Tag Archives: Trey Flowers

New England Patriots News 6-24, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
June 24, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, Here is your Sunday’s Patriots news 6-24, & AFC East Notes …

Quick Hitters:
Isaiah Wynn was signed to a contract by the Patriots, it was announced on Friday. Wynn was one of two Patriots 1st round draft picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, #23 overall. He and Sony Michel were taken by the team in the first round.

Wynn is a 6-foot-2, 302-pounder who played both guard and tackle during at Georgia. As a senior in 2017, he was named a team captain and started all 15 games that he played at left tackle. He was named to the 2017 Associated Press All-America Second Team.

2018 Training Camp will begin on Thursday, July 26, the Patriots have announced. The team will give further details once the dates get closer but expect large crowds and if you want to get a good vantage point, plan to arrive early.

In accordance with the NFL’s rules, here are some of the training camp ones to remember for the beginning of camp:

Day 1: Physicals, meetings, classroom work, running/conditioning

Day 2/3: On-field practices allowed without pads and without contact

Day 4 – UTC: Two-a-day practices authorized

  • No more than 4 hours per day
  • No more than 1 practice with pads per day; no more than 3 hours per day;
  • Padded practice defined as any practice with helmets and shoulder pads worn
  • Minimum 3 hours between practices if the team elects for two-a-day; second practice limited to “walk-through”
  • Quarterbacks, punters, kickers, and long snappers may elect to wear a helmet and/or shoulder pads during non-padded practices
  • Players with head injuries may be directed to wear a helmet by team medical staff as a precaution during non-padded practices
  • Quarterbacks and defensive player who receives signals from coaching staff may wear helmets to receive communications from sidelines
  • Teams are required to video all activities and retain film for at least 30 days after the start of the regular season; the NFLPA will be allowed to view the films of practice if a complaint is made about the team’s workouts

Players aren’t paid during training camp. Instead, receiving room and board from the team and are paid per diem for their time spent at camp.

Tom Brady and his wife Gisele attended the U2 concert recently and like everyone else, Brady sang along with the song (just like all of us do while driving). However, when it comes to singing along with Bono, Brady isn’t the GOAT, he is just as bad as the rest of us in the singing department. But hey, it never stopped me from singing….loudly in traffic or at concerts. Looks like fun was had by all… OOPS! There’s that pesky fun word again.

The video can be seen here:

Eric Decker, the free agent WR said on Sirius XM Radio that he’d be open to going to New England and reuniting with Josh McDaniels who drafted him in Denver in 2010.

“At this point in my career I want to go somewhere where I have a chance to compete for a Super Bowl, be in a good system, be with a quarterback that my skill set would be an addition to the team,” Decker said.

“I talked with New England actually last year when I was going through the free agency process, late there in June,” Decker said. “We’ll see once GMs and coaches have kind of regrouped after minicamp and we’ll see what the needs are going into training camp.”

Brandon Browner, who won back-to-back Super Bowls with the Patriots and Seahawks was sentenced to 60 days in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic battery case. He was released after just two days due to jail overcrowding.

Browner spent three years with the Seahawks and one with the Saints. In 2014, he played in nine regular-season games with the Patriots but played in a key role in their Super Bowl win over his former team the Seahawks.

Jameis Winston is looking at a three-game suspension and once again the league has leaked out the punishment before the player was even notified. And the case, much like the Edelman case, feels like the league has to delve much deeper before issuing a suspension on him.

So is the suspension for failure to report an incident, in which the player’s take is, that the incident in question never happened?

Bentley an Early Down Run Stuffer:
We post our early summer 53-Man Roster Projection 1.0 earlier this week and one of the early winners we projected which got some questions was with the rookie linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley over the incumbent, inside linebacker Elandon Roberts.

Roberts is a favorite of Bill Belichick and his game is built similar to that of Bentley, as an early-down run stuffer. However, Bentley has got a distinct size advantage being 6’2, 260 pounds while Roberts is listed at 6’0, 235 by the Patriots.

Both players’ strengths are playing downhill in the running game, neither is particular adept in coverage or running laterally. But Bentley also brings with him that coveted leadership mantle that he earned at Purdue.

The Patriots run defense was pretty leaky when defending the run last season allowing 4.7 yards per rush, tied with the Rams for the 2nd worst in the entire league. Although that was a combination of things, one of the things which must improve was the play of the linebackers, which included Roberts.

The feeling here is that the Patriots drafted Bentley is a bit of a statement saying they expected more from Roberts.

Two other selections that got a lot of comments were the keeping of RB Jeremy Hill over Brandon Bolden and the UDFA rookie punter Corey Bojorquez. One thing is for certain, it is still very early and nothing is written in stone. But competition is always a good thing and training camp should prove to be interesting.

Patriots Wide Receivers Will Be Fighting For Reps In Camp:
One of the key areas to watch during training camp will be the Pats wide receivers. After losing both Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks from the 2017 team, the team gets back Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell and has added Jordan Matthews, Cordarrelle Patterson as well as Braxton Berrios during the 2018 NFL Draft.

Edelman’s looming suspension and the health of Mitchell, Berrios who are coming off injuries and Kenny Britt who was dinged up in minicamp are the key things to watch for at the position this summer once camp begins. If Edelman’s suspension does not get reduced or removed during his appeal, it will at least give the team another four weeks to get a look at the WRs vying for a roster spot.

There are 11 WRs vying for about 6 spots on the roster. That makes for great competition especially when considering that only a few (Edelman and Hogan) are locks to make the roster. There will have to be some tough decisions made. Guys like Berrios and Mitchell, who are expected to make strong pushes for the roster both missed most of the spring workouts. July 26th can’t get here fast enough.

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Legend Kelly Undergoes Another Cancer Surgery:
The Buffalo Bills’ former QB Jim Kelly and his wife Jill were in New York City for a follow up procedure from his recent cancer surgery. This one was planned far in advance for the former Bills’ great.

