Tag Archives: Tre’ Jackson

New England Patriots: The Deepest Roster In Years

The New England Patriots have had a long run of exceptional success. The Bill Belichick-Tom Brady link has a lot to do with the dominance they have over the rest of the NFL. This year, despite losing Brady for the 1st four games (no comment necessary), they have what could be the deepest, if not most skilled, roster in years. Despite missing some key players early due to injury, fans will be rockin’ as the 2016 Patriots evolve.

Are there still areas of concern? Definitely… but all positions are filled with strong, talented young players chomping at the bit to replace seasoned vets. Think about it. The lack of training camp transactions and difficulty in selecting who will be among New England’s 53 man roster opening day this deep into camp is a strong indication that the back-end will have skills needed to survive the long season.

COMPETITION IS GOOD FOR EVERYONE 

After two pre-season games, the competition for playing time is fierce. And, let’s face it, that’s good for everyone. Shoot, even Tom Brady, arguable the best QB in NFL history, can’t find playing time when he wants to. OK, I know, he was playing with scissors and cut himself, keeping him out of game #2, which he was scheduled to start. But the point is, someone has stepped in and done the job. You may not be a fan of Jimmy Garoppolo as the “long-term” answer when TB retires, but he has shown the ability to hold things together while Brady is out. Let’s take a quick look at what we could see on offense opening night, September 11, in Arizona.

Jimmy Garoppolo looked good against the Bears . (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Jimmy Garoppolo looked good against the Bears (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

QB: (2) This one’s a no brainer,( so I qualify), and my prediction -ta dah- unequivocally: the two slots are owned by Goroppolo and rookie Jacoby Brissett. How’s that for stepping out on a limb. It is doubtful the Patriots will sign a veteran back-up QB for the 1st four games unless one of those two get injured. Brady does not take up a roster spot until game 5.

WR: (6) Who needs a real deep threat when you have a roster full of good hands, elusive players battling it out for a limited number of positions. The days of Randy Moss are long gone, so, as they say in certain circles, “forgeddabout-it.”

  • Veterans include Danny Amendola, Jules Edelman, Nate Washington, Chris Hogan, Keshawn Martin, Aaron (yep, he’s still here) Dobson and old faithful Matthew Slater.
  • Young and looking to step in players are Chris Harper, Malcolm Mitchell, DeAndre Carter and Devin Lucien.

Injuries will factor in the final six. The availability of Amendola and Mitchell are the two question marks. If healthy they are locks, along with Edelman, Slater, Hogan and Harper. That leaves Washington, Martin, Dobson, Carter & Lucien on the outside looking in. If either Amendola or Mitchell can’t go, look for Martin to fill their slot.

TE: (3) Like QB, the first two are easy – Rob Gronkowski & Martellus Bennett. After that is a big question. Do you want a blocking, athletic or flexible player filling that role? Based on his performance to-date, I’m going with AJ Derby (FB James Develin is capable of filling the blocking TE role). As of 8/21 veteran Clay Harbor is listed ahead of Derby on the Patriot’s unofficial depth chart.

8-18 AJ Derby (Photo courtesy patspulpit.com)Rookie TE AJ Derby (Photo courtesy patspulpit.com)

RB: (5) BULLETIN – CSNNE is reporting Dion Lewis needs more surgery. James White has looked good in that role, but lacks Lewis’ elusiveness. LeGarrette Blount has impressed in pre-season, but is vulnerable with the emergence of Tyler Gaffney. Branden Bolden’s value on special teams will be the determining factor for him, leaving Joey Iosofa and D.J. Foster with little chance. As mentioned under TEs, James Devlin’s flexibility as both a blocking back and TE make him seem a certainty.

Final five – Gaffney, White,  Devlin, Bolden Blount. Would not be shocked if either Blount or Bolden were cut. It seems like every year Belichick makes a surprise cut, so either Blount or Bolden could be this year’s shocker.

OL: (9) As in all but a few predictions, health is the determining factor. Sebastian Vollmer is out & Tre’ Jackson is hurt. A decision on Jackson needs to come shortly. (A player must open training camp on PUP in order to be eligible to be placed on the reserve/PUP list to open the regular season).  His leadership will be missed, but the offensive line is gradually revolving into a young aggressive group, with rookie Joe Thune at left guard and Shaq Mason (broken hand) looking at more playing time. Center Dave Andrews beats out Bryan Stork at center,  leaving veterans Nate Solder, Cameron Fleming, LaAdrian Waddle & Josh Kline joined by youngsters Ted Karras & Tre’ Jackson. If Jackson isn’t available (heaven forbid). add Marcus Cannon (ugh) to the list. No sense at all about Jonathon Cooper, who has been suffering with foot problems since the 1st padded practice. Probable IR candidate.

