Tag Archives: V’Angelo Bentley

Tuesday Daily Rundown 8/23: New England Patriots News and Notes

Ian Logue
August 23, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Here’s a look at this morning’s top stories:

Belichick Offers Little On Brady Situation – According to CSNNE’s Tom Curran, Bill Belichick granted Tom Brady excused absences for Sunday and Monday, which comes on the heels of the Patriots quarterback suffering a thumb injury before last Thursday night’s contest where he reportedly sliced his thumb with scissors, which kept him ever taking the field during the club’s 23-22 win over Chicago at Gillette Stadium.

However, whatever reason Brady wasn’t present over the previous two days is reportedly unrelated to the injury, but Belichick wasn’t willing to comment about the quarterback’s situation when questioned by the media during his press conference on Monday.

“I don’t comment on any personal situations,” Belichick said.

Brady had been an active participant in the joint practices against both the Saints and Bears but the odds of seeing him play have likely dropped with two games to go and the fact they’re transitioning into regular-season mode. Belichick admitted Monday that they’re not quite there yet, but games like these are still important since it gives them an chance to see how well they compete against a competitive team in Carolina.   It’s an opportunity for improvement, although it’s still a different scenario than how they’ll handle things in September.

“I think this is a good opportunity for us to compete against arguably as good as any team in the league,” Belichick told the media Tuesday.  “[With] all that being said, we’re not talking about a regular season game here. We’re not talking about game planning and all of those kind of things, which I can’t imagine would happen in this game, but they’re going to happen in a couple of weeks so it’s a whole different ball game. I don’t think you can compare this game to a regular season game even though I’ve heard people try to do that.”

Either way, it’s been a long road to get to this point and Garoppolo admitted that Brady has been important to him this preseason. But the goal now is to continue trying to get better as he continues getting ready to face what should be a good challenge for him to begin the season.

“You learn so much from the guy, he’s obviously a tremendous quarterback, he’s been doing it for so long now,” said Garoppolo. “Each quarterback has a different style on how they lead, how they approach everything. Me and Tom are real similar in ways, but we’re different in ways, too. It’s one of those things where you’ve got to make it your own, you don’t want to come in and be phony and be someone you’re not, you just have to go about it as you would.”


Mitchell is already feeling better after his injury scare. (USA TODAY Images)

Mitchell Downplays Elbow Injury – Watching rookie receiver Malcolm Mitchell’s elbow injury in week one was pretty tough, especially seeing his arm bend awkwardly before the former Georgia standout was left writhing in pain left the field assisted by trainers.

At the time, it was hard not to wonder if the receiver’s promising beginning would end before he had a chance to get started, but the news of an elbow dislocation with no serious damage was definitely a relief for those hoping Mitchell could build on his impressive 4 reception, 55 yard performance.

The receiver is expected to need four weeks to recover, which puts his return hopefully close to the start of the regular season.  He’s been back at practice wearing a brace but has been limited, but the fact he came back so quickly is a testament to his toughness, which is certainly a positive sign.  While he’s still continuing to recover, he’s already feeling better.

“I’m feeling good, a lot better today than the day it happened,” Mitchell said via ESPN.

Mitchell, who was dragged down from behind by his jersey, joked about the fact that he “probably should have tucked my shirt in” and that while he’s disappointed about what happened, all he can do is make the best of it.

“As a competitor, sitting out in general is disappointing, but you can only control what you can control,” said Mitchell.

“There’s nothing anyone could have done to stop that from happening. It was meant to be.”

That’s just the attitude that makes him fun to root for, and hopefully we’ll see even more from him in 2016.

Brady Has Vegan Snacks For Sale – For anyone out there who might be a fan of avocado ice cream, the quarterback just made it a little easier for those of you who want to eat like a four-time Super Bowl Champion.

Brady’s fitness company Tweeted on Monday that vegan “TB12 Snacks” were offered up on his fitness website, which included “raw, vegan, organic, gluten-free and dairy-free” individually packaged items packaged in resealable biodegradable rice paper and cost just $50.

The snacks included are Blueberry Crunch, Amazon Crunch, Superfood Energy Squares, Cacao Goji Energy Squares, Dark Cocoa Coconut and Buffalo Almonds & Ranch Cashews.

The only problem is, for now, they’re sold out and there’s no word yet if/when they’ll be back in stock.  This marks the second time Brady’s seen success in the food world, with the veteran quarterback having sold out a $200 nutrition manual cookbook earlier this offseason which included 89 recipes.

