Tag Archives: Trey Flowers

 Patriots Report Card, 36-20 Win Over the New Orleans Saints

Steve Balestrieri
September 19, 2017 at 6:30 am ET

High Marks For the Team in a Winning Effort

The Patriots are back in the win column and after 10 days of being subjected to questions about their makeup and roster moves, it comes at a perfect time. Was this a game they should have won? Yes …absolutely, but after Week 1, the team made a number of improvements…. Was it perfect? No. Are they where they want to be? Hardly. But in Week 2, they looked pretty darn good, especially on offense.

So, we’ll start with the offense and the players can come forward to pick up their grade sheets.

Quarterback: A
Tom Brady was masterful, in control and was obliterating that poor Saints defense. Only three healthy wide receivers? No problem. Brady goes 30-39 for 447 yards and three touchdowns, no picks, and a passer rating of 139.6.

The team wanted to get off to a good, fast start and put the Saints in catchup mode. Plus, it would take the crowd right out of the game. Brady threw for 177 yards and three scores in the first quarter as the team raced out to a 20-3 lead and never looked back.

Brady hung in the pocket all day and delivered the ball pretty much exactly where they wanted him to throw on Sunday. The few passes that were off the target had to do with either the pressure getting to him or in a few cases, he got hit as he released the ball.

He also spread the ball around nicely hitting nine different receivers for passes and throwing a touchdown to a wide receiver, tight end and running back….that’s getting everyone involved.

Running Backs: B+
In our pregame write-up on the key matchups, we wrote that the team needed to get the running backs more involved in the passing game. And that they did, the backs responded with 13 catches for 143 yards, led by James White who made eight catches for 85 yards. Rex Burkhead responded with a nice afternoon catching three passes for 41 yards and a touchdown before injuring his ribs.

In the running game, the backs picked up 96 of the 119 yards on the ground. Mike Gillislee led the way with 69 yards on 18 carries including his fourth touchdown of the season. While his numbers weren’t eye-popping, he’s giving them nice production in the red zone when they ask him to.

Wide Receivers: B
These guys hung in there and did their job on Sunday. With only three healthy players at the position, they finished the game with really only one (Brandin Cooks). Both Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett had gotten dinged up but they hung in there and finished the game. Hogan was dealing with a thigh injury, that doesn’t seem serious, however, he was obviously limping a bit during the game, which surely limited his effectiveness. But he ended up with five catches on six targets for 78 yards including a touchdown.

Dorsett showed that he’s coming along in his progression with the Patriots offense and made three catches for 68 yards including a nice deep ball from Brady for 38 yards down to the four-yard line. I would have liked to have seen more production from Cooks in this game but with Brady under pressure for much of it, he was clearing out the underneath routes for the guys over the middle and it was that kind of day. Cooks should have had had an easy touchdown on a post route and had a good five yards of separation, but the pressure on Brady made his throw very short where Cooks had stop and go down at the one-yard line to haul the pass in.

It is hard to be very critical of this group. How many times do you see a team come into a game with just three wide receivers and while their numbers weren’t off the charts (11 catches for 183 yards and a score), on a day when the team rolled up 447 yards thru the air, it was plenty good enough.

Tight Ends: A-
The Patriots and Rob Gronkowski were the subjects of many pieces after the Week 1 loss. Eric Berry did a masterful job of manning up on Gronk, and when that didn’t work, he grabbed a fistful of jersey. It isn’t against the rules if it isn’t being flagged. So, Gronkowski heard the “he’s losing a step”, “he looks old and slow” etc. last week.

Until he hurt his groin in the second half, he was having a typical Gronk, monster type of afternoon. He hauled in six catches for 116 yards including a 53-yard touchdown where he broke a couple of tackles and dragged two defenders into the end zone.

Dwayne Allen has been utilized mainly as a blocker and was targeted once, Jacob Hollister had his first catch in the NFL and got a couple of reps in.

Offensive Line: C
The offensive line specifically left tackle Nate Solder didn’t have a great day. There were a lot of plays where Brady was under duress. He got hit five times and sacked just twice but often his pocket was collapsing all around him. The offensive line didn’t do a great job in the running game as the team only averaged 3.8 yards per carry. It could have, should have been much better. Especially against this Saints defense.

Defensive Line: B+
The Patriots defensive line had a nice bounce-back type of game. It was great to see all the young guys (Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise, and Adam Butler) getting so much work in the game. The coaches sent a message to Alan Branch that his effort last week wasn’t good enough and he sat until the second quarter. The rush defense was much improved this week. New Orleans had 81 yards on the ground but 28 of them came off the final garbage time play of the day. After getting gashed by the Chiefs for nearly 200 yards, that is a good sign.

Wise had a terrific game, the big, talented rookie had a sack, five quarterback hits and a pair of tackles. While the pass rush is still a work in progress, Wise, Flowers, and Butler are showing some nice potential. Lawrence Guy was solid and Cassius Marsh saved a TD when he got pressure on and forced Drew Brees to throw short in the end zone when a player was open.

Linebackers: B-
Interesting that with Hightower out, David Harris was a total non-entity. Elandon Roberts had a pretty good game with eight tackles. He and Kyle Van Noy were getting the bulk of the work. The middle of the defense in the running game was much, stronger this week and it snowballed.

Hightower will probably miss at least this week’s game against the Texans, so they’ll need the rest of the guys to step it up a bit. But overall, this week’s game, against a tough opponent was a pretty good effort.

Secondary: B-
The bad news is that the Patriots allowed Drew Brees to pass for 356 yards this week. But, he does that against everyone when he’s at home in the dome so that in itself isn’t a bad sign per se. The good news is, the Patriots defense held him to just two touchdowns on Sunday. Let me ask a serious question here. If last week I said, the Pats defense would hold Brees and New Orleans to just two scores would you have taken it? Damned right you would have.

I had to read with amusement all of the “the last time the Patriots faced Brees in NO” …news flash. The Pats don’t have Jonathan Wilhite and Leigh Bodden at corner anymore…thankfully. They still have plenty of communication issues on those pick plays and rub routes but it is eminently fixable. A few of those deep balls were just absolute dimes by Brees and you just have to tip your hat to him.

Overall, again, a much better effort. Can it get better? Much. Will it? Yes.

Special Teams: B

Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point, again. He was perfect on three field goals, however. And the other three extra points. His kickoffs pinned the Saints deep but the coverage units did an okay job. The Patriots had zero return yards on one punt return for no yards and no kick returns at all.

Ryan Allen didn’t have to punt much on Sunday and had a so-so game by his standards with a 37.0-yard average.

Coaches: A
Bill Belichick had the team ready to go after a poor Week 1 showing. He made it clear that a lot had to change, and it did. They came out prepared, motivated and ran the Saints out of the building in that first quarter. After they had issues stopping the run in Week 1, they were much better and he and Matt Patricia put them in the right combinations to stop the Saints.

