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Patriots Add DL Kelcy Quarles

Kelcy Quarles was picked up by the Patriots via the waiver from the Giants. (USA Today photo)

Kelcy Quarles was picked up by the Patriots via the waiver from the Giants. (USA Today photo)

Kelcy Quarles DL that was cut by the New York Giants was claimed by the Patriots on Sunday according to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Quarles was a stand-out for South Carolina, logging 9.5 sacks in 2013 for the Gamecocks. We really liked him during the draft process and had him tagged for New England, thinking he’d be a great fit being able to spell Vince Wilfork inside.

Here are our draft notes on Quarles:

Quarles is a big interior DL at 6’4, 300 that has the versatility to line up inside at DT or slide outside as a 5-technique. While much of the focus in SC was on his heralded teammate Jadevon Clowney, Quarles was very productive for the Gamecocks putting up 13.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks.

Quarles uses a combination of quickness to shoot gaps and strength to bull-rush past blockers. Keeps his pad level low for a big man and can take on blockers at the point of attack. Bill Belichick loves his players to be versatile and Quarles would be a nice addition to the Patriots DL, given that Tommy Kelly is returning from injury as well as Vince Wilfork who may be released prior to the season beginning.

Quarles also has Patriots DNA in his background as his uncle is former Patriots TE Ben Coates.

After suffering an ankle injury in camp for the Giants his progress was slowed and was one of Tom Couglin’s last cuts in camp. He has a big supporter in former Giant great Carl Banks who tweeted Quarles twice on Sunday after learning of his pickup by New England:

quarles

quarles 2

It will be interesting to see how the Patriots plan on utilizing Quarles, now that Kelly is gone and with both Siliga and Chris Jones dinged up for the present. But if healthy he presents a big, penetrating presence on the interior who is versatile enough to line up outside in a 3-4 alignment. With Carl Banks offering encouragement, it would seem that he made a nice impression while in New York.

Here is a highlight video compilation put together by the Gamecocks staff:

 

Giants Edge Patriots 16-13 In Pre-season Finale, Quick Observations

Jimmy Garappolo went the distance at QB for the Patriots and played well for the most part. (USA Today photo)

Jimmy Garappolo went the distance at QB for the Patriots and played well for the most part. (USA Today photo)

That the New England Patriots dropped a 16-13 pre-season finale to the New York Giants was irrelevant.  The Patriots rested most of their starters for the entire game and let the backups fighting for jobs to give the coaches a final look at their body of work.

Both the Pats and Giants got plenty of good and bad play from their teams to make the decision to who stays and who goes for the final 53 man roster a very interesting one.

Here are some quick observations from Friday’s game:

Garappolo Shows Promise: Jimmy Garappolo went wire to wire as the Patriots quarterback and overall one has to come away with a positive vibe with his performance. There were certainly some plays left on the field but overall his play was positive. His quick release and ability to slide in the pocket were two things that stand out quickly.

The rookie QB shows nice poise and great touch on the deep ball as evidenced by his beauty of a 33 yard touchdown pass to Aaron Dobson in the first half. But he threw too high on another that Dobson made a great play on in the back of the end zone but the throw forced him to come down out of bounds. He also was consistently throwing behind his receivers on those short crossing routes.

Garappolo finished 22-42 for 284 yards with one TD and one INT. Overall,it was a good stepping stone for Garappolo who probably won’t see the field again until 2015.

The Wright Stuff: New Patriots tight end Tim Wright showed himself to be a quick study. We expected to see him play in a handful of snaps but he ended up playing around 40 snaps. He is a smooth route runner and showed some nice speed in working the seam and underneath routes.

Wright caught 4 passes for 43 yards as the “move” tight end moving both inside and outside the formation, similar to the role of what Aaron Hernandez used to do. He didn’t look like a guy who just 48 hours prior was a member of the Tampa Bay Bucs.

It is easy to see what the Patriots like about him and with his size and wing-span, he should provide another nice target for Tom Brady, especially in the red zone. With a healthy Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Dobson, Brandon LaFell and now Wright, Brady’s options in the red area just got a lot larger in the physical sense.

Dobson Returns and Delivers: Aaron Dobson got in his first action of 2014 and worked off the rust. Showing no sign of favoring his surgically repaired foot, he looks ready to go and should be the big outside the numbers target that the team wants him to be.

Dobson made a great play down the left sideline for a 33 yard touchdown by Garappolo and nearly had another but the throw forced him out the back of the end zone. Dobson had a nice showing for a guy who missed nearly all of the spring and summer workouts.

