Tag Archives: New England Patriots Training Camp

Who Is Winning The Third Down Running Back Battle In Foxborough?

One of the top positional battles heading into training camp for the New England Patriots was the pass catching running back, or more commonly known as, “the third down back” Over the past three seasons the Patriots have had the luxury of Shane Vereen being their third down running back.

He was so vital to their offensive success in his tenure with the Patriots. Particularly last season, most notably in Super Bowl XLIX when he brought in eleven passes in key situations. In addition to his extensive production in the passing game, he is a very good run blocker. Now he is with the New York Giants, and is apparently producing well in training camp.

In the first week or so of training camp for the Patriots, free agent addition Travaris Cadet formally of the New Orleans Saints, was impressing fans and media. When you see him, he looks more like a slot receiver as opposed to the typical pass catching running back. At 6-1, 210 pounds he does not have the build and strength to pass block against linebackers. However, he is quick and can play in the slot and provide a mismatch for linebackers. You could say he is a poor mans Shane Vereen.

Cadet’s training camp has been derailed by a hamstring injury for about two weeks. He just recently returned to practice on Wednesday. He seemed very intriguing at the start of camp, and it looked as though he was the frontrunner for the starting job. Nevertheless, there is a good chance he may not be able to get back up to speed with all the time missed. That could very well lead to his release.

Dion Lewis has been one of the few bright spots so far in the preseason. Lewis is heading into his fifth season in the league and is looking to finally make his stake with a pro team after bouncing around from Cleveland, Philadelphia, and most recently Indianapolis. Seeing how he only stands at 5-8, 195 pounds Lewis is vastly undersized for a professional running back. However, he has been good in preseason action. He had a very nice eleven-yard touchdown run on a draw play this past Saturday against the Saints.

Lewis is so small he can sneak behind the big offensive lineman and then burst when he finds an open lane. He reminds a lot of people of Danny Woodhead because of that rare ability that he has. It will be interesting to see whether or not he receives solid first team reps in Friday’s game in Carolina. The third preseason game is always the most important because it is the closest thing to a regular season contest. The week leading up and preparation is similar, and starters play the majority of the night. Therefore, it will be interesting to see where a player such as Dion Lewis stands as of right now.

Brandon Bolden has been a curious case in Foxborough this summer. Due to the fact that he had the most experience at the third down back role going into camp, and because he just received a new contract, I was under the impression that he had the best shot at grabbing the spot. It looks as if I was way off. At the start of camp he took a decent amount of reps at the position, as was the same with the other backs.

Then when the bright lights of the preseason games came on he never saw the field when the offense was out there. It is very strange, and it would make sense if there was a problem between Bolden and running backs coach Ivan Fears. Bolden would make the most sense right now because he can provide in all three phases of the position; he can run between the tackles, catch the ball, and pass block effectively. Although, the coaching staff may have more of an inkling to the situation.

James White, without a doubt seems to be the favorite for the third down back running back role on the Patriots as of right now. At the start of camp, there was question marks surrounding White because of the expectations he did not live up to after last year’s training camp. It was questioned whether or not he could run in between the tackles, and if he could stay upright when contacted. Thus far in the preseason White has been solid and has proved doubters like myself wrong. In the game against the Saints, White had a nice three-yard touchdown run.

White and Dion Lewis are both smaller and very shifty. White has shown that he can run, much like Dion Lewis sneaking behind the lineman and bursting when he finds the hole. He is just a bit quicker than Lewis. White played in a very explosive offense in college at the University of Wisconsin, and Patriots fans can only hope that he will have similar production in New England. The only question now is if he can get on the same page with Tom Brady. Everything is at a much quicker pace with Brady, and we will see Friday night if a young player like James White can handle it.

New England Patriots 53 Man Roster Projection 2.0

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches from the sideline in the first half of Saturday's preseason game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches from the sideline in the first half of Saturday’s preseason game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Now that the New England Patriots are halfway through the preseason, roster cuts are rapidly approaching. Clubs have to be down to seventy-five players by September 1st. Throughout training camp practices and the two preseason games the team has played, players who were unknown have made a name for themselves.

On the other hand, some players have struggled to even get on the field and make their case for the Patriots roster. Before training camp began I projected what I thought would be the Patriots 53 man roster at the time. Now that we have more intel as to what players are making names for themselves, here is my second roster projection.


Quarterbacks: Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo.

As the whole Tom Brady versus the National Football League court proceeding continue, it seems more and more likely that Tom Brady will do anything to avoid a suspension. Also, the league and Roger Goodell are making themselves look stupider by the second. Therefore, I believe that Tom Brady will be out there week one against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The team and coaching staff are also taking that approach as well, as Brady continues to take the majority of first team reps.

