Tag Archives: AJ Derby

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)

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Patriots Training Camp Battles: AJ Derby Vs. Michael Hoomanawanui For Third Tight End

For the New England Patriots, their tight end situation as it is currently constituted has two definite starters with All-Pro Rob Gronkowski and newly acquired Scott Chandler, along with multiple players fighting for the third spot.

Jake Bequette is trying to make the transition from defensive end to tight end to help salvage his career. It is hard to believe that he will be anything more than a fourth string tight end if he makes the roster. The real competition for the third tight end spot will come between veteran Michael Hoomanawanui and rookie sixth round pick AJ Derby.

image: boston.cbs.local.com
image: boston.cbs.local.com

 

Michael Hoomanwanaui has been a very accountable player since he joined the Patriots in 2012. He is one of the best examples of a Patriot that follows the model, “Do Your Job.” When asked to be a fill-in fullback he can do that, also he can be a serviceable blocking tight end.

However, “Hoo-Man” has for the most part been irrelevant in the passing game during his tenure with the Patriots. He has good hands but is very slow and runs stiff routes.

His inability to be open for Tom Brady has been the reason for his lack of targets. In addition, Hoomanwanui has a 1.5 million-dollar cap hit for 2015. That number is high for a blocking tight end. The Patriots can fill his role with James Develin at a cheaper price.

AJ Derby will be one of the more intriguing players this summer. Drafted 202nd overall out of Arkansas by the Patriots in this past draft, Derby looks to have the athletic ability to play tight end, but his skills are still raw due to his lack of experience at the position.

 

image: nflmocks.com
image: nflmocks.com

Derby was a middle linebacker turned quarterback for most of his time in Fayetteville, only to switch to tight end in his final season. In the Patriots system, I can picture Derby playing in a, “move tight end” role given his 6-4, 255 pound frame.

He doesn’t have the size or strength to be an in-line blocking tight end, although he has the hands and speed to catch the ball all over the field. Josh McDaniels will give Derby his chances during training camp, he may just be a work in-progress because of how little he has played at tight end.

In the end, AJ Derby will end up winning this battle because Michael Hoomanwanui’s price tag is too high. Hoo-Man is a replaceable player, and Derby could be a late-round gem. Stay tuned for more training camp battles as we get closer to July 30th.

(Photo: boston.cbslocal.com, nflmocks.com, nepatriotsdraft.com)