Category Archives: NFL

Preseason Game Four Preview: The Battle For A Roster Spot

The Patriots will take on the Giants tonight in the teams preseason finale before starting up the regular season. Before the start of the regular season comes roster cut-downs, which takes place Saturday, where the Patriots have to cut down the 90-man roster down to 53. The team has already made some cuts releasing wide receiver Eric Decker and safety Eddie Pleasant earlier in the week. It is assumed that most, if not all starters will not play tonight leaving bottom of the roster and roster bubble guys to show what they can do, and make one final push to make the final 53-man roster.

NFL: AUG 09 Preseason - Redskins at Patriots
via gettyimages.com

Riley McCarron and Devin Lucien

The Patriots wide receiving corps has gotten a lot of attention this summer as it is one of the weakest the team has had in recent years. With Julian Edelman slated to miss the first four weeks of the season due to suspension, the Patriots seem to only have three wide receivers who are locks to make the roster and contribute early on in the season in Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson. Only having three wide receivers is weak enough as it is, but having Dorsett as your number two and Patterson at your three is a sign of concern for many different reasons. I find it hard to believe that the Patriots would only carry three receivers and would add a fourth if not strictly for depth purposes incase of injury and expect that battle to come down to Riley McCarron and Devin Lucien. Both guys had good training camps, but have gotten limited action in the preseason so far. Lucien had a good performance against the Redskins having four catches for 71 yards, and then had no catches in the following two games in very limited action. Meanwhile, McCarron had no receptions against Washington and only one catch against Philadelphia and then four catches for 49 yards against Carolina and had gotten some snaps on the field with Brady, as well as contributed as a returner on special teams.   If it comes down to these two I would expect McCarron to make the roster due to his special teams contributions, as well as a better fit into the offense as a true slot receiver. I would also expect the Patriots to try moving rookie Braxton Berrios to the practice squad to develop more after not playing in the previous two preseason games.

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via 247sports.com

Keionta Davis

The defensive line is one of the biggest strengths and area of depth that the Patriots have, which makes it even harder fight for Davis to earn a roster spot. Davis has seen a lot of reps with the first team defense during the preseason as a situational pass rusher. Davis shined against the Eagles picking up 1.5 sacks and applying constant pressure. Davis was then quiet the following week against the Panthers where the Patriots seemed to struggle in every area of the game. In a game where I would not expect to see Trey Flowers or Adrian Clayborn, Davis should get plenty of opportunity to show why he is deserving of a roster spot.

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via bostonherald.com

Cyrus Jones and Jason McCourty

By now everyone knows the struggle Cyrus Jones had his rookie season and then tore his ACL prior to the start of his second season. Jones got his first action of the preseason last week where he contributed as on defense and as a returner. The talent is still there with Jones and has yet to be seen as both a corner and returner and could be too early to give up on the third year player. McCourty was one of the teams big offseason acquisitions, and has looked terrible up to this point in the preseason. After getting beat for a bad touchdown against the Eagles in week 2, McCourty played at both corner and safety last week against Carolina where he again struggled. As it looks McCourty might have a better shot at making the roster as a safety rather than a corner due to the depth the team has and how bad he has looked there. I want to see both of these guys get a lot of reps tonight as I believe they are potentially fighting against one another for a spot on the final roster. Something that wouldn’t be surprising is if the Patriots did release McCourty prior to the final 53-man roster cutdown and then brought him back at a lower salary.

NFL: AUG 16 Preseason - Eagles at Patriots
via gettyimages.com

Offensive Line

With the news of first round pick Isaiah Wynn tearing his Achilles and likely being out for the year the Patriots are going to have to look elsewhere to fill the fourth offensive tackle position. The team has a number of journeyman and castoff veterans who are now fighting for that spot including Ulrick John, Matt Tobin, Cole Croston and Luke Bowanko. I give the upper edge to John, who has been a veteran in the league and had flexibility to be able to play both inside and outside on the offensive line. Croston spent time with the Patriots last year and due to familiarity between him and the team could earn the spot.

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Patriots 53-Man Roster Projection

The Patriots have played two preseason games so far and have had several players stand out in an attempt to earn a spot on the final 53-man roster. Many things can change over the next few weeks and the final two preseason games, but here is my projection for the Patriots week 1 53-man roster.