“The plan at this point is that he will have surgery in mid-June to lessen the “skin flap” bulk in his mouth, as well as put implants into his upper jaw,” wrote Jill Kelly. “And then there will be more healing and waiting and then another surgery and possibly upper teeth sometime in September.”

Jill Kelly jumped on Instagram to keep Bills’ fans appraised of the situation. “Out of surgery and in recovery,” she wrote. “Still in a lot of pain, but everything went well. Thank GOD! No teeth yet, but 5 implants were inserted into the new bone in Jim’s upper jaw. More technical than I can explain…”

Kelly will receive the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the 2018 ESPYs.

Dolphins Announce Training Camp Start Date:
The Miami Dolphins veterans will report to training camp on July 25. Under the NFL’s rules teams cannot have veterans report to training camp earlier than either July 15 or 15 days prior to their first preseason game, whichever is later.

With their first preseason game slated for August 9, Miami will have all 15 days to prepare for their first action of the 2018 season. Miami rookies will report on July 18.

The Dolphins are expecting big things out of Kenyan Drake in 2018, the 3rd year RB will be the featured back in the Dolphins offense. He started six of 16 games a year ago and really found a rhythm once he got into his groove. Patriots fans will remember his big night in the Fins win over NE where he ran for 114 yards and caught passes out of the backfield for 79 more.

I’d expect Adam Gase to use him a lot like the Patriots used Dion Lewis last year and with the ageless Frank Gore in the backfield, it should keep Drake fresh for the crunch time in games.

Jets Could Dangle Teddy Bridgewater For an Edge Rusher:
The New York Jets need an edge rusher and ESPN’s Rich Cimini laid out a couple of interesting options for Gang-Green to possibly pursue.

The two names he was writing about was the Broncos’ Shane Ray and the Jaguars Dante Fowler. While Ray is coming off of wrist surgery which may delay his start of the 2018 regular season, Fowler was a very impressive young player on a team that is stacked on defense.

Cimini states that Fowler may be in the position where the Jaguars won’t be able to pay him in 2019 and is coming off a very solid 2017 year where he notched eight sacks. He was originally picked by Jacksonville 3rd overall in the 2015 NFL Draft and won’t come cheap. He’s just 24 years old and while the Jags front office won’t be able to get what he’s worth, they won’t be giving him away either.

Cimini writes: “Teddy Bridgewater could be trade bait, but I don’t see that happening unless Darnold wins the starting job during the preseason. There’s also the matter of his surgically repaired knee. He looked fine in OTAs and minicamp, but there’s still skepticism around the league about his knee. He’d have to quiet the doubters in the preseason to get teams interested. He probably wouldn’t interest the Jaguars unless something happens to Blake Bortles. If there’s a quarterback-needy team out there willing to part with a pass rusher … now you’re talking.”

The Jets have made it clear, that Sam Darnold will be given every opportunity to win and become the starting QB by Week 1 of the 2018 season. The feeling here is that the Jets are making a mistake. The team has a solid veteran in Josh McCown who played very well in 2017 as well as Bridgewater who was playing very well before getting hurt.

Don’t risk damaging Darnold’s confidence, if he indeed is your QB of the future by throwing him to the wolves too soon.  The Jets fans and front office have been waiting for their franchise QB since Joe Namath left. We’ll see how it all works out once training camps and preseason games begin this summer.

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 myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots 53-man Roster Projection 1.0 Post Minicamp Edition

Steve Balestrieri
June 18, 2018 at 9:39 am ET

With minicamp over, it is time to a very early look at a New England Patriots 53-man roster projection. We got a brief glimpse of what the players can do in the Bill Belichick system during the spring workouts and although no one was wearing pads, it was as close to actual football activities as the players will get prior to training camp beginning in about five weeks.

We’ll start posting training camp primers by position very soon to break down the current 90 man roster to a workable 53-man roster.

Offense –
Quarterbacks: (3)
Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Danny Etling

The Patriots will probably go with three QBs this year. Etling has shown enough in the spring to earn that much moving into camp. Will he push Hoyer for the backup job this summer? Very doubtful. Hoyer has a comfort level in the system and the confidence in the coaches that he can step up and play well in an emergency. Etling has a long way to go in that regard.

Running backs: (5)

Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, Jeremy Hill, James Develin

Sony Michel looked like a rookie at times this spring, making mistakes, blowing assignments…all the things that rookies do in assimilating into a new system. That’s part of the learning process but shouldn’t affect his availability at all.

Sony Michel after practice. (SBalestrieri photo)

However, his upside was also there for all to see. He’s a threat to run or receive and showed a smoothness in the passing game with good hands. Along with Rex Burkhead and James White, the Patriots passing offense using their running backs should be very difficult to stop in 2018.

But that learning process may give the coaches pause enough to carry the veteran Hill to make the comeback attempt with the Patriots in the early going of the season. That may be bad news for Mike Gillislee and veteran ST presence, Brandon Bolden. I know, we cut Bolden every year and every year he’s out there making big plays on the special teams, which he’s known for.

Tight ends: (3)
Rob Gronkowski, Jacob Hollister, Dwayne Allen

The fact that Hollister had a great spring shouldn’t surprise anyone. He made the team a year ago as a UDFA and played, although sparingly during the season. He needed to bulk up and get stronger, and it appears he has. Allen has the firm backing of the head coach and is like an extra tackle out there as a blocker. If he can get anything going in the passing game, it is a bonus.

Jacob Hollister beefed up in the offseason and had an excellent spring. (SBalestrieri photo of 2017 training camp)


Wide Receivers: (6)
Chris Hogan, Jordan Matthews, Cordarrelle Patterson, Kenny Britt, Matthew Slater, Malcolm Mitchell (Suspended: Julian Edelman)

Edelman’s looming suspension, unless his appeal is successful will give one Patriots WR at least a month’s reprieve. In this case, it is Malcolm Mitchell. Mitchell’s status has zero to do with ability but everything to do with availability. He missed the majority of the spring but the good news was, the Patriots were taking a cautious approach with him.

