The NFL regular season is back and judging from the game tonight between the Packers and Bears, Thursday Night Football is in mid-season form. However, the Patriots and Steelers are set to kick off the Sunday Night Football season with what we hope is a much better product.
The first game of the season is always the toughest to get a great feel for because of so many of the starting players from either team barely played during the preseason. The offensive and defensive top units get only a cameo on the field.
But there are some players that we feel must step up for the team to be successful. With that in mind here are our Patriots players that we will be watching closely on Sunday night in the game against the Steelers.
Isaiah Wynn/Ted Karras:
Wynn was the Patriots top draft choice a year ago but suffered an injury in training camp which forced him to miss his entire rookie season. The Patriots eased him back on to the field and limited his reps until they felt he was really ready to go. He’s now protecting Tom Brady’s blindside at left tackle.
His conditioning will be an area to monitor as the game moves forward. Wynn will have his work cut out for him, the Steelers strength defensively is in their front seven. Wynn will probably draw a lot of Cam Heyward in this one. A very tough first test.
Karras has been a trusted but backup interior offensive lineman for the past few years. With David Andrews out for the season after suffering a blood clot in his lung during the preseason, Karras is now the Patriots starting center.
Now he’ll have to hold up inside and make all the right calls when it comes to protection. Look for the Steelers to test him right away by bringing A-gap pressure and blitzes to try and force the issue. Like Wynn, this is a big test for him in Week 1.
The Patriots other 1st round draft pick from a year ago is coming off a solid rookie season along with an outstanding playoff run where he posted over 300 yards and six touchdowns during the Super Bowl run.
Michel looked like the Georgia-version of himself this summer, explosive, with excellent vision and the ability to make plays at the second level. With some questions along the offensive line and Tom Brady’s receiving core, the running back position will be leaned on heavily in the early going this season. And that begins with Michel. They need to get a solid production night from Michel and all of the backs in this one, which should help in getting the rest of the offense untracked.
The Patriots are attempting to get Michel more involved in the passing game, they were trying to get he and rookie Damien Harris involved all summer. James White and Rex Burkhead have always had that versatility, but if they can get the two younger players more involved, especially Michel, it will make the offense difficult to stop.
Truth be told, we weren’t fans of the idea of bringing back Collins this year, but thus far, he’s proven to be a really big addition. The Patriots jettisoned him in 2016 for a third-round draft pick, but after getting paid by the Browns, Collins is back with the Patriots on a modest deal.
The linebacker position is deep with Collins, Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and last year’s rookie Ja’Whaun Bentley who flashed early but was injured early in the season and lost to IR.
Collins’ athleticism and versatility were on full display this summer and he could be a really valuable chess piece for the defense in 2019. We’re looking for him to play a big role in the game plan as they try to move him around and try to disrupt things with the Steelers offense.
The Super Bowl LIII MVP was looking good this spring and seemed poised to pick right up where he left off in February. But then he injured his left thumb in the time before training camp and missed nearly all of it and the preseason.
Edelman didn’t appear until the final preseason game against the Giants. He played in only one series and caught a 20-yard pass. But in going to the ground, he appeared to fall on the injured thumb and came off the field shaking it. The team stated that it wasn’t reinjured but just a scare and he should be ready to go for the opener.
Edelman has always had tremendous chemistry with Brady. They’ll need that on Sunday night since neither Josh Gordon [suspended] or Demaryius Thomas [injured] was able to spend much time with Brady during the end of camp. Look for Brady to look for his favorite target early and often in this one.
Remember him? With all of the talk surrounding the OL and WRs lately, Bennett has been relegated to nearly an afterthought around these parts. After Trey Flowers got a huge payday from the Lions, many questioned where the pass rush was going to come from. The team swung a deal for Bennett, who was second on the Eagles in sacks with nine in 2018.
Bennett had a tremendous summer and dominated in one-on-ones during both training camp and the joint practices. Although he’s getting up there in age, there doesn’t seem to be any dropoff in his level of play. And like several other players in the front seven, he has the versatility to move around and create favorable matchups for the defense.
Look for the Patriots to try to ease Bennett’s workload a bit in the early going to bring some pressure on Ben Roethlisberger. I see Bill Belichick and the coaching staff using Bennett a lot this year from an interior position and try to collapse the pocket.