Tom Brady was certainly watching and once all the weapons are on the field at the same time, it will be interesting to see how Josh McDaniels decides to utilize them.

No Answers on the OL: With Logan Mankins wearing a pirate hat in Florida, the question was, “who takes his spot?” at left guard. At first glance it appears that Josh Kline has the position sewn up as he went wire to wire on the left side.

But it was hardly a blemish free performance as he was pushed back on a few occasions while pass blocking allowing one sack and few hurries and was part of a group that didn’t get the job done in the running game.

The rookie class along the OL with draft picks RG Jon Halapio, Center Brian Stork and RT Cameron Fleming got some extensive work in but the results were mixed although Stork played well for most of the game in his first pre-season action.

It appears that the starters will be LT Nate Solder, LG Kline, C Ryan Wendell, RG Dan Connolly, RT Sebastian Vollmer once the season starts in Miami but it is far from written in stone at this point.

Injuries Could Hurt: The Patriots came out of New Jersey with two injuries of note. LB James Morris got his knee rolled over by Steve Beauharnais  in a goal line situation in the first half and  was helped off the field in a lot of pain.

And DE/OLB Michael Buchanan suffered a foot or ankle injury in the second half and didn’t return. The severity of each’s injury may play a factor in Saturday’s roster cut-down. Buchanan was playing very well and showing a nice push off the edge.

Other observations…
Zach Moore gets more intriguing by the day, the big raw prospect from Div II Concordia St. Paul played all over the DL on Thursday night and looks impressive with his bull rush moves. He’s a keeper.

Josh Boyce had another forgettable night and may find his roster spot in danger. He and Garappolo had communication issues on two key plays one which resulted in an interception and the other, a fourth down and one incomplete pass. Overall, this was not a good summer for Boyce who started the spring with such good promise.

Who is the kick returner for the Patriots? At this point the job still seems wide open, which isn’t a good sign at the end of pre-season.

James White had a decent night overall and seems a lock to make the team but I just haven’t seen enough in the running game as he always seems to go down on first contact. He remains a nice option in the passing game.

Add in Fonzie to SS Mix: With Patrick Chung getting the night off, Alfonzo Dennard got the start at safety against the Giants. Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner and Duron Harmon all got significant reps as Devin McCourty also got the night off. Ebner played with a nice physical presence as did Wilson. Harmon struggled a little bit….another story line to monitor going forward.

For those keeping score at home, Eli Manning the Giants first team offense played two series and Manning finished the night 1-4 for 8 yards against mainly the Pats second teamers.

Patriots 53 Man Roster Projection 4.0, Only 2 QBs Remain


Bill Belichick has a lot of moves to make for a pretty deep Patriots roster in 2014. (USA TODAY Images)

The New England Patriots made some surprise moves this weekend cutting veterans Tommy Kelly, Will Smith, and James Anderson. Kelly seemed to be rehabbing well from his ACL surgery and took most of the first team reps on the defensive line. He played well during the past two pre-season games and seemed destined to start next to Vince Wilfork. But at 33, the team seems intent with going with younger players, still it seems strange to cut ties to Kelly with both Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga sidelined with injuries.

Anderson seemed to adapt well in the coverage linebacker role the team envisioned for him but perhaps they saw something in film that also projects them to go younger. Smith didn’t seem comfortable in the mainly 3-4 role that plugged him in so that in itself wasn’t a big surprise.

So,  here is a look at the: “53 Man Roster Projection 4.0 Training Camp” We’ll break down the positions and take a look at how the players fit and performed in training camp and try to name a Patriots roster for 2014.

Here’s a look at our first projection, done after the 2014 NFL Draft.

Projection #2 after mini-camp can be found here:

And Projection #3 mid-way thru training camp is here:

The team has to make some cuts to get down to the 75 man limit by 4 p.m. on Tuesday. So first up, the Offense…

Quick Observations From The Patriots 30-7 Win Over Carolina


Tom Brady was laser sharp in what was probably his last work in the pre-season. (USA TODAY Images)

There are no dress rehearsals, we are professionals
This is the big time…
Willie Nelson

Without wanting to put too much into a pre-season game with little game planning and preparation, the New England Patriots look like they are ready for the season to start. The Patriots dominated a tough Carolina Panthers team from start to finish and won their third pre-season game 30-7 on Friday night in Foxboro.