Can he stay on the field this summer? If he does, he’s a lock, if he can’t then difficult decisions will have to be made by the coaches. There is a lot of competition to be had here at this position this summer, Philip Dorsett, Riley McCarron and Braxton Berrios will all be vying for spots. And other than Hogan, and Edelman, everything is on the table. And that includes Slater who is a WR in name only.

Offensive line: (8)
Trent Brown, Isaiah Wynn, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Joe Thuney, Cole Croston, LaAdrian Waddle

The state of the offensive line, if everyone was healthy would be very bright. But injuries abound and because of that, there are plenty of questions right now. Thuney hasn’t made an appearance yet, Wynn and Brown are coming off of shoulder injuries, Cannon is still hurt after going on IR last year. This position will bear watching this summer.

Defense
Defensive line: (8)
Trey Flowers, Malcom Brown, Danny Shelton, Adrian Clayborn, Deatrich Wise, Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine, Derek Rivers

No big surprises here, the Patriots really liked Valentine in his rookie season and if he’s healthy (a big if), he noses out Butler who played well last year on the inside. If Valentine doesn’t have the same impact, Butler or one of the other edge players Eric Lee, Keionta Davis, Trent Harris may be able to step up and be noticed.

Linebacker: (7)

Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Christian Sam, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Marquis Flowers, Harvey Langi, Brandon King

Roberts got a lot of reps with the “starters” this spring, Bill Belichick hates the term 1st and 2nd team during OTAs but the fact they drafted Bentley speaks volumes. I’m going out on a limb here and say Langi beats him out for an inside LB spot. King is an ST maven but practices with the LBs.

Harvey Langi (SBalestrieri photo)


Cornerback: (6)
Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, Eric Rowe, Duke Dawson, J.C. Jackson, Keion Crosson (PUP: Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones)

Jackson, the UDFA got quite a few looks opposite Gilmore this spring and looked pretty solid. Eric Rowe didn’t have a great spring and McCourty was…unused. Neither is a worrisome development yet. But with Gilmore looking outstanding thus far and a young crop of corners entering the picture, this position looks in good shape.

Safety: (4)
Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner

Once again I go to minicamp and watch Gronkowski and Hollister smoke Jordan Richards in coverage and say, “surely the coaches see this too….right?” But when the smoke clears, we’ll see what happens. Ebner and King are STs first and safety/hybrid LB second. So the depth could use a jolt. Two words:  Kenny Vaccaro.

Specialists: (3)
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Corey Bojorquez, long-snapper Joe Cardona

Jumping the gun here but UDFA rookie punter Corey Bojorquez can really put a charge into the ball. We watched him during minicamp and were thoroughly impressed with his leg strength and hang time. He has a long way to go to beat out Ryan Allen and needs work on his directional punting and pinning opponents deep, things that Allen is very good at. But for the simple fact of competition, we’ll give him the early edge. The other two will sleep well during camp as no one has been brought in to challenge them. That must feel nice.

 

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.

Best Of Social Media: The New England Patriots Celebrate Mother’s Day

Robert Alvarez
May 13, 2018 at 9:45 pm ET

Both former and current New England Patriot players took to their social media accounts on Sunday to celebrate Mother’s Day. Check out some of the best personal messages and photos below.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BiuDo76B9nm/?taken-by=tombrady

https://www.instagram.com/p/BiuFOAdh1rw/?taken-by=tombrady

https://www.instagram.com/p/BiuMl0vgYrc/?hl=en&taken-by=bumpnrungilmore

 

Trent Harris, “Toolbox Trent” Fits the Mold, For a Patriots UDFA

Steve Balestrieri
May 8, 2018 at 8:40 am ET

Raise your hand if you’ve heard this before. This guy is too small, too slow, is easily blocked in the running game too often and has little chance to make the team. Except that all he does is make plays and keeps showing up on the highlight reel tape.

“That guy”, in this case, is former Miami Hurricane DE Trent Harris, a UDFA defensive end who wasn’t invited to the 2018 NFL Combine and went undrafted in last month’s 2018 NFL Draft, despite leading the Canes in sacks in 2017.

Harris logged 8.5 sacks, six QB hurries, 37 tackles with 10.5 for a loss. He finished his UM career with 126 tackles (26.5 for loss) and 15 sacks.

Standing at 6’2, 250 pounds, Harris doesn’t have the length that the Patriots and most teams are looking for and he’s light, especially in a Patriots system that requires the defensive end to set the edge first and then rush the passer.

But despite those limitations, he’s been amazingly adept at rushing the passer. At the “U” his teammates nicknamed him “Toolbox Trent” because he had a vast array of moves and used his smarts and football savvy to beat defenders rather than just raw speed and athleticism.

He was also versatile for Miami. During one possession sequence, he lined up as a defensive end, middle linebacker (Mike), and a strong-side linebacker (SAM). Those are the kind of small things that will get you noticed and may keep you around during the dog days of training camp. He has played all three linebacker positions as well as a rush end. Plus he’d immediately play on Special Teams.

“I love defensive end, hand in the dirt, getting to the quarterback,” he said. “Who doesn’t love getting to the quarterback? But I’m pretty versatile, so wherever the coach needs me, that’s where I’m happy to play.”

Often you’ll the term, “his tape doesn’t measure his timed speed.” Which means although a player may run well in the 40-yard dash but his playing speed is much slower. For Harris, the opposite may well be true. He ran a slow 5.02 time in the 40 at his Pro Day. But watching his tape, while he’s not a burner by any stretch, he’s quick off the ball and relentless. He uses his hands well and has a nice closing burst.

His former defensive line coach at Miami Craig Kuligowski, now with Alabama, told the media back before the draft that Harris will play in the NFL.


“He’s got special pass-rushing skills,” Kuligowski said. “He’s a guy that can play on every special teams. He’s very smart. If Trent gets drafted late, he’ll be a steal.”