Jimmy Garoppolo has been decent so far this preseason. Particularly against the Saints this past Saturday when he went 28 for 33. Ryan Lindley has yet to see any time in the preseason, which leads me to think that the coaching staff is not comfortable with his progression after two weeks. I can’t see him making the final roster, unless Brady were to be suspended.

at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on August 22, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on August 22, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Running Back: Brandon Bolden, Jonas Gray, Dion Lewis, James White.

With LeGarrette Blount suspended for the Patriots week one match up against the Steelers, the team is a bit strapped for opening night at running back. Thus far in the preseason, James White who had question marks going in has risen to the occasion and has taken hold of the third down back role. In addition, fourth year veteran free agent Dion Lewis has also sparked at times. At 5-8, 195 pounds Lewis has flashed some Danny Woodhead like ability this summer. Travaris Cadet has been fighting a hamstring injury and has barely been on the field. He may be a surprise cut at the start of September.


Wide Receiver: Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Julian Edelman, Chris Harper, Brandon LaFell, Reggie Wayne.

Probably more than any other the position, the injury bug has hit the Patriots wide receiver group hard this summer. Brandon LaFell has yet to come off the physically unable to perform list. However, some are hinting towards a return to action very soon for LaFell. Also, Brandon Gibson is now on injured reserve with a torn ACL that he suffered in Saturday’s preseason game against the Saints.

Furthermore, Brian Tyms is more than likely heading to injured reserve after he suffered a leg injury last week. Injuries such as these open up chances for a player such as Chris Harper. He has really stuck out in the preseason games proving to be Jimmy Garoppolo’s favorite target. Harper is the perfect example of an undrafted rookie taking advantage of the chances he has been given.

Reggie Wayne’s veteran leadership and savy should be a good contribution to the Patriots, no matter how productive he is on the gridiron.


Tight End: Scott Chandler, James Develin, Rob Gronkowski, Michael Hoomanwanui.

No real surprises here. The tight ends that the Patriots had brought in through free agency and the draft have yet to show anything spectacular in a Patriots uniform. Fred Davis never even made it to training camp, and AJ Derby was put on injured reserve the first week of training camp. Also, Scott Chandler has been on the sidelines with an injury for the majority of camp. A player like Hoo-Man now can breathe easily because it seems as if he job is now safe. However, the team knows what they have with All-Pro Rob Gronkowski and he can easily carry the whole group.

Offensive Tackle: Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming.

No real shockers here either. The Patriots should have two Pro-Bowl caliber tackles that keep Tom Brady upright with Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer. Marcus Cannon has had a tough go of it at guard, but is a serviceable reserve tackle. Cameron Fleming was good last year as the, “tight end eligible” in jumbo sets. Due to his contract, some people have speculated towards a possible end of training camp trade, much like that of Logan Mankins last year.

Guard: Ryan Wendell, Tre Jackson, Shaq Mason, Josh Kline.

There is a lot of question marks at the guard position for the Patriots heading into the regular season. Some of those questions have been addressed thus far in training camp. The two rookies that were selected in the fourth round of the draft with Tre Jackson and Shaq Mason have impressed at times. Jackson in particular has shown burst and power in his run blocker ability. Mason struggled at times taking on Saints defensive tackles last week. The Patriots hardly had any success running the ball. Josh Kline has always been a sporadic player, therefore I don’t feel comfortable putting all my chips in with him. It is safe to say, the Patriots need Ryan Wendell to come off PUP as soon as possible.

Center: Bryan Stork.

Last season, the Patriots did not carry a true back up center. During training camp this season, David Andrews has taken the majority of reps with Bryan Stork recovering from injury. Also, Josh Kline has taken reps at center on multiple occasions, and when Ryan Wendell comes back he can provide some decent relief for Stork. Andrews has been okay for an udrafted rookie. He comes from a very competitive program at Georgia, and I can see a practice squad placement for him.


Defensive End: Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Trey Flowers, Geneo Grissom.

The defensive end position is what many fans have expected throughout training camp. The veterans have stepped up as always, with Jabaal Sheard looking as good as advertised. In addition, the rookies in Flowers and Grissom have shown their athleticism, and Flowers in particular seems promising.

Defensive Tackle: Malcom Brown, Sealver Siliga, Dominique Easley, Antonio Johnson, Chris Jones.

One surprise thus far during training camp has been veteran Antonio Johnson. The eight-year NFL veteran has received a great amount of first team reps so far. I’m not sure if its because he is impressing the coaching staff, or if Bill Belichick is trying to make Dominique Easley prove himself. It is more than likely a mixture of both. Nevertheless, Johnson’s veteran presence and the mixture of young talent should be decent. The interior of the defensive line does need to have more production because they have not impressed so far.

