Do you trust Jimmy Garoppolo?

“He is going to go 4-0, no question about it.”

“My guess is he will go at least 3-1; all the other games are at home against beatable teams. “

“He will probably break even at 2-2, what more can you ask of a fist time starter?”

“1-3, God I hope not but I wouldn’t be that surprised.”

“If he goes 0-4 we will be lucky to get a bag of footballs for that.”

           With New England’s star quarterback Tom Brady suspended due to the farce known as Deflategate, its seems everybody has an opinion about  the chances of their favorite back up turned four week starting Quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo. While some may longingly wish for a more seasoned replacement for Brady, the Patriots head coach seems to trust his drafting skills. Coach Belichick does not usually take a backup quarterback in the 2nd round, in fact former Patriot, Ryan Mallett was previously the highest quarterback chosen by Belichick in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

Perhaps it’s the fact that 3-time Super Bowl MVP Quarterback Tom Brady is far closer to the end of his career than the magical beginning which occurred a little over 15 years ago. It could be that Bill saw something in Jimmy while playing in Eastern Illinois which compelled him to leave his comfort zone and seemingly prepare for the heir apparent.  No matter the reason, Jimmy Garoppolo is the chosen individual to lead the 2016 New England Patriots into their first four games.

From a spectators point of view, given the amount of time that Brady’s suspension has been in play, the choice to gamble the first four games (two being division games) on a relative unknown commodity seems a little unusual for a team that prides itself on preparation.  Granted, Tom Brady will be returning in week five’s match up against the Browns but if he walks into a 0-4 deficit, he will have to play near perfect to not only make it to the playoffs but possibly win the AFC East. Garoppolo has almost three pre-seasons under his belt and a few quarters of “garbage time” in the regular season but can all that training and practice really prepare this young man to not only run Bill Belichick’s complicated and vast playbook but also replace the greatest Quarterback to ever put on a pair of shoulder pads?

To put it bluntly, no, Jimmy Garoppolo was never intended to replace Tom Brady, the reason being that no one ever really could.  Tom Brady was a diamond in the rough, which nobody ever expected to turn into the greatest quarterback in the history of football. To look at Garoppolo and expect him to replace a player the caliber of Tom Brady is not only insane but grossly unfair. New England Patriot fans have been spoiled during Brady’s tenure and deservedly so. After years of being the laughing stock of the NFL, Tom Brady took the Patriots to a height that such impressive quarterbacks as Steve Grogan and Drew Bledsoe could only ever hope to do.

Now Jimmy does have a list of positives that instantly create a bit of buzz about him. As a Walter Peyton Award winner and a Division 1-AA Heisman award winner, it’s easy to see that Garoppolo has some raw talent. The big question is what about Jimmy causes need for concern? Garoppolo’s draft analysis made it clear that his decision making isn’t always acute. While playing at Eastern Illinois, Jimmy showed a tendency to throw the ball under pressure to heavily covered receivers. A great pass rush has been known to cause Garoppolo fits and with the Patriot’s uncertainty on the offensive line, New England fans could be in for a long four games. Jimmy has had a few years with the Patriot coaching staff so; it is possible that these tendencies may have receded significantly.

To ask for and expect Jimmy Garoppolo to be the second coming of Brady may be unrealistic, but that doesn’t mean he will be a bust either. Garoppolo has shown that when paired with the New England Patriot’s dominating roster talents such as tight end Rob Gronkowski and slot receiver Julian Edelman, that he is more than capable of taking advantage of their talents. To the joy of fans, who have watched Garoppolo during the first two 2016 pre-season games, he seems to have built a significant rapport with New England’s recently acquired  star tight end, Martellus Bennett, which only increases his potential weapons. Ultimately, Garoppolo has shown that he can in fact chuck the pigskin fairly accurately which may place some fans initial fears of disaster to rest. With the devastating news that last year’s surprise star running back, Dion Lewis will be on the shelf for an undetermined amount of time, and it’s a relief to know that when called upon Jimmy Garoppolo is more than capable of rushing in for a touchdown. Jimmy may not be Tom Brady but much to the reprieve of Patriot fans, he does have some decent legs and offensive weapons that he knows how to take advantage of.

Fans looking for a bit of perspective on the entire Jimmy Garoppolo situation should circle back no further than to Head Coach Bill Belichick. During New England’s 2008 campaign, many thought the loss of Brady to injury would spell the end of the season. Belichick was able to take back up Matt Cassel and make him look like a perfectly competent quarterback, even with a defense that was headed for a steep decline. Had it not been an unusual year, the 11-5 record the 2008 Patriot squad had procured would have been more than enough to get them to the playoffs.

Bill has a proven track record of evaluating players and hates to lose football games. If Belichick honestly feels that Jimmy Garoppolo fits his system well, then the real question isn’t do we trust Jimmy Garoppolo, its do we trust Bill Belichick?

 

New England Patriots: The Deepest Roster In Years

The New England Patriots have had a long run of exceptional success. The Bill Belichick-Tom Brady link has a lot to do with the dominance they have over the rest of the NFL. This year, despite losing Brady for the 1st four games (no comment necessary), they have what could be the deepest, if not most skilled, roster in years. Despite missing some key players early due to injury, fans will be rockin’ as the 2016 Patriots evolve.

Are there still areas of concern? Definitely… but all positions are filled with strong, talented young players chomping at the bit to replace seasoned vets. Think about it. The lack of training camp transactions and difficulty in selecting who will be among New England’s 53 man roster opening day this deep into camp is a strong indication that the back-end will have skills needed to survive the long season.