 

Quarterback: (2) Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer

No surprised here with only Brady and Hoyer making the roster at quarterback. Etling hasn’t shown near enough to be considered for a spot on the roster, but would expect the Patriots to keep Etling around on the practice squad if no one else claims him.

 

Runningback: (6) James White, Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel, Jeremy Hill, Brandon Bolden, James Develin

Another position group with no real surprises. At this point the biggest question at the running back position is the health of first round pick Sony Michel, who hasn’t practiced in about two weeks with a knee injury. Jeremy Hill has far outplayed Mike Gillislee in the first two preseason games and looks deserving of a roster spot.

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via 247sports.com

Wide Receiver: (5) Julian Edelman*, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson, Matthew Slater, Eric Decker

This is the weakest wide receiving core the Patriots have had in some time. Outside of Chris Hogan and Matthew Slater, who is used mostly on special teams, there is no real lock for anyone else to make the roster with Edelman suspended for the first four weeks of the season. Dorsett was on the team last year and has gotten reps with the first team during the preseason and would expect to make the team. Patterson has shown some flashes on offense, as well as offers value in special teams as a returner. The last receiver spot will likely come down to Eric Decker or Kenny Britt. Decker has struggled in the preseason and training camp, but I give him the edge over Britt due to the fact that Britt hasn’t been able to get on the field due to injuries. Devin Lucien, Braxton Berrios and Riley McCarron are names to watch for who could make a push for a roster spot during the final two preseason games.

 

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

No real surprises here as I believe all three of these players are locks to make the roster. The only way I could see this changing would be if the Patriots want to save money and get rid of Dwayne Allen and his $5 million salary and cap hit.

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via ESPN.com

Offensive Lineman: (8) Trent Brown, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, La’Adrian Waddle, Ted Karras, Ulrick John

The loss of first round pick Isaiah Wynn hurts the depth of the offensive line group, as it was beginning to look like Wynn was going to contribute early for the Patriots. Trent Brown has looked phenomenal so far and looks like he could be an upgrade to Nate Solder, who the Patriots lost in free agency. I believe the first seven guys listed are locks as they were all members of the team last year outside of Brown. Ulrick John has looked decent in limited action so far in the preseason and offers flexibility being able to play at tackle and the interior of the offensive line. Guys like Cole Croston and Luke Bowanko could be in play for the final offensive lineman spot.

Masslive DEs
via masslive.com

Defensive End: (5) Trey Flowers, Adrian Clayborn, Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise Jr., Keionta Davis

Clayborn, Rivers and Wise have all played really well so far in preseason and throughout training camp and are all locks to make the roster, as well as Trey Flowers. Keionta Davis is someone who Belichick seems to like and has spoken very highly of. Davis played a lot in the Patriots second preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles, and did a good job of generating pressure. Davis has the flexibility to play inside and outside and generate pressure from both, and has an opportunity to be a name people wouldn’t expect to make the 53-man roster.

 

Defensive Tackle: (4) Danny Shelton, Malcolm Brown, Adam Butler, Lawrence Guy

Shelton has looked great so far this summer and looks to be a big contributor to the Patriots defense. Both Shelton and Brown are in the final year of their contracts and look to have big years. Both Butler and Guy played well last year and offer flexibility being able to play all over the defensive line, with Butler being more of a pass rusher and Guy more of a run stopper. Vincent Valentine is currently on the roster bubble and could push someone like Keionta Davis off the roster.

 

Linebacker: (6) Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Marquis Flowers, Elandon Roberts, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Brandon King

Hightower and Van Noy were obvious locks going into the season and have played well in limited action so far. The name of the preseason Ja’Whaun Bentley also looks like a lock after playing fantastic in the Patriots two preseason games so far, has been all over the field and returned a fumble for a touchdown against the Eagles. Bentley has been getting reps with the first team defense and if he continues to improve and translate his preseason success to the regular season will be a big contributor to the Patriots defense. Flowers and Roberts have been apart of the Patriots defense and expect them to make the team, as well as King who is used on special teams.

jmac nesn
via nesn.com

Cornerback: (6) Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jason McCourty, Duke Dawson, Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones

The Patriots have a lot of bodies at the cornerback position and could go in many different ways. Jason McCourty was a big name acquisition this offseason but so far his play hasn’t translated to the buzz around him going into camp, and got beat badly on a touchdown last week against the Eagles. I expect him to stick around but am beginning to question the impact and role he could play. I think the real question comes with Jonathan Jones and Cyrus Jones, both who started off on the PUP list . Jonathan Jones played well last year as the teams primary slot corner before being injured, and then the team selected Duke Dawson in the second round of the NFL Draft, who was primarily a slot corner in college and has looked good in training camp so far and has been dealing with a small injury himself. Cyrus Jones was terrible on defense and special teams his rookie year, then missed his second year after tearing his ACL. I think it would be too early to move on from Cyrus after only seeing what he could do for one year really.