Linebacker: Jerod Mayo, Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, Dane Fletcher, Jonathan Freeny.

Again no surprises here. When fully healthy, the Patriots should have one of the best linebacking corps in the National Football League. Jamie Collins flashed in week one of the preseason, but was very sub par in week two having one of the worst games he has ever played. Jonathan Freeny’s veteran leadership has been a good addition, and he has shown the ability to be a signal caller on the defensive side of the ball.


Cornerback: Malcolm Butler, Robert McClain, Tarell Brown, Bradley Fletcher, Logan Ryan.

By far, cornerback had the most question marks out of any position heading into training camp. Now that we are halfway through camp, the only question that has been answered is whether or not Malcolm Butler is legit, and as we have found out it seems as though he is. Also, Tarell Brown has taken hold of the number two cornerback position, and Logan Ryan has been as advertised, terrible. Even with all the chances to be a starter, Ryan still can’t impress. He is too slow for nickel back and can’t cover big outside receivers.

Safety: Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Patrick Chung, Jordan Richards, Nate Ebner.

As all Patriots fans found out on Saturday Devin McCourty needs to be playing safety, not corner. Not only can they not have him at corner, that can’t survive without him in the back end. Duron Harmon and other safeties would be lost without him. Jordan Richards has been a nice bright spot so far this summer. He has flashed in practices proving the doubters wrong the questioned Bill Belichick’s decision to draft him. His emergence will eventually lead to Tavon Wilson being shown the door.

Special Teams: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Matthew Slater.

The four full-time special teams players for the Patriots are these four that I have just named. With the exception of Cardona who is a rookie, all the players are among the best in the league at what they do. All three have recently received brand new contracts, and they are well deserved. They are the key reasons why the Patriots should be in the tops of the league in special teams.

New England Patriots, Malcolm Butler: Star In The Making

At this time last year Malcolm Butler was an undrafted rookie free agent fighting to make a roster spot. This year he’s the teams number one cornerback going in to the 2015 season, and by the looks of things Butler looks to be the real deal and that he could be a starting number one cornerback in the NFL.


Everyone in the world knows about his Super Bowl winning interception, but that wasn’t Butler’s only good play he made during the season. Butler saw limited action throughout the year playing behind Revis, Browner and Arrington, who are now all playing for different teams. Butler isn’t getting the job because of the departure of the other corners, he’s getting it because he’s deserved it. He’s paid his dues playing and learning behind elite company, now he gets to exhibit his skills as a number 1 corner.  This isn’t going to say that Butler is going to be an elite cornerback like a Darrelle Revis or Richard Sherman, those types of guys are once in a generation type players but Butler is going to be a very good corner in the NFL. Is it possible he could work himself into being an elite corner in the NFL? Sure, but for now its premature to say.

Julian Edelman vs. Malcolm Butler.
Julian Edelman vs. Malcolm Butler.

Butler has shown his skills in both man and zone coverage and has continued to work on getting better from last year to this year and wants to be the best player he can be. He has shown good ball skills of course with his interception in the Super Bowl and as well as making great plays so far in training camp. Then one of the biggest things he has is the confidence and the swagger of a great corner. He was on top of the world after the Super Bowl by making maybe the best play in the history of the NFL, he’s shown that he wants to cover the best by covering Edelman and Gronkowski in practice and covering them well, covering Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb against the Packers in week one of the preseason and not allowing any catches, covering Marques Colston and Brandin Cooks in week two of the preseason against the Saints. He showed his speed and hit power by leveling Brandin Cooks on a wide receiver end around by following him and making the big hit after Cooks crossed the line of scrimmage. Cooks has 4.3 speed and is one of the fastest guys in the NFL and tracking him down is no easy task. After the play Butler got up got into Cooks face a little bit and just stood there with confidence and swagger.

via bostonherald.com
via bostonherald.com

He’s drawn praise from coaches and players for his work ethic, ability and his determination to get better and wanting to be a great player. He struggled the first day of doing practices this week against the Saints, he came back the next day and had a very good day of practice and then played well in the preseason game against New Orleans. He knows what it takes and wants to be the best and keep improving, if he struggles he’s going to do something about it and change it and showed the ability to bounce back from a bad performance. Butler is going to be the starting cornerback for the Patriots this season and he’s going to do a great job at it. With the more experience he gets the better he will get and maybe get into that Sherman and Revis category in a few years. For now he’s going to be the Patriots number one corner and hopefully do his job of stopping the opposing offenses number one threat. I wrote about Butler last summer going into the season and how well he performed in camp and had confidence in him being a contributor on defense, now I’m writing about Butler with him being “the guy” in the secondary and I still have all the confidence in him. Malcolm Butler is going to be a great player for the Patriots and can’t wait to see him in the regular season lined up against some of the best in the league and see how he performs.