COMPETITION IS GOOD FOR EVERYONE 

After two pre-season games, the competition for playing time is fierce. And, let’s face it, that’s good for everyone. Shoot, even Tom Brady, arguable the best QB in NFL history, can’t find playing time when he wants to. OK, I know, he was playing with scissors and cut himself, keeping him out of game #2, which he was scheduled to start. But the point is, someone has stepped in and done the job. You may not be a fan of Jimmy Garoppolo as the “long-term” answer when TB retires, but he has shown the ability to hold things together while Brady is out. Let’s take a quick look at what we could see on offense opening night, September 11, in Arizona.

Jimmy Garoppolo looked good against the Bears . (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Jimmy Garoppolo looked good against the Bears (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

QB: (2) This one’s a no brainer,( so I qualify), and my prediction -ta dah- unequivocally: the two slots are owned by Goroppolo and rookie Jacoby Brissett. How’s that for stepping out on a limb. It is doubtful the Patriots will sign a veteran back-up QB for the 1st four games unless one of those two get injured. Brady does not take up a roster spot until game 5.

WR: (6) Who needs a real deep threat when you have a roster full of good hands, elusive players battling it out for a limited number of positions. The days of Randy Moss are long gone, so, as they say in certain circles, “forgeddabout-it.”

  • Veterans include Danny Amendola, Jules Edelman, Nate Washington, Chris Hogan, Keshawn Martin, Aaron (yep, he’s still here) Dobson and old faithful Matthew Slater.
  • Young and looking to step in players are Chris Harper, Malcolm Mitchell, DeAndre Carter and Devin Lucien.

Injuries will factor in the final six. The availability of Amendola and Mitchell are the two question marks. If healthy they are locks, along with Edelman, Slater, Hogan and Harper. That leaves Washington, Martin, Dobson, Carter & Lucien on the outside looking in. If either Amendola or Mitchell can’t go, look for Martin to fill their slot.

TE: (3) Like QB, the first two are easy – Rob Gronkowski & Martellus Bennett. After that is a big question. Do you want a blocking, athletic or flexible player filling that role? Based on his performance to-date, I’m going with AJ Derby (FB James Develin is capable of filling the blocking TE role). As of 8/21 veteran Clay Harbor is listed ahead of Derby on the Patriot’s unofficial depth chart.

8-18 AJ Derby (Photo courtesy patspulpit.com)Rookie TE AJ Derby (Photo courtesy patspulpit.com)

RB: (5) BULLETIN – CSNNE is reporting Dion Lewis needs more surgery. James White has looked good in that role, but lacks Lewis’ elusiveness. LeGarrette Blount has impressed in pre-season, but is vulnerable with the emergence of Tyler Gaffney. Branden Bolden’s value on special teams will be the determining factor for him, leaving Joey Iosofa and D.J. Foster with little chance. As mentioned under TEs, James Devlin’s flexibility as both a blocking back and TE make him seem a certainty.

Final five – Gaffney, White,  Devlin, Bolden Blount. Would not be shocked if either Blount or Bolden were cut. It seems like every year Belichick makes a surprise cut, so either Blount or Bolden could be this year’s shocker.

OL: (9) As in all but a few predictions, health is the determining factor. Sebastian Vollmer is out & Tre’ Jackson is hurt. A decision on Jackson needs to come shortly. (A player must open training camp on PUP in order to be eligible to be placed on the reserve/PUP list to open the regular season).  His leadership will be missed, but the offensive line is gradually revolving into a young aggressive group, with rookie Joe Thune at left guard and Shaq Mason (broken hand) looking at more playing time. Center Dave Andrews beats out Bryan Stork at center,  leaving veterans Nate Solder, Cameron Fleming, LaAdrian Waddle & Josh Kline joined by youngsters Ted Karras & Tre’ Jackson. If Jackson isn’t available (heaven forbid). add Marcus Cannon (ugh) to the list. No sense at all about Jonathon Cooper, who has been suffering with foot problems since the 1st padded practice. Probable IR candidate.

DEFENSE COMING MONDAY 8/22)

Follow me on Twitter @SnowdonBob

 

 

 

Jimmy Garoppolo Just Needs To Be What He Was Against Chicago

(Photo: Patspulpit.com)

By: Jake Mackey

Last week Jimmy Garoppolo was average at best against the New Orleans Saints. The numbers do not say so, but his pocket presence and his lack of confidence gleamed through the television set. Holding onto the football, scrambling backwards for negative yards, and throwing across his body to Saints defenders summed up the first week of the preseason for the Patriots starting quarterback for the first quarter of the season.

Week two was a completely different story. Jimmy went 16 for 21, for 181 yards, and a nice 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end AJ Derby right before the break. He certainly was not perfect and Josh McDaniels really did not test his arm at all, opting to run most of the time. However, he responded when he needed to and that is what you need to be starting quarterback in the National Football League.

The Patriots went down 11-0 early. That could very well be a situation that Garoppolo could be in the first few weeks a handful of times. The offense had a turnover inside the five-yard line after Brandon Bolden fumbled. Nevertheless, Jimmy G responded leading the team on two straight scoring drives. He did not air it out too much, but he made the throws he had to make and he did not put the ball in harms way, and that is all he needs to do in the first four week of this season, which is why in Jimmy Garoppolo terms he was perfect against Chicago.

