Tag Archives: AFC

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)

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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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Deconstructing the AFC East: The Dolphins

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The Dolphins are probably the most stable team in the division outside of the Patriots. They have the pieces in place to make a substantial run, but there are some serious questions that the team hasn’t answered. Should the Patriots be afraid of being dethroned by the Dolphins? Let’s look at the strengths and weaknesses and decide:

Why should the Patriots be afraid: On offense, Joe Philbin has given the reigns over to QB Ryan Tannehill and have signed him to a large extension (6 year, 95 million) as a sign of good faith. He has improved every year and threw for over 4,000 yards last year. The Dolphins acquired WR Kenny Stills in a trade, signed TE Jordan Cameron and drafted WR DaVante Parker in the first round to improve his weapons. Second year Jarvis Landry looks like a future stud and adding a healthy Lamar Miller gives him a capable runner.

Generated by  IJG JPEG Library
Generated by IJG JPEG Library

On defense is where the strength is. There might not be a more underrated and dangerous player outside of Cameron Wake and to add one of the best defensive tackles in DT Ndamukong Suh gives them a dangerous duo to team up with steady DE Olivier Vernon. This is a dangerous defensive line that can wreak havoc across the line. CB Brett Grimes is an incredibly talented CB that teams up with probably the most underrated safety in the game with Reshad Jones. He is solid against the run and is excellent in coverage. These core players are the keys to a dominant defense that has the potential to carry them far.

Why shouldn’t the Patriots be afraid: Despite the optimism, there are some glaring holes that the pundits aren’t really addressing. When it comes to the offense, Tannehill might be overpaid, but he produces enough to warrant his new contract. With that, they have only solid offensive line starter with C Mike Pouncey. LT Brandon Albert is 30 and is coming off a major knee injury. Last year’s rookie RT Ja’Wuan James was overwhelmed and they have no real proven starter at either Guard spot. It doesn’t matter who is playing QB, RB or WR, if they can’t protect Tannehill, they are going nowhere. Lamar Miller has trouble staying healthy and they don’t have proven depth behind him. This means that is truly ALL on Tannehill’s shoulders and if you have watched him play, you can question why the team would do that.

On defense, there are some huge holes that they haven’t addressed. The back 7 leaves a lot to be desired. They have a promising LB in Jelani Jenkins and a solid starter with MLB Koa Misi, but they are both unproven and there isn’t a starter outside of him. Grimes is a great corner, but he’s 32. How much longer can he play at an elite level? Also, who is playing opposite him? Right now, their biggest acquisition was slot CB Brice McCain. That’s not the most encouraging sign for anyone. FS Louis Delmas has shown flashes but can’t stay healthy and is coming off an ACL tear.

What does all this mean? There’s obvious talent there in Miami, but it’s too lofty to expect much more than .500 for this team. There is a lot of holes on this team and questions aplenty across the offensive line, secondary and line-backing corps. If they get these resolved, they are definitely a team to be reckoned with, but are still most likely a year away.