Five Patriots Players To Watch For On Thursday Night Against Packers

The time has finally come, sort of. It isn’t the best football, but it is players fighting for their jobs, in live game situations with the bright lights on at Gillette Stadium. Preseason football is here, and that means it is time to evaluate the players that have been hyped up and scrutinized throughout training camp.

With so many players on the roster that will be cut by week one, it is hard to keep track of which players you want to keep an eye on during preseason games. Here are five players that you should watch closely on Thursday night if you are a Patriots fan.

Josh Boyce: The majority of offensive starters for the Patriots will not be playing tonight. That means hopefully no Rob Gronkowski, no Julian Edelman, and maybe a limited Danny Amendola. There is a battle for the fourth wide receiver spot currently brewing in Foxborough, and third-year receiver Josh Boyce is near the top of that battle.

Boyce has seen more time in preseason games throughout his career than in regular season games. Last year he spent the season on the practice squad, and he has impressed thus far in training camp. He has constantly beat rookie cornerback Darryl Roberts for touchdowns. On Thursday night, expect to see Boyce on the field for the vast majority of the game.


Boyce will be playing alongside and competing against at the same time receivers such as Brian Tyms, Chris Harper and Brandon Gibson. Those four are fighting for roster spots, and Boyce has the most experience in the Patriots system out of the four.

Malcolm Butler: The last time we saw Malcolm Butler on the game field he was intercepting Russell Wilson at the goal line to win the Patriots the Super Bowl, as a fairly unknown un-drafted rookie cornerback. Now he is the teams top corner and he will face heavy scrutiny if he doesn’t perform up to that billing.

Throughout the first three weeks of training camp, Butler has been a pain in Tom Brady’s side, intercepting and deflecting passes left and right. He has certainly locked down that left cornerback spot on the roster. Even though for the time being he is labeled as a starter, he will need to be on the field for a large majority of the time Thursday night.

In the preseason, defensive coordinators do not get to fancy with their schemes. As former head coach Herm Edwards once said, “In the preseason you have two flavors of defense, chocolate and vanilla. In the regular season you get thirty-two flavors.”


Basically what Herm is trying to say is that in the preseason, you get basic man coverage and light zone coverage from defenses. Therefore, we will get a decent evaluation of Malcolm Butler when he matches up against top notch receivers such as Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb even if it is only for a series or two.

Trey Flowers: In the preseason, we get a pretty solid look at the new rookies on the roster. Seeing how the first-round picks are usually penciled in as starters we don’t get as good a look at them as we do with the mid to late round picks. That is why I will be focusing on a player like fourth-round pick, defensive end Trey Flowers.

Flowers started off training camp slow, but of late has been getting solid reps with the starting defense. He is a bigger defensive end at 6-4, 269 pounds and many think he could play in a 3-4 scheme, as oppose to being just a five-technique defensive end.

Flowers is a work-in-progress when it comes to being a pass rusher, but is a solid run defender. Flowers will be fighting with Zach Moore for playing time, and I am giving the leg up to Flowers on that one. In addition, Pro Football Focus had Trey Flowers as their second best steal of the entire draft.

Jimmy Garoppolo: Obviously with the suspension of Tom Brady up in the air we will not being seeing him on Thursday night against the Packers. Now we get to see back up Jimmy Garoppolo for most of the night. It will be a good look at what might be a reality early on in the season if Brady does have to serve a game.

Furthermore, an annual preseason tradition for Patriots fans is evaluating the back up quarterback. Last summer, Jimmy Garoppolo impressed in preseason action leading many to think that he could be the heir apparent to Tom Brady. So far in practice this summer, Garoppolo has been very underwhelming. He takes too long to make decisions, and with a patchy offensive line full of young inexperienced players, that could be a recipe for disaster against Green Bay.


Also, Garoppolo needs to test his arm. He will have receivers with him that can somewhat stretch the field in Josh Boyce and Brian Tyms. We saw a little bit of that Garoppolo to Tyms connection last August, and it has transitioned into training as well this year. Expect Josh McDaniels to test Garoppolo against the Packers with a pass happy playbook.

James White: With Shane Vereen gone, one of the most important positions on the Patriots offense has been left barren, the pass catching back. It has been an interesting battle to watch between Brandon Bolden, Travaris Cadet, and James White in Foxborough. If you asked me who was losing that battle as of right now, I would tell you it was White.

However, with Travaris Cadet suffering from a hamstring injury we more than likely will not see him in action against the Packers. Therefore, we will be getting a heavy dose of Brandon Bolden and James White. Most Patriots fans know what they have with Brandon Bolden. He is a very good special teams player who can pass block, and come out of the backfield when needed and be fairly productive.