Patriots fans are so use to their quarterback carrying the team for the majority of the past 15-seasons. In the years of 2009-2013, Brady really carried the entire team due to the fact that the talent around him was average. Since 2014 the Patriots players 1 to 53 probably have the most talent in the league, and all Jimmy Garoppolo has to do is lean on those guys and not mess up. That is precisely what he did Thursday night and that was without Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, and Dion Lewis.

The one thing I need to see more from Jimmy Garoppolo is his arm. The Patriots had a first and goal situation in the first half against Chicago, and Josh McDaniels opted to run three straight times. I understand that establishing some type of running game in the first four weeks will be important, but you have to air it out at least once from that part of the field. He ceratinyl allowed Jacoby Brissett to air it out later in the game, which makes little to no sense.

Side note; once again Jacoby Brissett impressed when the lights came on, proving to be the opposite of what the Patriots beat writers say he is on the practice field. Sounds like 2014 Jimmy Garoppolo all over again, except Brissett is getting zero positive attention from the media.

Like I stated earlier, Jimmy Garoppolo does not have to be Tom Brady perfect, he just has to be Jimmy Garoppolo perfect which is what he was on Thursday night.

 

New England Patriots 53-man roster projection

The regular season is fastly approaching and with that comes roster cuts. Over the next few weeks the Patriots have to cut their roster down from 90 to 53, which won’t be easy with this being the most talented and complete 90-man roster the team has had during the Bill Belichick era.  With only one preseason game played and a few weeks of practices here is how my Patriots roster projection looks

 

Quarterback: Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett.  (Brady suspended first 4 games) (2)      This ones pretty obvious, Garoppolo will be starting the first four games of the season while Brady is suspended and once Brady’s back he’s taking over. There was talk about the Patriots possibly bringing in a veteran QB with rookie Jacoby Brissett in the backup role but Bill Belichick shot those rumors down this week and the two QBs on the roster will be Garoppolo and Brissett.

 

patriots-garoppolo-brissett-081516
via @csnne.com

Running Back: LaGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden, James Develin, James White, Tyler Gaffney. (5)                                                                                                                                                          Let me start off by saying no Dion Lewis is not getting cut. Lewis is currently on the PUP list and has yet to practice after his season-ending torn ACL last season and I think the team leaves him on the PUP to start the season. There has been speculation that Blount could be cut but I don’t think that’ll happen, running back is probably the weakest position on the team right now and I don’t see them cutting the veteran and going into the year with a bunch of backs with not much if any NFL experience. White did a pretty good job after the Lewis injury last season and looked good in the teams first preseason game and can be the pass catching back out of the backfield until Lewis returns. Gaffney is finally healthy and looked pretty good in the first preseason game, breaking off a 44-yard touchdown run. If he can continue to look good in games and practice he could find a spot on the roster.

 

Wide Receiver: Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Aaron Dobson. (5)                                                                                                                                       The first four guys listed are obvious, Edelman and Amendola are your starters, Hogan signed a big contract this offseason and Mitchell was taken in the 4th round this year and has looked like a stud prior to his elbow injury, which thankfully he’ll only miss up to four weeks with and has been practicing with the team already in non-contact drills. Not listing Matthew Slater as a receiver because he never plays on offense and is a special teamer. Aaron Dobson is the luckiest man in the world and will somehow find a way to make the 53-man roster again. Dobson always shines in camp and the preseason but can never get it together in the regular season. Keyshawn Martin is still not practicing with the team due to an injury and though I’m a fan of Martin don’t think he’ll make the final roster if he can’t get healthy. Rookie Devin Lucien and Chris Harper I think will find their way to the practice squad.

malcolm mitchell
via bostonherald.com

Tight End: Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett, A.J. Derby. (3)                                                             Gronk and Bennett are two of the best in their position in the entire league and are obvious roster locks. The third tight end spot will come down to either A.J. Derby or Bear Pascoe. The two are completely different players, with Derby being a receiving tight end and Pascoe being a blocker. Derby made a few nice plays in the first preseason game against the Saints which could help him earn a spot on the roster. Pascoe could take over the Michael Williams role from last year as pretty much being an extra lineman on the field. It depends which route the team chooses to go but right now I give Derby the slight edge. 

 

Offensive Line: Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Joe Thuney, Josh Kline, Shaq Mason, David Andrews, Ted Karras, LaAdrian Waddle, Marcus Cannon. (9)                          Jonathan Cooper was a tough cut here but with him being injured and his injury history it could be tough for him to make the team. Joe Thuney has looked like the teams best offensive lineman and like a steal selecting him in the third round of this years draft. Bryan Stork was a tough cut but with his concussion problems and inconsistent play it shouldn’t be a total surprise if he doesn’t make the team. With versatile players such as Kline, Karras and Thuney able to move to center and backup David Andrews, Bryan Stork could be replaceable on the line. I HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE Marcus Cannon but it doesn’t look like the team will be cutting him, even though he couldn’t block my 12-year old cousin. Tackle is really weak with Solder, Vollmer, Waddle and Cannon and the team could look to make a move. From what I’ve seen and heard I really like Ted Karras, he’s a guy who can play a few positions on the line and adds a toughness to the line. I think Tre’ Jackson starts the season on the PUP list to get  completely healthy and see what they have Karras, if he struggles they could move him down to the practice squad when Jackson is healthy.

thuney
via bostonherald.com

Defensive Line: Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Malcolm Brown, Alan Branch, Terrance Knighton, Trey Flowers, Geneo Grissom, Vincent Valentine, Chris Long. (9)                                     The most complete area on the roster. No debates on who makes the team out of this group. Markus Kuhn is someone who Bill Belichick likes but I don’t see him beating out any of these guys for a roster spot. Ninkovich is already practicing after tearing his triceps and is unknown if he’ll be able to play week 1 but he’ll be on the roster. Heard is gonna replace Chandler Jones with the help of Trey Flowers who was electric against the Saints and was all over the place making plays. Brown, Branch, Knighton and Valentine will add some beef to this line that will be hard to run against.

