The Patriots are coming off their most impressive victory of the season defeating the now formerly undefeated Kansas City Chiefs and second-year phenom quarterback Patrick Mahomes by a score of 43-40. Even with the close score and game-winning field goal by Stephen Gostkowski as time expired, the game never seemed as close as the score made it out to be.
The Patriots got out to a big lead in the first half taking a 24-9 lead in to halftime. Mahomes got off to a rocky start and looked like the bright lights of playing against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in Gillette Stadium in primetime with the whole country watching may have been too much for him. Mahomes missed some easy passes that led to three Kansas City first half field goals, as well as a first quarter interception that went directly to Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower. For the Patriots the offense seemed to click almost from the very start. After turning the ball over on downs following a missed fourth down conversion on the offense’s first possession of the game, the Patriots scored on four straight possessions which included two Sony Michel rushing touchdowns and Julian Edelman’s first receiving touchdown of the season in his second game back returning from his four-game suspension.
The Chiefs came out firing in the second half and put on an offensive clinic much like they have all season. On the Chiefs first possession of the third quarter Mahomes connected with running back Kareem Hunt for a 67-yard touchdown after beating Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty down the sideline, a play that game Patriots fans flashbacks of last season’s opener against Kansas City where Hunt ran free all over the Patriots defense in his NFL debut. While the Chiefs offense came out hot, the Patriots came out quite the opposite only putting up three points in the third quarter. It appeared that the Patriots and Tom Brady were trying to get wide receiver Josh Gordon more familiarity in the offense as Brady appeared to be looking for Gordon a lot in both the first and third quarters, and at one point had more targets than both Edelman and Rob Gronkowski had combined.
The Chiefs speed again appeared to give the Patriots defense problems in the fourth quarter. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill left Patriots safety Devin McCourty in his tracks as Hill ran around the end zone until becoming open for a one-yard touchdown pass from Mahomes which gave the Chiefs their first lead since the beginning of the first quarter. The Patriots then drove down the field to retake the lead on a touchdown from Brady who scrambled out of the backfield and dove across the end zone for a 37-33 lead. Following a Patriots field goal that made it a seven point game the Chiefs got the ball back with a little over three minutes left to play looking to march down the field and tie the game. Tyreek Hill’s speed appeared to be too much for the Patriots defense again as Mahomes connected with Hill for a 75-yard touchdown on the team’s first play wasting only 12 seconds of the game clock. With three minutes left on the clock and the game on the line Tom Brady did Tom Brady things, leading his team down the field for a game-winning score. Brady connected with Gronkowski to get the ball deep into Chiefs territory to set up a 28-yard game-winning field goal for kicker Stephen Gostkowski, which he made with ease.
The Patriots will have another tough battle this upcoming week against the Chicago Bears, who despite losing to the Brock Osweiler led Miami Dolphins in overtime, have one of the leagues top defenses led by all-pro Khalil Mack.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
The Patriots have had some injuries to some key players over the past few weeks, as well as having some guys perform better than expected let’s take a look at the second version of my 53-man roster projection after everything that’s transpired through the past few weeks of preseason.
Quarterbacks: Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett
It’ll be a tough decision whether the Patriots hold onto a third quarterback with Brissett, but I think the team will hold onto him after investing a third round pick in him just a year ago as well as using their IR-designated to return spot on him last year and kept him around the team. Another reason is that it’s extremely unlikely that the Patriots keep both Brady and Garoppolo on the roster next year, in that case the team will still be looking for a backup quarterback and I believe the team would feel more comfortable with Brissett than possibly going after a veteran or using another draft pick on a backup next year. Brissett hasn’t looked good this preseason but I think the team likes Brissett and thinks he can fit with the team in the long-term.