 

Safety: (5) Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner, Eddie Pleasant

McCourty, Chung, and Harmon are all locks and key members of the Patriots defense, as well as Ebner being a lock as a core member of the special teams. Eddie Pleasant has played decently in the first two preseason games, and I just absolutely hate Jordan Richards and will not give him a spot on my projection. So congrats Eddie Pleasant for not being Jordan Richards.

 

Specialists: (3) Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona

No surprises here as this has been the core the past few years and haven’t seen much out of Corey Bojorquez.

 

Is Eric Decker a Lock for the Patriots Roster?

(Photo: Bostonsportsjournal.com)

By: Jake Mackey

As the first preseason game approaches, teams are starting to get a grasp of what they have on their roster and what positions need addressing. For Bill Belichick, it seems as though he is now on the same page as his fan base in realizing that his wide receiver depth chart is paper thin. With the releases of Jordan Matthews and Malcolm Mitchell in the past week, signing one or multiple receivers needed to be a priority for Bill Belichick and he did so by signing veteran Eric Decker.

I like this move a lot because it is perfect for what they need right now. They offered a long-time receiver who has had a lot of success in the league a chance to make another NFL roster.

I just say to take some precaution, because a lot of fans are taking this signing as the complete fix to the wide receiver issue. The way the contract is set up does not even guarantee Decker a spot on the 53-man roster come week one.

$75K guaranteed is nothing in today’s NFL. It is essentially compensation for a tryout. How long that tryout lasts is up to Bill Belichick and whether or not he believes Decker has anything left in the tank, because his stats over the past two years certainly show signs of a decline.

In 2016 Decker suffered a shoulder injury early on that caused him to miss all but three games, and last year in Tennessee he had a decent year for a number two or three receiver with 54 receptions, for 563 yards, and one touchdown. He did have a decent game against the Patriots in the divisional round racking up six receptions, for 85-yards. In Foxborough, he would need to be the number one receiver for at least the first four weeks given the lack of talent on the current roster.

Chris Hogan is not a number one receiver and should not be expected to play like one. He was signed as a third or fourth option and has had the talent around him to be that since he has been in New England.

Personally, I would love if Belichick took a flyer on Dez Bryant. Yes he is a head case, but you can get him on a cheaper contract, probably with more guaranteed dollars than Decker, and the reward would be far higher, because when he was at his best four-years ago he was the best receiver in the league.

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(GIF Credits: Giphy.com, NESN.com)

Wide Receiver Battle Heats Up On Day Three Of Training Camp

Today was day three of Patriots training camp and the first day where players were allowed to be in full pads and make contact. While today’s session was less physical and fast paced as previous years there were several players and areas that stood out.

Defensive backs Duron Harmon and Ryan Lewis both had very good days with Lewis making several nice pass breakups in the beginning parts of the day. Harmon had a good first two days of camp and continued to build on that today picking off Brian Hoyer in the end zone, which in a game situation likely would have been a pick six, as well as intercepting a pass from Tom Brady in the back of the end zone that was intended for tight end Rob Gronkowski. These sessions were far from perfect as both the entire offense and defense ended up taking a lap for mistakes, as well as rookie running back Sony Michel taking a solo lap for a fumble down towards the goal line. All three quarterbacks were not sharp today as rookie Danny Etling struggled for the majority of practice, and Brady and Hoyer throwing the aforementioned interceptions.