James White is still an unknown. He was hardly on the field at all in 2014, and when he was he did not show an burst like he did in college at the University of Wisconsin. Thursday night will be his chance to prove that he can come out of the backfield and shine and also run in-between the tackles. If he doesn’t show that ability that he was drafted for, White could be looking at another season where he barely sees the field.

New England Patriots: The Battle For Fourth Wide Receiver Is Heating Up In Foxborough


Going into training camp this year, the New England Patriots were set to have a battle for the number four wide receiver spot between Aaron Dobson and Brian Tyms. Now that the team is almost three weeks into training camp, the battle has turned into a multiple player fight for that ever so important roster spot. A multitude of players have emerged and some have re-established themselves as candidates for the roster.

Throughout the first stretch of training camp, Aaron Dobson was one player that raised eyebrows. After finally having a healthy offseason, Dobson showed how healthy he was by making diving catches and jumping over defenders for the ball. It helps that fellow receiver Brandon LaFell has started camp on the physically unable to perform list, giving a lot of the reps with Tom Brady and company to Dobson. However, Dobson has yet again been slowed down by the injury bug as of late. He has since returned to practice, but other players have now established themselves as candidates for the job.

Brian Tyms has also fought the injury bug so far in camp, but he has also come back and continued to fight for his job. Early on in camp, Tyms saw most of his reps come with Jimmy Garoppolo and the second team offense. Now, he is seeing time with Tom Brady and the starters from time to time. Tyms looks like he has worked on his ability to be a more diverse route runner, as opposed to being able to just run go routes. At times however, he has looked a bit sluggish.

during the 2014 AFC Divisional Playoffs game at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

For example, on Monday he was not looking for the ball on a short crossing pattern when Tom Brady fired the ball right into his chest. The ball bounced out of his hands and into the arms of Dont’a Hightower. He is sporting the red non-contact jersey so I wouldn’t expect to see him in action on Thursday’s game against the Packers.

Josh Boyce has to be the biggest surprise of training camp thus far. After spending his second season on the practice squad, not many thought that Boyce would have much of a chance of making the roster. Nevertheless, the 2013 fourth-round pick is proving the doubters wrong and showing that he belongs in the National Football League.

He has never been able to gain the trust of Tom Brady, however slowly but surely it looks as if Brady is becoming more and more comfortable with him. This was never more evident than on Monday when Boyce toasted rookie cornerback Darryl Roberts for a sixty-yard touchdown reception from Tom Brady. Boyce has consistently beat Roberts this summer. We will truly see how much Boyce has progressed in preseason games when the bright lights come on.

Furthermore, unknowns such as Jonathan Krause and un-drafted rookie Chris Harper have tried to make a name for themselves with the injuries in camp. Krause has had his fair share of troubles, but he has pro-level experience and more experience in the Patriots system.

Harper is a small wide receiver at 5-11, 185 pounds, however he can fly down the field and runs crisp routes. At times last week when Dobson, Edelman, and Tyms were all out of practice Harper saw plenty of time with the first team offense, and he was fairly impressive. He wasn’t intimidated by playing along side of Tom Brady.

In conclusion, the fourth wide receiver spot on the New England Patriots is for sure one of the most competitive battles in training camp this summer. Multiple players are fighting for jobs on the roster, therefore those players will need to prevail during preseason competitions and during joint practices next week against the Saints. In the end, I still believe that Aaron Dobson will win the job because he has the highest ceiling and he is finally starting to show it.

New England Patriots: Evaluations From Day Ten Of Patriots Training Camp

After having the day off on Sunday, the Patriots were back on the practice field on Monday afternoon. It was an overall solid day for the defense, and yet another sloppy performance by the offensive units. Here are my breakdowns and evaluations from day number ten of Patriots training camp.

Key Players Return To Practice: A nice surprise for the Patriots fans in attendance on Monday was the return of multiple key players including Julian Edelman and Brian Tyms who were injured during camp last week. Also, Matthew Slater and Alan Branch made their way onto the practice field in pads for the first time this season. Slater and Tyms were wearing red non-contact jerseys.

Edelman was considered a full-participant at practice, but the team seemed to be taking it easy with him holding him out of most eleven on eleven drills. He did look like he was moving around and running routes smoothly without much trouble from his ankle.

Brian Tyms was wearing the red non-contact jersey, but he was receiving a lot of reps in live team drills working with all three quarterbacks on the roster. Tyms is now part of what is a developing multiple player battle for the fourth wide receiver spot on the roster. Furthermore, LeGarrette Blount was seen running hill sprints and it was reported by Pro Football Talk that there is no structural damage in his knee, after it was reported that he had suffered an MCL sprain.