Josh McDaniels had everything going on early in the game. He had the Saints grasping at straws trying to find a way to stop the Patriots offense. Even as guys were getting banged up, McDaniels mixed things up nicely and the team responded. After only having Dorsett on the team for two weeks, McDaniels gets a lot of credit for getting him in tune with the offense.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots, Brady Answer the Bell, Smother Saints 36-20 Observations

Steve Balestrieri
September 17, 2017 at 6:18 pm ET

Ok, now everyone can back away from the ledge. The Patriots did just what they needed to do after a bad performance in the Week 1 loss to the Chiefs, they dominated the game on offense and the Saints defense had on answers for the Patriots offense as the team ran out for 30 points in a pivotal first half and cruised to an easy win on the road.

It wasn’t all pretty, there are still several areas to tighten up on, but as we’ve seen for years with Bill Belichick and this team, it is always done be degrees and this team was infinitely better than the team that stepped on the field 10 days ago.

So after Buffalo thudded back to earth in Carolina, the Patriots find themselves tied with Buffalo at the top of the AFC East at 1-1. Miami and the Jets are still playing at this point although the Jets are trailing as we speak.  Here are some other observations on this one:

Tom Brady Skewers Saints “D”: We talked coming into this game that we’d be shocked if this offense didn’t score between 30-35 points. I predicted a 34-24 win. They actually went a bit more than that and left some points on the field in the process.

Brady entered the game with just three healthy wide receivers and put on an absolute clinic in the first quarter throwing for 177 yards and three touchdowns.

Brady overall was surgical, completing 30-39 for 447 yards and three touchdowns, no interceptions, no interceptions with a passer rating of 139.6

He went to his running backs more in this one, mostly James White and completed 13 passes for 143 yards to the backs who stepped up big time in the passing game this week. Brady was frequently under duress but stood tall in the pocket and delivered. Despite being short of WRs today, Brady completed passes to nine different players today.

Defense Steps Up: It still is far from what they’ll expect later in the season, but it is only Week 2. The defense was gashed a week ago by the Chiefs, and all week the lament was “what is Drew Brees and the Saints going to do?” Well, the defense stepped up big, especially in the running game. New Orleans ran for 81 yards, helped by a big run on the last play of the game by Mark Ingram. But that was much, much better for Matt Patricia’s unit. Take away that last run which skewed the stats and the Saints averaged 3.3. Yards per Rush.

Anytime you can go to New Orleans and hold Drew Brees and the Saints to two touchdowns, you’ve done your job. And this defense definitely did that today. They still need to work on their communications for the rub routes and pick plays but overall this was a much better effort.

Minnesota is supposed to have one of the best defenses in the NFL. They allowed 19 points at home to New Orleans. This same Saints offense at home where they are much more effective scored just one more point. Mission accomplished.

Gronk Has a Big Game Before Injuring Groin: Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski heard the talk about him supposedly losing a step this week after Eric Berry did a masterful job of slowing him down this week.

He too, answered the bell this week, hauling in six passes for 116 yards and a score, including his broken play 53-yard touchdown where it was vintage Gronkowski. He got free down the sideline, got the pass and shook off a tackle and then the big man rumbled into the end zone for a score and treating the fans to the first Gronk spike since Week 8 a year ago.

He then left the game and running another seam route and taking the ball deep into New Orleans territory he went down awkwardly and went straight into the medical tent. He was seen later pedaling the exercise bike on the sideline. We’ll have to see what transpires this week on the Wednesday practice and injury report.

Situational Football Pays Off: One thing we always love to watch in practice is the team practicing their situational football scenarios. Bill Belichick calls out downs, distances and time on the clock and the team has to respond. No one does it more and better than the Pats.

Today was a prime example of this. After stopping the Saints just before the half, the Patriots were driving and in a position to score to go up big at halftime. Brady led them down the field and on third down he scrambled but came up two yards short of a first down.

The reacted perfectly. The kicking unit ran on the field, the offense got off and Stephen Gostkowski had time to get set and boot a field goal to end the half that put the team up 30-13 at the break. It was a huge switch in momentum and was a prime example of why they practice those plays.

Deatrich Wise Steps Up Nicely in His Second Game: The rookie defensive lineman got a ton of reps today. Looking at the defensive line, there was a ton of youth out there at times with Wise, Adam Butler and Trey Flowers providing the pass rush.

Wise finished with two tackles, a sack and five QB hits on Brees. The young lineman from Arkansas had a very good summer and is off to a very good start in his NFL career. The pass rush wasn’t great today, especially considering the state of the Saints offensive line but it was good enough.

Cassius Marsh only had a few snaps but got some good pressure as well. His coming off the left end saved a touchdown as Brees had to unload the ball early and his pass was short, with his wide receiver open in the end zone.

Offensive Line Didn’t Play Well: The offensive line play will be an area where the coaches will try to settle things down this week, with Houston coming into town. Brady was under pressure far too often although they only sacked him twice. Nate Solder, in particular, struggled with Cameron Jordan.

But they also had a mixed bag in the running game. Overall the Patriots managed 119 yards on the ground which is good but only for a 3.8 yard per carry average. The run blocking will have to be better as we go on but again when you score 36 points and run up 555 yards on offense, there aren’t too many dings against the offense. However, the coaches will point to the 3 of 7 in the red zone as a teaching point this week.

Call the MASH Unit: The injuries continue to pile up. New England entered the game with just three healthy wide receivers and had two of them plus Gronkowski going down. Chris Hogan looked like he had a thigh injury and Phillip Dorsett also came up limping in what looked to be an ankle or foot problem.

Eric Rowe was injured which opened the door for Jonathan Jones to come in and he played very well, breaking up a couple of passes, one in the end zone on a very head’s up play. Rex Burkhead suffered a rib injury and left the game. It will be interesting to see who is healthy enough to go next week against Houston.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

New England Patriots News 9-17, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 9-17, and AFC East Notes for this week.

Good luck to former Patriots QB Jacoby Brissett, getting the start today for the Colts.

With many of the injured players not going to suit up today, it will be intriguing to see if TE Jacob Hollister sees some playing time. He has a good shot to be a game-day active and he was one of our favorites to watch during training camp.

The Patriots try to rebound today against the Saints in New Orleans. Since 2010, the two teams are the #1 and #2 scoring teams in the NFL. While everyone points to the 2009 game as a benchmark, remember this, that New Orleans team started 12-0. And other than the matchup of Tom Brady and Drew Brees, the teams are altogether different. That Patriot team was 2-6 on the road and this one comes in with an 8-0 road record from 2016.

Shorthanded Pats Minus Hightower/Amendola: The team will be going today without Dont’a Hightower and Danny Amendola, leaving them potentially thin on the edge where they were gashed a week ago and at wide receiver where there is a mini-epidemic right now. Amendola is also the team’s punt returner so who fills in that duty today? Possibly Pat Chung [as we’re writing this on Friday night] Unless they activate a WR from the PS. It probably will NOT be Phillip Dorsett. Stay tuned.

Harvey Langi Should See His First Action:
Immediately upon seeing that Hightower didn’t practice this week, (not a surprise and don’t expect him against Houston), we sensed he’d be out. But the team got a bit of welcome news in that rookie linebacker Harvey Langi was taken off of the injury report.

Harvey Langi, seen here breaking up a pass, should see his first action of the season. (SBalestrieri photo)

Langi should see his first action of the year and we’re excited to see what the rookie can bring to the table. The Patriots experimented this summer with moving him around and trying him in a variety of different roles to learn what he can and can’t-do. He spoke to the Patriots.com website and said he’s excited to get on the field this week.

