Tag Archives: Steven Scheu

Patriots Training Camp Primer – Tight Ends

Steve Balestrieri
July 15, 2016 at 5:30 am ET

Gronk, Bennett Become Even More Valuable Now With the Brady News

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

Bill Belichick likes to say that the spring’s OTAs and Minicamp is a learning exercise and that the real competition begins in training camp. While that is true to an extent, with 89 players on the current roster, a minimum of 36 of these will be cut. That doesn’t take into consideration the tweaking that goes on during the season after the initial 53-man roster is completed.

So next up are the tight ends. The Patriots have six players vying for roster spots.

This position, (like the wide receivers) is one top heavy with roster locks and it will essentially come down to four players competing for one, maybe two roster spots. The question comes down to this: Do the Patriots keep just three tight ends or four?

So who’s locked in and who’s on the bubble?

Roster Locks: Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett
Well Duh! No brainer here. Gronk is the gold standard among tight ends in the NFL. No one possesses the type of athleticism at the position where he can attack the field down the seams, move the chains, and be a huge physical target in the red zone. Oh and he’s an outstanding blocker in the running game.

Gronkowski is one of Tom Brady’s favorite two targets, along with Julian Edelman. He relies on both a great deal and Gronkowski gives him a tremendous target that can be used in any part of the game plan. He enters the season healthy and is poised to have a big, big year.

Bennett is a perfect Robin to Gronkowski’s Batman. Another huge target at 6’6, 273 pounds, he’s a big body who can threaten the seams down the field. He’s also another tremendous blocker who can help out in the running game.

MBennett3

Just two seasons ago Bennett caught 90 passes while a member of the Bears. He and Gronkowski are going to be a nightmare matchup for opposing defensive coordinators. The Patriots will most certainly use a lot of “12 personnel” in 2016 and with the suspension on Brady being upheld in federal court, the two tight ends become even more important in the Patriots offense during the first four weeks.

One can argue that the acquisition of Bennett was specifically targeted for just this scenario.  He will probably be here for just one year and his presence along with Gronkowski makes for a much more potent offense. But with Brady facing a month-long suspension, this move could have been made with Jimmy Garoppolo in mind.

Garoppolo will face a daunting task of replacing Brady for the first month of the season but having Gronk and Bennett will go a long way of making the transition smooth. The package of plays using the tight ends will be a much quicker, easier read for Jimmy G and they along with Edelman will give him a very nice trio of weapons to work with. Not to mention that both will help the team run the football much more effectively this season.

Near Roster Locks: None

On the Bubble: Clay Harbor, Bryce Williams, A.J. Derby
The Patriots usually like their third tight end to be more of a blocker. And Michael Williams was just that for the team. But unfortunately, Williams tore his ACL during the minicamp during June and was lost for the season. Neither Harbor, Bryce Williams, nor Derby fits that bill. But with both Gronk and Bennett being the blockers they are, perhaps the team will change things up, for 2016 anyway. And of course with the return of FB James Develin the Patriots have used him at times as an H-Back or blocking TE.

Harbor was signed as a free agent this spring and was given a modest contract with the only guaranteed money is his signing bonus of $400,000. His cap hit is just under $1.3 million dollars with a base salary of $900,000.

Harbor isn’t an in-line tight but more of a “move” tight end who can play H-back and occasionally fill in at fullback. During the 2013-2014 seasons, he was solid as the Jags’ #2 tight end and caught 51 passes for 581 yards and three scores. But last year he was replaced by former Bronco Julius Thomas and caught just 14 passes. His most productive day was against the Patriots in Week 3 where he caught three passes for 43 yards and a touchdown.

Bill Belichick raved about his versatility before the Week 3 contest, setting the tone for the eventual free agent signing this spring. The third tight end position is his to lose.

Williams is a big (6’6, 258 lbs), move tight end that converted from a fullback at ECU that the team signed as a UDFA this spring. With his size, one would assume he’d be more of an in-line tight end. But he’s more of a finesse blocker than a mauler like Gronk or Bennett.

He was productive as a senior catching 58 passes for 588 yards and four touchdowns. He still needs polish on his route running skills but has the straight-line speed to attack the seams. He’s got good athletic skills, running the 40-yard dash in 4.94 seconds and the three-cone drill in 7.19 seconds at the NFL Combine.

Derby was drafted by the Patriots in the 6th round of the 2015 NFL Draft and was placed on IR in early August, just days after training camp started. The 6’5, 255-pound former QB, and LB is another “move” tight end who is facing an uphill climb to make the roster.

He played only one season at TE in college so his route running was in need of polish and he wasn’t the greatest blocker, but he has upside as well. Ran a 4.69 in the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day and showed a willingness to run the tough routes over the middle.

