennel blew up one play, pushing into the backfield and stopping Brandon Bolden for a loss. 

The edge players got a boost from the arrival of Michael Bennett on Sunday, who flew straight from Hawaii to Boston and came straight to practice to dominate, jet-lagged and all on the field. Deatrich Wise is still not 100 percent but veterans Derek Rivers, John Simon, and rookie Chase Winovich have all looked good thus far.

Wide Receiver Competition Heating Up: 

With Julian Edelman on NFI, this opened the door for some of the other wide receivers to get more playing time with Tom Brady and carve out a role. Rookie N’Keal Harry has been getting outstanding tutelage from former Patriot Troy Brown as well as the daily side sessions with Brady and McDaniels. 

Maurice Harris has been the best, most consistent player on the field, he catches just about everything thrown his way and would appear to be well on his way to earning not just a roster spot but a nice role in the offense as well. Phillip Dorsett still appears to be an enigma. He has all the tools, and when called on, usually produces. But one would think he’d be a bigger go-to guy by now. 

Braxton Berrios is still with the second tier of receivers in the early going. After a nice spring, there was hope that he’d use the Edelman downtime more to his advantage. Two undrafted rookie WRs to monitor are Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski. Meyers is a big, (6,2, 200) slot receiver who is a converted QB. Because he knows the responsibilities of the players on the field, he knows where the soft spots are in the coverages. His number hasn’t been called a lot, but he’s producing when it is and could be that next undrafted free agent to make the team. Plus, he’s been a frequent participant in the side sessions with Brady and McDaniels.

Olszewski is the undersized, underdog who is scrapping his way into work every day. He competes hard in drills and returns kicks and punts and is giving the coaches a reason every day to keep him around. 

Biggest disappointment thus far is Dontrelle Inman. He had a very quiet spring followed by some forgettable practices in camp and then on Sunday was a no-show. He hasn’t improved his bubble position and may find himself in a weaker position now.

But the one constant is the deep running back position, even with Sony Michel just getting back to work and Tom Brady. The backs, especially Brandon Bolden and impressive rookie Damien Harris are getting a lot of reps in the running game.

Brady looks … like Brady. Forget about the age talk and the endless “cliff” nonsense. He looks as good, if not better than he did a decade ago. Nuff said. Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham are getting the back up work while Danny Etling is being transitioned to wide receiver.

Bennett Puts Retirement Rumors to Rest, Dominates: 

Michael Bennett was excused from the Patriots first three practices due to a family situation. Bennett said, he saw the retirement rumors at home and laughed at those. He said he’s never quit at anything, even checkers with his daughter.

Bill Belichick allowed him the time to take care of his situation. After practice on Sunday, Bennett was effusive in his praise of Belichick for allowing that time.

“It’s nice when you have a coach that sees you as a human, sees you as a human being, not just a number and you’re able to go talk to him, tell him what’s going on, and you’re able to go take care of it,” Bennett said to the media. “That just makes you want to play harder for a coach. When he believes in you, and lets you take care of your family first.”

Belichick had to love Bennett’s comments about training camp, not as a necessary evil but as an opportunity to learn and show his teammates what he can bring to the table. 

“I think it’s important,” he said. “Training camp is always fun. It’s another time to get a chance to work with young guys, and you get a chance to work on your skills and prove yourself every day.”

Bennett cracked a joke and said that he told linebackers coach (and defensive signal-caller) Jerod Mayo that he wasn’t going to listen to him, “because we’re the same age.” The two have known each other for some time and worked out together in the offseason in the past. 

“It’s nice to have a young guy who knows the plays, who lived the defense, and he just knows,” Bennett said. “You trust the way that he plays because he played in the game and you know he knows the call. He was the leader before, so to have him in the huddle every single time, you can’t let him down because he’s been in the game.”

Bennett acted like a guy who has been here all along and was a dominant force in one-on-one battles and in team drills. Like his predecessor Trey Flowers, the Patriots plan on using him inside and outside and Sunday was just the tip of the iceberg.