“It’s a day-to-day thing for me,” Langi said. “Got to go out there and play wherever they tell me to play. If it’s [defensive] end, if it’s outside [linebacker], if it’s on kickoff, kickoff return… whatever it is. I’m wanting to help out the team and do whatever I can to do that, to bring some urgency to practices.”

Patriots Front Seven Isn’t the Big Issue It is Being Made Out to Be:
The sky is falling crowd is reaching epic proportions now after a bad performance in Week 1. Look there weren’t any positives there, they were gashed, and badly by the Chiefs and Alex Smith. But does that mean that this team going to be forced into shootouts every week?

Obviously, the fanbase thinks so… The Patriots website asked a poll question if fans were concerned with the defense. The results? A whopping 85 percent answered yes. Bill Belichick’s teams always play better defense as the season progresses.

Increased snaps for rookie Deatrich Wise and a better performance by Kyle Van Noy this week are needed for the Patriots. (SBalestrieri photo)

While we’re not trying to discount what happened last week, the lack of faith in Belichick is always a thing in this town. At the first sight of trouble, there seems to be a lot of broken legs from people jumping off the bandwagon. This will get figured out, it always does. They’re still mixing with different combinations up front until they find one that works. But Alan Branch, who didn’t play well last week, is just getting into playing shape and now they’ll have to work thru missing Hightower and Shea McClellin.  It is a process and there is no one better than Belichick at figuring it out.

Let’s just say, this week, I’m looking for more of the Big Nickel on defense with Chung as the safety/linebacker and less of the dime look with four safeties and Jordan Richards in that role.

With Three Healthy WRs, Expect More RB Involvement in the Passing Game:
Much has been written about who will play the slot since Amendola will miss this week’s game. Again, don’t look to Dorsett, he’s an outside receiver in either the “X” or the “Y” mode. I’d look for Hogan to pick up the slack this week, with Cooks and Dorsett out wide. I’d also look for plenty of the “21” or “22” personnel packages.

The “21” package has two running backs, one tight end, and two wide receivers. The “22” has two running backs, two tight ends, and one wide receiver.

Look for James White and the Patriots running backs to be more involved in the passing game this week. (SBalestrieri photo)

They definitely have to get the backs much more involved in the passing game than a week ago. With James White, Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis, they have plenty of weapons that they can utilize in the passing game. With only four receptions for 38 yards in the opener, that is far below what we envisioned.

Who Do You Like This Week? NFL Schedule Week 2:

Last week wasn’t great with a 9-6 record as the Dolphins game was postponed. This week started off well with the Texans win over Cincy. here’s the rest of the schedule for Week 2 in the NFL.

Browns at Ravens – Baltimore
Bears at Buccaneers – Tampa Bay
Vikings at Steelers – Pittsburgh
Patriots at Saints – New England
Eagles at Chiefs – Kansas City
Titans at Jaguars- Tennessee
Cardinals at Colts – Arizona
Bills at Panthers- Carolina
Jets at Raiders – Oakland
Dolphins at Chargers – Miami
49ers at Seahawks – Seattle
Redskins at Rams – Los Angeles
Cowboys at Broncos – Denver
Packers at Falcons – Atlanta
Lions at Giants – New York

Early pick for Thursday Night Football, (Rams over the 49ers).

Eastbound and Down, AFC East Notes:

Bills McDermott Returns to Carolina, in Big Early Season Matchup:

The Buffalo Bills go on their first road trip of the season and new coach Sean McDermott is returning to very familiar surroundings in Carolina. Having coached there, he knows the tendencies of the offense as well as their strengths and weaknesses as well as anyone. He also knows their defense as well and can game plan for their weaknesses. It should prove to be an interesting matchup.

The Bills nation was in total celebratory mode last week because at least for one week Buffalo sat alone atop the AFC East standings. And despite Cam Newton not playing especially well last week, the Panthers are at home and have a very good defense.

The feeling here? McDermott has the intel on his former team but not the horses to pull off the upset. I like Carolina to hold serve at home this week and Super Bowl reservations from Western New York get canceled.

Facing Cutler and the Dolphins, “No Problem” Says Chargers’ Ingram:

The Dolphins haven’t played a game yet this season, as their game was postponed last week due to the hurricane blasting South Florida. They flew out to California early as a result and have gotten extra practice time to prepare for the Chargers. But the Bolts, now in LA playing in a 30,000 seat stadium have had a short week to prepare for Miami and new QB Jay Cutler, having played on Monday night. What problems will Cutler bring to the Bolts defense, DE Melvin Ingram was asked?

“None,” Ingram said. “We don’t see him as a problem for us.” There are bulletin board material posts and then there is just utter stupidity. This falls as part of the latter. Why give the Dolphins any extra incentive. This is a team that is itching to get on the field after the awful events of last week in Florida and Ingram and the Bolts, coming off of a short week and the wrong end of a 24-21 score in Denver, have little room to talk.

The Bolts defense gave up 24 points to Trevor Siemian so they’re hardly in a position to talk a lot of smack. Advantage Dolphins. We had already picked Miami to win this game, I think you can add a little extra cushion in this one now.

Talent Starved Jets Offense Takes on Oakland :

The New York Jets gutted the roster earlier this spring and several of their high priced players on both sides of the ball are now gone. But nowhere it is more obvious than the offensive side of the ball. The Jets have a dearth of playmakers on offense as they doing a complete overhaul of the roster.

And that begins at quarterback. The Jets have three QBs and none fit the mold as someone that they will build the roster around. So it leaves the 38-year old Josh McCown in familiar territory. He will be the placeholder with an inferior array of weapons around him until the team finds their franchise QB. But he’s always been a good soldier and will continue to be. His 2-14 record as a starter the past few seasons doesn’t describe his capabilities to lead. Is he an even upper tier QB? No, but he’s not horrible. He didn’t play badly last week, but facing a Buffalo team that is looking for an offensive identity is much different than facing an Oakland team that many have competing for the Super Bowl this season.

Look for the Jets to get smoked on Sunday and the inevitable finger pointing will begin. But not many QBs can win with the talent level that McCown has around him right now.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

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

Steve Balestrieri
September 15, 2017 at 6:30 am ET

The New England Patriots find themselves in unfamiliar territory after the first week of the season at the wrong end of a 0-1 record. To even things up, they have to travel to the New Orleans Mercedes Benz Superdome where the Saints are always tough to beat. The Saints are also 0-1 and like New England didn’t play particularly well on Monday Night. Now with a short week, they return home to face a Patriots team that is looking to rebound in Week 2.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, September 17 at 1:00 p.m. ET and can be seen on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nance will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson will work from the sidelines. The game will also be on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call.

The Patriots (0-1) lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 42-27 giving up 21 unanswered points in the 4th quarter. The defense struggled and gave up the most points and yards ever allowed by a Bill Belichick coached Patriots team.

The Saints (0-1) lost to the Minnesota Vikings 29-19. The offensive line struggled to protect Drew Brees and the defense gave up big plays on third down and had communication issues in the secondary. Not exactly unheard of on Week 1 with a young defense.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2017 to give a quick break down on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Saints have met thirteen times in their history dating back to 1972 with the Patriots holding a 9-4 advantage including 4-1 in New Orleans. The last meeting was in Foxboro in 2013 when Tom Brady hit Kenbrell Thompkins with a game winning touchdown with less than a few seconds left on the clock to pull it out 30-27.