Outside Looking in…. Longshots: Steven Scheu
Scheu was a three-year starter at Vanderbilt who suffered from poor QB play that limited his production. He finished his senior season with just 26 catches for 231 yards in 2015. Scheu (pronounced SHOY), is a 6’4, 245-pound move tight end that has soft hands and runs good routes as a receiver.

His issue is speed or the lack of it. Coming out in the draft this season, he was known as a plodder and doesn’t have the burst to attack the seams. It will be difficult for him to gain separation in the intermediate routes. He isn’t a good blocker in the running game. But as a short range target that can help in the short passing game, he could find a niche.

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.

With Tight End Clay Harbor, the Patriots Are Set for 2017

Steve Balestrieri
May 26, 2016 at 5:59 am ET

Former Jags TE signing this spring could have been with the future in mind

The Patriots OTAs are on-going this week and the media will get their first glimpse at the team doing football type activities on Thursday. Granted none of the players will be wearing pads but it is a start. One player that will be kind of under the radar but should be watched closely is tight end Clay Harbor.

With Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett on the roster for 2016, they’ll be getting a ton of attention both from the media and opposing defensive coaches. Both are big, fast, athletic, and are able to play inline, block in the running game and stretch the field by attacking the seams. Many see the Patriots using a “12” personnel package this season with 1 RB, 2 WRs, and 2 TEs.

Harbor is a different kind of player and is more of a move tight end at 6’3, 250 pounds that Josh McDaniels can use flexed outside, as an H-back or even in a fullback mode. In certain third and short scenarios, play-action passes from Tom Brady will be much more effective if they decide to utilize a 13 personnel package (1RB,1 WR, 3TE).

Clay Harbor

Harbor who turns 29 in July, was taken by the Eagles in the 4th round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He has 111 career receptions for 1,151 yards and eight touchdowns in 83 games.

Prior to the Week 3 Jacksonville Jaguars game last year, Bill Belichick practically raved about Harbor and the versatility that he brings to the table.

“I’d say that Harbor is kind of similar to (Raiders’ Marcel) Reece,” Belichick said. “He’s a fullback, tight end kind of guy, sort of lines up in a lot of different places. They use him in motion, change formations with him a bit.. Harbor is a good receiver.”

Caught in a numbers crunch with Marcedes Lewis and Julius Thomas in 2015 at Jacksonville, Harbor saw his numbers plummet from 50 receptions in 2014 to just 14 last season. In fact, with Bennett and Gronkowski providing Brady with a true Twin Towers type of scenario this season, Harbor probably won’t put up prolific numbers.

But Bennett is undoubtedly a one-year rental and being a free agent in 2017 could easily be playing elsewhere next season. Having Harbor in the mix gives him a chance to carve out a role that will come into prominence next season. It is a Bill Belichick-type move to be already looking to the scenario of Bennett’s leaving. Harbor can still contribute, especially if either Gronk or Bennett miss time with an injury but his main value could be looked to in the future.

The Patriots enter OTAs with plenty of depth at tight end with Gronk, Bennett, Harbor, Michael Williams, A.J. Derby, Bryce Williams, and Steven Scheu. Michael Williams’ is more of a blocker only at 6’6, 300 pounds and spent some time as a tackle. Derby, a converted QB was a 6th round draft pick a year ago before spending the year on injured reserve. He, like Harbor, will be looking to carve out a role as a “move” or off-line tight end. Scheu and Bryce Williams were signed as UDFAs this spring.

Depending on how things play out this spring and into the summer at training camp, the team could decide to keep four tight ends on the roster. But the addition of Bennett, who is an excellent blocker, makes Michael Williams spot more tenuous. Also, with the healthy return of fullback James Develin, he adds another run blocker and someone who was missed in 2015.

The tight end position will definitely be one to watch this spring and summer with Gronk and Bennett headlining the show. But watching how everything unfolds behind them could have a big influence on 2017. Harbor should be a big part of that.

Just another subplot to keep an eye on in training camp for the fans this summer.

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.

Patriots UDFA Class Has Some Intriguing Prospects

Steve Balestrieri
May 2, 2016 at 8:00 am ET

There is usually at least one UDFA  who rises to make the team

The Patriots have finished the 2016 NFL Draft and have brought in their initial undrafted free agent (UDFA) class. Malcolm Butler was one of those players just two years ago, and the Patriots always seem to have at least one UDFA player that will make the 53-man roster.

So far these are the players that have been signed and there are a few intriguing prospects that could have a shot at sticking around and making the team.