Tight End Still a Work in Progress:

The Patriots have totally revamped the tight end position, with Gronk retired, Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister no longer with the team. Matt LaCosse had a strong spring and is trying to parlay that into getting some meaningful reps come September. So far, that looks like the case.

Ben Watson, doesn’t look like a 38-year old guy who contemplated retirement this spring. He’s moving like someone ten years younger. But with his upcoming 4-game suspension looming, that opens the door for other players to carve out their own roles in the offense. Watson has been a frequent side session participant with Brady and McDaniels. They were working on red zone opportunities on Saturday.   

Move tight end Stephen Anderson, Ryan Izzo, and UDFA Andrew Beck are all in the mix for a roster spot. It is pretty much a wide-open competition right now with no one having firm control over anything. Just before camp began the Patriots signed Lance Kendricks, the former Packer tight end was an afterthought in the Green Bay offense the past two years but may see an uptick in looks if everything works out. 

“This is a special place, obviously,” Kendricks said after Day 3. “This is a championship team. They know how to play football. They know how to win games. They know how to do it the right way, so it’s a no-brainer.”

So far, he’s gotten some work in but despite his veteran pedigree, he’s in no better position than anyone else right now, he’ll have to earn his spot. 

Tackle Still a Concern For Now:

With Trent Brown now a Raider (and an extremely well-paid one), the depth at tackle is concerning. The Patriots are set at right tackle with Marcus Cannon but the left and swing tackle positions are still areas of concern with depth and availability issues. 

Isaiah Wynn is still being eased into the mix after recovering from last year’s Achilles surgery. Third round draft pick Yodny Cajuste is on NFI recovering from offseason quad surgery and has yet to appear. Jared Veldheer retired before training camp. Cole Croston is on PUP.

With these issues, the Patriots have moved Joe Thuney over to left tackle throughout the spring and early camp practice sessions. That put Ted Karras at left guard. On Sunday, the Patriots gave 6’9 tackle Dan Skipper and Cedric Lang reps with the first team. Neither fared well. Skipper, despite his size, failed to generate any push in the running game and both struggled with pass protection. 

This will bear watching as we move forward. However, if history is any indication, and it is… Dante Scarnecchia will get things sorted out. 

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2019 Patriots Training Camp Day 1 Rundown: 11 Players Who Stood Out

Ian Logue
July 26, 2019 at 8:40 am ET

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.

Patriots Training Camp Day 1 Observations, “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door”

Steve Balestrieri
July 25, 2019 at 2:53 pm ET

Football is back, and with near-perfect weather conditions, the Patriots hit the field for the first time. The crowds were huge and boisterous, cheering everything that was completed by Tom Brady. 

Like minicamp, however, there were no pads and no contact, as per the CBA, that won’t happen until Saturday. OC David Andrews, DE Michael Bennett, OT Yodny Cajuste (NFI) were not spotted on the field

Six other players were in attendance but did not participate: WR Julian Edelman (NFI), WR Demaryius Thomas (PUP), RB Sony Michel (PUP), OT Cole Croston (PUP), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (PUP), CB Ken Webster (PUP), SS Nate Ebner (PUP).

They were all visible, working out on the lower practice fields with the training staff, shortly after practice began. 

Pat Chung was practicing but wearing a red no-contact jersey while Danny Etling was wearing a white practice jersey, not a red no-contact jersey that we are used to seeing with the QBs. For anyone keeping score, he didn’t practice with the QBs, but with the WRs.