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One thing that really stood out to me today was the play of the Patriots wide receiving corps. This is an area where the team has a lot of questions with heading into the season, which is a problem the team hasn’t had in several years. Earlier this week I discussed how the battle at wide receiver is one that is going to be interesting to watch, and over the first three days of training camp that stands true. Devin Lucien made maybe the play of training camp so far making a tremendous catch in the end zone over a heavily contested Jason McCourty and made sure to drag both feet down before falling out of bounds. Offseason acquisitions Jordan Matthews and Cordarrelle Patterson both had very good days of camp working with both Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer. Patterson made a very nice catch in the end zone from Brady during 11 on 11 drills, and Matthews got some good work in with Brady making several sideline catches during 11 on 11 drills and seems to be looking more comfortable with Brady and the offense. Riley McCarron also had a nice day at camp making some catches and showing off his route running ability. With Julian Edelman suspended the first four games of the season the Patriots are going to be looking for guys to step up in his absence, and I’m looking forward to seeing all of these guys more throughout training camp and the preseason to see who will win out a spot on the final 53-man roster and potentially make a big impact this season.

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Other guys who had good practices today were Trent Brown and Deatrich Wise Jr.. Brown has been starting at left tackle the first three days of camp, but with no contact the first two days was tough to get a true read on how he and all the lineman on both sides of the ball were looking. Brown did a great job of setting the edge on both running and passing plays and looks to be fitting in to his new role at left tackle quite nicely. Wise made some nice plays throughout the day, including a play where he absolutely crushed running back Jeremy Hill. Wise has had a good three days of camp so far and looks to improve on his good rookie season and take on a bigger role in the Patriots defense.

Late during the practice session defensive end Trey Flowers left the field after a big hit during a goal line play. Flowers stayed on the ground for a few seconds before getting back on his feet. A few players grabbed him by his face mask and looked into his face, from where I was sitting looked like they were looking for possible concussion signs. Flowers went off to the sideline and took his helmet off and talked with trainers before jogging off the field, and later reported that he suffered a cut on his face and had a towel covering his eye while jogging off the field, which is a much better sign than any possible concussion symptoms if that is indeed the case.

W’re only three days into camp and will be a lot more to see and watch for as physicality and level of intensity picks up over the next few weeks.

 

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Patriots Training Camp 2018: Day One Thoughts and Observations

The rain couldn’t keep Patriots Nation away today as the Patriots opened up for their first  training camp session of the 2018 NFL Season. As always quarterback Tom Brady received a standing and cheering ovation as he made his way to the practice field, as well as wide receiver Julian Edelman, who missed the 2017 season due to a torn ACL, also receiving a loud ovation from the fans as he walked onto the field for the first time.

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For the first two days of training camp players aren’t in full pads and there’s no contact allowed which can make it tough to truly tell how the players look, there were definitely some players who stood out more than others. Two players who looked really well today were tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Jacob Hollister. Gronkowski looking good shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone at this point as he’s the best tight end in the league when healthy. In simulated 11 on 11 drills Gronkowski was able to get free in the back of the end zone numerous times and catching everything that Brady threw to him. Hollister was someone who really impressed me today; making a tremendous catch in the back of the end zone that was contested by Eric Rowe and a perfect pass by Brady almost right in from of me. Later on in practice on the other side of the practice field he made another great catch in the back corner of the end zone from Brady which drew an applause from the crowd.

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Someone who I wanted to keep an eye on today was rookie running back Sony Michel, who the Patriots selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. . Michel saw a lot of action with the first team offense during 11 on 11 drills and scored on a nice screen pass from Brady. The Patriots have a crowded backfield with Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, Mike Gillislee, and Jeremy Hill; and can’t wait to see how Michel looks throughout the rest of training camp and the preseason and see if he can translate his success in college to the NFL.

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While Michel was seeing some time with the first team offense today, the Patriots other first round pick Isaiah Wynn was running with the second team starting at left tackle. Like I’ve said it’s tough to tell how some players look during the first few days of training camp with no contact, this is especially true for offensive lineman. While Wynn started at left tackle with the second unit Trent Brown was the one taking reps at left tackle with the starters. The Patriots made a draft day trade to acquire Brown from the San Francisco 49ers, where he started at right tackle last season.