Malcolm Butler Continues To Impress: Monday was yet another day of Patriots training camp where Malcolm Butler proved why he should be the team’s number one cornerback. He has been a nuisance for Tom Brady to deal with throughout the past couple of weeks, and that was no different on Monday.

Early in practice during seven on seven work, Brady targeted Jonathan Krause deep down the sideline. Krause was blanketed by Butler who went up and deflected the ball out of the air, and proceeded to bop his head up and down signaling the crowd. The so called, “swagger” that Butler possesses has been a big reason why he has stood out this summer.

Later on in practice Butler made a very nice pass breakup on a play action pass intended for Josh Boyce. As always, Butler let Brady know that he got the best of him on that play. It is safe to say that as of right now, Malcolm Butler has a strangle hold on the number one cornerback spot.

Miscellaneous Notes: Monday marked the first day for Ryan Lindley in a Patriots uniform. You can tell that the coaching staff is expecting to use Lindley for a substantial amount of time Thursday night against the Green Bay Packers, because he received a vast majority of the reps at the end of practice.

Overall he was not much different from the last time we saw him against the Carolina Panthers in the wild card round of last years playoffs where he threw two bad interceptions. He has a big arm, but he overthrows his targets much too often.

The Patriots offense continues to have slow starts to practice that set the tone for a stressful and lack luster practice for Tom Brady and the coaching staff. This was most apparent early on at practice Monday when Brady targeted Brian Tyms on a quick crossing pattern.


Tyms did not look for the ball fast enough, and by the time he did the ball had already ricocheted of his chest and into the waiting arms of Dont’a Hightower. Brady showed his frustration by shouting the four-lettered word that he commonly uses on game day.

Furthermore, Jerod Mayo took a nasty shot at Rob Gronkowski when he caught a pass over the middle of the field form Tom Brady. It is the kind of physicality you like seeing from your defensive leader, just don’t target it towards arguably your teams most valuable player. The hit caused for some boos from fans, and a sigh of relief when Gronkowski walked away okay.

Lastly, an interesting sight during eleven on eleven work with the second and third team groups towards the end of practice, was the installation of the wildcat offense with undrafted rookie Zach D’Orazio taking the snaps at quarterback.

The Patriots will be back at it on Tuesday, and I will be attending, therefore stay tuned for more training camp updates and analysis form Goal Line Gazette.

New England Patriots: Pats Make a Series of Roster Moves

Jimmy G at 2015 Training Camp
Jimmy G at 2015 Training Camp

The New England Patriots made a series of roster moves today. They signed two rookie free agents, running back Tony Creecy out of North Carolina State and tight end Logan Stokes out of LSU. In order to make room, they cut tight end Mason Brodine and linebacker Chris White.

These moves aren’t going to raise a lot of eyebrows. Creecy had just over 1200 yards rushing for his entire career at NC State, and Stokes was a blocking tight end at LSU. Stokes was originally signed by the Pats back on June 11, but they cut him a week later. Brodine was a guy who bounced around a lot since coming out of Nebraska-Kearney in 2011, and has spent time with both the Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams in addition to the Patriots. He’s played in two NFL games in his career. White was a sixth round draft pick by the Bills out of Mississippi State in 2011, and also spent time with the Lions before coming to New England last year. He was mainly a special teams player, suiting up for 13 games and all three playoff games last season.

The move that will grab people’s attention was at quarterback. The Patriot’s cut Matt Flynn while also signing former Cardinal’s quarterback Ryan Lindley. New England signed Flynn back in June, a move that seemed to be a little extra insurance for Jimmy Garoppolo assuming Tom Brady’s four-game suspension is upheld. Flynn hadn’t passed his physical, as a hamstring injury was holding him back, and Bill Belichick was growing impatient, with the preseason opener on Thursday. As is tradition for the Patriots, Tom Brady is not expected to play at all in the game, and if he does it will be very little. While there’s a chance Flynn could return in the future, Belichick said, “We don’t have forever here; the train is moving.”

Ryan Lindley is most famous for being forced into playing time for an egregious quarterback situation for the Arizona Cardinals after both Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton went down with injuries. Lindley had been drafted by the Cardinals out of San Diego State, but was cut and went to San Diego. The Cardinals resigned him after Palmer went down, and Lindley got the nod over rookie Logan Thomas after Stanton went down. He struggled mightily in relief of Stanton against St. Louis and then the next week against the Seahawks as the starter. The Cardinals looked to start Thomas in Week 17, but a shaky week of practice gave Lindley another shot. He played fairly well in the last regular season contest, but was extremely underwhelming in Carolina for Arizona’s playoff loss.