DEFENSE COMING MONDAY 8/22)

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New England Patriots: Looking Forward

One of the great things about being a fan of the New England Patriots is, when one season ends you always know that next season will be exciting, with  another legitimate chance for the Lombardi Trophy. It’s really a thrill to look forward to what will happen next and have confidence that it all will work out fine.

Just think about it. How many fans of other teams in the NFL can legitimately make that statement? The answer is – zero!

  • The current Super Bowl Champion Bronco’s? Who is the QB again?
  • The runner-up Carolina Panthers? Hell, their fans are thrilled to just make the play-offs. Although they are the favorites going into the year (the Patriots are #2), they have to show they can perform year in and year out.
  • The Green Bay Packers? Close, but no cigar. Last year the were vulnerable all season and are rapidly deteriorating.
  • How about the Pittsburgh Steelers? The fans and former players are still griping about how they were
    Steeler fans are stunned by NE distruction of the Patriots in the 2004 AFC Championship Game - photo sixteensundayscom
    Steeler fans leave the game stunned after Patriots 41-27 blow-out win in 2014 AFC Championship Game (Photo: sixteensundays.com)

    cheated out of a Super Bowl by….the Patriots…in the AFC Championship Game (No, not the Super Bowl)! That was 12 years ago, the Steelers lost 41-27 at home, and they are still crying about it. No looking forward there!

  • Seattle? With Pete Carroll making the final call 2 years ago the fans of the Seahawks were deflated (sorry, had to get that in). Carroll vs Belichick = a no brainer!

There are plenty of other teams that could be part of the conversation, Arizona, KC to name just a couple, but year-after-year, they haven’t proven good enough to carry the banner.

Another Year With The Two B’s

As we look ahead to the 2016 season we are, once again,

New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady celebr
Tom Brady celebrates with Bill Belichick (Photo:  JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)

concerned that the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady combination may not be available to start the season thanks to the continued obsession of the NFL and Commissioner Roger “Integrity of the game” Goodell, to punish Brady for a “crime” they haven’t proven ever occurred. I refuse to get into that again other than to say “so what.”

Belichick will be there to start things and Brady will, at some point early in the season, return. With a growing, young defense the team should be just fine and maybe Tom will be better off starting the season a little later (I know that’s heresy), so by the play-offs he won’t be so banged up.

Facts:

  • The offensive line will be better. Hell, it couldn’t be any worse. With the return of Dante Scarnecchia you know they’ll be better prepared. Rookies Tre’ Jackson and Shaq Mason will be in their second year and know their roll and the speed of the NFL better. Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder should be healthy. The addition of former 1st round pick Jonathan Cooper adds depth they lacked in 2015 when injuries destroyed any chance for consistency.
  • The two TE offense is back! Martellus Bennett is not Scott Chandler in any way, so please stop the comparisons. Provided he doesn’t tick off Belichick with his mouth, Bennett and Rob Gronkowski will ease the pressure on Brady (or Jimmy Garoppolo) and the red-zone offense with those two, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola (maybe), Nate Washington and Chris Hogan will be almost unstoppable.
  • Donta’ Hightower and Jamie Collins (both 26) are just coming into their prime years and are the key cogs in a defense that should be strong despite the loss of Chandler Jones.

2016 Schedule

HOME: BUF, MIA., NYJ, BAL, CIN, LA, SEA, HOU
AWAY: BUF, MIA., NYJ, CLE, PIT, ARI, SF, DEN

Although game dates have not yet been released, there is no reason to believe the Pats won’t have another run at the ring in 2016.. Along with in-conference games against teams that did not make the play-offs last year (J-E-T-S, Dolphins & Bills) they  play the clueless Browns, befuddled 49ers, sliding Ravens and homeless (???) Rams. That leaves Seattle, Houston, Pittsburgh, Arizona and Super Bowl Champion, but QB challenged, Denver as threats to a chance for ring #5 for Tom Brady, the oldest active non-kicker in the NFL.

So, no matter what, the best Head Coach/QB combo in the NFL and the New England Patriots are once again positioning the team for a run at the Lombardi Trophy and fans are having fun analyzing every move they make.