How the Patriots envision Harris will be interesting to see. He could be sub-package defensive end who gets after the quarterback or they could envision him as a linebacker that is able to blitz off the edge or up the interior gaps.

The patriotic Harris (already a perfect fit) honored his brother by saluting every time he sacked an opposing QB. His brother is a paratrooper in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg, NC.

Harris is a longshot to make the roster right now, but as we’ve seen before, UDFAs have a way of getting a chance to show what they’ve got with the Patriots. Every year at least one seems to make the roster and many provide significant snaps. Will Harris be that guy? Time will tell.

For the kid who is too small, and too slow, this may be the perfect place to get noticed. All he does is make plays. We’ll be watching him this spring and summer and watch him empty the “toolbox” in an attempt to make the roster.

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.

Post Draft Reactions: But What About the Patriots Defense?

Steve Balestrieri
May 1, 2018 at 8:30 am ET

With the 2018 NFL Draft in the books, when it comes to the Patriots, the more things change, the more they remain the same. Bill Belichick is the master at doing the opposite of what people expect him to do and once again he remained true to his principles.

Belichick has made it abundantly clear that he will not draft according to need if he doesn’t feel the value was there for the team in terms of fit or ability. He made it very clear his feelings on that just prior to the draft.

“The whole draft-need thing is… I don’t really understand that. You put a card up on the board. That doesn’t mean the guy is a good player. I think it’s important to acquire good players wherever they are. If you take a player at a position that you might so-called ‘need’ but he’s not good enough to fill that need, then it’s a wasted pick. So I don’t understand the whole need thing. I understand player value, and that’s what we try to go by.”

Down the stretch and into the playoffs the Patriots defense, specifically, the front seven didn’t strike fear into the hearts of anyone. They had a pronounced lack of depth at edge rushers and a dearth of speed and athleticism at linebacker. The prevailing thought was (and not just here) that the Patriots would address these needs early in the draft. They didn’t.

Once a few of the top edge rushers and linebackers went early in the draft, including Alabama’s Rashaan Evans who the team reportedly wanted, the Patriots didn’t look for any in the first four rounds, not believing the ability was there. In fact, their first three draft picks were a tackle, running back and a cornerback. Coincidentally, and despite what Belichick said about drafting for need, their biggest free agent losses? You guessed it, a tackle, running back and cornerback.

While we thought here that were plenty of players that could help the defense, Belichick and Nick Caserio balked. The took a linebacker in the 5th Round at #143 but he is hardly the speedy, athletic type we all clamored for. Ja’Whaun Bentley is a throwback to the 2003 era. He’s a big, 6’2, 260-pound sledgehammer. A two-down run stuffer but hardly a coverage guy. Christian Sam taken at #178 is more in line with that type of player. So what is the plan for the defense?

Belichick obviously feels the defense will be best served by getting back its own players. First of all, the team will be looking from within this year. They get Dont’a Hightower, Derek Rivers, Harvey Langi and Vincent Valentine back from injuries. Hightower and Langi could be asked to move back to the linebacker position. Rivers is seen here as a hybrid edge rusher/outside linebacker. The team picked up Adrian Clayborn and DT Danny Shelton during free agency and corner Jason McCourty will definitely help the depth of the unit.

Derek Rivers will be looked to for big things in Year 2 but his first after going on IR in training camp last year. (SBalestrieri photo)

With these added pieces, the defense, and specifically the front seven will look vastly different. Factor in that both Deatrich Wise and Adam Butler will each have a second season to further their development. Belichick always says the biggest development for players is between Years 1-2.

And of course, the team could still try to swing a deal with another team to make a trade for a veteran player early this summer or sign a free agent. Now that the draft is over, any veterans can scan the rosters and see where their best fit may be.

With everyone returning healthy, Rivers may probably be the most watched guy on the defensive side of the ball this summer.  The light was just starting to come on for the rookie when he went down with an injury that forced him onto IR. The defense could look vastly different than the one they fielded at the Super Bowl if the Patriots put Hightower back at the Mike with Rivers and Kyle Van Noy as outside backers, Adrian Clayborn and Trey Flowers at defensive end and Danny Shelton and Malcom Brown inside.

Some of the other guys can be used for depth and Rivers and Hightower can be moved around and play either upright or down as edge rushers. A few of the UDFAs may make a splash. A couple of the intriguing names for front seven include DTs Frank Herron and John Atkins and DE Trent Harris. Harris is a bit undersized but displayed a lightning quick first step while playing for Miami.

While the draft didn’t play out as some envisioned, (raises hand) the team obviously didn’t value the players available. While I certainly believed that a lot of guys between #56 and #143 were capable of helping the defense, Belichick did not and he’s got a little more experience building defenses. Is it time for minicamp yet?

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 myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

New England Patriots News 4-29, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 29, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 4-29, & AFC East Notes

Quick Hitters: The Patriots made a curious decision to hold their post-Day 2 draft press conference immediately after the second round, while the 3rd round was just getting underway. While the Patriots didn’t have a third-round pick in the draft, they were essentially telling the world, that they weren’t interested in getting involved in it either.

When Nick Caserio came out on Friday night, the third round was just getting started. It just seemed a little odd to call it a night so early when there were many intriguing prospects on the board.

For those who are interested in these things,( I know I am), taking a look at the Patriots draft room when Belichick and Kraft called new addition Duke Dawson on Friday night, the Pats room looked like a ghost town compared to some of these other teams with a slew of staffers and coaches packed in the room like sardines. Belichick keeps it small and tight and while neither is right or wrong, it is just interesting.

If you’re trying to compute the final compensation for the Jimmy Garoppolo trade, good luck with that. The team’s trade has now taken it to the 2019 NFL Draft with the Bears second-round pick. And that may be in a prime position to….YES! Trade back.