Jones/Defense Strong: The Patriots defense really stepped up, especially the run defense as they bottled up QB Cam Newton and didn’t allow him the room to run and the defensive line clogged up the middle not allowing the Panthers to get untracked.

Chandler Jones was on fire notching two sacks on Newton and generally was all over the field. Fellow DE/OLB Rob Ninkovich also sacked Newton and the secondary looked strong. The Panthers didn’t score until there was little more than a minute left in the game as the Pats defense definitely made a statement.

To be fair, Cam Newton still didn’t look anywhere close to 100 percent physically and the Panthers played on Sunday night just 5 nights ago. But the Patriots defense really answered the bell and if they can continue to play like this, the sky is the limit. By the fourth quarter the Panthers looked like a team that had played just a few nights before, as they were laboring out there.

The third down defense was impressive allowing only 5 of 13 attempts by the Panthers as they swarmed Newton time and again disrupting his timing.

Brady In Mid-season Form: On the offensive side of the ball, Tom Brady was razor sharp completing 17-21 for 204 yards and two TDs. He was intent on getting Brandon LaFell involved early and did as they two hooked up on a couple of plays. But more importantly, without a viable tight end option in the passing game the Patriots went to their “20” personnel package (2 RBs, 3 WRs) and used both James White and Shane Vereen very effectively in the passing game.

Brady found Vereen coming out of the backfield with Panthers LB A.J. Klein late on the play and Vereen turned it into a 40 yard touchdown. Vereen had 5 catches for 57 yards and two touchdowns. Brady didn’t throw an incompletion to Vereen, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola going 13-13.

Special teams play was much improved and provided an exclamation point when at the end of the first half Stephen Gostowski nailed a 60 yard field goal with just three seconds left. Gostowski had been hitting 60+ yard field goals when we watched him back in the June mini-camps and this one gave the team a huge lift going into halftime.

Jimmy Garappolo again looked poised in the pocket and put together a nice touchdown drive capped off with 11 yard touchdown pass to Taylor McCuller. The drive went 12 plays for 82 yards and Garappolo kept his eyes down the field and moved around the pocket well. He’s still got a long way to go, but he continues to improve.

Back-up LBs Get Long Looks: Steve Beauharnais wasn’t having a great night but he made a fantastic read on a Derek Anderson pass and picked off a pass around the Patriots four yard line and returned it 61 yards to the Panthers 35. It set up a 21 yard Gostowski field goal to make the score 23-0.

Ja’Gared Davis, James Morris and Darius Fleming all got extended reps and each had plays to help with their roster status as backup linebackers. The linebackers still struggled on some of the deep seam routes and especially in the short crossing routes run by Carolina’s tight ends and bigger WRs.

Josh Boyce again disappointed, he didn’t play on offense until late in the third quarter and didn’t get on the stat sheet. Will Smith likewise looks like he’s laboring out there and the veteran may find himself on the outside looking in on Tuesday.

On the plus side, Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly look ready and completely healed now and the middle of the Pats defense now looks again to be stout. Edelman, Amendola and Brady seem to on the same page. Kenbrell Thompkins and LaFell are getting in sync with Brady and this is with Aaron Dobson as well as Rob Gronkowski yet to take the field. So the offense is pretty good shape. The protection was better as the team again mixed and matched along the offensive line.

The Patriots must cut at least 12 players by 4 p.m. on Tuesday, August 26 to get to the league mandated 75 player limit.

Stevan Ridley Remains The Patriots Best Running Option, Despite Fumbling Issues


Stevan Ridley has the opportunity to carve out a big share of the running game if he can improve his ball security. (USA TODAY Images)

Stevan Ridley has heard it all before and it was a subject he didn’t want to talk about, but he knows it is an issue and he was there to face the music. Ridley’s fumble in last Friday’s pre-season game against the Eagles was the question on everyone’s mind and although the Patriots ultimately recovered the ball, questions remain about his ball security.

And Ridley knows that he has to clean up his fumbling, but he remains the best option for the Patriots running game entering the 2014 season. It is frustrating for the 4th year running back from LSU but he also knows if it continues, he’ll end up on the bench again. His fumble against Philadelphia also marked the final play of his night. Like in 2013 when he was benched for a game in Houston because of not only his fumbling but the timing of them which hurt the team.

Although Ridley has heard it before, he wasn’t taking the media to task over the endless questions that have to be asked, “That’s part of your job. I know it is coming, you all have to write articles and do what you all do,” he said with a half smile.  “It’s part of it. You take the good with the bad, every time,” Ridley said.

