Tag Archives: New England Patriots

Patriots Training Camp 2018: Day One Thoughts and Observations

The rain couldn’t keep Patriots Nation away today as the Patriots opened up for their first  training camp session of the 2018 NFL Season. As always quarterback Tom Brady received a standing and cheering ovation as he made his way to the practice field, as well as wide receiver Julian Edelman, who missed the 2017 season due to a torn ACL, also receiving a loud ovation from the fans as he walked onto the field for the first time.

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For the first two days of training camp players aren’t in full pads and there’s no contact allowed which can make it tough to truly tell how the players look, there were definitely some players who stood out more than others. Two players who looked really well today were tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Jacob Hollister. Gronkowski looking good shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone at this point as he’s the best tight end in the league when healthy. In simulated 11 on 11 drills Gronkowski was able to get free in the back of the end zone numerous times and catching everything that Brady threw to him. Hollister was someone who really impressed me today; making a tremendous catch in the back of the end zone that was contested by Eric Rowe and a perfect pass by Brady almost right in from of me. Later on in practice on the other side of the practice field he made another great catch in the back corner of the end zone from Brady which drew an applause from the crowd.

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Someone who I wanted to keep an eye on today was rookie running back Sony Michel, who the Patriots selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. . Michel saw a lot of action with the first team offense during 11 on 11 drills and scored on a nice screen pass from Brady. The Patriots have a crowded backfield with Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, Mike Gillislee, and Jeremy Hill; and can’t wait to see how Michel looks throughout the rest of training camp and the preseason and see if he can translate his success in college to the NFL.

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While Michel was seeing some time with the first team offense today, the Patriots other first round pick Isaiah Wynn was running with the second team starting at left tackle. Like I’ve said it’s tough to tell how some players look during the first few days of training camp with no contact, this is especially true for offensive lineman. While Wynn started at left tackle with the second unit Trent Brown was the one taking reps at left tackle with the starters. The Patriots made a draft day trade to acquire Brown from the San Francisco 49ers, where he started at right tackle last season.

Something that I’m going to be paying attention to over the next couple weeks is the potential battle for a roster spot at wide receiver. With Julian Edelman suspended the first four games of the season, and the rumors of the Patriots moving on from Malcolm Mitchell look more and more true the wide receiver position could be one of need for the Patriots. After losing Danny Amendola to the Miami Dolphins this offseason the Patriots signed veteran Jordan Matthews, who on the outside looking in would seem to be a lock to make the final 53-man roster. The Patriots also re-signed Kenny Britt who spent some time with the Patriots towards the end of last season and the team likes apparently, who is starting off training camp on the PUP list. The team also has Phillip Dorsett who was with the team last season, but who I’m going to be watching are Riley McCarron and Braxton Berrios. McCarron spent time on the Houston Texans practice squad last year and has drawn some comparisons to Wes Welker, who coached him last season while in Houston. McCarron looked very quick and explosive during kickoff return drills and looks like a prototypical Patriots slot receiver. Berrios was a sixth round draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft out of Miami, and while undersized at only 5’8-5’9 was a big time playmaker during his time with the Hurricanes. Both players were rotating around with the third team offense primarily, as well as returning kicks which could be the key for one of these guys to fight for a potential roster spot.

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Day one is in the books and there will be plenty more to look for and see over the next couple weeks of training camp and preseason. But one thing thats clear is that the best time of the year is upon us as Patriots football is back!

 

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Patriots Training Camp Preview: A Defensive Line With Tons of Potential

The start to Patriots Training Camp is finally almost upon us as it is set to start in just under a week. One of the biggest issues the Patriots had at times last year was at defensive line, most notably in the Super Bowl where they couldn’t generate any pressure on Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, as well as being unable to stop the Eagles in the running game. The Patriots will return some of their main core on the defensive line, such as Trey Flowers, Malcolm Brown, and Deatrich Wise Jr., as welcome in a few new faces.

One of the new names that people should expect to see a lot from this season is defensive end Adrian Clayborn. Clayborn signed a two-year, $10 million deal with the Patriots this offseason after spending the previous three seasons in Atlanta. In 2017 Clayborn finished with a career-high 9.5 sacks, and while that total looks good on the surface it’s worth noting that six of his sacks came in one game going against the Dallas Cowboys and backup left tackle Chaz Green. A former first-round pick Clayborn is a player who so far has not lived up to his full potential and hype around him following his career at Iowa, partly due to playing in three games or less in two of his four seasons while in Tampa Bay due to injury. If Clayborn can stay on the field and continue to build off maybe his best season as a pro in last season I would expect him to be a big contributor on the Patriots defensive line opposite Trey Flowers.

 

Another new face that should make a big impact on the defensive line this season is Danny Shelton, whom the he Patriots acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Browns this offseason. Shelton is a former 12th overall pick in the NFL Draft by the Browns, the same draft where the Patriots selected Malcolm Brown in the first round.