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

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Saints Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game is still looking to get untracked but did have a bit of success running the ball last week. Although stopped twice on 4th and 1 attempts, Mike Gillislee scored on three short yardage touchdown runs from 2,2, and 1 yard out.

The Saints did a pretty good job of stuffing the run last week against Minnesota holding Adrian Peterson and Co. in check. Cameron Jordan is their best pass rusher and a very good run defender.

Look for the Patriots to spread them out and run Rex Burkhead in between the tackles this week. I expect to see him get plenty of work in the passing game as well. Gillislee will be the designated goal line/short yardage back.

Patriots WRs vs Saints Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game was very lackluster last week, Tom Brady completed only 16-36 for 267 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. The Patriots were trying to stretch the field last week going deep vertically much more than they’re accustomed to. They have to get back to stretching the field horizontally this week.

The Saints have a young and talented secondary but they’re not ready yet. They had multiple breakdowns and communication issues in Week 1. They also struggle to cover the tight ends which should be a big matchup nightmare for them this week.

I’m looking for Brady to get the tight ends involved early and often this week. Even with an injury depleted wide receiver corps, Brady still has plenty of weapons to go to. Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen should be primary targets early in this one. Look for Josh McDaniels to get the running backs more involved in the passing game this week. As long as the offensive line gives Brady time to throw, he should find plenty of space to work in this week.

Next up the New Orleans offense:

Saints RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New Orleans

The Saints barely used Mark Ingram who rushed for over 1000 yards last year. And neither was Adrian Peterson who they signed this spring as they went with rookie Alvin Kamara who played well And after Peterson yelled at head coach Sean Payton late in the first half of his first game as a Saint, his time there may be short.

The Patriots played in a dime for most of the game last week with Jordan Richards as a linebacker and were gashed by the run. They allowed 185 yards and 6.9 yards per run. This week’s game should see them change that up quite a bit as that strategy plain didn’t work. Look for the Patriots to be much better against the run this week.

Saints WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New Orleans

Drew Brees struggled in the opener because of issues with his offensive line. But he has a very good wide receiver in Michael Thomas and a burner in Ted Ginn as well as TE Coby Fleener. If Brees gets time to throw, he can pick apart any defense.

The Patriots were gashed in the passing game as well, this secondary is much too talented for that. Look for the Patriots to go to the Big Nickel this week, with Pat Chung as the extra linebacker. Harvey Langi should see some action this week. The key will be the pass rush against a beat up New Orleans offensive line. Look for Trey Flowers to have a nice game this week putting pressure on Brees.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Push

The Patriots special teams lost their punt returner when Danny Amendola went down with a concussion. That’s three punt returners and counting that have been lost so far this season. The coverage units and kicking game were solid last week. The kickoff return team was stuck in neutral.

Bill Belichick raved this week about Thomas Morstead this week, (he loves his punters) and he’s one of the better ones in the league. Their kicking game with Wil Lutz had a solid week, but the Saints allowed five kicks to be blocked last year. Look for the Patriots to try to get one this week.  

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one should be an entertaining one as two of the best quarterbacks in the league get together. Both have enormous respect for one another and both are ultra competitive who leave it all out on the field. The Patriots defense has some issues to work out or else Brees could have a huge day. Likewise, the Patriots offense, even with banged up WRs should have their way with this young defense.

This has the potential to be a shootout. But I like the Patriots to take control of this game with a much better effort defensively. It starts with the run defense and Alan Branch and Malcom Brown inside. Ditching the four-safety look this week should really help. Look for Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise to put some pressure on Brees against the younger tackles.

Offensively, if the Patriots don’t score between 30-35 points I’d be very surprised this week. A look at what Minnesota was able to do with a much less talented offense sets the bar this week. And it starts with Rob Gronkowski. Gronk had to hear the entire, “he can’t run anymore”, “he’s lost a step”, take your pick. He’s in line for a huge game this week. Brady will spread them out and find his mismatches. It may be newcomer Phillip Dorsett against nickel corner De’Vante Harris, who was picked on by the Vikings on Monday night. Look for the Patriots to rebound and play a much better game in New Orleans. Time for the fan base to come in off the ledge.

Patriots 34-24

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots Fourth And Two Podcast: Chiefs vs. Patriots Preview

Russ Goldman
September 5, 2017 at 12:10 pm ET

This is our preview of the opening game for the Patriots againt the Chiefs. We also did our predictions for the NFL Division winners, and who we think will win the Super Bowl.

New England Patriots News 9-3, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
September 3, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning and welcome to your Sunday Patriots news 9-3 and AFC East notes.  One of the more interesting notes from Saturday was that the Patriots were waiting until after their scheduled 12:15 p.m. practice to make their final cuts. It isn’t like they didn’t already know who is going to make or not make the team. It does seem odd with their timing of things. I’d love to find out their reasoning behind it, although we never may.

Quick Analysis on the Four Trades this Weekend:
The Patriots made four moves over the period between Friday and Saturday by the time of the initial 53-man roster cut-down.

  • The trade of CB Justin Coleman to Seattle for a 7th Round draft pick was a win for both teams. Coleman had been outplayed by the top four corners as well as (in our opinion) Kenny Moore and D.J. Killings. By getting something for him, it was a win for NE as he didn’t fit in their plans.
  • The trade for Detroit’s Johnson Bademosi was a nice boost for the Pats. He didn’t fit into the Lion’s plans and they netted a 6th rounder in 2019. The Patriots got a good STs gunner in Bademosi and with several of the team’s STs performers banged up and facing KC with Tyreek Hill this week, smart move.
  • The team’s trade with Indianapolis was again, a win for both teams. Phillip Dorsett obviously didn’t fit in the Colts long-term plans. Ditto for Brissett in New England. Folks, Bill Belichick isn’t going to trade a QB that fits into their plans. That position is the hardest to fill in the NFL. With Julian Edelman on IR and Malcolm Mitchell banged up all summer, the Patriots will try to find a way to harness his 4.33 speed. With Dorsett, Cooks, and Hogan, the Patriots now have speed merchants to create matchup nightmares. Will it work? Time will tell.
  • The trade with Seattle later on Saturday afternoon was another good move by Bill Belichick. The team was releasing STs stalwart, Geneo Grissom. But he never made a dent on defense and with the team thin at the DE position, made the deal for the same draft pick they got from Seattle to give it back for DE Cassius Marsh. Marsh played nearly 80 percent of the Seahawks STs snaps in 2016 and is a versatile guy that plays on the edge or as an interior pass rusher.

Overall all of the trades worked out for the Patriots and the teams they dealt with. Seeing reports that the Pats “fleeced” the Colts is hogwash. The Colts were reportedly taking offers for Dorsett this week and with Andrew Luck not yet ready for action, they were in need of another QB. Brissett’s sharp performance on Thursday night must have been the deciding factor. Will all of these moves work out? Time will tell but overall the moves make sense for both teams across the board.