Patriots Release Two More Players – In addition to the news we learned yesterday about safety Cedric Thompson’s time with the team being over, the team made it official on Monday and also announced two other players who were forced to clean out their lockers and move on.

Joining Thompson was veteran tight end Bear Pascoe along with rookie free agent DB V’Angelo Bentley, giving the Patriots four open roster spots with one week to go before they’re forced to trim their roster down to 75 players on August 30th.

 

Patriots Training Camp Primer – Cornerbacks

Steve Balestrieri
July 25, 2016 at 6:00 am ET

Talented but young group looks to take next step

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

Bill Belichick likes to say that the spring’s OTAs and Minicamp is a learning exercise and that the real competition begins in training camp. While that is true to an extent, with 88 players on the current roster, a minimum of 35 of these will be cut. That doesn’t take into consideration the tweaking that goes on during the season after the initial 53-man roster is completed.

So the next position to break down are the corners. Given the epidemic of injuries suffered by the Patriots last season, they were fortunate that both starters Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan remained healthy. Entering last season, there were nothing but questions about the corner position after jettisoning all three starters from the Super Bowl winning team.

Rather than being a weakness, corner became a position of strength in 2015. Butler parlayed his SB heroics into a very solid first season of starting. Ryan came on strong in his third season and played solid. Justin Coleman surprised some people and played well as the slot corner. But depth was an issue. The team brought in veteran Tarell Brown to add that veteran presence and he played very well in small glimpses until he went on IR.

CB Malcolm Butler

CB Malcolm Butler -photo by SBalestrieri/PatsFans.com

This season the team brought in Cyrus Jones with their top draft pick and a trio of smaller, but very athletic corners in Jonathan Jones, Cre’Von LeBlanc and V’Angelo Bentley as UDFAs. They’ll be competing with veteran E.J. Biggers and 2nd-year player Darryl Roberts who turned some heads in training camp before suffering a wrist injury and landing on IR in preseason a year ago.

If there is an issue with the corners this season other than overall experience it is size. Only Biggers and Roberts are 6’0 tall and neither are locks to make the roster. In a league dominated by the big men at WR, this could be an issue but the team made a concerted effort to get more athletic and all of the new corners have Special Teams capability as well.

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

Roster Locks: Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Cyrus Jones
No big shocks here, and there is a big difference from a year ago. Butler was able to go from a walk-on, tryout basis to Super Bowl hero and now is a Pro Bowl cornerback. The funny thing is, he’d be the first to say that he still has a long way to go. So if he can continue to progress, he should be an extremely valuable piece for years to come.

Right now he is a bargain at his current cap hit. The Patriots can either decide to pay him with an extension quickly or hit him with a franchise tag to buy them more time with Hightower, Collins, and Sheard also on deck.

Ryan rebounded very well from an awful 2014 to play very solidly a year ago. His consistency could still stand to be better but it is safe to say that he far outperformed expectations in 2015. Ryan may get pushed this season by Jones who will at the very least compete for the slot corner duties. But I wouldn’t be shocked to see the rookie from Alabama in the starting lineup sooner rather than later.

Patriots top draft pick Cyrus Jones has gotten plenty of reps

Patriots top draft pick Cyrus Jones -photo by SBalestrieri/PatsFans.com

Jones has some of those qualities that teams covet in their corners. He’s physical and tough, and can play press man. He’s very confident and feisty and is an outstanding returner in the kicking game, returning four kicks for touchdowns in 2015.

He was also a good teammate who was highly thought of inside the locker room. The team is in very good shape with their top three corners. The only thing lacking is once again the size aspect.

On the Bubble: Justin Coleman, Darryl Roberts, E.J. Biggers, Jonathan Jones
Here is where the competition really begins to get interesting. The remaining six players are essentially fighting for two, possibly three roster spots. And the race is essentially wide open.

Coleman bounced around between Minnesota, Seattle, and the Patriots before winning a job a year ago. He appeared in 10 games and had six starts in 2015, playing solidly in the slot. Now he’s looking to take the next step in his second season with New England.

Roberts was a very athletic late 7th round draft pick a year ago. He ran a 4.38 time in the 40-yard dash, a 6.66 time in the 3-Cone Drill, a 39-inch Vertical Jump, an 11’1” leap in the Broad Jump and benched pressed 225 pounds 23 times. He impressed in the early going at training camp and earned the start in the 1st preseason game. He injured his wrist in that game and was lost for the season on IR.