Ridley relived the play and his feelings toward it in candid fashion, “the ball is out again, it is Week 2, it kind of sucks,” Ridley said. “But it is football, man, and I can’t get down about it. I can’t harp about it. That’s why you have preseason. I’m just going to keep on working and keep on pushing,” he added.

And the sad part is while everyone talks about the fumble, Ridley has been having an excellent pre-season. While much has been written about James White and his increasing amount of snaps during training camp, it is Ridley who remains the best option for the Patriots when it comes to being a workhorse type back.

Throughout camp and in limited pre-season action, Ridley has been consistent. He’s made good decisions, usually with one cut; he’s been explosive at hitting the holes, keeping his pad level low and is able to move through contact.

If there’s been one downside to White thus far, he doesn’t generate much yardage after contact. White and Vereen have similar skill sets; both are able to run the ball with effectiveness either outside or between the tackles but their main value will be in the passing game. Neither has the size or the power to consistently move the pile after the first hit.

Brandon Bolden has done so effectively but has never found the consistency to stay on the field. Rookie Jonas Gray has had some flashes in camp and did turn in a nice performance against the Eagles but he’s a long shot to make the roster at this point.

While Bill Belichick likes the running back by committee approach and will no doubt continue that practice this season, the team’s commitment to remaining balanced in the running and passing games dictates that they stay the course in running the ball and Ridley is hoping to regain the form that saw him gain 1263 yards in 2012.

Since 2010 the Patriots have led the league with rushing touchdowns inside an opponent’s 5 yard line with 56. With the departed LaGarrette Blount now a Pittsburgh Steeler, Ridley remains the team’s best option down close. But he has to hold on to the ball. And know that the questions will remain until he proves it.

Ridley faced the music with the media on Monday, and vows to keep working hard. (SBalestrieri photo)

Ridley faced the music with the media on Monday, and vows to keep working hard. (SBalestrieri photo)

“I need to avoid those plays in general,” Ridley said. “There’s nothing really else to be said about it. … I hated it. It was a sick feeling for a second. We looked at the play, it is what it is, but either way one out is too many. But I’m not going to harp on that. I’m going to learn from it.”

Ridley mentioned that his and the team’s focus was now getting back to work and that means preparing for the tough Carolina Panthers, this Friday night in Foxboro. Normally the third pre-season game is considered the dress rehearsal for the regular season. However Bill Belichick kind of pooh-poohed the idea in his press conference Monday stating that the Panthers just played on Sunday night and that the team wouldn’t put much game planning into the contest.

But with the end of training camp practices on Monday, the team will now follow a more regular season schedule for here on. For Ridley that means preparing for the opportunity to run against a team that defeated the Patriots in November. Ridley carried 13 times for 48 yards and one touchdown but also had a lost fumble in that game.

“I will try not to have the issue and this be the topic the whole year this year because I think I can do a few other things that you all can write about, and hopefully have some good things to say. Either way, I have to own up to it and that’s what it was.”

The team will continue to prepare for the Friday matchup with the Carolina Panthers so be sure to check out PatsFans.com for the latest updates. We also are updating the stats database and now have the PatsPicker where you can play GM and select your own 53 man roster for the Patriots.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at stevebpatsfans@gmail.com

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots Monday Practice Report, Gronkowski Takes Contact, Getting Close

Gronk smiles after hearing the crowd roar as he catches a toss from Brady. (SBalestrieri photo)

Rob Gronkowski took part in team drills and contact for the first time in 2014. (SBalestrieri photo)

The Patriots conducted their 16th and final training camp practice in near perfect weather conditions with temps in the high 70s with sunny skies. The full-pads practice was much less intense than other sessions we’ve seen during camp but it looks like things are starting to take on a more regular season feel to it.

Here are a few of the observations I witnessed on Monday afternoon:

Gronk Returns to Contact: The big buzz of the afternoon was that tight end Rob Gronkowski took part in his first team drills of training camp. While he’s been on the field for most of training camp, most of his work has been on the side with Tom Brady and Darrelle Revis. But on Monday, Gronk took part in 7-7s and 11-11s for the first time…with contact.

Gronkowski wasn’t alone; not only he but Aaron Dobson and Dominique Easley took part in team drills for the first time. With three weeks to go before the Patriots take on Miami in the season opener, there is a cause for optimism now that two of their biggest weapons on offense as well as their #1 draft pick are now active participants.