Patriots “Initial” 53-Man Roster Hardly Will Resemble Unit Later:
While the Patriots have made their initial cuts to get down to the 53-man roster limit, don’t get too wrapped up in who is here, especially at the bottom end of the roster.

If Bill Belichick and the staff have shown anything in the past several years it is that the roster will change, sometimes a lot in the early days of the season. I would expect the team to tweak the roster quite a bit in the next two weeks as we’ll see the coaches tinker with and find the players who best fit what they’re trying to do.

Then, as we’ve usually seen, the team will make a deal or two in-season to fill a need or to bolster the team’s depth. And as with the practice squad, which will be announced later today, this unit will see plenty of faces. So, don’t get too worked up over the roster construction, as it is currently constructed. There will be more changes coming.

Belichick Waxes Long on the Differences Between KRs/PRs:
There are times when Bill Belichick’s press conferences become “must-see” and great learning tools for the media and fans (live cast on Patriots.com). Whenever he’s talking about football history is always a perfect example. I was fortunate enough to be in attendance at one last year when he spoke at length about forming a practice squad. On Friday, he was at it again when asked if a punt returner, as in a player who might not contribute much offensively or defensively, was worthy of a roster spot. His answer, long and articulate is the kind of stuff that makes his Friday pressers those must-attend events.

“I mean I’d say the ball-handling is critical,” Belichick said. “It’s like the long-snapper. How many plays is a long-snapper in for a game? Call it 10? I don’t know. Somewhere in that neighborhood. Eight to 10 extra-points, punts, field goals. But everybody carries a long-snapper.

“Of course the easy answer is if one person does both, that makes it a lot easier, and it also makes the overall roster discussion a lot easier,” Belichick stated. “The big difference, of course, is on kickoff returns you have a chance to build up your speed. You get a chance to handle the ball cleanly, and there’s nobody on top of you when you’re catching it. You’re able to run and set up your blocks and hit things full-speed . . . usually between the 20 and 30-yard line, where the coverage and the blockers and the wedge all sort of come together and the returners get a chance to set those blocks up and hit them and try to get through there.

The Patriots are looking for a punt returner now that Cyrus Jones has gone on IR. (SBalestrieri photo)

“Between the kick-returns and the punt-returns, maybe a couple less than that. But I’d say the difficulty of those jobs and the importance of them and core ball-handling, there’s not much of a way to lose a game quicker than that. I think it’s a high priority for everybody. When I say everybody, I say every team . . . We’ll have to see how it turns out, but it’s not an afterthought at all. It’s a priority.”

“The punting game is a lot more situational. Mostly on kickoffs, the ball’s always kicked from the same place. Rarely is there a difference; there are some, but they’re minimal — after a safety or that type of thing. But punting, the ball can be anywhere. The situation that they’re punting in can be quite diverse and sometimes complex. Punters are very good at directional punting and kicking different types of punts — end-over-end punts, spiral punts, spirals that don’t turn over and so forth. The ball-handling is a little more complex.

“And you have to deal with players around you as you’re catching the ball sooner or later. Sometimes a punter will outkick his coverage, but the majority of the time there’s some decision making involved on whether to catch it and how to make the first coverage player or two miss to get the return started, or fair-catch it, or to let it go and not catch the ball, or to let it go over your head and go into the end zone for a touchback. There’s a lot of decision-making on whether to just catch the ball, or whether to catch it and run with it, or whether to catch it and just fair-catch it that are quite different than the kickoffs.

“And then in addition to that, you’re dealing with defenders and coverage players that are on you a lot quicker on punt returns. Sometimes you only have a yard or two, or a couple yards, to get into space, make a guy miss, break a tackle, whereas kickoffs are much more of a build-up play. Because they’re so different a lot of times you don’t have the same player doing both.

“And on a personal opinion, because they’re so different, I find the two plays very fascinating and intriguing and a great part of the strategy of football. Just because the plays themselves are so different in the teaching… the rules, the skills and so forth. So that’s why I’m not in favor of . . . I take an opposing view to the people that want to eliminate kickoffs from the game and try to have as few kickoffs as possible. I think it’s an exciting play. It’s a unique play and one that is a big momentum play because of what happened the play before — the score or possibly the times at the start of the half where it’s kind of a tone-setter or a pace-setter for that opening play.

“So yeah they’re plenty different. And of course the same thing in the blocking. You have a chance to set up a return (on kickoffs), whereas on the punting side of it you have an option of trying to pressure the punter and block it or return it, but you kind of have to return it from the line of scrimmage. You can’t drop off too far because of the possibilities of fakes. So you have to keep enough guys up on the line of scrimmage to ensure that that ball is punted. And you have to ensure you’re not getting an onside kick, too, but again, that’s much less frequent and the rules are in the kick-return team’s favor on the onsides kick. It’s a big gamble for the kicking team to do that as a surprise tactic. So the blocking patterns and techniques of blocking are quite different on the punt returns compared to what they are on kickoff returns.” Mic drop.

Jacob Hollister was a surprise UDFA who made the initial 53-man roster out of preseason. (SBalestrieri photo)

Jacob Hollister Makes Initial 53-man Roster:
One of the good stories this spring was the Patriots signing of twin brothers Jacob and Cody Hollister as UDFAs.  And the news that Hollister at least initially made the roster was exciting news. He’s one of a few UDFAs that made the team along with Adam Butler, Harvey Langi, and Cole Croston. However, his brother Cody was released but may be brought back onto the practice squad if he clears waivers.

Hollister was (again in our opinion) the better option in the passing game than James O’Shaughnessy. He’s able to stretch the field, has good hands and has shown the ability to hold onto the ball. He’s more of a move tight-end and still needs some work on his blocking. But he got some good STs work in as well this summer. We liked him as soon as they signed him with his work in college and got to do one of his first interviews during training camp. Which can be revisited here:

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:
Bills Trade Seymour to Panthers for WR/KR Clay:
The Buffalo Bills have traded for Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kaelin Clay. Carolina got the Bills sent second-year cornerback Kevon Seymour. The Bills also acquired Carolina’s seventh-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Clay will be expected to be a vertical threat for the Bills offense this season and will be called on to return kicks as well. He played for the Ravens in 2015 before getting injured and going on IR. He was out of football before signing with the Panthers this spring.

Miami Signs T.J. McDonald to a Four-Year Extension Worth $24 Million:
The Dolphins signed safety T.J. McDonald to a four-year extension on Saturday.
Financial terms were not disclosed, but the deal is reportedly worth $24 million and includes $10 million in guarantees.

McDonald signed a one-year deal with Miami in the spring despite being hit with an eight-game suspension for violating the NFL substance abuse policy. The suspension begins this week.

Jets Trade Seahawks for Jermaine Kearse and Give Up Sheldon Richardson:
The New York Jets addressed one of their needs by getting wide receiver help by trading DL Sheldon Richardson to Seattle for WR Jermaine Kearse. The Jets also get a 2nd round draft pick in 2018. The teams also swapped their 5th round draft picks.

Kearse has always been very productive but is coming off of a down year in 2016 when he logged only 41 catches for 510 yards and one touchdown. The Jets will obviously be expecting much more.