Day 3 Highlights, Pats Get Going Late:
After trading back twice in the early going of Round 4, the Patriots finally selected a player at #143 with ILB Ja’whaun Bentley from Purdue. Before the draft, we all said that with no picks in over 100 selections, the Patriots would trade back in to not lose out on the mid-rounds talent. Well, they did it anyway, 87 picks went thru before the Patriots selected again.

Bentley is a big, 6’2, 260-pound thumper, a two-down run stuffer who is a liability in coverage. For those who were wanting an athletic, fast, sideline-to-sideline player, this isn’t it.

He will no doubt take on Elandon Roberts for a roster spot and could see duty as an inside linebacker on running downs but as we saw in the Super Bowl, the RPO game which is becoming the norm in the NFL, will not be a strong suit.

However, with their next pick at #178, the Patriots selected an athletic linebacker, arguably the best one they now have in Christian Sam from Arizona State. He’s got speed to get to the outside and takes very good angles to the ball. He covers good ground in coverage and has better than average ball skills.

He’s never out of position, strong and athletic. We had him going much earlier than this so it is a bit of a draft steal for the Patriots.

The Patriots traded back again at 198 and picked up  233 and 243 from the #198 pick.

With the # 210 pick, they selected slot receiver Braxton Berrios from Miami. He’s a small, fast, athletic player who can return kicks which will get him a look.

At #219, LSU QB Danny Etling was taken, the 6’2 three-year starter is a long-shot to make the roster and is likely a camp body. They then added CB Keion Crossen at #243 and TE Ryan Izzo with #250. Izzo is a big, physical blocking tight end.

With all of the talk about needing an off-the-ball linebacker and help on the edge, they didn’t take any linebackers until #143 and didn’t take any edge help. While they may sign a few of both with UDFAs, that should tell you that either, A. Belichick is planning on signing a free agent or making a trade or B. That they feel getting Hightower and Rivers back along with the addition of Adrian Clayborn will be enough. We shall see.  

Second Round Flurry of Activity Nets Dawson:
The Patriots have always been big draft day traders, the only year that Bill Belichick didn’t make a draft day trade was 2004. And the second round on Friday was a prime example of the wheeling and dealing Belichick as the team moved down twice and up once in the round.

The team had the #43 pick netted in the Jimmy Garoppolo trade plus their own pick #63. We thought the 43rd pick would be the place that they’d trade down and they did.

They traded #43 to the Detroit Lions for the #51 and a 4th round pick #117. They then flipped the #51 to the Chicago Bears for a 2019 2nd round draft pick and 4th round pick #105 this season. The team is banking on the Bears being as bad as most pundits think they’ll be this season. Then that 2nd round pick would be at the top of the round.

They then took their own #63 and #117 from the Lions and moved back up to #56 to select Florida slot corner, Duke Dawson. Dawson had been on a visit to Foxboro this spring and they liked the feistiness, versatility and compete level. Our analysis of the pick was here:

Patriots Go and See Red Everywhere Early in the Draft:
The first three additions by the Patriots all came from teams wearing red jerseys and have high ceilings that could really help the team in 2018 and beyond. But coincidentally all come with red flags medically that could also make their floors really low as well.

Georgia T/G Isaiah Wynn is a player that was considered a guard in the NFL due to his height (6’2) despite his playing at left tackle at a high level for the Bulldogs. He was the third-rated guard in the draft but the Patriots are planning on keeping him at tackle. He’s got a quick first step, moves well for a big man and uses his hands well against power rushers. And despite his lack of length, handled speed rushers well in the SEC.

But he is coming off labrum surgery on his shoulder and while he says he’ll be ready for mini-camp, that probably won’t be in the cards as they will err on the side of caution.

Wynn’s teammate in Georgia RB Sony Michel is a dynamic playmaker with the ball in his hands. He has a nice blend of size, speed, and power. He has excellent vision, is quick to the hole and runs excellently between the tackles with true breakaway speed. While not as elusive as Dion Lewis, he has much better speed once he gets to the second level. He’s very good in both the running game as well as the passing game.

But Michel has red flags of his own with a knee that has already had ACL surgery. With Michel, the only question is will he stay healthy long enough to become a star in the NFL because he has the star quality at the position and was arguably the second-best player at the position. But his knee turned some teams off.

The Patriots made a trade with the 49ers early on Friday before the Day 2 of the draft opened, getting RT Trent Brown and the #143 pick for the Patriots pick #95. Brown is a huge right tackle at 6’8, 355 and was considered one of the pass blocking tackles…when healthy. Are we seeing a trend here?

The 2015 7th round draft pick is coming off season-ending shoulder surgery that he had at the end of last season. He is also in the final season of his contract which pays him $1.9 million in 2018, which isn’t an issue. But by trading for Brown, is that a bad sign that starting RT Marcus Cannon who himself is coming off of IR isn’t going to be ready to go.

So in looking at the Patriots first three draft acquisitions this spring, while the ceiling is certainly high, the floor because of injuries is also very low. Shoulder injuries, like those suffered by Wynn and Brown, can be similar to that which has limited Dont’a Hightower. This will bear watching moving forward.

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Get Their QB and a Premier Linebacker:
The Buffalo Bills had a solid 2018 draft. They entered needing to land a franchise QB and they did just that in Round 1 by selecting gunslinger Wyoming QB Josh Allen. He won’t be rushed into service however as they signed A.J. McCarron as their bridge guy. They also signed one of the best linebackers in the draft with Tremaine Edwards from Virginia Tech. They also added depth on the DL with Harrison Phillips and a good slot or nickel corner in Taron Johnson.

Dolphins Don’t Get a QB But Load Up:
The Miami Dolphins also had a solid draft, they wanted to beef up a defense that had issues covering tight ends so they drafted three possible solutions to it. Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick was the Fins’ first pick and the 11th overall. They then added Ohio State Linebacker  Jerome Baker in Round three, as well as linebacker Quentin Poling, and defensive back Cornell Armstrong.