Running Back: James White, Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee, James Develin
Dion Lewis and Brandon Bolden have both seen a lot of action so far in the preseason and could be fighting for a roster spot against one another, if that is the case the roster spot has to go to Dion Lewis. Lewis offers the Patriots so much more from an offensive standpoint that Bolden does, who has been used primarily as a special teamer throughout his career. Someone who is on the bubble and a name to watch for is second-year back D.J. Foster, who can make contributions on offense out of the backfield and lined up as a wide receiver, which he played in college. Foster has looked good so far in preseason and training camp and offers the team versatility on offense.
Wide Receiver:Julian Edelman (IR), Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell, Austin Carr
I don’t expect the Patriots to place Edelman on the Injured Reserve until after final roster cut downs, this will give them a chance to evaluate a few more roster bubble guys and also learn the full extent of Edelman’s injury and timetable he is out for, which will likely be the whole season. One of the most known and used phrases in New England “Next Man Up” strikes again and that man could be Austin Carr, who makes my 53-man roster projection after just missing the cut in my first version a few weeks ago. One man can’t just step in and replace a Julian Edelman, it will take everyone on offense to contribute a little more to try replicating Brady’s favorite and most dependable target in Julian Edelman.
Tight End: Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister
The tight end spot is one that could go a few different ways for the Patriots. Gronk is the best tight end in football and an obvious lock, but there is a lot to be questioned with the tight end position. Gronk and ofseason acquisition Dwayne Allen have had injury problems throughout their careers, as well as Allen having a very inconsistent training camp and preseason even he is not a lock to make the team.I believed that Matt Lengel would have won out the third tight end spot over James O’Shaughnessy and undrafted rookie Jacob Hollister, and then he was released yesterday (August 27th). Hollister provides the most upside at tight end outside of Gronk, even as just a vertical threat and not a traditional two-way tight end.
Offensive Line:Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Tony Garcia, Ted Karras, Cameron Fleming
The starting five from last year are locks to make the roster, as well as Joe Thuney who was the top backup interior lineman last season and rookie Tony Garcia who will be the teams primary backup tackle. The last offensive lineman spot goes to Cameron Fleming, who was last year’s top backup tackle and has proven to be inconsistent throughout his career in New England. Nate Solder has been out for the past several weeks now and is a very important piece to get back as Fleming and La’Adrian Waddle have both struggled at left tackle in his absence.
Defensive Line: Trey Flowers, Alan Branch, Malcolm Brown, Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise Jr., Derek Rivers (IR), Vincent Valentine, Geneo Grissom, Adam Butler
The Patriots just released offseason acquisition disappointment Kony Ealy after unsuccessfully finding a trade partner for the third year defensive end. Derek Rivers is believed to have torn his ACL during joint practices with the Houston Texans, but there has not been much reported since the injury occurred. If his ACL is in fact torn the team will place him on Injured Reserve, ending his rookie campaign before it even started. (Rivers is not being counted towards the 53 number but being listed until placed on Injured Reserve.) Undrafted free agent Adam Butler has played great in the preseason so far and has been a real surprise with how well he has looked so far. With the loss of Rivers and release of Ealy, it seems more and more likely that Butler will make the Patriots 53-man roster that is struggling for depth at defensive line.
Linebacker: Dont’a Hightower, David Harris, Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin, Elandon Roberts, Harvey Langi
No changes from my first projection here at linebacker. Harvey Langi has continued to perform well for the Patriots and shown ability to both as a coverage linebacker and as an edge player and get after the quarterback, which the team desperately needs. Dont’a Hightower was taken off the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list last week and began practicing with the team. I expect the team to move Hightower more to the outside this year with the lack of pass rushers that the team has and see newcomer David Harris play majority of first and second downs as the inside linebacker.
Cornerback:Malcolm Butler, Stephen Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones, Justin Coleman
Butler has struggled so far in the preseason though I’m not concerned as he is one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league. The real question when it comes to cornerback is Cyrus Jones and if he is going to make the team. I don’t see them getting rid of Jones after just one season, even though that one season couldn’t have gone much worse. Six cornerbacks could be considered a lot to carry but with questions really outside of your top three corners I think the Patriots take the risk of carrying six corners.