Richardson, 26, has spent his entire career with the Jets. The former Defensive Rookie of the Year made the Pro Bowl in 2014.But his maturity has been called into question several times and he’s been suspended by the league twice.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots Fourth And Two Podcast: Regular Season Predictions

Russ Goldman
August 30, 2017 at 12:11 pm ET

In this episode, we started by talking about some Patriots news which included a discussion on the injury to Julian Edelman and the release of Kony Ealy. After that we reviewed the pre-season game for the Patriots against the Lions. We ended the show by sharing our season predictions for the the Patriots.

Final New England Patriots 53-Man Roster Projection 4.0

Steve Balestrieri
August 28, 2017 at 6:30 am ET

As we’ve been saying all summer, the New England Patriots will have many difficult decisions to make when the final 53-man cut down is due after the Giants game. The hour glass is running out and if players are going to make a move, they have a week remaining to convince the coaches that they’re worth keeping.

With some serious injuries to Derek Rivers and Julian Edelman, that will open up two spots that we had as locks. Ditto for the release of Kony Ealy. So, despite that, we can expect that the Patriots initial 53-man roster will change rather quickly as they’ll probably pick up a player or two via the waiver wire. I wouldn’t rule out a trade for an edge player either as they are really thin there right now.

With that in mind, we’ll take our final crack at the roster here on Sunday night with time to digest and re-watch the Lions game.

First up is the offense…

OFFENSE (24)
QUARTERBACK (3): Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett

Out: None
New England has traditionally kept two QBs on their roster. Last year they kept three because of the crazy Brady suspension. I didn’t expect Brissett to push Garoppolo for the #2 slot this season, but his play has been really disappointing. He holds the ball far too long and his arm, though cannon-like has the accuracy of an old smooth-bore musket and not where it should be.

But I just don’t see them cutting bait with Brissett yet. Is it possible? You betcha, but not this year. I think they will stick with three but Brissett isn’t a lock by any means.

RUNNING BACK (5): James White, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis, James Develin

Out: D.J. Foster, Brandon Bolden, Glenn Gronkowski, LeShun Daniels
No changes here, I really wanted to find a way to keep both Foster and Bolden. Foster is going to be on a roster somewhere on Opening Weekend. If it isn’t here, it will be somewhere else. I thought of keeping only two TEs and utilizing him in an RB/Slot receiver mode where Devlin and an extra tackle can help in the blocking. And they still may do that.

Bolden is a superb STs performer but with Gillislee back and looking healthy, I don’t see how they keep him without cutting from somewhere else.

TIGHT END (3): Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, James O’Shaughnessy

Out: Matt Lengel, Sam Cotton, Jacob Hollister
While he’s played well the past few weeks, O’Shaughnessy’s slot is still tenuous at best. He’s a better blocker but not as good as a receiver as Hollister. The UDFA rookie from Wyoming had a big game against Jax and then was barely used after that. It is obvious the team likes O’Shaughnessy and wants to keep him. Lengel, who is banged up didn’t show enough to warrant keeping him around.

WIDE RECEIVER (5): Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola, Austin Carr

Out: Julian Edelman (IR), Matthew Slater (IR), Devin Lucien, Cody Hollister, Tony Washington, K.J. Maye
Julian Edelman’s injury opens the door for the Patriots to keep Austin Carr, who to me has just barely edged out Devin Lucien for the final spot at the position. Both Edelman and Slater go to IR, Slater will return later this season, which will make for another interesting decision. The top four are locks and will be needed to step up a bit more.

INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINE (4): David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Joe Thuney, Ted Karras
Out: Jason King, James Ferentz, Chase Farris

No changes here. Center David Andrews and guards Mason and Thuney were all starters last year, are locked and have played well this summer. Karras gets the nod over Ferentz who will be a primary practice squad candidate

OFFENSIVE TACKLE (4):  Nate Solder, Antonio Garcia, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming

Out: LaAdrian Waddle, Conor McDermott, Cole Croston, Max Rich, Andrew Jelks (IR)
The good news is that Nate Solder is back at practice and although he didn’t make the trip to Detroit, he should be ready for the Chiefs game on Opening Night. Garcia has been banged up, does his injury preclude him from making the roster and going on IR? That may open the door a crack for Conor McDermott or LaAdrian Waddle (also banged up) to step in. But it appears that Solder, Cannon, and Fleming are locked in right now.

Next up in the defense.

DEFENSE (25):
DEFENSIVE TACKLE (5): Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine, Adam Butler

Out: Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo, Josh Augusta,
With the lack of enough edge players and the release of Kony Ealy, this opens the door for another player to step up inside and that is Adam Butler who has had a very solid camp. He’s shown the ability to penetrate inside and disrupt things in the running game. Branch, Brown, and Lawrence Guy are locked. Guy had a solid camp and with Butler, the team may opt for more of a 3-4 look with the bigger bodies inside.

Hamilton, Kilgo, and Augusta played well this summer and are victims of numbers more than anything else.

EDGE RUSHER (3): Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise, Geneo Grissom,

Out: Derek Rivers (IR), Caleb Kidder, Keionta Davis
Ealy was released early…which means that he was in no way in their plans for 2017 after an up and down training camp. Depth has become a serious issue here. Wise will be looked to now, to provide the pressure with Trey Flowers. Grissom right now is my 53rd player on the roster. He could be replaced somewhere else but sticks around for his STs play. But he’s been virtually invisible on defense and that isn’t a good sign.

Look for the linebackers to provide help in this realm. Dont’a Hightower, Van Noy, and Langi will all be utilized as edge rushers as well. This is an area they may cherry pick off of the waiver wire and/or swing a trade. I think Davis will go to the practice squad and possibly play a factor down the road sometime in the future.

LINEBACKER (6): Dont’a Hightower, David Harris, Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin, Harvey Langi, Trevor Bates

Out: Elandon Roberts (IR), Jonathan Freeny, Brooks Ellis
I had the team keeping just five linebackers all summer but with the dearth of edge players, they keep an extra LB and those guys will help out on the edge as well. David Harris is an early-down inside run stuffer who is a liability in coverage (see Roberts). But the difference is, he’s a guy who is an established, smart veteran and will be rarely out of position. Hightower is a guy who can play inside or on the edge as a rusher, as well as Van Noy.

Langi and Bates, the last addition to the linebacking crew both had a good summer and training camp. Langi was a bit overaggressive at times as a pass rusher, but he’ll learn to temper those tendencies. Bates noses out Belichick favorite and STs standout Freeny and Roberts goes to IR.

CORNERBACK (6): Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Kenny Moore, Cyrus Jones

Out: Justin Coleman, DJ Killings, William Likely
The top four are locked and ready for the season. Gilmore had, in my opinion, a terrific summer. He’s adapted extremely well to the Patriots system and should be an outstanding addition. He and Butler promise to be a dynamic pair of corners on the edge. Rowe and Jonathan Jones have split the nickel corner duties and will continue to do so, depending on the matchups. Both played well this summer. Kenny More displayed a nose for the ball all summer and just beats out the veteran Justin Coleman. Cyrus Jones, for now, is a corner in name only. He’s the primary Kick returner but the team may ultimately decide to go with Dion Lewis/Amendola, in which case he’d be expendable.