Biggers is the elder statesman in terms of age at just 29. He’s spent time with the Redskins, Bucs and Eagles where he was a serviceable corner in 2015. He also can be a gunner on the STs. The Pats wanted to see what he could do early this spring and he saw lots of reps during OTAs and minicamp.

Jonathan Jones is an intriguing case because, although he’s listed at 5’10, that is being generous. He lacks the size that teams are looking for but he more than makes up for with his tenacity. Another exceptional athlete, Jones was once the National Hurdles champion. Of the undrafted corners, he looked very solid this spring and was arguably the best on the field. But once the pads come on, can he continue his solid play? He will bear close watching this summer. He’s a dark horse to make the roster but don’t write him off just yet.

Outside Looking in…. Longshots: Cre’Von LeBlanc, V’Angelo Bentley
LeBlanc and Bentley played well in the spring but are facing a numbers crunch more than anything else. They face an uphill battle to make the roster but will probably find their way onto the practice squad if they falter.

CB Cre'Von LeBlanc

CB Cre’Von LeBlanc- photo by SBalestrieri/PatsFans.com

LeBlanc impressed in the limited window that I watched him during minicamp. A smaller (5’9) corner but with an impressive build, he showed some nice footwork as he was able to mirror the larger WRs he was matched up against. He’s aggressive and physical and plays with an air of a young player who isn’t intimidated by the stage. He has kick return ability and was known as an effective blitzer in college.

Bentley comes from a military background, his mother served in Afghanistan which will resonate well with Bill Belichick. Something else that will reverberate is the Illinois grad is another STs return man, scoring on a kickoff, punt return, interception and fumble in college.

Check out our earlier primers on the running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line, defensive line, and the linebackers  And be sure to keep tuned into PatsFans.com during training camp as we’ll post daily updates from down in Gillette.

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 6-12, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
June 12, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 6-12 notes and what’s happening around the AFC East.

Hogan quietly building trust factor/chemistry with Brady:
The talk this week during minicamp was mainly centered around the Patriots new …and big tight end Martellus Bennett. And while the colorful Bennett was indeed impressive, equally impressive was the work being done by new WR Chris Hogan.

Hogan came over as a FA from the Bills this spring and without Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola available thus far this spring, he is stepping into the void extremely quickly. Thus far he’s taken on more of the Edelman role in the offense and is proving a quick learner of the Pats complicated route tree.

He’s spent time off to the side with Brady during OTAs and minicamp, working one-on-one with the QB and building up their own chemistry and timing. While he doesn’t have the short-area quickness of Edelman, Hogan does possess the better size and more straight line speed. It looks so far that he could seamlessly step into Brandon LaFell’s “X”-wide receiver slot once everyone is back to practice. And being able to get in this much work with Brady this early bodes well for the start of the season which starts in Arizona.

Hogan comes back and makes a nice catch in front of Biggers

Hogan comes back and makes a nice catch in front of Biggers

Like Father, Like Son… Steve Belichick Seamlessly Stepping in:
One of the most interesting if, understated scenes that played out during minicamp was watching new safeties coach Steve Belichick interact with his players. And his first impressions was that unsurprisingly, he’s lot like his father.

After one series, the younger Belichick called over all of his charges and they had an impromptu discussion over what had just transpired. Veterans Pat Chung and Devin McCourty were also actively involved in the five-plus minute conversation as the group discussion went on oblivious to the rest of what the team was doing.

In keeping with what the elder Belichick stressed all week, that it was “a teaching camp” the younger Belichick gets high marks for setting the season off on the right foot.

Tight End Michael Williams Tears ACL, is released:
Backup tight end Michael Williams tore his ACL during Wednesday’s practice and will need surgery, effectively ending his 2016 season. In a corresponding move the Patriots released him and if he clears waivers, then he will revert to IR.

Williams, 25, was acquired by the Patriots with Detroit in August of last year. The 6-foot-6, 304-pounder, originally entered the NFL as a 7th round draft pick (211th overall) by the Lions in the 2013 NFL Draft out of Alabama.

He played in 15 games with nine starts for the Pats last year catching three passes for 26 yards. This spring the converted tackle appeared to slim down some and was being used more in the passing game and had a couple of nice catches down the seams during minicamp prior to his injury.

With Williams lost for the year, that leaves Clay Harbor, A.J. Derby, Steve Scheu, and Bryce Williams fighting for backup spots to Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett.