Trey Flowers, Luke McCown
via wwlp.com

Linebacker: Jamie Collins, Donta’ Hightower, Jonathan Freeny, Shea McClellin, Kamu Grugier-Hill. (5)                                                                                                                                                Not too much depth at linebacker but Collins and Hightower are two of the best linebackers in the league and are obviously locks. Jonathan Freeny played well last year and should also be a roster lock. McClellin is a similar player to Ninkovich and can play both linebacker and defensive end, he doesn’t do anything great but can do a few things well. Grugier-Hill is a smaller linebacker and played defensive back in college and played well in pass coverage against the Saints. He could have a big role covering tight ends and backs out of the backfield. I expect to see a lot of two linebacker sets featuring Collins and Hightower if both can stay healthy.

 

Cornerback: Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones, Cre’Von LeBlanc. (5)                                                                                                                                                             A very inexperienced group outside of Butler and Ryan. Cyrus Jones was the teams top draft pick taken in the second round this year and is a lock to make the team and looks like he will be the teams starting slot corner. Jonathan Jones generated a lot of buzz during OTAs and at the beginning of training camp. He got beat a few times against the Saints but also made a few nice plays and pass deflections. Cre’Von LeBlanc has also been generating some buzz in Foxborough after his amazing interception against the Saints. He had good, tight coverage throughout the game and performed well in joint practices this week against the Chicago Bears. Was tough to not include Justin Coleman because of experience over Jones and LeBlanc but he has not had a very good camp up to this point. Got beat a couple times against the Saints in the first preseason game and struggled this week in joint practices with the Bears. This is a young unit with a lot of potential, but also a lot of question marks.

leblanc interception
via twitter.com @CL7_ENT

Safety:  Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards. (4)                           A very strong safety unit that could hopefully help out the young corners. McCourty and  Chung are two of the best in the league with McCourty providing help to corners over the top and Chung playing down in the box and covering tight ends. Harmon is similar to McCourty providing help and creates a lot of plays in the secondary. Jordan Richards was very limited last year and will be interesting to see how he does this year and the different roles they could use him in. 

 

Special Teams: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner, Brandon King. (6)                                                                                                                                  The best special teams unit in the entire NFL. Gostkowski is by far the best kicker in the league in my opinion, Matthew Slater might be the best special teams player of all-time, Ebner is back from the Olympics and who is another great special teams player, as well as Brandon King. Another big contributor to special teams is Brandon Bolden who I have listed with the running back group.

 

 

                        

 

New England Patriots: Preseason Win #1 Was Fun

We’ve been waiting for this ever since the Patriots lost to Denver in the Post-Season AFC Championship game last season. And no one was disappointed in the way the 1st pre-season game started with the defense forcing 4 turnovers.

PATRIOTS 33 SAINTS 22

Although it was just the first game, there was a lot to look for in deciding just how good this season could be. Questions weren’t fully answered, but there were positive signs…and some areas of concern, based on the victory.

Jimmy G: He was OK. Not great…not terrible…not ready to fill Tom Brady’s shoes. Went 11-18 for 168 yards. After a slow start he improved as the game progressed. Critics remain unconvinced, while others see enough to be comfortable that New England will survive the 1st four games without #12.

Offensive Line: Oh- Oh, looked a lot like last year. Hopefully we’re not saying this as the real games begin. The 1st quarter in particular was a disaster, but things did get better as the game progressed.

Defense: If this was a sample of what’s to come, other teams are in for trouble. Lots of forced turnovers (4), scoring (2 TDs) and aggressive play. Was surprised to see Dont’a  Hightower & Jamie Collins play as much as they did, and both looked ready for the real games to start.

New Players:

Martellus Bennett (TE) looked like the beast we expected. He played in the 1st half and showed all the skills we thought he had, both catching the ball and blocking. Played 37 snaps (+), was thrown to 4 times with 3 catches and a key block on a big run by James White. Fans will be happy with not only his pass catching skills, but need to watch how good this big guy is while blocking for others. Can’t wait to see him and Gronkowski paired up, but probably won’t until Game 1 against Arizona. We can dream they’ll be in against the Panthers in pre-season game 3, but don’t count on it.

Gronk & Bennett

Nate Washington (WR) played, but wasn’t a factor. Doubtful to make the opening roster unless more injuries occur to existing corps of wide receivers.

Cre’Von LaBlanc (CB) –what do you mean who? had the play of the game with a great end zone interception. The undrafted free agent will have a tough time sticking, but he certainly had his time in the spotlight Thursday evening at Gillette

Cyrus Jones (CB) looked like a solid 2nd round pick (1st for the Pats), but need to see more of him to get a feel for his possible impact on this year’s team. Had a fumble recovery.

Joe Thuney (LG) has been installed at left guard and it’s looking more & more like it’s his job to lose. Although the O-Line had it’s trouble, he did not look bad in his 1st real action

Jacoby Brissett (QB) showed off his arm, but has to learn there are times you need touch and times you can’t force the play. Overall, the young man was fun to watch as he played the entire 2nd half and does show promise. (7-13, 64 yards) Not about to leapfrog Jimmy G yet!