Something that I’m going to be paying attention to over the next couple weeks is the potential battle for a roster spot at wide receiver. With Julian Edelman suspended the first four games of the season, and the rumors of the Patriots moving on from Malcolm Mitchell look more and more true the wide receiver position could be one of need for the Patriots. After losing Danny Amendola to the Miami Dolphins this offseason the Patriots signed veteran Jordan Matthews, who on the outside looking in would seem to be a lock to make the final 53-man roster. The Patriots also re-signed Kenny Britt who spent some time with the Patriots towards the end of last season and the team likes apparently, who is starting off training camp on the PUP list. The team also has Phillip Dorsett who was with the team last season, but who I’m going to be watching are Riley McCarron and Braxton Berrios. McCarron spent time on the Houston Texans practice squad last year and has drawn some comparisons to Wes Welker, who coached him last season while in Houston. McCarron looked very quick and explosive during kickoff return drills and looks like a prototypical Patriots slot receiver. Berrios was a sixth round draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft out of Miami, and while undersized at only 5’8-5’9 was a big time playmaker during his time with the Hurricanes. Both players were rotating around with the third team offense primarily, as well as returning kicks which could be the key for one of these guys to fight for a potential roster spot.

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Day one is in the books and there will be plenty more to look for and see over the next couple weeks of training camp and preseason. But one thing thats clear is that the best time of the year is upon us as Patriots football is back!

 

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Patriots Training Camp Preview: A Defensive Line With Tons of Potential

The start to Patriots Training Camp is finally almost upon us as it is set to start in just under a week. One of the biggest issues the Patriots had at times last year was at defensive line, most notably in the Super Bowl where they couldn’t generate any pressure on Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, as well as being unable to stop the Eagles in the running game. The Patriots will return some of their main core on the defensive line, such as Trey Flowers, Malcolm Brown, and Deatrich Wise Jr., as welcome in a few new faces.

One of the new names that people should expect to see a lot from this season is defensive end Adrian Clayborn. Clayborn signed a two-year, $10 million deal with the Patriots this offseason after spending the previous three seasons in Atlanta. In 2017 Clayborn finished with a career-high 9.5 sacks, and while that total looks good on the surface it’s worth noting that six of his sacks came in one game going against the Dallas Cowboys and backup left tackle Chaz Green. A former first-round pick Clayborn is a player who so far has not lived up to his full potential and hype around him following his career at Iowa, partly due to playing in three games or less in two of his four seasons while in Tampa Bay due to injury. If Clayborn can stay on the field and continue to build off maybe his best season as a pro in last season I would expect him to be a big contributor on the Patriots defensive line opposite Trey Flowers.

 

Another new face that should make a big impact on the defensive line this season is Danny Shelton, whom the he Patriots acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Browns this offseason. Shelton is a former 12th overall pick in the NFL Draft by the Browns, the same draft where the Patriots selected Malcolm Brown in the first round.

 

Both Brown and Shelton are true run stuffing defensive tackles and while Shelton had a down year in 2017, Brown is coming off his best year as a member of the Patriots in 2017. Having two big defensive tackles in Brown and Shelton in the middle of your line with a combination of Flowers, Wise, Clayborn, Lawrence Guy, and Derek Rivers as edge rushers, as well as having Vincent Valentine and Adam Butler to play in the middle,  gives the Patriots lots of flexibility on all three downs and in all types of situations. If players are able to stay healthy and play up to their potential this Patriots defensive line is one that offers tons of flexibility and can cause problems for opposing offenses.

 

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Jordan Matthews signing more pivotal with possible Edelman suspension

One of the somewhat under the radar moves that the Patriots made this offseason was signing wide receiver Jordan Matthews. Matthews reportedly had other offers worth more money but took a one-year one million dollar deal with the Patriots on a “prove it” type deal, which now looks like it is should pay off even more for both the Patriots and Mathews.

Matthews has been somewhat disappointing in his brief NFL career after being selected in the second round out of Vanderbilt by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2014 NFL Draft. Matthews best year came in 2015 where he finished with 85 receptions with 997 yards with 8 touchdown receptions. Coming out of college Matthews was best utilized as a slot receiver, where he was used primarily in 2015 before being moved to more of an outside receiver in 2016 where his numbers diminished slightly. Matthews was traded to Buffalo in the 2017 offseason in exchange for cornerback Ronald Darby, where he was plagued by injuries and finished with only 25 catches on the year.

With or without an Edelman suspension Matthews has the potential to put up big numbers for the Patriots as the teams number three receiver following the departure of Danny Amendola to Miami. Matthews is best utilized in the slot despite his size at 6’3 205 pounds and has the skill to step right in if he can learn the playbook and gain a familiarity with quarterback Tom Brady. Brady skipped the teams voluntary team workouts but reported this week for mandatory mini camp, and with the possible Edelman suspension looming it is pivotal that he gets in as much work possible with Matthews now and during training camp which is set to kick off at the end of July.