Safety: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner, Brandon King
With the Patriots carrying six corners it’s time to say goodbye to Jordan Richards. The third year safety has been awful this preseason and hasn’t shown much during his time in New England as a former second-round pick.
Special Teams: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Matthew Slater, Joe Cardona
No surprises here and not much to say.
The Patriots have one preseason game left remaining to play and it will be interesting to see which guys make one final push in an attempt to crack a spot on the Patriots 53-man roster.
Clutching his knee after juking his way past the teeth of the Lions defense and limping heavily towards the sidelines, not how Julian Edelman wanted his dress rehearsal for the 2017 regular season to go. The reliable Julian Edelman who can be found attached to Tom Brady’s hip the majority of the calendar year and one of the most uncoverable wide receivers in the game is feared to have a torn ACL just a couple minutes into a damn preseason game. The value of the preseason and if it should be abolished is a story for another time but if Julian Edelman is lost for the entire season that is a massive blow to the Patriots, an even bigger loss than losing Rob Gronkowski I believe.
Brady throws an immaculate 4.9 touchdowns per 1 interception when Julian Edelman is playing along side him, but the golden boy becomes below average when Edelman is off the field throwing only 1.7 TDs per INT. If there was any position that this particular team, this year could lose a player for a significant amount of time where another man would step up it would be from the wide receiver corps. However… Julian Edelman? Of all people not Edelman! There’s a term that gets thrown around when the gameplan isn’t going the way you planned and that’s going to your ‘security blanket’. For a long time I thought Gronk was that security blanket, and he definitely was for a while, but Edelman has surpassed him as the go-to-guy when you need a crucial conversion or any big play at a given time. I think back to the game in Denver last year when the Patriots couldn’t get anything going and the resilient Edelman came through with his toughness against one of the best defenses adding in great catches. And of course speaking of great catches, the greatest reception of all time in the big game belongs to Julian Edelman this past February. He’s also an incredible blocker for his size laying a massive block on the final play of the 2016-2017 NFL season earning the Patriots a 5th Super Bowl championship.
The depth chart is stacked though:
Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell, and now probably Austin Carr making the team if Edelman is placed on IR. There is a lot of talent at that position but none of those players can do everything Edelman does. Guys like Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis will need to step up to the plate in the slot this season in the absence of #11.
19-0 is out of the question without Julian. He’s just way too important to this squad and accounts for a couple wins by himself. Brady wins a stunning 82% of the time when Edelman plays compared to a still good but decent drop to 68% when Julian does not play. The Patriots still have all the talent to be the last team standing especially with the GOATs at head coach and quarterback, but it will be extremely difficult to repeat decades as a dynasty without their 7th round Kent State QB turned best hard nosed slot receiver in the game.
The Patriots are now on their third week of training camp and set to play their first preseason game later this week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team has yet to make any roster moves outside of the retirement of veteran Rob Ninkovich. It may only be the beginning of August, but let’s take a look at what the Patriots 53-man roster could look like a month from now when the regular season begins.
Quarterbacks: Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett
Brady and Garoppolo are obvious locks to make the roster, there has been some talk on whether the Patriots hold onto Brissett and keep him on the 53-man roster or move on from the second year quarterback. Ultimately I think the Patriots hold onto Brissett, the team placed him on Injured Reserve with eligibility to return last year and traveled with the team during this time. There have also been reports on how much the team likes his toughness and leadership, both traits he showed last year as a rookie. Brissett still needs some time to develop and isn’t ready to be an NFL quarterback right now, but as a third round pick only a year ago shows a lot of potential and will stay on the 53 man roster, even though the team doesn’t necessarily need to carry a third quarterback.
