Tag Archives: Yodny Cajuste

What to Watch For At Patriots Training Camp

Steve Balestrieri
July 25, 2019 at 7:00 am ET

The 2019 Patriots training camp sessions begin this morning and football is finally back. Well maybe not the games that count yet, but we’ll have the Patriots and the NFL with us until Super Bowl LIV plays out in February. Hopefully, we’ll be looking at another Patriots appearance in the big game. 

But… as Bill Belichick likes to say, “we have a long way to go.” The spring is a teaching camp and in actuality, the first two days of training camp will be a continuation of that. No pads, no hitting and there is really no way to gauge the play of the interior linemen or the running game yet.  

We won’t be able to really gauge any of that stuff until Saturday when the pads come on for the first time. However, there are some things we are excited about watching this summer at training camp. 

Isaiah Wynn and the LT Position: Wynn was the Patriots top draft pick a year ago and before we really got a sense of knowing how he could handle himself as a left tackle in the NFL, he was hurt. Trent Brown had taken over the position, pretty much from Day 1 and there was never that feeling that they were competing for the top spot. 

Now Brown is gone, after signing a big-money deal with the Raiders. Wynn is coming off of that Achilles injury and missed all of the spring. Third-round pick Yodny Cajuste, someone we’re really high on here, is beginning camp on PUP after offseason quad surgery. Cole Croston is also on PUP, so I would expect to see more of Joe Thuney at left tackle this summer. 

But make no mistake about it, this is Wynn’s position to win or lose. It is going to be a must-watch area when he takes part in the one-on-one battles with the edge players. Unfortunately, those are always as far away from the crowd as humanly possible. 

With Sony Michel Out, Watch Damien Harris: I thought getting Harris in the third round of the draft was an absolute steal. At the time, I chalked it up to the Patriots just recognizing a good player who was too good to pass up. Now, that move looks brilliant.

Michel had a knee scope in the spring and it was supposed to be a minor thing. He missed all of minicamp and is now starting on PUP. Harris got a lot of reps in the spring and looked as good as advertised. 

Harris is a good runner between the tackles, gets yards after contact, is an outstanding pass blocker and is an underrated pass receiver with very soft hands. Even with a healthy Michel, I expect Harris to see a lot of action this season. With Michel out, at least for now, look for him to accelerate that learning curve. 

No Julian Edelman is Good News For the Other WRs: Edelman is Tom Brady’s best friend and most trusted receiver on the team. That brace on his thumb looks to be a minor issue and not something that should linger long. But him not being there just elevates everyone behind him on the depth chart to get reps with #12. And you know what? That is a good thing. 

N’Keal Harry had a good spring, some solid moments mixed in with typical rookie moments. That is expected…from anyone. Harry has a reputation as a very hard worker and since the minicamp ended, I wouldn’t be surprised if he looks like a different guy this week. I would go all-in that he spent that off time getting deep into the playbook. 

Braxton Berrios is another guy who could really benefit from Edelman’s absence. Berrios has never caught a pass from Brady in team drills, one can expect that dubious distinction to end very soon. Berrios has to stay healthy and on the field this summer. He had a pretty impressive spring and everything is falling in place for him to carve out a nice niche for himself in the offense. He could fit in the Danny Amendola role in 2019. 

Jakobi Meyers is my dark-horse to make the 53-man roster at wide receiver. With Josh Gordon suspended for who knows how long and Demaryius Thomas on PUP, Meyers may be able to carve out a role in the offense. He’s a former QB and a big (6’2, 204) slot receiver. One thing that stood out during minicamp was that Meyers was invited to the side session with Brady, Hoyer, Josh McDaniels, and Harry. While it may not mean much, we believe that anything that goes down in Foxboro has a motive. It’ll be up to him to show us right or wrong. 