On offense, the Dolphins needed help at tight end and drafted two, taking Penn State’s Mike Gesicki and Notre Dame’s Durham Smythe in the fourth. They also added running back Kalen Ballage

Jets Grab Darnold and Need Herndon to Step Up as a Rookie:
The New York Jets got their franchise QB in Sam Darnold from USC. Most people thought Darnold would go to the Cleveland Browns with the #1 pick and Baker Mayfield would go to Gang Green. But the situation was reversed and the Jets ended up with the talented Darnold, who should be ready to handle playing in the  Big Apple.

But with no Austin Seferian-Jenkins who left in free agency, Darnold needs a security blanket in the passing game. The Jets hope that they found one in Chris Herndon from Miami in the fourth round.  

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 myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Best Of Social Media: Patriots Celebrate “National Siblings Day”

Robert Alvarez
April 11, 2018 at 9:13 pm ET

On Tuesday, a few members of the New England Patriots wide took to social media and shared some personal photographs of themelves and their siblings for “National Sibling Day”.

Family is forever. #NationalSiblingsDay

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

#nationalsiblingday

A post shared by Duron Harmon (@dharm30) on

Harmon boys! #nationalsiblingday

A post shared by Duron Harmon (@dharm30) on

Been kickin’ it since ‘92 #nationalsiblingday

A post shared by Jordan Matthews (@jmatt3x) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BhaU4yGFUnc/

New England Patriots Draft Profile, Sam Hubbard, Edge, Ohio State

Steve Balestrieri
March 29, 2018 at 8:30 am ET

Hubbard One of the Top Edge Players in the Draft

As the 2018 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar or that we feel would be a great fit.

The Patriots were decimated on the edge in 2017. They lost Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long in free agency. But they brought over Kony Ealy in a trade with the Panthers and then drafted Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise in the draft. They were planning on having the old pro-Rob Ninkovich for one more season along with Shea McClellin and Dont’a Hightower who was moving to the edge last year.

Well, Ninkovich unexpectedly retired in training camp. McClellin and Rivers were injured in camp and were lost for the season. Ealy didn’t fit and was released. Hightower and rookie Harvey Langi who was pressed into some edge work were lost for the year as well. The team brought in Cassius Marsh, but he didn’t work out and later signed Eric Lee. Lee showed a nice ability to rush the passer but had trouble on the edge. They eventually brought James Harrison on late in the season.

The team signed Adrian Clayborn this spring which immediately helps. Hightower, Rivers and Langi return, they’ll join Trey Flowers, Deatrich, Lee, and Adam Butler but they could really use another young edge player which could facilitate moving Hightower and Langi back to linebacker.

Sam Hubbard from Ohio State has prototypical size for an edge player at 6’5, 265-pounds. He still had a year of eligibility left but decided to come out in this season’s draft and has first-round talent. He had a very productive final season with Buckeyes, garnering 42 tackles, including 13.5 tackles for a loss, seven sacks, and two forced fumbles.

He would be a nice fit for the Patriots defense and would be a Day 1 contributor as an edge player as part of their rotation. He could easily develop into an above average pass rusher and a starter.

Hubbard was a lacrosse player (oh yeah another lacrosse player) and is a converted safety before he packed on the muscle and became one of the stalwarts on the team’s defense. Hubbard is a high-motor guy as well as a high character one. He was a team captain as well as Academic All-American.  His work ethic will immediately win over the coaching staff and his tenacity will get kudos for the team’s fanbase.

He has a high football I.Q. and his instincts are excellent. While not an elite athlete, he produces thru his smarts and instinctive play.  He’s a sure tackler and does a good job at setting the edge in the running game.

He’s not an explosive pass rusher, and benefitted from the stunts and twists the Buckeyes ran in the passing game. But he displayed good, quick hands and is versatile and can play on either side of the line. While he’s not an elite pass rusher, he’s a very solid all-around player who can do it all.

Pros:

– Good Height and Length

– Sturdy setting the edge

– Great instincts

– Excellent motor

Cons

– Not an elite athlete

– A bit stiff at times when turning the edge

– Needs to keep pad level lower

What his Role Will Be:

Hubbard will be an immediate rotational player on the edge. With Flowers and Clayborn and possibly Rivers, he’ll be expected to play whenever they need to keep fresh legs out there.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?

Yes, in Year 2 he should have packed on a few pounds in the strength and conditioning program. Then he can push for more reps and perhaps slide into the starting position with a solid rookie season.

How Many Downs Can He Play?

Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?

Geneo Grissom, who has been a very good Special Teams player but hasn’t contributed at all defensively. Hubbard could force him out.

What is his ST Value?

Limited, but he has done some coverage duties in the past

Conclusion:
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein in his profile wrote that:

“Hubbard will pass the eyeball test with his height, weight, and build, but he’s missing the plus athleticism to take him over the top as a pass rusher. His tape is solid, but nothing jumps off the screen. Teams looking for a big-time edge rusher won’t get too excited by him, but he will appeal to defensive coordinators looking for guys with size and motor to plug into a blitz-heavy, twist-happy defense. Hubbard could become an early starter as a strong-side defensive end for a 4-3 defense.”

Hubbard is what many draft experts call a “safe pick”, in that he has a very high floor and while he may not become an elite defensive end, because of his work ethic, excellent instincts and high motor could be a very good one.

While Patriots fans want the guys who can pin their ears back and rush the QB kind of players, that isn’t the defense that they run. The “read and react” defense is predicated on setting the edge first in the running game and then having the ability to push and squeeze the pocket forcing the opposing QB into making mistakes.

They want versatile guys who can do it all and Hubbard is the kind of player they covet. Bill Belichick will love this guy, he has a tremendous work ethic, high football I.Q., a non-stop motor and will be a productive member of the defense.

While he’s not that explosive guy at the line, he’s very quick and ran the 3-Cone Drill in a very impressive 6.84. He has the ability to be an above-average pass rusher in the NFL with a bit of experience. He should be an immediate Day 1 contributor to the defense if the Patriots decide to pull the trigger.