The Patriots return four of their five starters from an offensive line that was just outstanding in 2018 enroute to the team’s sixth Super Bowl title. The one very big piece both figuratively and literally is left tackle Trent Brown. Brown came to the Patriots last year with questions if he could be a viable left tackle in the NFL. He not only answered those but parlayed them into a massive 4-year contract worth $66 million dollars with the Raiders this spring.
The Patriots drafted Isaiah Wynn in the first round of the draft last year with the expectation that he would be the left tackle of the future. However, Wynn tore his Achilles in the preseason last summer and spent the entire year on IR.
The strength of the offensive line is with their guard tandem of Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason which is one of the best in the NFL. Scrappy, tough and steady David Andrews is the center and Marcus Cannon is the right tackle.
The Patriots are hoping that Wynn is ready for a full load this season and is ready to be a left tackle in the NFL. Backing him up is the underrated rookie T Yodny Cajuste from West Virginia. Cajuste is coming off quad surgery this offseason and missed all of the spring. But he is the swing tackle of the immediate future.
The team signed veteran Jared Veldheer this spring but he decided to retire when he said his body wasn’t going to withstand the rigors of another season.
With a 4th round draft pick, the Patriots selected Hjalte Froholdt, he should immediately challenge Ted Karras for the top interior backup role. The biggest question after Wynn’s status will be who will be the 4th tackle on the depth chart? Cole Croston, Cedrick Lang, Dan Skipper, Tyree St. Louis, and Calvin Anderson will be all vying for that position.
As long as Dante Scarnecchia is patrolling the Patriots sideline as the team’s offensive line coach, the Patriots can pretty much weather any storm that creeps up with the offensive line. So, with training camp just around the corner, let’s take a look at the position.
Check back with PatsFans.com as we’ll go thru the entire roster as our primers for training camp continue before the heavy lifting starts on July 25.
Current roster – Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Ted Karras, Yodny Cajuste, Hjalte Froholdt, Cole Croston, James Ferentz, Brian Schwenke, Jake Eldrenkamp, Cedrick Lang, Ryker Matthews, Dan Skipper, Calvin Anderson, Tyree St. Louis, Tyler Gauthier
Long Shot – Eldrencamp, Lang, Matthews, Skipper, Anderson, St. Louis, Gauthier
Discussion – We expect that Wynn will be ready to go for training camp. I watched him take part in individual drills during minicamp, he was held out of team drills, I believe as a precaution. He looked to me that he was moving without any issues and looked ready to go. Regardless, Wynn, Thuney, Andrews, Mason, Cannon, and Cajuste are all locks for the roster.
Froholdt and Karras are both near locks. I personally believe that the team is looking at Froholdt as starter material for next season. Joe Thuney is in a contract year and could be in the market for a big payday. He played nearly all of the starter snaps during minicamp with Wynn and Cajuste absent. If he does leave, Froholdt may be getting groomed for the next guard under Scarnecchia.
Karras has been a very good depth player and has the ability to fill in at guard and center. He’s tough, physical and versatile. Only an awful summer should stop him from earning a roster spot in 2019.
Cole Croston would be the next in line for the 4th tackle position. He’s been kept around the past few years but is in no way considered a lock for the roster. He’s a very good practice squad candidate. The Patriots could still be in the market for another tackle.
Overall, the offensive line is in very good shape overall. Even though Wynn hasn’t played a snap in the NFL, the Patriots spent the 23rd overall pick on him for a reason. And although I may be overplaying things a bit, as long as Scarnecchia is coaching up the O-line, I have no doubt that they’ll figure things out.
With training camp starting next week, the competition among the linemen should be extremely fun to watch.
When you win a Super Bowl, there generally isn’t a lot of available roster spots to go around. The 2019 New England Patriots currently sit at 90 players and they are no exception. There promises to be a ton of competition this summer for the back end of the team’s 53-man roster.
The Patriots were picked earlier this summer for having the deepest roster in the NFL. Whether or not you subscribe to that is immaterial. A look at the roster and there really isn’t a lot of wiggle room for players to come in and carve out a role for themselves.
So, that brings us to the purpose of this piece, several well-known players will be firmly on the bubble when training camp begins. Others, due to injury or subpar play could be added as camp practices progress and some of these players could cement themselves with solid play. Here are some but not all of the players on the bubble. There is a long way to go.
Danny Etling – Some people are surprised that Etling is still on the roster. During minicamp, the 2nd year QB was clearly displaced as the #3 signal caller by Jarrett Stidham. Etling was playing STs as the personal punt protector. The Patriots just used a 4th round pick on Stidham, while that isn’t in itself a guarantee, they clearly were giving him plenty of opportunities, to the detriment of Etling this spring.