Front Seven Play and How the Reps are Divided: The Patriots run defense was awful early in the season. It was especially bad along the defensive line. Eventually, the Patriots tightened that up and the run defense was a strength in the postseason. The Patriots lost former 1st round pick Malcom Brown in free agency. But they brought in Mike Pennel, someone we were lobbying for when free agency started. He and Lawrence Guy should be a very stout early run-stuffing pair. 

But the players on the edge are an intriguing bunch. Michael Bennett still has gas left in the tank …and plays with arguably the smallest shoulder pads on the team. Deatrich Wise starts on PUP which opens the door for more reps for John Simon, rookie Chase Winovich and some guys who are on the bubble. Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis, Trent Harris are all guys who are looking to carve out a roster spot. Another guy to watch is Shalique Calhoun. 

At linebacker, the Patriots have plenty of depth and a slimmed-down Dont’a Hightower, the return of Jamie Collins and the playmaking ability of Kyle Van Noy lends itself to the idea that the defense will continue to postseason trend of being very aggressive. 

J.C. Jackson and Duke Dawson Have Big Year 2 Expectations: Jackson had a meteoric rise in 2018. But Bill Belichick tried to possibly send a message to him by giving most of the first-team reps to Jason McCourty this spring. Many people expect Jackson to be an even better player than Stephon Gilmore somewhere down the line. So, a lot of people will be watching him closely. 

Dawson didn’t play at all in 2018 after coming off IR late in the year. Jonathan Jones cemented the slot role down and he and Dawson will be vying for that starting slot corner role. Rookie Joejuan Williams is a big corner in the Brandon Browner mold and is hoped to be a matchup piece in a ridiculously deep cornerback grouping. 

Training camp is always chalked full of action with 90 players competing all over the field. One area we neglected to mention was the punting battle between Ryan Allen and Jake Bailey. This promises to be another intriguing positional battle.

Don’t expect too much in those first two days which are like minicamp with the lack of hitting and pads, But come Saturday morning, the fun should really begin. 

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Patriots 2019 Training Camp Guide – Offensive Line

Steve Balestrieri
July 18, 2019 at 8:00 am ET

The Patriots return four of their five starters from an offensive line that was just outstanding in 2018 enroute to the team’s sixth Super Bowl title. The one very big piece both figuratively and literally is left tackle Trent Brown. Brown came to the Patriots last year with questions if he could be a viable left tackle in the NFL. He not only answered those but parlayed them into a massive 4-year contract worth $66 million dollars with the Raiders this spring.

The Patriots drafted Isaiah Wynn in the first round of the draft last year with the expectation that he would be the left tackle of the future. However, Wynn tore his Achilles in the preseason last summer and spent the entire year on IR. 

The strength of the offensive line is with their guard tandem of Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason which is one of the best in the NFL. Scrappy, tough and steady David Andrews is the center and Marcus Cannon is the right tackle. 

The Patriots are hoping that Wynn is ready for a full load this season and is ready to be a left tackle in the NFL. Backing him up is the underrated rookie T Yodny Cajuste from West Virginia. Cajuste is coming off quad surgery this offseason and missed all of the spring. But he is the swing tackle of the immediate future. 

The team signed veteran Jared Veldheer this spring but he decided to retire when he said his body wasn’t going to withstand the rigors of another season. 

With a 4th round draft pick, the Patriots selected Hjalte Froholdt, he should immediately challenge Ted Karras for the top interior backup role. The biggest question after Wynn’s status will be who will be the 4th tackle on the depth chart? Cole Croston, Cedrick Lang, Dan Skipper, Tyree St. Louis, and Calvin Anderson will be all vying for that position.

As long as Dante Scarnecchia is patrolling the Patriots sideline as the team’s offensive line coach, the Patriots can pretty much weather any storm that creeps up with the offensive line. So, with training camp just around the corner, let’s take a look at the position. 

Check back with PatsFans.com as we’ll go thru the entire roster as our primers for training camp continue before the heavy lifting starts on July 25.