Brown/Foster are looking to carve out roles at RB:
Going into the spring, one of the areas that were deemed ready for an upgrade was the running back position. The Patriots finished 30th in rushing in 2015 and their top two backs Dion Lewis and LaGarrette Blount ended up on IR.

But the Patriots eschewed on the prospects in the draft, instead, signing veteran Donald Brown and UDFA D.J. Foster from Arizona State. They’ll compete with veterans James White, Brandon Bolden (mainly an STs standout), Tyler Gaffney, as well as fullbacks James Develin and Joey Iosefa.

While still very early, both Brown and Foster have made strong cases for themselves. Brown has been able to carry the ball in the running game, provide good pass protection and be a capable receiver out of the backfield in his career. This week, he looked smooth sliding out of the backfield catching passes and his versatility may be called upon, especially if Blount isn’t ready to go.

Foster is an intriguing player who has that instant burst of acceleration off the snap and has very, quick feet in being able to plant and go in an instant. He also has the added versatility of being a special teams’ capable player, returning kicks which is an added bonus. Both of these players will bear watching once training camp begins.

Grugier-Hill Taking a Similar Path as King a Year Ago:
When the Patriots drafted Kamu Grugier-Hill in the 6th round of the NFL draft this season, one of the things that immediately drew attention to the undersized LB/S hybrid player was his athleticism and speed. We knew that he’d have to make a spot for himself via STs, similar to how Brandon King did last season.

At the time, King was considered a long shot to make the roster, but every day we’d watch STs Coach Joe Judge work with King one-on-one on different drills and we stated then, that the team had plans for King. Now we’re seeing the same thing with Grugier-Hill.

During minicamp we watched Grugier-Hill and King work on the side with coaches and long snapper Christian Yount on punt blocking drills. Later in camp, he worked with Pro Bowler Matthew Slater as a gunner. During Thursday’s session he showcased his speed on defense by knocking a pass away on one snap and later, breaking on a Jacoby Brissett pass, Grugier-Hill was able to pick off the pass. With the Patriots it always helps your cause if you can do a lot of things, versatility being the key.  Grugier-Hill is a player that has a lot of potential.

Kamu Grugier-Hill and Brandon King get some one-on-one time in STs drills

Kamu Grugier-Hill and Brandon King get some one-on-one time in STs drills

Cornerback Competition Likely to Heat up in July:
The Patriots entered the 2015 season with nothing but questions at the cornerback position. A year later they appear, on paper to be deep and talented if still unproven there. And if minicamp is any indication, then training camp promises to be even more fun to watch.

With Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan and top draft choice Cyrus Jones all roster locks, that leaves last season’s slot corner Justin Coleman, Darryl Roberts, free agent E.J. Biggers, and UDFAs V’Angelo Bentley, Jonathan Jones, and Cre’Von LeBlac fighting it out for the final two roster spots.

We watched this group closely during minicamp and each of them was making plays. Once the pads come on in about six weeks, it promises to be very entertaining to watch. And with Ryan out during this week’s practices, it increased the reps for everyone else to make some headway…and they all did.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Dolphins Plan on Running Up Tempo Offense:
New Dolphins Head Coach Adam Gase and Offensive Coordinator Clyde Christensen plan on having the Dolphins offense running an up-tempo attack this season, including some time in the no-huddle.

“Just keep pushing the pace. It gives our quarterback some time at the line so all of them don’t get snapped with 22 seconds left on the clock,” Christensen told the Miami Herald. That’s not necessarily the intention. … One of the reasons we’re at the line of scrimmage is the tempo, for the conditioning, and for the advantage-based part of it where it looks like it’s going to be fast and then all of a sudden we can get into a play we want to get into.”

The Dolphins are already practicing it during OTAs and as one would expect it requires a lot of conditioning on the part of the players. With some improved weapons for QB Ryan Tannehill, this will be an interesting development to watch.

Jets Counting on Henderson, Mauldin at LB:
The J-E-T-S, Jets are facing replacing some veterans this season and it just isn’t at the QB position where the Ryan Fitzpatrick watch has continued to drag on. The team is also having to contend with the loss of long-time veteran Calvin Pace as well as Demario Davis at the linebacker position in 2016.

The team did sign veteran free agent Bruce Carter this spring but they’ll really be leaning on two younger players in Erin Henderson and Lorenzo Mauldin. The team gave Henderson a one-year deal in 2015 and despite a slow start by the end of the season, he was sharing reps with Davis. Mauldin was a rookie in 2015 and used as a sub-package pass rusher. He’s expected to take on a bigger role in 2016.