 

Both Brown and Shelton are true run stuffing defensive tackles and while Shelton had a down year in 2017, Brown is coming off his best year as a member of the Patriots in 2017. Having two big defensive tackles in Brown and Shelton in the middle of your line with a combination of Flowers, Wise, Clayborn, Lawrence Guy, and Derek Rivers as edge rushers, as well as having Vincent Valentine and Adam Butler to play in the middle,  gives the Patriots lots of flexibility on all three downs and in all types of situations. If players are able to stay healthy and play up to their potential this Patriots defensive line is one that offers tons of flexibility and can cause problems for opposing offenses.

 

Be sure to follow @BBodell14 and @PatsGazette on Twitter for the latest Patriots and NFL news and stories!

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Jordan Matthews signing more pivotal with possible Edelman suspension

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.

PATRIOTS 7 ROUND MOCK DRAFT 2 .0

The 2018 NFL Draft is just over a week away and the Patriots still have some holes and needs on the roster that they will look to address in the draft. After a surprising trade that sent wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams, the Patriots now own two picks in the first and second rounds and own five of the first 95 picks in the draft.

This seven-round mock draft was conducted on FanSpeak.com using their mock draft simulator. I used the ‘Big Board’ rankings done by Matt Miller of Bleacher Report, with ‘NFL Mock’ for team needs, on the difficult draft setting.  Some players may be ranked higher in other rankings and projections then were taken in this mock draft.

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Round 1 Pick 23: Rashaan Evans, Linebacker, Alabama

The Patriots linebacking core was terrible in 2017. The Patriots will benefit heavily from getting Dont’a Hightower back from injury in 2018, but is someone the Patriots can not rely on to stay healthy and even with Hightower returning and healthy the Pats could use an upgrade at the position. The Pats select another Alabama linebacker in Evans to pair with Hightower. Evans is extremely versatile and has the ability to play both inside and outside in the pros, as well as get after the quarterback and drop into coverage. Selecting Evans gives a great complimentary piece to Hightower, as well as gives the Patriots insurance if Hightower misses time again in the future. Evans had an official visit with the Patriots last week and is someone who is definitely on the Patriots radar.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 14 UCLA at Arizona
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Round 1 Pick 31: Kolton Miller, Offensive Tackle, UCLA

I had the Patriots selecting Miller here in the first version of my mock draft and stick with him again here. Following the departure of left tackle Nate Solder tackle immediately becomes one of the biggest needs for the Patriots, despite the team re-signing LaAdrian Waddle in free agency. Waddle filled in nicely last year at right tackle for Marcus Cannon, but is not a full-time starter. Miller can step in right away and protect the blindside of quarterback Tom Brady. Miller has good size and arm length similar to Solder which will help him defend speed rushers off the edge. 2017 third-round pick Tony Garcia is reported to be getting healthier after missing all of the 2017 season due to having blood clots in his lungs and the Patriots could defer to take a tackle later on in the draft if they believe in Garcia, but I have them taking Miller here who can step in and start right away. Miller visited with the Patriots last week and wouldn’t be surprising to see his name called by the Patriots on Day One of the NFL Draft.

via mlive.com

Round 2 Pick 43: Maurice Hurst, Defensive Line, Michigan

Let me start off by saying that I do not think Hurst will be available at this pick, hell I don’t even think Hurst be around at 23 if were being honest but it’s the way the simulator goes and if for some reason Hurst was available here the Patriots should run up the stage with the draft card with his name on it. As a Michigan fan I’ve watched a lot of Hurst over the past few years and he is an absolute monster on the defensive line. His speed and explosiveness allows him to go through an offensive line with ease and disrupt plays in the backfield. Hurst also has the ability to play inside or outside due to his combination of size and speed. Would be small for a true interior defensive lineman listed at 6’2 282 pounds, but has size flexibility to gain weight to his frame to become more of an interior player or stay where he’s at or slim down and play primarily on the outside and move inside on third down and passing situations. Hurst did have a medical condition for an irregular heartbeat at the NFL Combine but was cleared medically prior to his pro day.

via fullpresscoverage.com

Round 2 Pick 63: Mike Gesicki, Tight End, Penn State

While I believe that Rob Gronkowski will return to the Patriots for 2018 his status is currently unknown. Even if Gronkowski returns, Gesicki is an improvement from Jacob Hollister and Dwayne Allen, the latter who still could be released from the Patriots and save the team $5 million in cap space, as well as be a nice compliment to Gronkowski in the passing game. Gesicki has good size listed at 6’5 247 pounds, and had a great combine running a 4.54 40-yard dash. While Gesicki isn’t polished as a blocker he has great hands and route running ability, which could allow the Patriots to draft Gesicki and still keep Allen, who was used primarily as a blocker last season.