Malcolm Mitchell (WR) showed the best hands of any WR on the team before (in a gruesome looking play) he extended his elbow and won’t return for at least 3-4 weeks. Look to see the 4th round draft pick on  IR, keeping him out of action for the first 8 weeks (Thanks for info from Jeff Kane).

The Good & the Bad

Good:  Jamie Collins (23 snaps +), Dont’a Hightower, who is playing with a chip on his shoulder (23 snaps +), Trey Flowers (Blossoming), James White & Tyler Gaffney (9 carries, 64 yards, 1TD)

 

8-11 Tyler Gaffney
Tyler Gaffney

Bad: Nate Solder, in his 1st game back after an injury riddled 2015, & special teams

One down, 3 to go. Here’s a little about the watch-ability of pre-season games.

Warning: Watching preseason football can be painful.

Of the four pre-season games, only one features players that will actually be on the roster when the opening bell rings. For your enjoyment, here’s a rating of preseason games:

  • 1* –  “Bubble” players are on the field, as teams don’t want to get roster players hurt
  • 2** – at least the 1st half should be of interest
  • 3*** – Close to the 1st cut, as key players are in & out of the lineup
  • 4**** – This is the only game when you see many of the regulars throughout the entire game

Game 1 vs New Orleans was **, although this year the 2nd half held interest as players that have show some skills played until the end. I believe this is the first time I have watched the entire 1st preseason game with interest.

Game 2 vs Chicago (Thursday, 8/18 8PM Home) *** More regulars playing longer period of time. A few of the walking wounded may actually see some playing time, but not much.

Game 3 vs Carolina (Friday, 8/26 7:30 Road) **** This is the closest the pre-season comes to a real game. Watch beginning to end with a sense of what the strengths & weaknesses of both teams are. Wondering how much Brady will play?

Game 4 vs NYGiants (Thursday, 9/1 7PM Road * Scratch your head while watching this one! You’re ready for the regular season and both teams are holding back and playing Plain Jane football.

It’s another year of football, and it should be outstanding in New England.

(+Snap counts courtesy of Mike Reiss, ESPN Go)

 

Patriots Training Camp: Day One Observations

The day we’ve all been waiting for is finally upon us, Patriots football is back. The Patriots kicked off their season today with the start of training camp with thousands of fans in the stands to show support for their team. As always, today’s practice session was simulated and unpadded with no contact allowed.

 

The biggest storyline going into training camp is that quarterback Tom Brady will be serving his 4-game suspension, and third year man Jimmy Garoppolo will be the starter for the teams first four games. The big question heading into training camp is how the Patriots will divide up playing time during practices and preseason games for Brady, Garoppolo, and rookie Jacoby Brissett with the first team offense. When the team began 7 on 7 drills it was Brady who was under center with the first team offense going against the first team defense, with Garoppolo then coming in with the second unit and two would rotate throughout the drills. When the team got into its 2-minute 11 on 11 drills it was Garoppolo who got all the first team reps going 18 for 21, while Brady worked with the second unit.

IMG_4216

Someone who stood out to me today was Aaron Dobson, which was a bit of a surprise. Dobson is on the bubble this year and will be fighting for his roster spot after disappointing during his first three seasons in the league. Dobson had two great catches in the end zone during 7 on 7 drills, one from Brady and a one-handed grab from Garoppolo. Chris Harper was someone who also made a few nice plays as well as rookie wide receiver Devin Lucien. With wide receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola starting off training camp on the PUP list the rest of the receivers on the roster should get a lot of reps in with Garoppolo and Brady and fight for their spot on the roster.

 

The teams biggest offseason acquisition tight end Marcellus Bennett had a very good first day of camp. It’s only the first day of camp and can’t really tell much from the practices being simulated and having no contact, but from what I saw pairing Bennett up with Rob Gronkowski is going to create absolute nightmares for defenses. Having two guys who are 6’6′ and as big and long as they are will cause a lot of problems for defenses and help out slot receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola.

IMG_4208.PNG

Rookies Cyrus Jones and V’Angelo Bentley were the two who were returning punts and kickoffs during special teams drills. Jones, a second round pick out of Alabama, was one of the best return men in college football last season and showed a lot of speed when returning kicks. Hopefully Jones, and Bentley if he makes the roster, can help sure up a Patriots special teams unit which had it’s share of struggles last season.

IMG_4206.JPG

Not present for today’s training camp session were wide receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, running back Dion Lewis, guards Tre jackson and Shaq Mason, tackle Sebastian Vollmer, tight end Clay Harbor who were all placed on the PUP list, defensive tackle Alan Branch who was placed on the Active?Non-Football related injury list, safety Nate Exner who is training with the U.S. Olympic Rugby team and linebacker Jamie Collins who showed up to camp yesterday but did not practice with the team today.

 

The first day of training camp is officially in the books and I’m happy to say that Patriots football is back.

Patriots Training Camp Preview: Things To Watch For

It’s been a long six months but what we’ve all been waiting for is almost finally here with the Patriots set to open Training Camp Wednesday, with the first practice open to the public on Thursday. Here are some things I will be watching for once the Patriots kick off training camp.