Current roster – Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Ted Karras, Yodny Cajuste, Hjalte Froholdt, Cole Croston, James Ferentz, Brian Schwenke, Jake Eldrenkamp, Cedrick Lang, Ryker Matthews, Dan Skipper, Calvin Anderson, Tyree St. Louis, Tyler Gauthier

Locks – Wynn, Thuney, Andrews, Mason, Cannon, Cajuste

Near Locks –  Froholdt, Karras

Bubble – Croston, Ferentz, Schwenke

Long Shot – Eldrencamp, Lang, Matthews, Skipper, Anderson, St. Louis, Gauthier 

Discussion – We expect that Wynn will be ready to go for training camp. I watched him take part in individual drills during minicamp, he was held out of team drills, I believe as a precaution. He looked to me that he was moving without any issues and looked ready to go. Regardless, Wynn, Thuney, Andrews, Mason, Cannon, and Cajuste are all locks for the roster. 

Froholdt and Karras are both near locks. I personally believe that the team is looking at Froholdt as starter material for next season. Joe Thuney is in a contract year and could be in the market for a big payday. He played nearly all of the starter snaps during minicamp with Wynn and Cajuste absent. If he does leave, Froholdt may be getting groomed for the next guard under Scarnecchia. 

Karras has been a very good depth player and has the ability to fill in at guard and center. He’s tough, physical and versatile. Only an awful summer should stop him from earning a roster spot in 2019. 

Cole Croston would be the next in line for the 4th tackle position. He’s been kept around the past few years but is in no way considered a lock for the roster. He’s a very good practice squad candidate. The Patriots could still be in the market for another tackle.

Overall, the offensive line is in very good shape overall. Even though Wynn hasn’t played a snap in the NFL, the Patriots spent the 23rd overall pick on him for a reason. And although I may be overplaying things a bit, as long as Scarnecchia is coaching up the O-line, I have no doubt that they’ll figure things out. 

With training camp starting next week, the competition among the linemen should be extremely fun to watch. 

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

New England Patriots News 4-28, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 28, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 04-28 and AFC East Notes.

“Havlicek Stole the Ball!” RIP to a Boston Celtics legend John Havlicek who passed away this week at age 79. Older Celtics fans will always remember that iconic call when he sealed a victory against the 76ers. An iconic member of the Celtics, he’ll be missed.

Draft Quick Hitters:

Patriots Draft Room has to be the sparsest populated room in the league this weekend. I kept seeing other teams’ inside of their “war room” and there were tons of people in each. The Patriots draft room looked like a pretty lonely place, with very select people inside.

Nashville did a tremendous job with the draft this year. People came out in droves and it was located right smack in the middle of everything. Setting the bar high

DJ Metcalf had the most emotional moment of being drafted, the clip of him weeping openly on the phone even got HC Pete Carroll misty

Pat McAfee’s spot during the draft was absolute gold….watch it again, you’ll be happy that you did.

Kyle Rudolph is reportedly on the trading block after the Vikings drafted Irv Smith Jr. from Alabama. Don’t know why, however, Rudolph, who turns 30 in late November had 64 catches a year ago….hmmm

Tyreek Hill was captured on audio tape by his fiance in a very disturbing turn of events in the case of Hill’s 3-year old son who allegedly had his arm broken by the Chiefs wide receiver. Initially, prosecutors declined to press charges even though they were convinced a crime had been committed. Now in light of the audio tape, they’re re-opening the investigation.

On the tape, Hill threatened his girlfriend Crystal Espinal Espinal told Hill their son is “terrified of you.”

Hill replied, “You need to be terrified of me, too, b***h”

Later, Espinal asks Hill, “What do you do when the child is bad? You make him open up his arms and you punch him in the chest.”

Because of this development, Hill has been barred from the Chiefs facility during their voluntary strength and conditioning workouts. He may have played his last game in a Chiefs uniform over this incident.