Hubbard’s highlight reel tape from Devo Highlights can be seen here: 

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.

After Initial Free Agent Frenzy, What’s Next For the Patriots?

Steve Balestrieri
March 22, 2018 at 8:30 am ET

The initial burst of signings is over in free agency, the Patriots lost four key players and brought in four of their own new players while resigning a few of their own free agents. So, now the question is, where are they at this point in free agency and what are their needs right now with still plenty of free agents still out there before the NFL Draft starts.

They’ve already addressed some of their needs early in free agency. That doesn’t mean that they’re done at any position per se, we would still expect them to double down on some positions in the draft.

With that said, after the initial free agency period what the are the Patriots biggest needs moving forward that can be addressed in free agency, the draft or both?

Left Tackle: No one wants to downplay the losses of Danny Amendola, Malcolm Butler or Dion Lewis, but the loss of Nate Solder arguably hurts the most because the team, at least initially has no replacement in place. With Marcus Cannon on the right side, the Patriots need a left tackle. Their two backup swing tackles, LaAdrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming are free agents. Ideally, the team would like to get both back.

There are also some players on the roster that they’ve stashed from 2017 Cole Croston and Andrew Jelks. They just signed Matt Tobin, who was a backup swing tackle from Seattle. Last season the Patriots moved up in the draft to snag Antonio Garcia in the 3rd round of the draft. But Garcia missed the season with an illness where he lost 40 pounds. He’s now cleared to resume his football career but will he be ready?

This year’s draft isn’t a great one for tackles and the one most associated with New England seems to be UCLA’s, Kolton Miller. And I’m not a fan of this if that is who they are targeting. He tends to play too upright and to me is too much of a finesse player which reminds me of last year’s pick also from UCLA Connor McDermott. Croston beat him out for a roster spot.

How they approach the next few weeks and the draft will tell a lot of how they feel about their current situation. If they resign Waddle or Fleming and then don’t draft a tackle high, then they believe that Garcia will be their guy and Waddle is insurance. If they go for a tackle early in the draft, then that answers that question.

Linebacker: The Patriots front seven needed a big upgrade this offseason. They will be getting back Dont’a Hightower, Vincent Valentine, Derek Rivers, and Harvey Langi off of IR so that already increases the depth. But then they added a big defensive lineman in Danny Shelton, a two-gapping space eater who can take on the double teams and allow the linebackers to stuff the run. And they added Adrian Clayborn, a 280-pound defensive end that can set the edge in the running game and get pressure on the quarterback.

Now they need a linebacker inside with better athleticism than they have. The two guys in free agency that we liked, Nigel Bradham and Preston Brown were quickly signed elsewhere.There are some very intriguing names in the draft. The Patriots usually like their linebackers big, although the trend is going smaller, faster and more athletic. One big guy who is intriguing is Leighton Vander Esch. Bill Belichick was just at Alabama and they have a very impressive backer in Rashaan Evans but he’ll probably be gone before they pick at #31.

Belichick also scouted South Carolina’s Skai Moore, an undersized, smaller type player who led his team in tackles for four years. He’d be a mid-to-late round guy. Some others in that vein are Joe Ostman a DE/OLB from Central Michigan and Jack Cichy from Wisconsin.

Quarterback: So, do the Patriots like any of these quarterbacks in this season’s draft? Everyone is assuming that they’re going to draft one early and look for the successor to Tom Brady but would I be shocked if they pass? No. They always seem to do the opposite of what everyone is predicting for them.

Trying to predict which quarterback the Patriots will pick is another difficult proposition.  The ones who seem to fit what they do are Kyle Lauletta from Richmond who was a mid/late round prospect until his Senior Bowl performance turned some heads.

Other guys rumored to be on the Patriots radar are Luke Falk and Logan Woodside. But something to keep in mind if he’s still around when the Patriots pick is Louisville QB, Lamar Jackson. The Cardinals play in the same system, the Erhardt-Perkins system that New England uses.

Tight End: Rob Gronkowski is still slated to return this season. But we haven’t heard any confirmation on that. His agent had said that he was contemplating retirement. Regardless, the Patriots need to begin planning for his replacement, as crazy as that sounds with a 28-year old tight end who is still at the top of his game.

Dwayne Allen remains as does Jacob Hollister. Allen has a $5 million dollar contract and was a terrific blocker but offered very little in the passing game. Hollister flashed the ability to make some tough catches and to attack the seams but will need to make a big second-year step up in his play.

There are some good tight ends in the draft. The Patriots have met twice now with South Carolina TE Hayden Hurst. The former professional baseball pitcher is already 24 and maxed out physically but is an impressive player. He has excellent hands and above average speed. His production suffered from poor QB play on many occasions, having watched most of SC games.

Other excellent options in the draft include Dallas Goedert from S.Dakota St., Mike Gesicki, from Penn State, and Mark Andrews from Oklahoma among others.

And of course, Martellus Bennett may reappear on the scene. He hinted on social media that he may return to the Patriots at a lesser amount. But they should look to get younger at the position but it never hurts to have a player of his ability on the roster either.

Running Back: The Patriots resigned Rex Burkhead and added Jeremy Hill to a very team friendly contract and seem like they are well stocked. Hill and Mike Gillislee will battle it out for the big back, short-yardage role. James White is the passing back, strictly third down option while Burkhead can do a bit of both. Brandon Bolden is the depth piece who plays special teams.

I’d still believe that the Patriots need a younger back to add to the puzzle to build for the future. And this draft is chock full of them. Some running backs slotted for the 2nd round or later include, Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson, Georgia’s Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny, North Carolina State’s Nyheim Hines, and Notre Dame’s Josh Adams.

The Patriots met with Hines at the Combine and then recently attended NC State’s Pro Day and have been speaking about how he feels he fits with New England as others have told him also…which usually means the team won’t touch him.