Running Back: James White, Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee, James Develin
Gillislee and Burkhead were both signed this offseason and look to play big roles with the team, especially Gillislee who looks to take over as the feature/powerback role previously held by LaGarrette Blount. Super Bowl hero James White was also given a contract extension this offseason and is a lock to make the roster. Dion Lewis has played great for the team when healthy and is capable of playing a few different roles on offense and can contribute as a return man on special teams. Brandon Bolden misses out on the 53-man roster in this projection, Bolden plays primarily as a special teamer and contributes little to the offense throughout the season. The roster having as much depth as it does makes it hard for Bolden to make the roster as a guy who primarily contributes on just special teams, which the team already has several of.
Wide Receiver:Julian Edelman, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell
Probably the easiest position on the team to project for. It’s fair to say that all five of these guys are locks to make the roster. One question could be is would the team consider keeping six wide receivers? Undrafted rookie free agent Austin Carr was the very last guy who didn’t make the roster when I was putting this projection. Carr has had a very good camp so far and looks to capitalize during preseason games and fight for one of the final roster spots on the final roster and is someone the Patriots might not be able to sneak onto the practice squad. I did not consider Matthew Slater as a wide receiver since he just plays special teams.
Tight End: Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Matt Lengel
Gronk is back and has looked great and healthy so far during training camp. Allen has been inconsistent so far and have been some reports that he has struggled to learn the offense, but is far too talented at a weak position outside of Gronkowski to not make the team. The third tight end spot could easily be a few different people but I give it to Lengel for now. Lengel played in limited action last year after the injury to Gronkowski and has familiarity with the offense, and was a big contributor towards the end of the season and during the playoffs last year for the Patriots. Lengel can contribute both as a blocker and a receiver, which can help add multiple dimensions to the teams offense when he is in the game. James O’Shaughnessy and Lengel are the top two guys competing for the third tight end spot, but rookie free agent Jacob Hollister could be someone who could make an impression during the preseason as he would provide the offense with more of a receiver-tight end role compared to more of a blocking tight end role like Lengel or O’Shaughnessy.
Offensive Line:Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Tony Garcia, Ted Karras, Cameron Fleming
The starting five from last year are locks to make the roster, as well as Joe Thuney who was the top backup interior lineman last season and rookie Tony Garcia who will be the teams primary backup tackle. The last offensive lineman spot goes to Cameron Fleming, who was last year’s top backup tackle and has proven to be inconsistent throughout his career in New England and so far, in camp. In joint practices with the Jaguars, Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue was treating Fleming like a revolving door constantly beating Fleming in the absence of Nate Solder. Fleming gets the upper hand over LaAdrian Waddle, who was on the 53-man roster last season but was not active for a single game, and rookie Connor McDermott who the Patriots could look to put on the practice squad.
Defensive Line: Trey Flowers, Alan Branch, Malcolm Brown, Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise Jr., Derek Rivers, Vincent Valentine, Kony Ealy, Geneo Grissom
Flowers, Branch, Guy, Wise, Rivers, and Valentine are all locks to make the roster based on last year’s production, draft spot, and contract received this offseason. Wise has had a great training camp so far and could look to start at defensive end opposite Trey Flowers if he continues to impress during preseason action. Kony Ealy and Geneo Grissom are two guys who could be fighting for one roster spot on the Patriots defensive line depending on how the rest of training camp and the preseason goes. Ealy was acquired in a trade this offseason with the Carolina Panthers and was expected to play a big role in the Patriots defense this season. The start of training camp hasn’t been a good one so far for Ealy though, he missed the first day of training camp for unknown reason and when asked was told to ask coach Bill (Belichick) about why he wasn’t out there. He has also had his struggles in camp and hasn’t been able to beat offensive tackles and generate pressure on a consistent basis. Both of these factors could end up in Ealy not making the final roster.
Linebacker: Dont’a Hightower, David Harris, Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin, Elandon Roberts, Harvey Langi
Hightower is an obvious lock and so is former Jet David Harris, everyone else there could be a case why they should make the team and a case why they couldn’t make it. Van Noy, McClellin and Roberts all saw a good amount of playing time last season, they all had their ups and downs and were inconsistent at times but have shown enough to make the roster again in 2017. Langi is an undrafted free agent who the Patriots were high on during the draft process partly due to his versatility of being able to play both inside and outside linebacker as well as being able to rush the passer as a defensive end. Langi has had a good camp so far and should be able to build on it during preseason games and earn a spot on the final roster.