Dont’a Hightower and David Andrews made the Patriots first picks in the second round of the draft on Friday night. Hightower tweaked the crowd, who regardless of the venue likes to boo every Patriots mention, with the “THE CHAMPS select” …classic.

Apples and Oranges –  When mentioning the Hill investigation, fans are jumping all over the NFL by stating that while Hill has still not been suspended, Josh Gordon remains indefinitely suspended. While the NFL’s discipline decisions are always skewed, comparing the two cases is not a good comparison. Whether we agree with the league’s choice of making marijuana suspendable, Gordon has violated the rule multiple times. Hill is going to be suspended, the league is still gathering the facts. His earlier transgression occurred before he was a member of the league. Now the only question will be, how soon another team rushes in to sign him once he’s released by KC. Which, while they’re “deeply disturbed”, they’ve yet to move on releasing him. Why is a good question at this point.

Meet the 2019 Patriots Draft Class:

The Patriots have made several key additions to the team thus far. Let’s take a quick look at each of the new members of the 2019 Draft Class.

N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona St. – The Patriots needed a big, physical wide receiver and they went out and got one of the best ones in the class. Harry was very productive (213 catches in 37 games) and he’ll make those contested catches as well as use his body to box out defenders.

JoeJuan Williams, CB, Vanderbilt – Williams played in the very competitive SEC and is a very big press corner who is physical and will make jarring tackles in run support and has the length to contest passes all over the field. While not a speed merchant, he moves well for a big corner and possesses good agility.

Chase Winovich, Edge, Michigan – Winovich is bound to be an early crowd favorite with his long flowing blonde locks, big personality, and non-stop motor. For a bigger man, he runs well, has good agility and is a disruptor behind the line of scrimmage.

Damien Harris, RB, Alabama – is a good, tough, run between the tackles kind of running back who keeps his pad level low and has the burst to get to the outside. He’s patient, and gets good yardage after contact. An excellent pass blocker and an underrated receiver with good hands.

Yodny Cajuste, T, West Virginia – Cajuste is a big left tackle that will probably move to the right side in the NFL. He has good balance, agility, and quickness for the position and will probably function as the team’s swing tackle in 2019.

Hjalte Froholdt, G, Arkansas – Froholdt is a 6’4, 306-pound guard/center who played under Pats coach Bret Bielema. He was one of the most highly graded interior offensive linemen in pass protection in 2018. Team captain.

Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn – Stidham has a strong arm and mechanics and can make all of the NFL throws. NFL analyst Daniel Jerimiah said he throws the best ball in the draft. But his footwork is sloppy and he can often wait too long to pull the trigger. Struggled under pressure. Very much a developmental prospect. However, Danny Etling will have camp competition.

Byron Cowart, DE, Maryland –  Cowart is 6’3, 298 interior defensive lineman who went to Auburn and then transferred to junior college before landing in Maryland. Played as a five-technique or can move to a three-technique. Has the potential to be an interior pocket pusher.

Jake Bailey, P, Stanford – The Patriots moved up in the draft to select a punter. Yes, we really said that. However, he had the best hang time in the country in 2018 and can also kickoff with about 60 percent touchback rate. And he is a right-footed punter, unlike the past few Pats punters who were lefties.

Ken Webster, CB, Ole Miss – The Patriots final draft pick is another corner from Ole Miss. Webster is athletic (4.43 in the 40, 43.0 vertical, 6.85 Three Cone). He’s aggressive and a good tackler, but after a good start at Ole Miss, he never made the leap. It’s going to be tough for him with seven other viable corners on the roster to make this team.

Now come the first of the undrafted free agents, look for about a dozen or more to make their way to Foxboro in the coming days.

Brady “Must” Be At OTAs Now? Child Please

Talk about your classic case of overreaction, no sooner than the Patriots had drafted one of the best wide receivers in the class, then the hot take artists immediately descended on the team to rain on the parade. In the latest example of “It’s never sunny in Foxboro”, the chatter is already starting on how N’Keal Harry’s development is going to “be stunted” if Tom Brady decides to skip OTAs again this spring.