The team will probably also dip into the draft for an edge player as well. With Trey Flowers, Adrian Clayborn, Deatrich Wise, Adam Butler coupled with the return of Hightower and Derek Rivers, they have much better depth than the team that went to the Super Bowl just in February.

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.

Free Agency Fits For the New England Patriots Defense

Steve Balestrieri
March 13, 2018 at 8:23 am ET

The legal tampering window is upon us and with free agency and another blizzard right around the corner, it is a good time to kick back with a coffee and look at the free agency help that is out there. For this particular exercise, we’re looking at fits for the Patriots defense, specifically, the linebacking core as all but one of these are linebackers and one corner. Are there others out there? Absolutely. But these are the ones we like the fit to New England.

As always the price of the free agents will drive the train and the Patriots don’t have anywhere near the flexibility that they had a year ago. And many of these free agents, perhaps all of them may be out of their price range. But in terms of fit, in our opinion, these players would be good additions to the defense.

Again, there are other players out there who may either be of interest to the Patriots but here are some of the ones we believe will be a good fit in the defense.

Nickell Robey-Coleman: The Patriots are very familiar with him, having played for four seasons with the Buffalo Bills and he fits a very specific need of theirs, which is a slot corner. Coleman can play boundary corner but at 5’8, 165 pounds, he’s better suited for the slot where he’s flourished.

Coleman was an undrafted free agent in 2013 played on a one-year prove-it type deal with the Rams last season and there is plenty of talk that he wants to return to Los Angeles and that Rams want him back.

Coleman had a very good 2017 season logging 50 tackles, two tackles for loss, nine passes defensed, one forced fumble, and one interception. The Patriots need a slot corner. Jonathan Jones was close to taking over that spot but then was injured and went on IR. He was missed in the Super Bowl, especially with Malcolm Butler being benched in the game.

Eric Rowe is better suited to be a boundary corner which would leave the slot wide open. Cyrus Jones is still in the mix, but at this point, he can’t be counted on as he’s still an unknown. I would still expect them to address the position in the draft as well.

Paul Worrilow: If the name sounds familiar, it should reportedly the Patriots kicked the tires on him last spring when he was a free agent from the Atlanta Falcons. The 27-year old linebacker signed a one-year, $3 million dollar contract with the Lions last season.

Worrilow was slowed by a knee sprain of his MCL and played in just 13 games, starting in eight. He put up only so-so numbers with 30 tackles, one pass defensed and a fumble recovery. He struggled with his tackling as well as in coverage.It doesn’t appear that Detroit is interested in bringing him back with new head coach Matt Patricia.  

Would the Patriots be interested in him a second time around? I’d say no at first glance but one can never be too sure. If they feel he’d fit better in Foxboro in what they’d ask him to do, he could be a middle of the road, lower cost free agent.

Avery Williamson: Another guy that the Patriots have liked in the past is Titans inside linebacker Avery Williamson. The 26-year-old has just finished his rookie contract deal with Tennessee and wants to test the market.

Williamson would immediately upgrade the Patriots run defense in the middle as he led the Tennessee defense with 92 tackles, 3 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. He received a 90.1 grade in run defense from Pro Football Focus, which was sixth best in the league. He’s a very durable player who has missed only one game in four years and is decent but not great in coverage.

He turned down a four-year, $12 million dollar deal with Tennessee and according to Diane Russini from ESPN is drawing interest from both the Jets and Dolphins. Spotrac has reported that he’s due for a possible four-year, $36-million dollar deal which would put him probably right out of the Patriots market.

Nigel Bradham: We wrote about this about a month ago as he’d be a great fit for the defense. Bradham is a very durable, sure tackler in the middle of the defense who is very good in coverage.

After Jordan Hicks went down with a torn Achilles last year in Week 7, Bradham began calling the signals for the Eagles defense and was one of their leaders and a very well respected veteran in the locker room. The 28-year-old finished with 88 tackles, 1.0 sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

He’s one of the most highly sought free agents out there with sources within the NFL reporting that 8-10 teams are interested in his services. While Philadelphia would love to have him back, they are currently $17 million dollars over the cap. And the interest he’s being given, will no doubt drive his price out of the Patriots range, but in terms of fit. He’d be excellent in the Patriots defense.

Preston Brown: Brown has already made it clear that he would be open to signing with the New England Patriots as they’ve gotten a lot out of several former Bills players.

“I think I can definitely help the young guys they have,” Brown said. “They’ve got some good young talent at linebacker. They run pretty well. I know Harris retired. A lot of young guys were playing well, Van Noy and Roberts played well. They definitely have some things they can work on like we all do, but I think I can help that defense get better. “

The Patriots know him well having faced him twice a year in the division. Brown has never missed a game in his four-year NFL career and calls the plays in the Bills defense. He’s a tackling machine and led the league with 144 tackles in 2017.

He’s just 25 years old and would be an instant upgrade in the middle of the defense and a fantastic fit. He’s rumored to be in the market for about in the area of a $7 million a year range. If the Patriots can somehow make that work, Brown would be a tremendous addition to the front seven.

Alex Okafor: The Saints definitely had a free agent under the radar hit signing when they nabbed Okafor during free agency last year. He was playing very well for a rejuvenated defense that went back to the playoffs in 2017. He had 4.5 sacks, nine QB hits, and two forced fumbles in the first 10 games before tearing an Achilles that ended his season prematurely.

Okafor, 27, is expected to be fully healthy and is a versatile defender as the Saints used him both on the edge and kicked him inside as a sub-package interior rusher. The Patriots could some help on the edge.

With Dont’a Hightower, Shea McClellin, and Derek Rivers all ending up on IR, it left the team thin with Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise, Adam Butler and Eric Lee. Okafor could be one of those veteran signings (we’ve already mention Connor Barwin) that won’t break the bank but would allow the team to rotate their players in and out, set the edge and get some pressure on the quarterback.

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.