Cornerback:Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones
Butler, Gilmore and Rowe are all locks to make the team and be part of a Patriots defense and secondary that should be one of the top in the league. Jonathan Jones played well in the slot late last season and so far, has the upper hand to be the teams nickel and slot corner and also contributes on special teams. Cyrus Jones had his struggles last season as a rookie and is looking to bounce back in his second season. Jones has a lot of talent and potential and was evident that his special teams struggles last season affected him mentally and on the defensive side of the ball. If the Patriots hold Cyrus off of special teams he could look to contribute in a positive way defensively.
Safety: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Jordan Richards, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner, Brandon King
The only real question out of this group is Jordan Richards, who hasn’t played too much over his first few seasons in New England after being selected in the second round. Richards has looked good so far early into training camp before having some struggles during joint practices with the Jaguars. Ebner and King and mostly special teams players who occasionally play and contribute on defense, but will make the roster due to their special teams excellence. Six safeties seem like it could be too many to carry but Ebner and King being primarily special teamers could earn Richards a spot on the final roster in case of any injury that occurs.
Special Teams: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Matthew Slater, Joe Cardona
The only real surprise when it comes to special teams is that the Patriots don’t have any one in to compete with Gostkowski who struggled drastically last season and missed two field goals during yesterday’s first joint practice with the Jaguars.
The Patriots take on the Jaguars Thursday night for their first preseason action of the year. As preseason and training camp goes by I’ll continue to update my 53-man projection based on players performances and team needs going forward.
The Super Bowl champion New England Patriots kicked off training camp today in front of a massive crowd of fans that showed up to welcome back their beloved team. Quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady was one of the first on the field for the Patriots and was welcomed by a loud uproar of screams and chants from the fans. Fans were also excited to see the return of tight end Rob Gronkowski, who missed the second half of the regular season and the playoffs after undergoing back surgery during the season.
With the first few days of camp being non-contact the team went through a lot of individual position drills, as well as 7-on-7s, 11-on-11s and special teams drills. The team started off with kickoff and kickoff returns, where Danny Amendola, Dion Lewis, and Cyrus Jones were fielding and receiving kicks. Cyrus Jones picked up the same spot he ended last season, dropping one of his first few attempts catching the kickoff and then fielded everyone cleanly after that. If Jones continues to have issues on special teams his job and roster spot could be in jeopardy.
All three quarterbacks participated in 7-on7 and 11-on-11 drills with Tom Brady primarily working with the first team offense, Jimmy Garoppolo working with all three units and Jacoby Brissett working with the third team offense and some snaps with the second team offense. Brady looked like his normal self; spreading the ball around to his many offensive weapons, connecting with offseason addition Brandin Cooks several times deep down the sideline. During these drills Rob Gronkowski looked like he was completely healthy and happy to be back on the field and was even trying to create contact with defenders and did his famous “Gronk Spike” after catching a pass in the end zone from Brady. Jimmy Garoppolo was inconsistent during these scrimmages, making some good passes including a deep ball to tight end Dwayne Allen. Garoppolo also made some bad passes and decisions, including back to back interceptions in the end zone by Eric Rowe and Jordan Richards. Jacoby Brissett looked good with the third team offense and had a good chemistry with second year receiver Devin Lucien, who made a great catch on a back shoulder fade in the back of the end zone, and undrafted rookie Austin Carr. Brissett showed improvement on the quickness of his decision making and getting rid of the ball, both of which were areas he struggled in last year.
Austin Carr is someone who stood out to me and had a great practice working as a slot receiver with the third team offense and was constantly finding a way to get open. Carr was a Biletnikoff award finalist during his senior season in 2016 and led the Big Ten in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns before going undrafted in the 2017 NFL Draft. With the Patriots depth at receiver it will be tough for him to earn a spot on the final 53-man roster and would be a great addition to the teams practice squad and continue to learn from slot receivers like Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, if he is not signed by another team.