Our practice observations included: 

  • Brandon Bolden was getting first reps with the kickoff return unit and… once the team began kicking off for real and not using the JUGGS Machine, it was Jake Bailey kicking off. Braxton Berrios, Phillip Dorsett, and Gunner Olszewski were back to return kicks during special teams’ work.
  • Isaiah Wynn was being eased into full-team drills, despite it being a glorified minicamp session, seeing him out there is a very positive sign. 
  • Joe Thuney was getting a lot of reps at LT. Ted Karras was filling in at LG while James Ferentz was taking the snaps at center.
  • In early individual drills, Tom Brady was throwing to the backs while Brian Hoyer threw to the WRs.
  • N’Keal Harry and Braxton Berrios both got extended reps with the top unit
  • Harry and Ben Watson were the players selected for a side session with Brady, Hoyer, and OC Josh McDaniels. Harry was working with McDaniels on getting a quick release off the line. 
  • Harry and Brady were working on their timing and chemistry, adjusting his breaks and high-pointing the ball at its apex. They already look better than in the spring, but this is very early in the process
  • Brady’s first pass in 2-on-2 drills was picked off on a really nice play by Jonathan Jones. Brady tried to hit Berrios on a fade and Jones undercut it and made a nice play on the ball. 
  • Brady could be heard yelling, “Get the refs out here!” when he felt Pat Chung was holding Berrios later in the drills.
  • Ryan Davis made a really nice catch on a fade from Brian Hoyer, going up for the ball and going to the ground, but held on. 
  • Berrios went all out for a quick out pass from Brady, diving for the ball, which got a fist-bump from the QB when they got back to the huddle.
  • J.C. Jackson nearly had a pick on Brady as well. He tried to hit Maurice Harris on a shallow cross and Jackson dove, breaking it up and nearly picking it off.
  • Stephen Anderson made a nice catch, snatching the ball out of the air from Jarrett Stidham. 
  • Stidham looked like a rookie QB for much of the session, taking too long to process things and holding the ball too long. That is expected for a rookie’s first real practice. But he throws a nice ball and has time to develop.
  • In very early going, Jonathan Jones was looking better than Duke Dawson in the slot. Jackson was the best corner not name Stephon Gilmore (not targeted during team drills). 
  • As is common at this stage the defense looked a bit better. The linebackers look deep and versatile. Even Brady was forced to hold the ball longer than normal. That is a testament to how deep and talented this secondary is
  • As a result, Brady hit Rex Burkhead more than anyone in full team drills.

Play of the Day:

Harry made a leaping catch from Brady in the back of the end zone. The crowd roared. Speaking of which, the crowd was so loud at one point, Brady had to cover his ears to hear Josh McDaniels call in the play. Jerod Mayo was making the defensive calls in 11s work…if anyone is keeping the score at home.

Two undrafted WRs to keep an eye on are Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski. Both made several plays this morning whenever their numbers were called. 

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

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Patriots 2019 Training Camp Guide – Cornerbacks

Steve Balestrieri
July 22, 2019 at 8:30 am ET

The Patriots begin training camp later this week and like most people, I can’t wait as it seems like football has been missing for a long time. The weather is supposed to be much more manageable than the past few days, which makes the experience for the people in attendance and the players more enjoyable.

Today, we’re looking at the cornerbacks and the Patriots are loaded at this position. This is easily the deepest position on the team. There will be some players not making the roster (or traded), that are NFL quality corners. The old saying that “you can never have enough cornerbacks”? It seems the Patriots and Bill Belichick have taken that to heart.

This year’s roster is deeper and more talented than the group who held the Rams to just three points in the Super Bowl. Stephon Gilmore returns from an outstanding season and is joined by veterans Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, and Keion Crossen. At this time last year, J.C. Jackson was an undrafted free agent and considered a long-shot to make the 53-man roster. Not only did he make the team, as the year went on, but he also contributed and was a starter. Duke Dawson was a 2nd round draft pick a year ago but was injured and on IR, but was activated near the end of the season. However, he didn’t dress for any of the games being an inactive scratch.  

The team added Joejuan Williams in the 2nd round this spring, he’s a very big (6’4) corner who will provide some matchup possibilities with bigger WRs and TEs. They also added corners Ken Webster and D’Angelo Ross. 