via hogshaven.com

Round 3 Pick 95: Kyle Lauletta, Quarterback, Richmond

The big question of who is going to be Tom Brady’s successor has finally been answered in Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta. Lauletta could end up going earlier than this due to the need of quarterbacks around the league, and the reported Patriots interest in Lauletta earlier in the draft process and offseason. Lauletta was the MVP of the Senior Bowl and has drawn comparisons to Jimmy Garoppolo, primarily due to the two both being quarterbacks from the FCS and some similarities in their play style. If Belichick sees Lauletta as a similar player to Garoppolo you could see the Patriots, and other teams attempt to move up earlier in the draft to select him. There were reports that the Patriots were the team most interested in Lamar Jackson, and while I think Jackson is a great player do not want the Patriots selecting a quarterback too early in the draft, especially with the team likely having to move up in the first round to select Jackson.

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Round 6 Pick 198: Taron Johnson, Cornerback, Weber State

Cornerback looked to be a big need for the Patriots after Malcolm Butler signed with the Tennessee Titans and the Patriots missed out on top guys on the market such as Aqib Talib and Richard Sherman. The Patriots then made a call to their farm system the Cleveland Browns to acquire Jason McCourty, which doesn’t make corner as big an area of need for the Patriots. Johnson player both outside and in the slot during his time at Weber State, but projects as more of an inside corner in the pros due to his size. Johnson has good ball skills having 42 passes broken up during his time at Weber State and could push Cyrus Jones for a roster spot if the former second-round pick doesn’t show signs of improvement.

via azcentral.com

Round 6 Pick 210: Christian Sam, Linebacker, Arizona State

Patriots go linebacker again in the sixth round taking Christian Sam, who is a slightly undersized linebacker but has the ability to play inside and outside linebacker. Sam is a good coverage linebacker which is something the Patriots lacked last season and can help fill a role on defense and is someone who always seems to be around the ball. Sam is another player who has had an official visit with the Patriots prior to the draft.

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via emny.com

Round 7 Pick 216: Chase Edmonds, Running Back, Fordham

The Patriots lost Dion Lewis in free agency but retained Rex Burkhead as well as signed Jeremy Hill in the offseason which doesn’t make running back a huge need. Edmonds was an extremely productive four year starter at the FCS level but dealt with some injuries during his time in college. The Patriots could take a flyer on him late to see how he translates from the FCS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malcolm Butler Issues Statement Disputing Rumors

The biggest story during and post Super Bowl 52 for the Patriots is why cornerback Malcolm Butler was not playing. There have been many rumors as to why Butler was not playing in the game such as missing curfew, being caught with weed, and being at a concert during Super Bowl week. Just after the Super Bowl I published an article claiming Belichick’s decision to sit Butler was due to his own pride and ego, and that his decision and the play of the defense cost the Patriots the game. An opinion which I still believe and even more so with Butler’s statement:

Butler Statement

Butler states that he did not violate any curfew, or any other actions that have been rumored to have happened. This strengthens my argument and belief even more that Belichick made a personal decision to not play Butler other than one snap on the punt team. Belichick sat back and saw guys like Eric Rowe, Johnson Bademosi and Jordan Richards struggle, but Belichick wouldn’t put his pride or ego away for the betterment of the team, and played a huge factor in why the Patriots ultimately lost the game. Belichick is known for “not putting one player above the team” but this is exactly what he did, but with himself. He put himself and what he wanted to do over what was best for the team, which was playing Malcolm Butler. And the most notable person to like this post so far, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, which is notable especially following the Seth Wickersham ESPN article that came out stating that Brady and Belichick had problems with one another.

Butler put out this statement so that his name would not be damaged due to the rumors that have been coming out about him, and this statement makes me believe even more that this as a personal decision made by Bill Belichick and his decision is why the Patriots lost the Super Bowl.

I’m sure there will be more to come out with this story, as well as several others over the upcoming weeks, and this will be a Patriots offseason like one we have never seen before.

 

Listen to @WIckedLitRadio Super Bowl Reaction Podcast for a full recap and thoughts on the Malcolm Butler situation and the game itself. 

While Gronkowski Shouldn’t get Suspended, He Also Shouldn’t Appeal

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has been suspended for one game for his late hit on Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White in Sunday’s victory.

 

The controversial hit has been discussed over the past 24 hours and has been a big debate on whether Gronkowski should be suspended or not, personally I do not think that Gronkowski should be suspended I also don’t think that Gronkowski should appeal the decision. Following the game Gronkowski delivered an apology to White, saying that he was frustrated with the officiating, which was absolutely terrible, and said that he isn’t a dirty player and doesn’t try playing like a dirty player. Gronkowski has no previous history of being a cheap player or making dirty hits on the field, unlike someone like Vontaze Burfict who has a history of being a cheap and dirty player and has been suspended games before for his play. Gronkowski retaliated to both the referees and to White in a way that he shouldn’t have after White should have been called for defensive holding and pass interference on that play and for calls that Gronkowski wasn’t getting all day as well as a terrible pass interference call against Gronkowski earlier on in the game, Gronkowski shouldn’t have done what he had, no doubts about it but a one game suspension for a player with no history of being a cheap player seems a bit excessive.