The team also drafted two intriguing prospects at linebacker in Darron Lee in the 1st round and Jordan Jenkins in the 3rd round of the 2016 NFL Draft. So it will be a new look for the Jets linebackers but promises to be an exciting group.

Former Bills’ QB Says Ryan Will Be Fired with No Playoffs:
Well, that didn’t take long… Rex Ryan is officially on the hot seat with the Buffalo Bills. Former QB Jim Kelly on the Jim Rome Show this week said that if the Bills don’t make it to the postseason, “I think Rex will probably be looking for another job,” Kelly said on Thursday. “I think everybody knows that, including Rex.”

The Bills currently own the dubious distinction of holding the longest playoff drought in the NFL, at 16 years and it has been 20 since Buffalo’s last playoff win for the football-crazed fans in upstate NY.

Bills owner Terry Pagula was on record this year stating the both Ryan and GM Doug Whalley have to make the playoffs this year.

As for the ever bombastic Ryan? He says he’s not worried. “The media looks at it [like], ‘Well, we have to win this year'” Rex Ryan said earlier this month. “Or what? Oh, I am going to be fired? I don’t think so. I’m not going to worry about it because we are going to win anyway. But it’s like, that is an ultimatum? No.”

 

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.

Don’t Go to Sleep This Spring on Patriots CB Darryl Roberts

Steve Balestrieri
May 10, 2016 at 8:53 am ET

Still an Unproven Quantity at CB, 2nd Year Player Has Plenty of Upside

The Patriots drafted Alabama cornerback Cyrus Jones with their first pick in the 2016 NFL Draft with the 60th overall pick. Jones is expected to immediately contend for slot corner duties immediately with a chance at moving outside later. Another player who can possibly vie for starting reps outside in 2016 is 2nd-year corner Darryl Roberts.

Roberts was drafted by the Patriots with a 7th round draft pick (247th overall), out of Marshall last season. An incredibly gifted athlete, he had a big performance at Marshall’s Pro Day running a 4.38-second 40-yard dash with a 6.66-second time in the 3-Cone Drill, a 4.06-second short shuttle, a 39-inch vertical leap, and an 11’1”-inch broad jump. He also benched 225 pounds 23 times.

He’s the tallest of the Patriots corners currently on the roster, just topping out at 6’0 and 190 pounds. Roberts is a tough, physical corner with long arms that he uses aggressively in press coverage. He has outstanding change of direction skills and has the speed to mirror receivers downfield as well as recover when the ball is in the air.

With the huge turnover at the position last season, the competition was essentially wide open entering training camp. Roberts was tossed right into the mix, getting essentially first team reps against Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola early in training camp. The results were about what one would expect.

Coming from a small school, Roberts wasn’t prepared for the quickness off the line of the Patriots shifty receivers. He was playing too high in his backpedal and wasn’t able to get a good jam at the line. As a result, for the first couple of days, he was getting beat regularly.
Roberts-Edelman
Roberts-Amendola

But the light quickly came on and Roberts began to improve markedly as camp wound along.  His coverage got tighter, his physicality improved and he began making more and more plays as the days passed. Was he rising ala Malcolm Butler in 2014? No, not quite. But his level of play had increased to the point of being noticeably better.


Darryl Roberts came on strong during 2015’s training camp before landing on IR. (SBalestrieri/PatsFans.com image)

One day during the dog days of August, he broke up four passes in the training session, one of which was intercepted. He earned the start in the Patriots first preseason game of the year against the Green Bay Packers and it was in this game that his season came to a halt.

In trying to tackle the Packers Eddie Lacy, Roberts badly dislocated his wrist. The recovery time for that injury is about 8 weeks but the Patriots made the decision to place him on season-ending IR. He was fully healed by the time the season ended.

Now with a clean bill of health, Roberts should have no issues with once again competing for a spot on the roster and possibly for some starting reps. Unlike Jones who can play inside or out, Roberts is ideally a fit for the perimeter. There, his length, athleticism, and physicality can impact the play, giving the Patriots another option at covering opponents’ wide receivers.

He joins a crowded group of ten corners this spring including, Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Cyrus Jones, Justin Coleman, E.J. Biggers, Brock Vereen, Cre’Von LeBlanc, V’Angelo Bentley, Jonathan Jones.

But with Logan Ryan being an unrestricted free agent in 2017, the Patriots will be looking within to see if there is a player currently on the roster that can step up and play on the outside. Jones is one of those guys but for now, he’ll compete with Justin Coleman for reps in the slot. Roberts should vie with Biggers initially for reps backing up the starters outside in Butler and Ryan.