“We don’t want you on that wall Tom, we NEED YOU on that wall.” Really?

Harry is coming in with a clean slate, he is a rookie and because of his draft standing here, there is going to be an insane amount expectations and production that fans and media will envision. Right now, he needs to learn the playbook and the route tree for the wide receivers. That is plenty of work right there in itself.

Thrusting him into the mix and then putting the onus on he and Brady getting chemistry on Day 1 will not be beneficial to either. He’ll have enough on his plate and by working with Josh McDaniels and backups Brian Hoyer and Danny Etling he can ease into the playbook and learn his responsibilities…first.

Brady skipped OTAs for a reason a year ago, and it had nothing to do with him feuding with Bill Belichick. As he’s aging, he needs to keep fresher for the season. Having him in good form in December and January is more important than him being here in April.

Brady will no doubt work very closely with Harry in the upcoming weeks and months. Would having him prove beneficial to both? Of course, but not at the expense of him losing his sharpness down the stretch or in the playoffs.

Early on Friday morning, I had this exact conversation with someone and they said, Brady and Josh Gordon struggled with their chemistry early in the process. And while true, my answer to that is Gordon entered in mid-season and first played in Week 4 against the Dolphins. That’s quite different with the team trying to prepare for a regular season opponent than it is working out in the spring.

There will be plenty of time for those two to work out and build their chemistry together. But this talk about Brady stunting Harry’s development is nothing more than to give the hot-take artists fodder for weeks.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Offensive Line Leads the Way for a Revamped Roster:

The Buffalo Bills have really done a roster do-over, where half of the team in 2019 may be actually new players. But nowhere will the roster appear different in 2019 than the offensive line. Buffalo identified a weakness a year ago in the poor play of the offensive line and they have aggressively set out to rectify it.

Buffalo signed six free agent offensive linemen including former Patriot LaAdrian Waddle and then drafted Cody Ford from Oklahoma. Ford will obviously get one of the tackle spots. At guard, they signed free agents Quinton Spain, Spencer Long, and Jon Feliciano. They moved up in the draft to get Dawson Knox from Ole Miss at TE and took Devin Singletary at running back.

They got Ed Oliver to anchor the heart of the defense, although I wasn’t a fan of the Vosean Joseph pick at linebacker. But the Bills had a very successful spring.

Dolphins Get the Steal of the Draft, Nab Rosen for Two Picks:

The Miami Dolphins now have their quarterback. Miami packaged a 2nd round draft pick, #62 overall and a 5th rounder in 2020 to get Josh Rosen from the Arizona Cardinals. Rosen was in an uncomfortable situation as he was drafted with the #10 pick just a year ago.

But the Cardinals were enamored with Kyler Murray and jettisoned Rosen after just one year. Their loss is Miami’s gain. Miami got a steal and for a late 2nd rounder got a QB who a top ten pick and then saddled with a terrible team a year ago.

With Ryan Fitzpatrick onboard, the onus on Rosen right now will be to learn the playbook and find a comfort level in the offense. But rest assured, as soon as Fitzpatrick struggles…and he will, the calls will come for the Dolphins to put him in. This is a very low risk, high reward for the Dolphins. The AFC East now has Brady and three young players selected in the 1st round just a year ago.

Jets Add Quinnen Williams in the Draft:

The New York Jets added one of the best players (arguably the best IMHO) in the draft in Quinnen Williams. The Alabama star should be a fixture of the defensive line for many years to come. He is a dominant player and will immediately become a guy opposing teams will have to account for on every down.

I wasn’t a fan of Jachai Polite and was surprised the Jets took him over Chase Winovich, who the Patriots scooped up after the fact. But my favorite pick for the Jets after Williams is their 4th round TE Trevon Wesco. We raved about his blocking ability and versatility during the pre-draft process. He could become an emerging pass catcher as well.