 

Quarterback Reps

Maybe the most obvious thing that will be mentioned on this list and for good reason as it will be the most important. As we all know Tom Brady ended his DeflateGate appeal snd will be missing the first four games of the regular season. As part of this suspension brady can not be around the team, practice with the team, be at the stadium, or even have contact with anyone from the team until his suspension is over. This puts the Patriots in a tough position of how they should split first team reps in training camp and preseason games between Brady, Garoppolo and even rookie third round pick Jacoby Brissett. Brady has been the leader of the team the past 15 years and has been playing with the core of the offense with the past three seasons, though he has the chemistry with Gronk, Edelman and Amendola you don’t want him not taking many snaps with these guys in camp then missing the first four games and have him come back where the guys could be out of chemistry and out of sync a little bit. Then you face the problem of having to make sure Garoppolo is ready to play in those first four games and can build up a chemistry with the first team offense. Garoppolo has yet to really play a true meaningful down in the NFL and getting him prepared is the biggest key for the team heading into the regular season. The team even has to mix Jacoby Brissett in for snaps just incase Garoppolo gets injured or isn’t playing well and the team has to make a change during the first four weeks of the season.

NEL_0500.JPG
via bostonherald.com

 

D.J. Foster

D.J. Foster is a name that is not known by many, but one people will be hearing a lot about this preseason. Foster is an undrafted rookie free agent out of Arizona State who is listed as a running back, but is more of a receiver than a running back which will help him and was known as more of an offensive weapon for the Sun Devils. It’s no secret that coach Bill Belichick loves versatility in his players and that a receiving back has played a huge role in the teams offense during the Belichick era. Dion Lewis will be starting training camp off on the PUP list which will give Foster even more of an opportunity to show what he can do on the field and fight for his roster spot. With running backs LaGarrette Blount and James White very much fighting for their own spot on the roster, Foster should get many opportunities to prove himself and earn a spot on the teams final roster.

foster patriots
via patriots.com

 

Offensive Line

The Patriots offensive line was absolutely terrible last year, partly due to injury and partly due to all around poor play. Long time offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia even came out of retirement because he couldn’t stand watching his offensive line play so bad anymore. The Patriots made a few offensive line acquisitions this offseason most notably Jonathan Cooper in a trade from Arizona and third round pick Joe Thuney from NC State. Cooper was the seventh overall pick of the first round pick back in 2013 and struggled in Arizona in large part due to injury, as well as the team trying to move him from guard to center. Cooper is known for having a little bit of a mean streak which is something that Dante Scarnecchia loves in his players and something that really all offensive lineman should have. Thuney played tackle during his time at NC State but said he sees himself as more of a guard in the NFL.Even with Thuney being more of a guard than a tackle at the pro level the versatility he can provide is something that the Patriots covet in him. With offensive lineman Shaq Mason, Tre Jackson and Sebastian Vollmer all being placed on the PUP list to start training camp Cooper and Thuney should get a lot of snaps with the first team offense and could very well be the week one starters.

Jonathan Cooper
vis bostonherald.com

 

Edge Rushers

The Patriots traded their top pass rusher this offseason to Arizona for a second round pick and the aforementioned Jonathan Cooper as Jones was entering the final year of his rookie contract and the team was unlikely to sign him after the season. Jamaal Sheard and Rob Ninkovich are locks to make the roster and be starters after both played very well last season. The team also added veteran defensive end Chris Long who was released by the St. Louis Rams this offseason. Long has taken a few steps back the past few seasons from his former Pro Bowl days at the beginning of his career. Long signed a very team friendly deal with New England because he wanted to go to a place where he could not only contribute but more importantly win. If Long can stay healthy and play in a limited role like Jabaal Sheard did last season, Long could have a very good season in New England. The Patriots will also look to second year men Geneo Grissom and Trey Flowers to step up and contribute to the teams pass rush this season. Both Grissom and Flowers looked good in preseason last year but saw very limited playing time during the regular season with Grissom only collecting one sack and Flowers only appearing in one game. Flowers is more of a true pass rusher than Grissom and can’t wait to see how they involve him in the defense once camp starts.The teams pass rush this year could be a weak spot on this defense or be quietly very good.

New England Patriots vs Green Bay Packers
via patriots.com

 

Cyrus Jones and Darryl Roberts

The Patriots secondary was very good last season and better than most people had expected. Malcolm Butler proved that he could be a true number one corner in the NFL and was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his young career. Logan Ryan went on to have a fantastic season and at times outshining Butler in the secondary and had a good 5-6 game span where he was dominant lining up opposite from Butler. Where the Patriots did tend to struggle last season was the slot corner. Guys were constantly being mixed in such as Justin Coleman and Leonard Johnson, and though they had their moments they often struggled. The team went on to draft Alabama corner Cyrus Jones in the second round, Jones has been deemed a little undersized but has very good speed and quickness as well as playmaking skills which could make him a great fit as the teams slot corner.Jones would constantly go up against some of college football’s top wide receivers playing in the SEC and would hardly ever get beaten. Jones should make an immediate impact in the secondary whether he be the teams slot corner or end up being a starter at some point throughout the season. Jones was also the top returner in college football last season and is expected to take over the kickoff and punt returning duties in New England. Darryl Roberts is a former seventh round pick out of Marshall who is entering his second season with the Patriots. Roberts was generating a lot of buzz for himself last preseason during training camp and was looked at as a potential starter to begin the season. Roberts ended up starting the first preseason game opposite Malcolm Butler against the Green Bay Packers, and then ended up breaking his arm on the second defensive series. He was later placed on season-ending injured reserve. Roberts should be easily 100% healthy entering training camp and will hopefully continue where he left off last year. If Roberts can come back healthy and looking as good as he can be, and Jones can step in and be a contributor the Patriots could build up a very good and very young secondary.

cyrus jones
via patriots.com

Seeing the Forest through the Trees

In the very long aftermath of the never ending joke that has been labeled Deflategate, we finally have a victor, of sorts. The National Football League (more importantly Commissioner Roger Goodell) has triumphed over the New England Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady, as the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has denied Brady of a rehearing. Now barring a very small chance of the case being heard by the Supreme Court, this ridiculous sideshow has come to a very unfathomable conclusion for New England football fans.