If last season is any indication, he may indeed by ready for a bigger slice of the pie. He also has special teams’ capability with his speed and athleticism, something that the Patriots always covet in their players.

While all eyes will be focused on Jones this summer and rightfully so, don’t be surprised if Roberts, the 7th round pick from last season starts to turn heads again once the players hit the field.

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

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

Competition at CB for the Patriots Will Be Intense

Steve Balestrieri
May 4, 2016 at 6:39 am ET

Pats have brought in several new faces to compete at corner

Yesterday we wrote about the WR position and how the OTAs, Mini-camp and Training Camp battles should be intense. The same should be true about the cornerback position. Between the draft and signing UDFAs, the Patriots have added four new faces at corner and should be looking at some great competition this summer.

Top draft pick Cyrus Jones from Alabama, taken in the 2nd round of the draft with the #60 overall pick will naturally get a lot of attention this summer and with just cause. He should immediately vie for reps and can play either inside or outside.

A converted WR, Jones is slightly undersized at 5’10, but is physical, strong and has been improving in his coverage every year. He’s can mirror wide receivers down the field and is very active in run support. Jones is a dynamic punt returner with 4 returns for TDs in 2015. He ran a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash and an outstanding 6.71 in the all-important 3-Cone Drill.

Cyrus Jones2

The Patriots also added three other corners, the theme being they’re being undersized but very athletic. They included Jonathan Jones from Auburn, V’Angelo Bentley from Illinois and Cre’Von Leblanc from Florida Atlantic. Bentley and Leblanc like Cyrus Jones have experience running back kickoffs and Jonathan Jones was a nationally ranked track star.

Jones was an All-SEC Selection in 2014 and ran a blistering 4.33 in the 40 at the NFL Combine as well as a 7.25-second three-cone, 36-inch vertical leap, and 123-inch broad jump. Strong for his size, he did 19 reps on the bench press.

He notched 129 tackles, seven interceptions, with 24 passes defended over his Tigers career. We ran a draft profile on him earlier during the draft process on his being a fit for the Patriots.

Bentley is another corner who isn’t the biggest guy at 5’10, 190 pounds, but he provided good production with 54 tackles, three TFL, sack, 743 kick/punt return yards last season. He was the only player in school history to score on a kick return, punt return, interception, and a fumble.

Leblanc is the third smaller but physical and athletic corner that the Patriots brought in as a UDFA. He too has special teams’ expertise, returning 29 kickoffs for 556 yards in his career.

While only 5’9, 194-pounds, he’s a stocky, muscular defender who was known for his versatility as a cover man/run stopper/blitzer. He doesn’t have great top-end speed (4.65 time in the 40) but did run a 6.91 in the 3-Cone.

These new faces will have the daunting task of unseating the veterans and three returning starters from last season in Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan and Justin Coleman in the slot. Butler will be a restricted free agent after the 2016 season, but isn’t going anywhere. Ryan is an unrestricted free agent after this year and as is the norm, you can’t keep everyone, so one of these young players may be vying for his spot.

The team also has recently signed E.J. Biggers a veteran backup and last season’s 7th round draft in Darryl Roberts. Roberts is an intriguing player who turned heads at last season’s training camp and earned the start for the team’s first preseason game, before injuring his wrist and being placed on IR.


Darryl Roberts looks to compete for starting reps in 2016. (SBalestrieri image)

Roberts too brings some very gifted athleticism to the table. He ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash with a 6.66-second 3-cone, a 4.06-second short shuttle, with a 39-inch vertical leap, 23 reps on the bench press and an 11’1 broad jump at his Pro Day last year.

Unlike the rest of the league who are all trending to the bigger more physical corners, the Patriots are content with taking the slightly smaller, more athletic ones. Roberts and Biggers are the only corners at 6’0. Butler, Ryan and Coleman are listed at 5’11 and the rookie class is all under that.

It will be interesting to see who rises above the pack to nail down reps early this summer. While Cyrus Jones will be looked to push immediately for reps, Roberts and Coleman will have something to say about that.

With the old adage that you can never have enough good corners, the Patriots seem to be in that position this season. After entering 2015 with a ton of questions at the position, now they have three starters returning…something that hasn’t happened in recent memory with several talented youngsters waiting in the wings vying to compete.

The corner position will definitely be an intriguing one to watch this summer.

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

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

Patriots UDFA Class Has Some Intriguing Prospects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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