With nine corners, not all of them are going to make the 53-man roster, so the back end of the depth chart will have four players competing for two, possibly three roster spots. 

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. And be sure to keep up with our coverage from training camp. 

So, let’s take a look at the position as it unfolds as training camp begins this summer.

Current roster – Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, Duke Dawson, Keion Crossen, Joejuan Williams, D’Angelo Ross, Ken Webster

Locks –Gilmore, Jackson, Williams

Near Locks –  McCourty, Jones

Bubble – Crossen, Dawson

Long Shot – Ross, Webster

Discussion – With the return of their four main starters (Gilmore, Jackson, McCourty, Jones) from the Super Bowl team, this team is set up for continued success in 2019. In fact, this may just be the deepest set of cornerbacks the Patriots have had… ever.  Five of their corners played significant roles last year (Crossen on Special Teams) and getting a 2nd round pick back from an injury that didn’t play at all in 2018 and adding another intriguing 2nd rounder gives them an embarrassment of riches. 

Gilmore cemented himself as one of the best corners in the league with a fantastic 2018 season. He played in all 16 games, notched 2 interceptions along with 20 passes defended. Opposing QBs targeting him had just a 56.3 passer rating. Pro Football Focus had him as the top corner in the league last year. And btw, the All-Pro sealed the Super Bowl with an interception deep in Patriots territory. 

Jackson made the team after a very impressive training camp where it seemed like he was making highlight-reel plays daily. He made the team and played in 13 games, garnering more and more playing time as the season wore on with 5 starts. In the final five regular-season games and the playoffs, he played in nearly 80 percent of the defensive snaps.  Jackson notched three interceptions and opposing QBs had just a 42.0 passer rating when targeting him. Some NFL insiders believe that Jackson has the potential to be an All-Pro and could even surpass Gilmore as the top Patriots corner at some point in the future. 

McCourty came to the Patriots last season coming from a winless Browns team to winning a Super Bowl. He’s versatile and can line up as a corner or safety. He played very well last year and logged 80 percent of the defensive snaps. He’s nearly a lock this year but will still have to show he can produce on the wrong side of 30. However, his veteran savvy and leadership, as well as his versatility, bode well for him sticking around for the 2019 season. 

Williams is a lock just by virtue of his draft status but his potential is very intriguing. Many people questioned why Belichick would take a corner with their second pick, #45 overall. And the answer is matchups and versatility. Williams is a very big corner (6’4, 211 lbs) who is a big, physical presence. Some people compared him to the Patriots 2014 team’s Brandon Browner and after watching him at minicamp it is easy to see why. He won’t be lining up on small, shifty slot receivers but against the bigger WRs and TEs, Williams gives them matchups that they can roll out depending on the opponent. 

Jonathan Jones was a former UDFA who has gradually worked his way into being a very solid and dependable slot corner. He began working on special teams (Crossen) and gradually worked his way up and has improved every year. The Patriots drafted Dawson last year with the possibility of replacing Jones in the slot. But his injury and Jones’ play made Dawson inactive down the stretch. 

Dawson has a long way to go if he wants to supplant Jones in the slot, however, Jones is also in a contract year, becoming a free agent in 2020 at the age of just 26. This will be a battle to watch. If the Patriots decide to keep Jones for the long-term, this could put them in a position to possibly trade Dawson rather than risk losing him on the waiver wire. But with camp and preseason ahead, there is a long way to go. 

Crossen was a 7th round draft pick (243rd overall) in the 2018 NFL Draft. He’s got speed and athleticism and carved out a role as a special teams’ gunner, with nine tackles. He saw the field very sparingly on defense where he was picked on a bit, not uncommon for a rookie. 

However, with the addition of the very athletic but very raw Webster, his role on STs may be pushed. Webster is one of those intriguing 7th round picks (252nd overall), where he has the athleticism and potential to be a viable corner at some point, it may not be right away on this roster. He may battle Crossen for that coveted STs gunner/backup corner role. This will be another battle to monitor as camp progresses. 