The team isn’t going to keep 4 QBs, so Etling is the odd man out. Could he push Hoyer for a slot? Doubtful. And it is also doubtful that the Patriots cut their ties to Hoyer with Stidham so green…at least for 2019.
Braxton Berrios – The 2nd year WR was injured and missed the entire 2018 season and appeared in just one preseason game last summer. Now healthy, Berrios has turned some heads during OTAs and was arguably the best player on the field during Day 1 of the mandatory minicamp.
He hasn’t locked down anything yet however. Once training camp hits, he’ll need to continue that solid play catching passes, returning kicks and more importantly, stay on the field. This will be a big camp for him as he could either carve out a decent role for himself or fall completely off the radar.
Dontrelle Inman – Inman was signed by the Patriots in May after the Colts decided to let him walk in free agency. Inman was picked up by the Colts in midstream of the 2018 season and worked himself into a key role. Indy moved him around as a big (6’3, 205) slot receiver and occasionally as the “X”. He had good production down the stretch and in the playoffs.
But a very subpar minicamp dropped Inman far down the depth chart. He didn’t catch a single pass in team drills in all three days of the mandatory sessions. That doesn’t mean he’s out yet… but it does put him in a precarious position to begin camp, far down the depth chart.
Ted Karras – The tough, versatile Karras was picked up by the Patriots in 2016 and has been a valuable depth piece on the offensive line ever since. He can play anywhere on the interior offensive line. But the team invested a 4th rounder on Hjalte Froholdt. And the Arkansas alum can do the same things that Karras can do.
The feeling is that with Joe Thuney a free agent after this season, the team is grooming Froholdt to be the starter. He and Karras will be battling for the backup position this summer and it should be a great battle.
Derek Rivers – The Patriots top pick from two seasons ago is facing a huge training camp this summer. He lost his rookie season to a torn ACL during the preseason and never stepped on the field. He returned, albeit not 100 percent physically last summer and played sparingly. In his two seasons, he’s logged 78 snaps, two tackles, and one sack.
The Patriots know his potential and his NFL Combine performance and his production in college were the things that attracted them. But this summer is the beginning of Year 3 and projections are no longer in the cards. It is make or break time for Rivers this summer.
Keion Crossen/Duke Dawson – The Patriots are loaded at cornerback. It is arguably their deepest position. With Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, Crossen, and Duke Dawson who missed all of his rookie season, the team added more. They drafted Joejuan Williams in the 2nd round and Ken Webster in the 7th. They also added D’Angelo Ross later. They can’t keep all of them.
Gilmore, Jackson, and Williams (by reason of his draft position) are locks for the roster. McCourty and Jones are near locks themselves. That makes the competition between Crossen and Dawson for the sixth spot one to watch. The feeling here is that they’ll keep six but could opt for more, at least initially.
Crossen is a special teams standout with the athleticism to play cover corner, much like Jones, who began the same way. The team invested a second rounder in Dawson last year, but he was lost to injury. With the players they added this spring, Dawson is far from safe. He and Crossen may be fighting it out for the final corner slot.
Nate Ebner/Obi Melifonwu – The Patriots are also very deep but aging at safety. While they have ostensibly three starters in Devin McCourty, Pat Chung and Duron Harmon, the first two are on the wrong side of 30 and McCourty hinted at retirement this spring.
The team normally keeps five safeties/STs but this spring they signed former Jets S/ST ace Terrence Brooks. Brooks got a two-year, $4 million dollar deal with a $500,000 signing bonus and $1.3 million of that guaranteed. That puts him in the lock category.
Brooks is known primarily as a STs ace who can fill in and play some safety when needed. Nate Ebner is another STs standout and a Belichick favorite. However, he rarely if ever plays on defense. Obi Melifonwu was brought in at midstream last season and now has a full offseason under his belt. The team’s idea was for the uber-athletic and big Obi to cover big WRs and TEs in the slot. But with the addition of Williams in Round 2, that makes him potentially expendable.
Melifonwu offers much more upside than Ebner defensively and got some first-team reps this spring with Chung missing but he doesn’t have the ST’s acumen of the latter. These two may be battling it out for the 53rd and final roster spot on the team.
The New England Patriots return home and face off next against the Green Bay Packers in yet another primetime game this Sunday night. Remember when the Patriots played on Sunday afternoons? This primetime stuff is getting ridiculous.