Defensively the cornerback duo of Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore looked very sharp. Early on in the beginning of drills Butler had played great coverage on Brandin Cooks and had a pass breakup in the end zone on cooks. One area of question this offseason was who is going to be the Patriots slot and nickel corner, and on the first day of camp that went to Jonathan Jones. Jones was a primary special teams player last season who played some slot corner on defense and appears as of now to be the team’s starting slot corner, with Butler and Gilmore on the outside, as well as Eric Rowe who can line up on the outside or on the inside against some tight ends because of his size.
There were several players who did not attend of participate in todays practice including; Dont’a Hightower and Alan Branch who were both placed on the PUP list earlier this week, as well as Rob Ninkovich, Kony Ealy and Joe Cardona. According to Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston Cardona’s absence is due to a commitment that Cardona has with the Navy. The absences of Ealy and Ninkovich have yet to be given a reason for. Ninkovich has been a name that has been discussed this offseason as a potential surprise cut or someone who will not make the final 53-man roster and his absence could be related to possible thoughts of retirement as he is set to enter his 12th year in the league.
The Patriots will continue to practice over the weekend with only partial contact before moving to full padded practices next week. Patriots football is back and ready to defend their title and be on the quest for their sixth Super Bowl championship.
Anyone who believes Bill Belichick, Head Coach of the New England Patriots, doesn’t have tough decisions to make every week of the season is living in fantasy land. Despite having the best record in the NFL (OK, I know, Dallas is there too), this year has been a season of turmoil.
Whether it is injuries, suspensions (U-Know-Who), trades, a lackadaisical defense, benching players or any one of numerous week-to-week issues, this has been a season of distractions…something the arguably best coach in the NFL doesn’t like.
…And now, heading to Denver in game 14, Belichick has another real dilemma. No, it’s not simply how to win a big game in the Mile High (literally) City, but is what to do with 2016’s 2nd round draft pick (60th over-all) Cyrus Jones.
The rookie from Alabama has been given multiple chances to get over the rookie jitters, but instead of getting better he continues on a downward curve with a multitude of bad decisions and turnovers. As Chris Mason noted in his Tuesday Boston Herald column he fumbled for the fifth time in Monday night’s win against the Ravens , yet his teammates continue to support him.
Jones’ college resume was great:
The young man (23) returned 42 punts for 530 yards
Led the nation with four touchdowns, the most in a single season in Alabama’s history
His 530 return yards rank second all-time in Alabama single-season history
Earned All-SEC honors as a defensive back
With his college resume it was a reasonable expectation Jones could step right in as a punt returner, easing the burden on Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, but instead:
Fans are SCREAMING for the Patriots to give up on him and just let him go
Opponents want New England to continue to keep him returning kicks
Well, there is no chance the Pats will just let him go. Be real, this was a 2nd rounder, the Patriots’ 1st pick in 2016. His upside is still high, while his confidence is at an all-time low. Things couldn’t get much worse for the rookie (please!) and, surprisingly, Belichick sounds like he will stick with him through thick and thin.
“We have confidence in all of our players,” Belichick told reporters when asked about the rookie. “Of course once the ball hits the ground, we don’t want to be near the ball and have that hit us,” Belichick said. “That goes for everybody. . . .”
With the injuries to Defensive Backs Malcom Butler and Eric Rowe, Jones snaps have grown. Despite being burned against the Ravens, look for that to continue in Denver
Surprisingly, the Patriots picked up WR Michael Floyd on waivers. He was released by Arizona after getting a DUI when found passed out with the motor running in his car at 2AM Monday. Hmmmmm! Strange move. In order to make room the Pats reportedly released recently signed Griff Whalen
Michael Reiss has reported that the Patriots brought in Devin Hester for a look see. The former pro-bowler is long past his prime and he has actually been worse than Jones this year, if that is possible!
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