________________

“What was your impression of the draft in Nashville? So, how was your week?”

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Busy Draft Day 2 For the Patriots As They Add Four More Players

Steve Balestrieri
April 27, 2019 at 6:27 am ET

BThe Patriots were busy on the second day of the 2019 NFL Draft in Rounds 2-3 and were making trades in addition to adding players. They entered Friday evening with five draft choices. When all was said and done, they maneuvered up and down around the board and made four selections.

The team addressed some areas of need and added players to positions that were already strong. On Friday night they added the following new players:

JoeJuan Williams, CB, Vanderbilt
Chase Winovich, DE, Michigan
Damien Williams, RB, Alabama
Yodny Cajuste, T, West Virginia

JoeJuan Williams, #45: Williams joins an already loaded cornerback position, so it most definitely wasn’t a position of need. But by moving up 11 spots in the draft, Williams is someone they definitely coveted. The Patriots got the #45 pick for #56 and #101 selections in the draft.

Williams is a big, nearly 6’4, 217-pound corner who is very aggressive and physical. He’ll obviously be used in matchups with big WRs or TEs. One can foresee the Patriots using Williams, who doesn’t have great speed as their corner with help over the top with a safety. People have been already projecting him, because of his size to be a Brandon Browner-type player.

But he joins a very crowded CB position with Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, Keion Crossen, and Duke Dawson. With so many quality corners, one has to wonder if someone is going to be moved in a trade.

The Patriots then traded down from #64 with Seattle and added two picks #77 and #118. Then they traded down again, moving picks #73 and #205 to the Bears for #87, #172 and a 2020 4th Round pick. Confused yet?

Chase Winovich, #77: The Patriots then selected the athletic and big personality Winovich from Michigan. Winovich runs well (4.59 in the 40), and has a penchant for making plays in the backfield with 15.5 tackles for loss and five sacks in 2018.

He’s very disruptive and asked to describe himself to the NE media said, “I like to think of myself as a junkyard dog…Tenacious.” To say he has a high motor is an understatement. He sets the edge very well and creates pressure on the QB.

He joins Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise Jr., Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis, Umfomba Kamalu, and Trent Harris at the edge for the Patriots.

Damien Harris, #87: While again, not a position of need, the Patriots added the three-year starter from Alabama to the mix at running back. Harris is 5’11, 217 and a team captain, strong locker room presence and a very experienced special teams player. He’ll be an immediate fit.

Harris will immediately inject youth and a dose of physicality to the position. The team was hurting there in 2018 and had to move Cordarrelle Patterson to the position for a while. Harris is productive (ran for over 3000 yards at Alabama), runs low and hard between the tackles, is very good in short-yardage situations and is a reliable pass catcher. He’s also an excellent pass blocker.

Will the Patriots keep all five running backs, Harris, Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, and Brandon Bolden this year? We’ll have to see.

The team then traded back again with picks #97 and #162 going to the Rams getting their pick #101 back as well as #133.

Yodny Cajuste, #101: Cajuste from West Virginia is probably the Patriots swing tackle for 2019, and a replacement for LaAdrian Waddle who went to the Bills in free agency. He has prototypical size at 6’5, 312 pounds and was pretty nimble for a big man.

Cajuste was a starter for 2.5 years for the Mountaineers and is a very good pass blocker. His work in the running game is inconsistent as WV was a definite pass-first offense. He has excellent balance, agility, and quickness for the position.

Cajuste has an injury history but will have time to work on his craft with Dante Scarnecchia and could move into a starting role by Year 2. Pro Football Weekly had Cajuste as their #4 rated tackle in their pre-draft publication.

On Day 3 the Patriots have three fourth-round picks (#118, #133, #134) and four seventh-rounders (#239, #243, #246, #252). We would expect them to add a TE, S and another developmental QB at some point today. Stay tuned.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on several apps as writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.