Last summer, Tom Brady and his legal counsel were able to convincingly expose Deflategate as the sham, which for those who do not have a vendetta against Brady and the New England Patriots could always clearly see. Judge Richard Berman decided to overturn Roger Goodell’s “impartial” ruling as arbitrator in Brady’s appeal of his four game suspension. Tom Brady was allowed to take the field and celebrate his 2014-15 Super Bowl victory with his teammates as they opened the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers.  As the season progressed, Brady and company went on a 10 game winning streak using the fuel from the Deflategate fiasco to further their goal of winning back to back Super Bowls.

Sadly, due to a virtual cavalcade of injuries towards the end of the season, the 2015-16 Patriots season came to an end in the AFC Championship game against the eventual Super Bowl Champions, the Denver Broncos.  The bitter sting and disappointment of that loss carried over to the offseason as Tom Brady and his legal team went to battle with the NFL yet again, this time in Second Circuit Court of Appeals over Judge Berman’s favorable Brady ruling.  Unfortunately, the end result was that Tom Brady’s four game suspension was reinstated due a to a 2-1 decision.  Brady and the NFLPA (National Football Players’ Association) were determined to right this wrong, not just for Brady but for the entire roster of NFL players.

The NFLPA’s interest in this case stems from their own regret over how they handled the last CBA (collective bargaining agreement), as they gave the NFL and their commissioner more or less carte’ Blanche to make whatever decisions he’d like in regards to player discipline.  Essentially, they allowed the evil Emperor from the Star Wars movies to exist in the NFL, unchecked.  Now like most people in this world, NFL players don’t particularly care if someone successful is getting knocked down a few rungs from the top. It’s that short sightedness that will be their downfall. Sure, this time it’s Tom Brady, with the Super Model wife and four Super Bowl rings, whose legacy is being crushed and dragged through the gutter, but what about next time the NFL decides to flex their power?

Tune into the NFL network today and you will likely hear a bevy of former players talking about how Tom Brady should drop this fight now, because bigger, worldly situations such as the horrifying events in Dallas are occurring. Not discounting the horrible events transpiring in Dallas but what does that have to do with Tom Brady’s case? Horrible events have occurred throughout history and still less meaningful events have transpired simultaneously. To use the dastardly events in Dallas to push your own agenda is both disrespectful to those who have lost their lives and callous to the remaining victims of such tragedies.

Now, with the immediate NFL future of the New England Patriots clearer than it has been in many months, what do New England fans have to be excited about? Sure, the New England Patriots have seemingly lost the greatest Quarterback of this generation for the first four games but let’s be honest, the Patriots have routinely persevered with the next man up mentality. Let’s not forget that the Patriots have a pretty stellar roster to contend with this season aside from Tom Brady. The time will come when Tom Brady is permanently on the sidelines, as he is far closer to the end of his Hall of Fame career than he is to the beginning. Regardless of the fact that it has become rather old hat to say, but wouldn’t it be nice to see what Jimmy Garoppolo is capable of? If this man is truly New England’s future, why not see what he has in the tank?

The Patriots have ruled the AFC East for the better part of 15 years, sacrificing the first four games of the season is now seemingly inevitable but what if it turns out that Brady’s successor is up for the challenge?  Sure, New England could possibly lose all four Garoppolo games but does anyone really believe that Tom Brady is the only reason the Patriots are successful? Bill Belichick is an amazing coach, the Patriots defense is quite impressive and on paper their offense is practically an All-star team.  The first four games of the Patriots 2016-17 season will no doubt take years off many New England fan’s lives and possibly place this year’s playoffs in doubt but I think it’s safe to say it won’t be any less exciting.

Tom Brady’s 2nd Circuit Appeal Denied; Thoughts and What’s Next

Tom Brady’s appeal of his “DeflateGate” suspension has been denied by the 2nd U.S. Circuit of Appeals, announced Tuesday morning. It is expected that Brady and his legal team will make one last appeal to the Supreme Court in hopes of having the suspension overturned, Brady’s last hope and chance of his suspension overturned and him being allowed to play the first four games of the regular season.

I’m honestly shocked after hearing the news that the 2nd Circuit has denied Brady’s request of an appeal. The decision took longer than it was expected to make, which for me sounded like a good thing seeing as from what I’ve heard most 2nd Circuit appeal decisions are made quick and usually a denial.

via bostonglobe.com
via bostonglobe.com

As shocked as I am about Brady’s appeal being completely denied; I am more surprised that the biggest joke scandal in the history of all sports is still going on and being talked about and that the league is still going after the best player who has ever played in it, someone who has never any wrong, who has played the game the right way, who has been a model citizen on and off the field who the only time you hear his name during the off-season is when he’s doing his Best Buddy charity events and this is the guy the NFL is still going after? Who cares about Greg Hardy beating the living hell out of his girlfriend who was suspended 10 games which was then later reduced to four, or Sheldon Richardson’s high speed police chase with loaded handguns, marijuana and a 12-year old boy in the car and was suspended for only ONE game.  Hell Isaiah Crowell posted a cartoon image of an African American man slicing the throat of a cop on his Instagram page in wake of all that has been happening in the news recently and that has barely been talked about, but thats fine also in the eyes of the league. These are the real model citizens of the world right NFL? Goodell said Brady “ruined the integrity of the game” when first giving out the suspension over a year ago for having no proof that Brady or anyone else for that matter actually did anything wrong, these guys have helped ruin the integrity of the human race but I guess thats fine in the eyes of Roger Goodell and the NFL.