SAFETY (5): Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Brandon King, Nate Ebner

Out:  Jordan Richards, David Jones, Damarius Travis, Jason Thompson
The top three of Chung, McCourty, and Harmon have been solid and are locked. The team has depth for those two with Nate Ebner and Brandon King who are mainly special teamers, neither of whom plays much defense although Ebner has played in spots in the past.

Jordan Richards is a favorite of Belichick and the team is trying every way of keeping him around. They switched him to the linebacker position in the “Big Nickel” look, the Pat Chung role and he was as inconsistent as he’s been elsewhere. Too slow, too stiff with a penchant for taking bad angles. Jones was hurt all summer, Travis played well in spots. Both may be candidates for the practice squad.

SPECIAL TEAMS (3): Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona,

Out: None
A good solid group who have had a good camp thus far. Gostkowski still seems to have a mental block for extra points. But is solid on his field goal attempts and his kickoffs which are outstanding at getting the team great field position on defense. Allen has had a very strong camp. We haven’t mentioned Cardona much at all….which tells you his snaps have been right on the money.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

New England Patriots News 8-27, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
August 27, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning and welcome to your Sunday Patriots news 8-27 and AFC East notes.  

Patriots Lose Edelman for the Season, What it Means:
The Patriots worst fears were realized on Saturday afternoon when it was revealed that Julian Edelman’s right knee injury was an ACL tear and the valuable, versatile and hard-working cog of the Patriots’ offense will be gone for the 2017 season.

Edelman went down on a non-contact play against the Lions as he was cutting through the secondary on the Patriots first drive of the game. He caught three passes for 52 yards on the Patriots opening drive.

Julian Edelman was having a terrific summer before injuring his knee on Friday night. (SBalestrieri photo)

The normal mantra is for Patriots fans to call the old standby “next man up” and truthfully, as long as Tom Brady is under center, this team should be fine. But Edelman is Brady’s go-to guy on third down and you just don’t replace 90 or so catches and a 1000 yards at the drop of a hat. Look back at 2015, with Edelman, the Patriots were 9-0 and converting over 40 percent of their third downs. Edelman missed the last seven games and the Patriots went 3-4 and their 3rd down conversion rate plummeted to 32 percent. That wasn’t a coincidence.

This will put the onus of Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski to stay healthy this year. Amendola can pick up some of the slack in the slot with Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan rotating thru there as well depending on the matchups. It will also affect the punt return game. Malcolm Mitchell’s role will increase as well.

Edelman has always been money at returning punts in big games. If Cyrus Jones falters this season, the team could have easily turned to Danny Amendola, but now his role will change, and the team may be forced to cut back on his snaps in that realm. That backup, perhaps primary kick returner may fall to Dion Lewis. If Jones should stumble.

There’s no beating around the bush here. Can they work thru this? Yes. But the idea that it is no problem, despite how deep and versatile they are is ridiculous. This is a huge loss for the Patriots offense. He’s Brady’s best friend as well as his most trusted wide receiver. Those two frequently can see something and react wordlessly at the line of scrimmage and run the correct play. We saw that on Friday night.

Patriots Release Kony Ealy:
The Patriots released DL Kony Ealy who they acquired in a trade with the Carolina Panthers just five months ago. They traded back eight spots in the 2017 NFL Draft sending their 2nd round draft pick for Ealy and Carolina’s 3rd round pick.

Ealy, 25, struggled to fit in the Patriots system from the beginning of training camp and struggled, although he seemed to pick up his play lately. He had a QB hit and three hurries in Detroit but also lost his containment on a few others.

Kony Ealy struggled to fit in the Patriots scheme. (PatsFans.com photo)

It was widely reported on Friday that the Patriots were actively shopping Ealy to see if that was any interest in the talented defensive lineman. But his commitment and work ethic have been called into question. If Ealy clears waivers, he will become a free agent.

The Patriots tried to find a fit for Ealy but he was either unable or unwilling to do what they required of him. One thing that stood out which may mean nothing but now is a curious question is, was he a malcontent in the locker room? We watched him walk out alone for practice on most days. Coincidence or not?

The timing is also curious too, do the Patriots wait and pluck someone off the waiver wire or make a trade?  Or is a trade partner already out there? It is not like Belichick to jettison a guy without a plan in place. Or was it just a case of not wanting to keep a player around that they have no plans on keeping.

Adam Butler Making a Push for the Roster:
Rookie defensive lineman Adam Butler has been making the most of his opportunities and now appears to have a good chance of sticking with the 53-man roster. He came on as training camp progressed and had a solid game against the Lions on Friday night.

The 6’5, 300-pound defensive lineman has exhibited some explosion off the snap and has shown the ability to disrupt plays in the backfield. With that kind of penetration and the ability to stuff the running game, his chances of making the roster are increasing.

With the release of Ealy on Saturday, Butler may find himself on the inside now. He’ll be a player to watch this week, both during practice and against the Giants in the preseason finale in Foxboro.

Gillislee Impresses in First Opportunity With the Patriots:
Patriots running back Mike Gillislee got into his first game action as a member of the team on Friday night after missing most of the training camp with a balky hamstring. Now declaring himself, “100% percent healthy” Gillislee had eight carries for 38 yards and a touchdown in Detroit. He also added a two-point conversion.

Gillislee is a one-cut, hard nosed runner who is expected to take up the slack for the departed LeGarrette Blount who is now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. His touchdown run was an easy one, with James O’Shaughnessy and James Devlin both putting excellent blocks on the right side. Gillislee waltzed in.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a game, last December, so I was just anxious to get out there and get that first hit,” Gillislee said after the game. “After that, I was good.”

First World Problems…Patriots Do Construction to Fit Super Bowl Banners:
The Patriots had a problem this summer that other teams would love to have. They had nowhere to hang their fifth Super Bowl banner. According to Mike Reiss in his Saturday column:

After internal meetings, the Patriots ultimately chose to have parts of Gillette Stadium undergo construction to make room for the new banner. That construction is close to its conclusion and the club tweeted out a sneak preview of where the banners will hang.

The Gillette Stadium sign was raised in the South end zone, creating room for the five banners — and possibly more in the future.

As owner Robert Kraft said on SiriusXM NFL Radio, “We’ve had to change the construction around. We have a little surprise for our fans [opening night], which should be very cool.


President Trump Gets a Super Bowl Ring From the Team:

Patriots owner Robert Kraft gave President Donald Trump a commemorative Super Bowl ring after the team’s visit to the White House in April. It seems that the Patriots who already came bearing gifts on their official visit felt that more was called for after the reception they received on visiting the Trump White House was the best they received in their five visits according to Kraft.

Trump received a customized, personalized ring that mirrored what the Patriots players and staff received. Those rings were crafted in 10-karat white gold and featured 280 diamonds with the words “World Champions” on the front. The inside of the ring includes, “We are all Patriots” and “greatest comeback ever,” a nod to the 31 unanswered points scored against the Falcons in the most dramatic comeback win in Super Bowl history.

The Super Bowl ring given to Trump is expected to be placed in the President’s Library at the end of his presidency. And according to federal watchdogs, he’ll have to claim the gift on his financial statements in 2018 as the gift is greater than $375.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:
Bills Hoping for LB Ragland to Get His Burst Back:
Buffalo Bills second-year linebacker Reggie Ragland was supposed to push starting Mike Linebacker Preston Brown for the starting position this summer in the Bills training camp. But it hasn’t materialized and the team is waiting for Ragland to get his noted burst back in his game.