A lot of the fun of watching two future Hall of Fame QBs with Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers going head to head against one another is lost when the ridiculous “who’s better” crap gets injected into the equation ad nauseam. Like our politics of today, neither side is going to budge, so just sit back and enjoy the offenses of each doing their thing on Sunday and revel in it. These matchups aren’t going to be around much longer.
This is an important game for both teams, the Patriots have won five in a row and are right in the mix for one of the top teams in the AFC and an all-important first-round bye in the playoffs. The Packers are a much better team than their 3-3-1 record and need to get on a roll. They nearly pulled off a huge upset last week against the undefeated Rams. So, how they react this week will have a lot to say about the rest of their season.
So, from a Patriots perspective if we can tear ourselves away from the Red Sox celebration for a moment, here are our Players to Watch on Sunday:
The Patriots very talented corner has been outstanding all season and is now facing arguably his toughest test of the season. Davante Adams is Rodgers go-to guy and he’s having an outstanding season. He’s caught 52 passes for 690 yards and 6 TDs thru just the first seven games of the season. He’s on pace for 118 catches, 1,577 receiving yards, and 13 touchdowns.
Gilmore will have his hands full with the speedy Adams who said this week, he doesn’t believe anyone can cover him. And he may be right, the Patriots may have a plan for Gilmore to cover him underneath with safety help over the top. It would seem to be the normal Patriot M.O of trying to limit the top weapon of the opposition. If it isn’t Adams, Gilmore would draw Randall Cobb, not much of a break there is it?
But regardless, Gilmore has been outstanding since the first OTA session this spring. He should garner some serious Pro Bowl consideration this winter. The soft-spoken Gilmore has drawn Sammy Watkins of the Chiefs, Allen Robinson of the Bears and Kelvin Benjamin of the Bills the past three games. Those receivers combined for a total of five catches for 67 yards in those three games. Opposing QBs have only completed 28 percent of the passes targeting WRs Gilmore is covering. This should be a great matchup.
The Patriots best player on the front seven had a tremendous game against the Bills on Monday night. Six tackles, two tackles for loss, two QB hits and he should have had an interception of Derek Anderson but couldn’t hold on.
This week the stakes and the quarry are much, much tougher. The Patriots remember what Aaron Rodgers did to them in Green Bay a few years ago. The front seven will have to play a very fine balancing act. They have to be able to pressure Rodgers enough to get him to get rid of the ball asap but do so in a way that keeps him contained in the pocket. If he breaks containment, very bad things will happen and all of them will happen to the defense.
They’ll need a big effort from everyone on the defensive front seven but a lot of the pressure will be on Flowers to lead the way. Flowers coming out party as a rookie featured a sack of Rodgers in Gillette several years ago in preseason. The Patriots will be hoping to see much more of that on Sunday night.
Trey Flowers (74) beats David Bakhtiari and sacks Rodgers in preseason action as a rookie. (SBalestrieri photo)
The Patriots will be minus Shaq Mason on the interior of their offensive line this week and Ted Karras who subbed in for Mason when he first got hurt in Buffalo on Monday night. Mason hurt his calf against the Bills and didn’t return.
Karras is the Patriots top backup at all three of the interior offensive line positions but is probably best suited for the center position but he’ll be at right guard this week. And his job will likely entail matching up with Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark, both of whom are having very solid 2017 campaigns.
This will be a big test for Karras, he hasn’t played in a ton of games thus far in his career and the Packers will be looking to test not only his skill but his communication with the other offensive linemen when the Packers stunt, or blitz. There’s no pressure on Karras…right? He’s just on the stage with the two of the best QBs in any era and it is on national television to boot.
The Patriots Swiss Army Knife has a lot of pressure on him since the injury epidemic has hit the New England running back position hard. Jeremy Hill is gone for the year with an ACL tear, Rex Burkhead is on IR with multiple concussions and isn’t eligible to return until Week 14. And Sony Michel seemed to avert serious injury in Chicago when his knee got twisted during a tackle.
White has been just outstanding out of the backfield catching 55 passes for the Patriots for 459 yards and six touchdowns. His career high is 60 and he could possibly break that on Sunday night with another big game. The Packers at times play a lot of dime packages on defense and they may opt to try to take White away in the passing game by putting a defensive back on him rather than a linebacker which is a mismatch.
But with Michel’s status up in the air this week, (he’s questionable, but we doubt he’ll play this week), the onus will be even heavier on White to produce. We’d expect to see Brady look his way often on Sunday, especially if the Packers begin blitzing.