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I compare this situation to the AJ Green-Jalen Ramsey fight that happened several weeks ago; where after the play was dead Green had picked up Ramsey from behind in a choke hold and slammed him to the ground and proceeded to throw punches at Ramsey. Both Green and Ramsey were ejected for the incident, Green was later fined for the incident and Ramsey was not. While the situations are similar they are also different; but to me it seems like because Green was ejected from the game he was not suspended, Gronkowski was not ejected from the game so he is being suspended. Like Gronkowski, Green is a player who does not have a history of cheap plays and was given a large fine for his actions, like he should have been. That fact that the refs didn’t eject Gronkowski should be on them and not taken out on Gronkowski and force him to miss a separate game, the suspension makes it seem like it is a make-up call for something the refs missed.

 

With all this being said why I don’t think Gronkowski should be suspended for a game, I don’t think he should appeal the suspension either. The game that Gronkowski will miss is a Monday night game against Miami in Miami, the same team the Patriots beat 35-17 just one week ago and won with ease. While the Patriots offense is obviously better with Gronkowski in it, they should still be able to beat Miami without much problems without Gronkowski. Following Miami, the Patriots travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers for a game which will likely determine who the number one seed in the AFC will be and who will get home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The game in Pittsburgh is a far more valuable game for the Patriots and Gronkowski, especially since Pittsburgh is a team that Gronkowski has absolutely destroyed throughout his career. In five games against the Steelers Gronkowski has piled up 30 receptions for 496 yards and eight touchdowns, including two separate three touchdown games.

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Gronkowski has three days to file the appeal of his suspension, and is Gronkowski does appeal it is unknown when the decision on his appeal would be made. If the appeal decision isn’t made before the weekend and pushed into the following week and it’s lost Gronkowski would then be forced to miss the game against Pittsburgh. Gronkowski could very well win his appeal or even hear news before this weeks game, but is it worth the risk? I don’t think it is and if I’m Gronkowski and the Patriots though I don’t think I should be suspended, I take it to make sure that once the matchup with Pittsburgh comes the team will be at their best with Gronkowski on the field.

Potential Replacements Following Hightower Injury

Just when the Patriots defense starts to take a step forward in their play, they just took two steps backwards with the news that linebacker Dont’a Hightower will miss the rest of the season due to a torn pectoral muscle. Hightower is not only the leader on defense, but also the team’s top player at their weakest position which is linebacker. The team will have some decisions to make on how they go about replacing their star linebacker, whether it be through inside the organization or outside of it through a trade or signing someone off the streets.

The productivity and level of play that Hightower gives, the Patriots likely won’t be able to replace with just one player and might have to make several roster moves going forward. One move that the team is almost certain to make is removing linebacker Shea McClellin off of the injured reserve list when he is eligible to be taken off. The first game McClellin would be eligible to play in is on November 12th against the Denver Broncos following the team’s bye week. McClellin’s presence should help the Patriots linebackers in coverage against backs and tight ends, an area where the team has struggled mightily this season. Given the lack of depth at the linebacker position McClellin should be able to step in and contribute right away.

One thing that might be overlooked with the Hightower injury is his pass rushing ability and how this affects the defensive line. The Patriots really only have two true defensive ends and pass rushers in Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise Jr., as well as Cassius Marsh who has goes into the game in certain third down situations but is primarily a special team’s player. Kyle Van Noy has the ability to rush the passer but doesn’t quite have the consistency and skill of Hightower of getting after the quarterback. The Patriots could turn to a couple of familiar faces to help in this aspect of the defense including Rob Ninkovich, who announced his retirement this summer but didn’t 100 percent rule out a possible comeback, and free agent Akeem Ayers who was a member of the Patriots 2014 Super Bowl team and is someone the team worked out at the beginning of the season. It is unknown what either guy has left in the tank and what they would be able to contribute, but their knowledge of the defense would allow them to be able to step in and contribute right away.

While its unknown what players could be on the trade block, someone who the Patriots could be interested in is also another familiar face in Jonathan Casillas. Like Ayers, Casillas was acquired by the Patriots mid-season in 2014 and was part of the Super Bowl Champion team and has familiarity with the defense. Following the 2014 Casillas signed with the New York Giants, with whom he still plays for, but with their 1-6 record they could look to trade some players and rebuild in the offseason. If available Casillas is someone I would expect the Patriots to look into before the trade deadline October 31st.