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New England Patriots: Finally A Game That Means Something

The first two pre-season games mean little to nothing.  They are an opportunity to shake the tree and see what falls out that may be a surprise among the newcomers.  The experienced vets play little and undrafted free agents and draft picks get their opportunity to catch the eye of the coaching staff…and most of all Head Coach Bill Belichick.

Now game three…that’s a different story!

New England vs Carolina: Finally A Game That Means Something

Pre-Season Game 3

Friday night’s Patriots’ game at Bank Of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC is important for many reasons. It will give fans their first chance to see most of the veterans in action and evaluate how things are expected to evolve when the season starts against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday, September 10 at Gillette Stadium.

What to watch for Friday night:

  • How much playing time Patriots’ QB Jimmy Garoppolo gets with the first team unit against the Carolina Panthers first
    Luke Kuechly grabs Rob Gronkowski in the famous last play non-call loss (Photo: sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com
    Luke Kuechly grabs Rob Gronkowski in the famous last play non-call loss (Photo: sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com

    team. Although most teams don’t “game plan” for preseason match-ups and keep things pretty vanilla this will be a true test against an always strong Panther defense featuring former Boston College Eagle Luke Kuechly. Last season the Middle Line-Backer was voted to the Pro Bowl and selected to the NFL All-Pro First Team for the second consecutive season.

Although Garoppolo took a huge step forward in last weeks comeback win against the Saints, every Patriot fan in the world is hoping Tom Brady is the starting QB when the opening bell rings. That said, the Patriots have to be ready if his suspension is upheld and Belichick is the best in football having his team prepared for every contingency. Sure Tom Terrific will play in this game and may get the majority of snaps…but this will be the only chance Garoppolo has to play with the offensive unit that will start the season and against an opponent who will also be using most of their “A” units on both defense and offense.

  • By 4 p.m Tuesday (9/1) all clubs must cut their rosters to 75 players on the active list.

That means many of the names you see on the current team roster will be gone shortly after this game. Those on-the-bubble players will be showcasing their talents in hopes they catch the eye of another team.  With limited playing time in this game they have to make every minute they are on the field count.

  • This will be a test of the evolving Patriots’ secondary and defense.
Malcom Butler makes the play in pre-season vs New Orleans (Keith Nordstrom Patriots.com photo)
Malcom Butler makes the play in pre-season vs New Orleans (Keith Nordstrom Patriots.com photo)

When starters have played against starters this pre-season (a small sampling at best) the Patriots secondary has been (I’m being kind here) challenged and, with the exception of Malcom Butler, have not met that challenge very well. Both the Packers (Game #1) & Saints (Game #2) seemed to march up and down the field with ease. On the positive side, as has been the case throughout most of the Belichick years, the team seemed to suck-it-up once the opponent got inside the Pats 20 yard line. The healthy return of Dont’a Hightower and Jerod Mayo will be critical to this years defensive unit along with the addition of Jabaal Sheard and continued development of Jamie Collins. 

  • Gronkowski, Chandler and Wayne could see playing time

For the first time we could have a good look at Scott Chandler as he teams up with Rob GronkowskiAdd in the possible sighting of newcomer Reggie Wayne and it could make for an interesting mix despite the continued absence due to injury of Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell. The playing time for Chris Harper will also be an indication of his likelihood to stick with New England while so many WRs are still hurting.

  • The annual shuffle on the offensive line continues

The return of Ryan Wendell should help quiet down the jitters of rookies Tre’ Jackson and Shaq Mason, who have both shown promise but also weaknesses that need to be worked on.  With Nate Solder and Sebastion Volmer back and the continued development of second year center Bryan Stork this unit should start to jell shortly.

  • The Shane Vereen question

As training camp started most (myself included) experts (did I just refer to myself as an expert? Surely not!) felt the Patriots would be hard pressed to replace the 3rd down efficiency of Shane Vereen.  Although his replacement has not yet been determined, a few leading candidates have stepped up and made themselves known. Last years 4th round pick, James White, has taken a gigantic leap in his second camp and is the favorite to step into the role. Keep a close eye on 24-year-old Dion Lewis who has bounced around since being a 5th round pick by Pittsburgh in the 2011 draft. He was out of football last year (leg injury) but has displayed some explosiveness, especially last week against the Saints.

Other developments will occur during the game, so enjoy this one all the way to the end.  Next week  the “locks” will sit while the bubble players will get most of the playing time before final cuts are made. The 1st and 4th games are usually the sloppiest and hardest to watch, so it’s nice to finally have a game that means something!

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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.
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