Ross has a tough road in front of him. It is simply a numbers game. The small (5’9) but fast corner from New Mexico ran a 4:32 at his Pro Day in the 40-yard dash. In other years he may have been a potential player to crack the 53-man roster as a UDFA. But with the limited amount of snaps he may see this summer, he is a candidate for the practice squad heading into camp. 

The Patriots are stacked at corner heading into training camp. One potential boon of this is that the wide receivers will all be going against some excellent competition this summer, which should prove to help them when the games begin in earnest.

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Patriots Breakout Player of 2019 – CB J.C. Jackson

Steve Balestrieri
July 8, 2019 at 8:30 am ET

What a difference a year makes. At this time last year, Jackson was an undrafted rookie cornerback from Maryland and a longshot to make the roster. But not only did he make the roster out of training camp but he developed into a starter opposite of Stephon Gilmore for the Patriots.

After a very impressive spring and summer where he shined at training camp, Jackson played in only about 16 percent of the defensive snaps for the first nearly three-quarters of the season. But from Week 12 onwards, he played in nearly 80 percent of the defensive snaps, starting in both the AFC Championship and the Super Bowl where the Patriots held the Rams to just three points. 

In the last several years, Jackson is the third CB plucked by the Patriots as an UDFA to become a starter or regular contributor. Malcolm Butler in 2014 and Jonathan Jones in 2016 before him also were undrafted. 

He shined in man coverage and was able to stick with and mirror opposing wide receivers. He also has shown extremely good ball skills with three interceptions and six passes defensed. As we have seen countless times, covering the opponent is one thing. But having the awareness and skills when the ball is in the air is another. Jackson has been able to do that.

Jackson posted the best passer rating allowed on cornerbacks who played 200 or more snaps in 2018 with an outstanding 42.0 when opposing QBs targeted him. According to PFF (Pro Football Focus), Jackson allowed only 22 receptions on 42 targets for a combined 262 yards as well as zero touchdowns to go along with his three picks. He also allowed 0.80 yards per coverage snap according to PFF. Gilmore’s was 0.72. 

He also had an outstanding 21.4 percent forced incompletion rate, good for 7th overall in the league. Overall, he finished 2018 as PFF’s 12th best-rated corner. Perhaps Jackson’s best game was in Pittsburgh in Week 15. Matched up with the very dangerous JuJu Smith-Schuster, Jackson was extremely competitive. Smith-Schuster was targeted 10 times in the game and had just four catches for 40 yards, the second least productive games he had (catch percentage wise) in 2018 where he caught 111 passes for 1426 yards.  

The Patriots are primarily a man-coverage team but Jackson showed he can play some zone as well. In the Week 16 game against Buffalo, he played underneath and undercut the route getting one of his three picks against Josh Allen. 

If there is one area of weakness in Jackson’s game it could be playing against bigger wide receivers. Jackson who is generously listed as 6’1, 198 (he measured 5’10 at the NFL Combine) had a rough AFC Championship Game against the bigger Sammy Watkins and against Travis Kelce, however, the Chiefs ran roughshod over nearly every defense they faced in 2018.

But the Patriots, as they nearly always do, had a plan in place. They drafted a very big corner in Joejuan Williams (6’4) who can cover those bigger wideouts they’ll face. Flashback to 2014, the Patriots had Revis (lockdown) and Brandon Browner in those roles. Now with Williams in the fold, they’ll be able to mix and match against nearly anyone.

However, there are some in the Patriots front office who believe that Jackson will one day surpass Gilmore as the top corner of the team. And at just 23-years old, Jackson has yet to hit his peak. In fact, he’s just scratching the surface of his potential. 

He and Gilmore are the locked down starters for a very talented group of corners that includes Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Williams, Keion Crossen, Duke Dawson and rookies Ken Webster as well as D’Angelo Ross. 

The future appears bright for Jackson and he is our first choice as the 2019 Breakout Player of the Year.

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