DJ Foster, RB/WR, Arizona State:
Foster is an undersized running back at 5’10, 193 pounds that moved to slot receiver for his senior season after being in the backfield for the first three years for the Aztecs. In 2015, he chipped in with 280 yards rushing as well as catching 59 passes for 584 yards and three touchdowns.

He finished his college career with 444 carries and 222 catches in the passing game for combined 4813 yards from scrimmage for 32 touchdowns. His skills at wide receiver are in the neophyte stage but brings an element of versatility that could be productive. He ran a 4.47 in the 40 Yard Dash, a 6.75 time in the 3-Cone Drill and has a 36-inch in the Vertical.

Jonathan Jones, CB Auburn:
Jones is an undersized (5’9, 186 pound), cornerback from Auburn. He was an All-SEC Selection in 2014 before seeing his production step back a bit last season. He is gifted athletically and ran a blistering 4.33 in the 40 at the NFL Combine as well as a 7.25-second three-cone, 36-inch vertical leap, and 123-inch broad jump. Strong for his size, he did 19 reps on the bench press …two more than 3rd round draft pick, 329-pound Vincent Valentine.

He notched 129 tackles, seven interceptions, and 24 passes defended over his Tigers career. We ran a draft profile on him earlier in the spring.

Steven Scheu, TE, Vanderbilt:
Scheu is more of a “move TE” than a traditional in-line one as he doesn’t have the blocking skills to move the pile at 6’4, 250 pounds. Scheu caught 39 passes for 525 yards and four touchdowns in 2014 before seeing his numbers plummet to 26 catches for only 231 yards due to poor QB play.

While he doesn’t have the speed to attack the seams ala Gronk or Bennett, Scheu has soft hands and a huge catch radius to be able to work the underneath routes to be effective.

C.J. Johnson, DE/LB, Ole Miss:

Johnson is a 6’1, 234-pound linebacker who has the versatility of playing at either linebacker or with his hand in the dirt at defensive end. Johnson finished his career having notched 180 tackles with 27 for loss, 13.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

His senior season was cut short due to a torn meniscus and was able to play in only four games. He’s a bit too light to be a defensive end in the NFL and will project to be an inside linebacker for the Patriots.

V’Angelo Bentley, CB, Illinois:
Bentley is another corner who will get some early reps to see if he can stick. Not the biggest guy at 5’10, 190 pounds, he brings like 2nd round draft pick Cyrus Jones the ability to return kicks.

Had good production with 46 tackles, 3.5 TFL, one INT, 815 kick/punt return yards in 2014 and 2015 with 54 tackles, three TFL, sack, 743 kick/punt return yards. He was the only player in school history to score on a kick return, punt return, interception, and a fumble.

Cre’Von Leblanc, CB, Florida Atlantic:
Leblanc is the third smaller, quicker corner that the Patriots brought in as a UDFA. With the smaller size of 5’9, 194 pounds, he too has special teams expertise, returning 29 kickoffs for 556 yards in his career.

He’s a stocky, muscular defender who former head coach Carl Pelini said was recruited specifically for his versatility as a cover man/run stopper/blitzer. He doesn’t have great top-end speed (4.65 time in the 40) but did run a 6.91 in the 3-Cone.

Woodrow Hamilton, DT, Ole Miss:
Hamilton is a 6’3, 312-pound defensive tackle that played in 47 games with 23 starts at nose tackle. He tallied 83 tackles, seven for loss, and three sacks in his career. At his Pro-Day on March 28, he benched 29 times and ran a 7.90 in the 3-Cone Drill as well as a 4.88 in the Short Shuttle, showing decent quickness for a big man.

De’Runnya Wilson, WR, Mississippi State:
Wilson is a huge, 6’5, 225-pound WR/TE who is a big target in the red zone with an enormous catch radius. His career totals of 133 catches for 1,949 yards and 22 touchdowns over three seasons with the Bulldogs shows he can be productive. He improved each year and in 2015 caught 60 passes for 918 yards and 10 touchdowns.

He’s not fast, (4.81 time in the 40), but is quick off the snap and has good hands as well as he aforementioned catch radius as well as big leaping ability. Still raw, he’d project to be a red-zone target that could be very intriguing if he can catch on.

Devonta Burns, Safety, Texas A&M:
Burns is a 5’10, 203-pound safety from A&M who ran a 4.52 in the 40 with a 7.07 in the 3-Cond Drill at his Pro Day. He has experience playing the nickel back as well as at safety. He’ll have to earn his way onto the special teams unit with the logjam at the safety position.

The Patriots also offered tryouts to RB Shaquille Powell from Duke, and linebackers Kris Frost and Justin Garrett from Auburn.

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.