Ragland was taking first team reps a year ago when he tore his ACL on Aug. 5 during last year’s camp. Right now, he’s listed as third on the depth chart leading to some speculation that he’s on the trading block.

But as we’ve frequently seen with ACL injuries, it takes about 18 months for a player to fully get his health and speed back to where it was prior to the injury. The Bills seem to be patient and know that Ragland will keep improving as the season progresses.

Cutler Finding Chemistry with Miami Wide Receivers:
The Dolphins signed QB Jay Cutler after starter Ryan Tannehill went down with an ACL injury and the immediate question was, having never played with any of the Dolphins’ skill position players, could he find chemistry with and thrive in Miami’s offense. Early indications are looking good.

He seems to be developing nice chemistry with Devante Parker and he also connected with Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry. He tossed a touchdown pass to tight end, Julius Thomas, while going 5-8 for 105 yards and a touchdown in their game on Thursday night against Philadelphia. While far from perfect it was a good building block for Cutler as he tries to find his comfort level in the Miami offense.

His best throw of the night was a 72-yarder where Parker won a jump ball. A deep throw to Stills drew a pass interference call in the end zone. It certainly looks like Adam Gase is going to take advantage of Cutler’s arm strength and test the deep parts of the field much more than the Fins were willing to do with Tannehill.

Jets Giving Hackenberg and Petty One More Look at QB:
The New York Jets, seemed like they were poised to go with veteran Josh McCown as the starting QB once the season began. But head coach Todd Bowles took a step back as McCown was relegated to a bystander as Bowles gave Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty split the reps as the team was preparing for their third preseason game.

While McCown remains the favorite to be the starter in two weeks, Bowles claimed late this week that the competition is still wide open and said that Hackenberg gets better the more he plays.

McCown has been getting the star treatment during the preseason, playing only one series in the first preseason game, but with a very limited wide receiver group, he needs to develop a chemistry with whoever is going to be out there.  

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Are You Ready For Some Football? Patriots Dominate Early In Win Over Detroit

Steve Balestrieri
August 26, 2017 at 9:15 am ET

Bill Belichick doesn’t like the term dress rehearsals but if this was the Patriots’ in Detroit, then the offense looks more than ready enough to start the season. Tom Brady and Company were clicking on all cylinders in a first quarter that saw them race out to 24 points as they played most of their starters in the first half.

But it was truly a tale of two halves. The Patriots backups struggled on both sides of the ball before they eventually had to come from behind with a last minute field goal to beat the Lions 30-28.

The impressive showing by the starting offense had an ominous cloud hanging over it however, as it is feared that Julian Edelman may have suffered a serious injury and may be lost for the season. Edelman went down on the Patriots first drive after making a cut and grabbing his leg in pain. Initial tests revealed an ACL tear but the team is waiting for a test on Saturday morning to confirm it.

Brady and the Patriots offense came out firing, going to an up-tempo style offense, they marched down the field in just 3:09, before many fans found their seats, scoring a touchdown when Brady hit Chris Hogan for a seven-yard score. The drive covered 75 yards in just 7 plays. Edelman was huge in the drive, up to his injury catching three passes for 52 yards.

Detroit’s Matthew Stafford completed a pass to Golden Tate but Malcolm Butler punched the ball out and with three Patriots around the ball, Jordan Richards fell on it and the Patriots were in business at the Detroit 32.

Brady went for the quick strike, hitting Chris  Hogan streaking down the left side for a 32-yard touchdown pass making it 13-0 just 21 seconds after the first touchdown. On the right side, Brandin Cooks was also open deep as Brady had his pick of where to go. Stephen Gostkowski pulled the extra point wide left.

The Patriots defense held Detroit to a three and out and went right back on the attack. Facing a 3rd and 4, Brady and Danny Amendola had a beautiful 32-yard hook up where Amendola showed great concentration, hauling the ball in between two defenders as he was going to the ground. Then a defensive pass interference call on Rob Gronkowski, (the second he drew in the first quarter), set the team up at the 12-yard line. Three plays later, Mike Gillislee in his first carry in a Patriots uniform powered in from the one-yard line after great blocks by James O’Shaughnessy and James Develin to make it 19-0. The extra point was good, but the Lions were flagged on the play so New England went for two. Gillislee scored on basically the same play, this time cutting it back to the inside and the score was 21-0.

Brady led another scoring drive but this one stalled as Gostkowski nailed a 46-yard field goal to make the score 24-0. Brady was 10-11 for 157 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter. The only incompletion was a drop by Cooks on a deep stick route.

Stafford finally got Detroit’s offense clicking and he completed four consecutive passes for 70 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown to Marvin Jones that made it 24-7. The play was another curiously bad one by Butler who gave up a long pass last week. The Patriots starters were done after Brady moved them into Lion’s territory and badly missed a connection with Hogan in the Detroit end zone that resulted in a pick by Glover Quin. It was an uncharacteristic bad decision by Brady, throwing into double coverage.

Stafford was 11-of-17 for 125 yards, a touchdown and a pick against the Pats starting defense. He came out in the third quarter and played a series with the starters against the Patriots backups and shredded them, going 4-of-5 for 65 yards and a touchdown to Dwayne Washington.

Jimmy Garoppolo and the second team offense struggled in the second half until their two final drives where they were able to get field goals from Gostkowski to narrow the Lions’ lead to 28-27 and then finally going back out in front with two seconds to go 30-27. Other observations included:

  • Chris Hogan was dynamic, especially in that pivotal first quarter. He caught five passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns. Remember the talk when the team traded for Cooks and many thought Hogan’s reps would disappear? That now seems to be firmly in the rear-view mirror.
  • Jordan Richards was moved to a linebacker role in the Patriots “Big Nickel” formation on defense and struggled again. He did recover the fumble but missed some tackles that should have been made. We know Belichick loves this kid, but for them to keep him this season, would be a head scratcher.
  • Veterans David Harris and Kony Ealy saw extensive action, but with the injuries on the defense, it was more out of necessity than anything else. Both had some good and bad. Ealy seems to be at his best as an inside penetrator. Harris is solid in run support but was in a mismatch in the passing game with Ameer Abdullah.
  • Garoppolo and the offense seemed stuck in neutral, although much of that had to do with the play of the offensive line until the final two drives when Josh McDaniels went to the up-tempo offense. It seemed the ball was coming out quicker and with better accuracy.
  • D.J. Foster will be playing somewhere in September. It looked like he was running the ball with some excellent vision this week, he had one drop in the passing game, but it would have been a tough catch.
  • Cooks and Gronkowski each only caught one pass but it wasn’t anything to be concerned with. Gronk drew two pass interference penalties and Cooks, with Edelman out, would have had his role increased had the offense remained out there in the second half.
  • It was a pretty decent night for Cameron Fleming, he played mostly well but whiffed a couple of times on speed rushes off the edge by Anthony Zettel.

The Patriots now have the final tune-up with the Giants before the games begin for real when Kansas City comes into town in just 13 days. The team has plenty of decisions still to make and next week, the fringe players should see plenty of action.

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