With Michel’s status in doubt and even Rob Gronkowski who is battling ankle and back injuries this week and is questionable to play, Edelman’s value as a circled member of trust with Tom Brady will no doubt play a big role this week.
With Pettine’s defense which uses the old Rex Ryan overload schemes and multiple blitz packages, there will be times where Brady will be forced to make a decision and get the ball out very quickly. And in the past several years, he and Edelman have been outstanding at working in sync doing just that. Many times they’ll both recognize a look presnap and with just a look between the two, they’ll know right where they plan to go.
Edelman had a big game in Buffalo and this game in Gillette against the Packers could be a tailor-made game for #11. Look for Brady to call his number early and often.
The Patriots head into training camp in just about three weeks now and as we’ve been saying, the competition this year at a number of positions will tell the tale on who goes and who remains. This has been a tumultuous offseason in many different ways. The Patriots lost a lot of key veteran players and all of the off-field hoopla surrounding Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski have been non-stop.
Soon that will all be behind us as the players get back on the field and we start talking about football again. In the next segment of our 2018 Patriots Training Camp primers is the Patriots Offensive Line.
The team lost left tackle Nate Solder this spring as he signed a big money contract with the Giants. He’s protected Tom Brady’s blind side for several years and done it well. Replacing a trusted veteran like Solder who was as good off the field for the team as well as on it.
So, with that in mind who are locked in and who’s on the bubble?
Roster Locks: Trent Brown, Isaiah Wynn, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon
The Patriots traded for Brown with the 49ers this spring, giving up a 3rd round draft pick in return. Although he’s played mostly right tackle in the NFL, he says he can play anywhere and the team may move him to left tackle.
Brown is a mammoth-sized human being. Listed at 6’8, 359 pounds, he’s every bit of that and possibly even bigger. But for a very large man, he has surprisingly good footwork. And he’s just 25 years old. Brown got some great kudos from Denver’s Von Miller who said this about the new Patriot:
“He’s the best right tackle in the National Football League,” Miller said of Brown. “And he may even be a top-five tackle, period, in the National Football League. There’s not another tackle who’s that tall, that big and can move the way he moves.”
The team used a 1st round draft pick (#23 overall) on Wynn and although he played left tackle for the Bulldogs, he projects to be a left guard in the NFL. Wynn is short for a tackle, 6’2, 302 but both he and Brown were competing for the left tackle spot but during the spring, they lined up next to one another with Wynn at left guard.
Andrews, Mason, and Cannon have been starters and remain solid pieces who have performed very well. The only questions with the locks revolve around health. Brown and Wynn are coming off of shoulder surgery, while Cannon was placed on IR late last season.
If this unit is the starting five on Week 1 and we believe that they will be, the team should be in a very good position for the offensive line play to start the season. Cannon’s availability physically is the only question. Will he be ready to go? Or will he begin camp on the PUP?
Near Roster Locks: Joe Thuney, LaAdrian Waddle
Thuney missed the spring minicamp with an injury and his spot was taken by Wynn. It will be interesting to note if Thuney is healthy for training camp, he may a fight on his hands to get back his starting left guard spot from the talented rookie from Georgia.
There is a possibility that Thuney will start training camp on the PUP if he’s still not ready to go. Health is the only possibility we’d see with him not making the 53-man roster.
Waddle is a valuable swing tackle who they brought back during free agency despite his getting feelers from other teams. He can play either side and has performed well when called upon. And with the long season that the team faces, he’ll be called on again this year.
On the Bubble: Cole Croston, Jason King, James Ferentz, Andrew Jelks, Ted Karras, Matt Tobin, Luke Bowanko, Ulrick John
The Patriots have several players vying for one or possibly two spots along the OL. Our feeling here is that Croston nails down one of those slots. We penciled him in for first 53-man roster projection. He’s versatile and can fill in at guard or tackle if needed.
But his spot will have to be earned so, the competition factor again will come into play. The team brought back King this spring, so that speaks highly for him. Karras has made the team as a backup and can play guard or center.
What may open the door for one or two more of these players is if Thuney or Cannon or maybe both are placed on PUP to start training camp. But with the demanding and outstanding OL coach Dante Scarnecchia back in the fold for another year, one thing is for certain. He’ll get the very best out of this group.
While as a whole, they have to improve but in pass blocking and in the running game, Coach Scar made it clear back in the spring, “I really like the guys we have here right now,” he said during the OTAs.