The Patriots are set to start the regular season against the Arizona Cardinals on September 11th against the Arizona Cardinals. With Brady this would look to be one of the better games of the whole NFL season with both teams making deep playoff runs last season. Now Jimmy Garoppolo could be inline to start the regular season opener against a tough Cardinals defense as well as the teams next three games if Brady’s suspension is not overturned prior to the start of the season.  Personally, I have never been a fan of Garoppolo and do not see what many others see and do not see him being the successor to the greatest quarterback of all-time in Tom Brady like many others inside and outside of the organization have. If Jimmy G does indeed end up playing the first four games of the regular season it will be interesting to see how he does as the teams starting quarterback and if he can either build up some trade value or prove to everyone that he can be a legit NFL starting quarterback and the guy for the Patriots down the road.

via sportsworldreport.com
via sportsworldreport.com

As much as I would love for this BS joke of a scandal to be over with and end i want Brady to keep fighting and prove his innocence to the world. And one thing that the league should already know by now, Brady is not the guy you wanna piss off. he will come for you and he will dominate you. Teams should be more worried that Brady is suspended because if he is he is going to comeback with an unstoppable fury and continue to prove his greatness and dominate the league once again.

New England Patriots: Looking Forward

One of the great things about being a fan of the New England Patriots is, when one season ends you always know that next season will be exciting, with  another legitimate chance for the Lombardi Trophy. It’s really a thrill to look forward to what will happen next and have confidence that it all will work out fine.

Just think about it. How many fans of other teams in the NFL can legitimately make that statement? The answer is – zero!

  • The current Super Bowl Champion Bronco’s? Who is the QB again?
  • The runner-up Carolina Panthers? Hell, their fans are thrilled to just make the play-offs. Although they are the favorites going into the year (the Patriots are #2), they have to show they can perform year in and year out.
  • The Green Bay Packers? Close, but no cigar. Last year the were vulnerable all season and are rapidly deteriorating.
  • How about the Pittsburgh Steelers? The fans and former players are still griping about how they were
    Steeler fans are stunned by NE distruction of the Patriots in the 2004 AFC Championship Game - photo sixteensundayscom
    Steeler fans leave the game stunned after Patriots 41-27 blow-out win in 2014 AFC Championship Game (Photo: sixteensundays.com)

    cheated out of a Super Bowl by….the Patriots…in the AFC Championship Game (No, not the Super Bowl)! That was 12 years ago, the Steelers lost 41-27 at home, and they are still crying about it. No looking forward there!

  • Seattle? With Pete Carroll making the final call 2 years ago the fans of the Seahawks were deflated (sorry, had to get that in). Carroll vs Belichick = a no brainer!

There are plenty of other teams that could be part of the conversation, Arizona, KC to name just a couple, but year-after-year, they haven’t proven good enough to carry the banner.

Another Year With The Two B’s

As we look ahead to the 2016 season we are, once again,

New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady celebr
Tom Brady celebrates with Bill Belichick (Photo:  JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)

concerned that the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady combination may not be available to start the season thanks to the continued obsession of the NFL and Commissioner Roger “Integrity of the game” Goodell, to punish Brady for a “crime” they haven’t proven ever occurred. I refuse to get into that again other than to say “so what.”

Belichick will be there to start things and Brady will, at some point early in the season, return. With a growing, young defense the team should be just fine and maybe Tom will be better off starting the season a little later (I know that’s heresy), so by the play-offs he won’t be so banged up.

Facts:

  • The offensive line will be better. Hell, it couldn’t be any worse. With the return of Dante Scarnecchia you know they’ll be better prepared. Rookies Tre’ Jackson and Shaq Mason will be in their second year and know their roll and the speed of the NFL better. Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder should be healthy. The addition of former 1st round pick Jonathan Cooper adds depth they lacked in 2015 when injuries destroyed any chance for consistency.
  • The two TE offense is back! Martellus Bennett is not Scott Chandler in any way, so please stop the comparisons. Provided he doesn’t tick off Belichick with his mouth, Bennett and Rob Gronkowski will ease the pressure on Brady (or Jimmy Garoppolo) and the red-zone offense with those two, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola (maybe), Nate Washington and Chris Hogan will be almost unstoppable.
  • Donta’ Hightower and Jamie Collins (both 26) are just coming into their prime years and are the key cogs in a defense that should be strong despite the loss of Chandler Jones.

2016 Schedule

HOME: BUF, MIA., NYJ, BAL, CIN, LA, SEA, HOU
AWAY: BUF, MIA., NYJ, CLE, PIT, ARI, SF, DEN

Although game dates have not yet been released, there is no reason to believe the Pats won’t have another run at the ring in 2016.. Along with in-conference games against teams that did not make the play-offs last year (J-E-T-S, Dolphins & Bills) they  play the clueless Browns, befuddled 49ers, sliding Ravens and homeless (???) Rams. That leaves Seattle, Houston, Pittsburgh, Arizona and Super Bowl Champion, but QB challenged, Denver as threats to a chance for ring #5 for Tom Brady, the oldest active non-kicker in the NFL.

So, no matter what, the best Head Coach/QB combo in the NFL and the New England Patriots are once again positioning the team for a run at the Lombardi Trophy and fans are having fun analyzing every move they make.

Follow me on twitter @SnowdonBob

 

 

 

 

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