Evaluations From Day Seven Of Patriots Training Camp

The Patriots wrapped up their seventh practice of training camp Thursday afternoon, and it was much more lively than Wednesday nights in-stadium season ticket holder practice. The players were in full pads, and much of the absences were the same as they have been throughout camp, with a few new additions.

Julian Edelman missed his third straight practice with what is believed to be an ankle injury. In addition, Aaron Dobson missed practice for precautionary reasons with a hamstring injury. Also, the team signed two new players, tight end Mason Brodie who stands at 6-7, and tackle Mark Asper. Harlan Gunn was released after only a few days on the roster. Here are my evaluations and observations from Thursday’s practice.


Wide Receivers Emerge Without Edelman: With Julian Edelman now absent for the past three practices, other wide receivers such as Josh Boyce and Chris Harper have had their chances to get quality reps with Tom Brady and the first team offense. For Josh Boyce, many people have written him off for making the roster, but he has impressed so far this camp.

Boyce was targeted multiple times by Brady, and made a nice grab over Logan Ryan at the start of practice. If he can add solid receiving ability to his repertoire along with his kick returning, he could be a solid contributor to the offense.

Chris Harper was a player that for the first time received decent reps with Tom Brady on Thursday. At 5-11, 175 pounds, height is not Harper’s strength, but he can fly. Harper is getting good reps returning kicks and punts. Many believe that he was brought in specifically for this reason. However, on Thursday he showed his down field speed during eleven on eleven drills. Brady targeted him deep, but he lacked the ability to fight for the ball in the air, resulting with a pass breakup from Darryl Roberts.

Travaris Cadet Winning The Battle For Third Down Back: As training camp moves along, we can begin to see who is winning the individual position battles that we focused so heavily on leading into camp. It is probably safe to say that Travaris Cadet is winning the battle for third down running back.

Cadet is not as bulky as I had previously anticipated, but he seems to be the best option in the passing game. When you see him up close he looks like a slot receiver. On Thursday, he made a nice catch down the sideline from Tom Brady. He has shown the ability to run the wheel route very effectively, beating outside linebackers with his speed. Cadet can be used in the slot, much like Shane Vereen. The only question I have concerning him now is his pass blocking ability.


Miscellaneous Notes: Tom Brady took over the majority of the reps on Thursday, going 21 for 28 during eleven on eleven drills, with Garoppolo going 12 for 16 with an interception to Tavon Wilson who has impressed this summer.

Furthermore, Danny Amendola has been getting a lot of good reps with the absence of Julian Edelman. He is breaking free from defenders and making some very impressive catches. It should leave fans with confidence if Edelman were to miss significant time. Edelman is, “day to day” according to head coach Bill Belichick.

Lastly, media reports indicate that Brandon LaFell is walking around without a walking boot.

I will not be attending training camp over the weekend, so stay tuned next week for more updates from camp.

New England Patriots: Five Things To Look For

(featured photo: Benny Sieu-USA Today

Green Bay vs New England – It’s An Exhibition Game

New England Patriot fans, have you highlighted August 13 on your calendar? That’s the date the Patriots play their first “exhibition” game. I know King Roger doesn’t like the word “exhibition”, but I don’t like Roger Goodell and, really, when the game doesn’t count…it’s an exhibition! Pre-Season Game…give us some credit for knowing that’s a sham title to make fans think its a real contest.

The NFL may charge full price and force season ticket holders to buy tickets, but they can’t change the facts (although Mr. Commissioner is trying to do that to Tom “Terrific”)…and the fact is: teams play back-up and unknown undrafted free agents and most of the players you see in game #1 will never see the light of a real NFL game.

New England Patriots vs Green Bay Packers

Now that I have that off my chest…the game is at Gillette Stadium against the Green Bay Packers, with kick-off scheduled for 7:30. Despite all the garbage going on with that other issue (last time it will be mentioned in this column) it will be nice to actually see some football, even if we only know 10% of the players that will hit the field.

Here are a few things to look for this Thursday:

Jimmy G at 2015 Training Camp
Jimmy G at 2015 Training Camp (Keith Nordstrom/New England Patriots)
  1. Obviously focus will be on who looks good at QB for the Pats. Tom Brady may get in a series or two, but everyone in the stadium is looking to see if Jimmy Garoppolo is ready to take the helm “if needed” when the real season begins. If not (heaven forbid), who will step up?  It has been reported that they have released Matt Flynn, leaving no one to back him up. Right now Brady & Garoppolo are the only QBs on the Patriots roster, so don’t be surprised when they grab a body (any body will do) to have a back-up available.
  2. There’s a lot of competition at the various running back positions. This game will allow some of the lesser known RB’s to show their stuff. Some players to keep an eye on include: #39 Travis Cadet, #36 Tyler Gaffney, #35 Jonas (the Colt buster) Gray, #28 James White (looking to show he can fill the big shoes left by Shane Vereen’s departure) & #33 Dion Lewis. Don’t expect to see much action, if any, from LeGarrette Blount or Brandon Bolden.
  3. The development of Jake Bequette as a TE should be worth a look or two. In fact Arkansas’ A.J. Derby and Kansas’ Jimmay Mundine will be fighting to show what they have to other teams, since the chance of being on the Patriots opening day roster are slim and none. Michael Hoomanawanui had a rough year in 2014, so he could be on the bubble, especially with the signing of Scott Chandler.
  4. …and then there’s Corner Back.  There are a bunch of bodies fighting to be the next “island” in the Patriots secondary.
  5. There’s been a lot of talk about the defense, but keep your eye on the offensive line. There could be a major shift this season and these are the “unknowns” who keep the QB healthy. If you aren’t cursing them out, they’re doing their job! Players to watch include Tre’ Jackson & Shaq Mason.

    Tre' Jackson Is Worth Watching (printinterest.com)
    Tre’ Jackson Is Worth Watching (printinterest.com)
There’s more, but if you are at the game or watching on TV those five should make it worthwhile to stay awake for the entire game. If not, don’t worry…it’s only an exhibition (yawn). Coaches are just hoping no one gets hurt.
Follow me on Twitter @SnowdonBob

Evaluations From Day Five Of Patriots Training Camp

After getting the day off on Monday, Bill Belichick had his team back out on the practice field on Tuesday afternoon. A later start at roughly 1:30 p.m, the crowd from the weekend diminished drastically, leaving fans in attendance with a much better view point for the practice. The practice schedule and routine was the same as the first four days, things are just slowly picking up as the days move on. Here are my three observations and evaluations from Tuesday’s session.

Injuries Pile Up: With players hitting mostly at full speed comes the increased risk of training camp injuries. At the end of Sunday’s practice, Julian Edelman came up limping after catching a low placed ball from Jimmy Garoppolo. Edelman was on the field in full pads to start Tuesday’s practice. However, after stretches he walked into the field house next to the practice field and never returned.

In addition, halfway through the practice during individual tackling drills between defensive backs and wide receivers, Brian Tyms was rocked by Robert McClain. It did not seem to be a cheap shot, but most players do not follow through with their tackles, except for McClain who took Tyms directly to the ground. Tyms was carted off the practice field with what looked to be an upper body injury.

Also, an injury that looked to slip under the radar at the end of practice was an alleged one to Rob Gronkowski. I first noticed when the first team offense was practicing goal line drills. Gronkowski was kneeling on the side, grabbing at his lower back. There was no sign of trainers looking at his back, but during the two-minute drills at the end of practice, Gronkowski sat out. He was walking okay at the end, so try not to panic to hard Patriots fans.


Jimmy Garoppolo Has His Best Day: Throughout the first four days of training camp, Jimmy Garoppolo was underwhelming to put it lightly. Nevertheless, on Tuesday he was pretty impressive. He started practice off slow, with his first pass being intercepted by Nate Ebner. However, his passes had some very nice touch on them, particularly in red zone situations.

His first two passes in live eleven on eleven situations were beautifully placed passes, hitting Travaris Cadet and Danny Amendola in stride in opposite corners of the end zone. His decision making still needs to speed up, but overall he is slowly progressing day by day.


Miscellaneous Notes: Malcolm Butler continues to build upon his Super Bowl heroics during training camp. During the first eleven on eleven session, Butler picked off a bullet pass from Tom Brady intended for Josh Boyce in the middle of the field. Also, he certainly does not lack in confidence as he continues to chatter back and forth with Tom Brady.

Practice for sure started off very chippy on Tuesday afternoon. It started off right away during seven on seven interior drills. Jonas Gray ran through the hole, only to be absolutely leveled by Jamie Collins from the right side. Gray got up a little ticked off and the two exchanged words for a moment.

In addition, Josh Kline was getting very scrappy as well early on, and Jordan Devey looks terrible as always. Kline was blowing back Jonathan Freeny and getting good contact on Jamie Collins. Especially on Freeny, pushing him all the way back to the sidelines. Devey looked as if he were on roller skates when Zach Moore made one move on him and blew up a run play in the back field.

Josh Boyce is also raising some eyebrows so far. I completely wrote him off from making the team, but he is seeing a lot of time with Tom Brady, and Jimmy Garoppolo especially loves targeting him. Boyce continues to burn seventh round rookie cornerback Darryl Roberts, on almost a daily basis.

The Patriots will have a light practice inside Gillette Stadium for season ticket holders, and residents of Foxborough and South Walpole on Wednesday night after the Hall of Fame induction of Willie McGinest. Stay tuned for more training camp updates on Goal Line Gazette.