So physical questions aside, the Patriots offensive line may be very different, at least on the left side this year but they also have the potential to be very good and better than the 2017 unit as well.
Tom Brady was back on the football field Friday night.
Brady and a few current and former Patriots teammates took to the field at Harvard Stadium for Brady’s 19th annual Best BuddiesTom Brady Football Challenge fundraising event.
Over the course of the evening, Brady was scrambling out of the pocket away from a defensive line filled of kids while throwing touchdown passes koppto Julian Edelman, Troy Brown, and even ESPN NFL Analyst Adam Schefter.
Other notable Patriots in attendance were Tedy Bruschi, James White, Chris Hogan, Christian Fauria, Dan Koppen, Jason McCourty, Devin McCourty, Ted Karras and Scott Zolak.
When asked about the events importance, James White told Patriots.com, “It’s always a special time, meeting the buddies again, seeing them run around and have fun, putting a smile on their faces,” James said. “It’s a great turnout, a great cause.”
The game ended in a highly competitive 112-112 tie.
Check out some of the best sights and sounds below.
The Patriots head into training camp in less than two 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 Offensive Line position.
Bill Belichick likes to say that the spring’s OTAs and Minicamp is a learning exercise and that the real competition begins in training camp. With a roster of 90 players and no cuts needed before the final 53-man roster cut down, there will be plenty of time for evaluation.
So we’re going to take a look at the Patriots Offensive Line. One of the keys to the 2016 success and part of the struggle down the stretch in 2015 had to do with continuity. The Patriots five starters played together nearly wire-to-wire last year and their performance showed. In 2015 injuries decimated the unit and the team couldn’t get any kind of cohesiveness going.
The good news is that five starters return as well as some of their top backups. But the team didn’t neglect their offensive line this offseason. With an eye to the future, they drafted two tackles in the 2017 NFL Draft, Tony Garcia, and Connor McDermott. Garcia in particular looks to have been drafted with 2018 and beyond in mind.
Although the team lost RT Sebastian Vollmer to retirement this spring, he missed the entire 2016 season with an injury and with the ascendance of Marcus Cannon, the team looks to be in good shape there.
So, with that in mind who is locked in and who’s on the bubble?
Roster Locks: Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Tony Garcia The starting five returns, seem to be healthy and are locked on the roster this summer. Solder returned from IR in 2015 to play very solidly last year. He’s in the last year of his contract and with that in mind, the team has drafted two possible replacements.
Moving up and using multiple picks to draft Garcia, he’s obviously someone who Dante Scarnecchia feels can be a left tackle of the future. With Solder in place for at least 2017, there is no pressure on Garcia to produce early. This will be a red-shirt type of year for him to learn the system and develop under the tutelage of Coach Scar.
Cannon came out of the doghouse to play very well in 2016. Guards Mason and Thuney are young and physical and should only improve. Andrews is an undersized but smart center and he’s not going anywhere.
Unless there is an injury somewhere, I see no changes happening along the starting lineup for the Patriots offensive line in 2017.
Near Roster Locks: Cameron Fleming, Ted Karras Last season both Fleming and Karras were the top backups for the tackles and the interior line last year. They both have the inside track for the top backup positions again as well. Karras has the versatility to play either guard or back-up the center David Andrews. He’s not the most athletic guy but he’s physical and tough.
Fleming was the swing tackle last year and will be trying to hold off the rookies Garcia and McDermott from taking that job away from him. He’s versatile and can fill in at either left or right tackle, something that is easier said than done.
On the Bubble: LaAdrian Waddle, Conor McDermott, Cole Croston, Andrew Jelks, Max Rich, Jamil Douglas, Chase Farris, Jason King, James Ferentz The Patriots have plenty of depth at the backup positions and these players are likely to be fighting for reps in training camp and a most likely only one or two slots.
Waddle has been a backup tackle and a blocking tight end but with the depth, at that position, he’ll be pushed hard for a roster spot. McDermott is another intriguing prospect. He’s a guy that the Patriots used a pair of picks to get, albeit in the sixth round of the draft. Would he pass thru waivers if the team tries to stash him on the practice squad? That would seem to be his best bet to make the roster, at least this summer, unless the inevitable injuries occur.
With a lot of bodies in camp, this will be an intriguing group to watch. They’ll have the entire preseason to make a case for sticking, so staying healthy and on the field, will be of primary importance.
Our next primer will have the Patriots defensive line… stay tuned.