Brady wasted very little time finding Gronkowski and then Dobson in 7-7 drills, much to the delight of the fans witnessing the final public practice of 2014. Gronkowski looks ready and sounds ready for more,”Definitely a step forward with participating more and more. It’s doing well so far, no setbacks or anything”, he said. “I’m having a blast competing back out there.”

He showed signs of a little bit of rust when after a short completion in the flat, he was stripped of the ball by Malcolm Butler but Gronk stated firmly, “on my behalf, I have to do a better job of taking care of the ball.”

Gronkowski stated that his fitness level is good but that there are no substitutes for running plays and going right back to the huddle and run them again. The next step for him promises to be more active drills with run blocking and tackling involved. Sounds like the chances of him playing in Week 1 just increased.

MIA List Shrinks: The news was also good on returning players, with Brian Stork, Michael Hoomanawanui, and Jeremy Gallon as well as Jerod Mayo all returning to practice. Stork and Hooman quickly retreated to the elliptical machines at the far end of the field. Gallon worked with a member of the training staff on the lower fields. Tommy Kelly arrived about 45-50 minutes late for practice with pads but no jersey on….

Kanorris Davis, James Anderson and Ja’Gared Davis also returned. Missing included Sebastian Vollmer, D.J. Williams, Cameron Gordon, Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga.

Easley Flashes Burst: At the time of his drafting much was made of his explosion off the ball and his ability to be a disruptor in the backfield. Easley isn’t a typical Patriots two-gap lineman. At 6’2, 290, he’s slightly undersized but he was watched closely in the 1-1, 2-2 lineman drills and he didn’t disappoint.

On his first go-round, he blew right past Ryan Wendell in a split second, beating him cleanly. In the 2-2s he and Marcus Forston got inside for what would have been another sack, as he used a spin move to beat Dan Connolly.

While strictly a small sample and with Easley still having a long way to go, it’s obvious why the team was so high on him. After practice I asked a long-time Patriots insider his thoughts on what we saw, while waiting for the players to come over for interviews. “Wow….just wow”, he said. I tend to agree with that sentiment.

Butler Continues to Shine: Malcolm Butler has been the surprise story of training camp. So on the last day for the public to witness camp, what better way to wrap things up than to have a couple of stand-out plays.

We already mentioned that he stripped Gronkowski during one drill; he also picked off a Brady deep pass when the QB tried to find Brian Tyms during another. Butler is making a strong case for not only making the 53 man roster but garnering plenty of playing time during Brandon Browner’s 4 game suspension at the start of the season.

James Anderson also made a nice play, picking off a Brady pass that was earmarked for Danny Amendola down the left hashmark. Anderson read the play perfectly and broke on the ball quickly for the interception.

The Patriots, not surprisingly spent a lot of time on Special Teams, especially punt protection on Monday. Coach Scott O’Brien could be heard screaming at one player thought to be James White for missing a blocking assignment.

Will Smith blew thru Marcus Cannon on one play which would have resulted in a sack of Ryan Mallett. Smith saw a lot more reps with Kelly missing. Also on the pass rush, Jamie Collins looked very strong on a couple of different occasions, applying pressure and disrupting timing. Collins has looked stronger this season without losing any of his athleticism.

Rookie Zach Moore spent some time on the field goal team, which is a bit different. His blue jersey stuck right out in the sea of white on the offensive side of the ball.

After practice, the entire team took to the sidelines to sign autographs for the fans and pose for pics. Even Bill Belichick got into the act. Many of the players with families on hand played with their kids on the field at the end of the day.

Also after practice new defensive tackles Ben Bass and Jerel Worthy spent some time with the media. During practice both worked on the side with some of the training staff on some individual drills.

The team will continue to prepare for the Friday matchup with the Carolina Panthers so  be sure to check out PatsFans.com for the latest updates. We also are updating the stats database and now have the PatsPicker where you can play GM and select your own 53 man roster for the Patriots.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at stevebpatsfans@gmail.com

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Notes From Friday Night’s Win Over Philadelphia


Brian Tyms does a little Randy Moss imitation after his touchdown reception on Friday. (USA TODAY Images)

The New England Patriots rebounded at home with a much stronger team effort in their second pre-season game, a penalty flag-filled 42-35 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

The game officials had thrown a lot of flags during the joint practices during the joint practices held at Foxboro during the week, they threw even more during the game. Where both teams like to push the tempo of the game, the deluge of calls really put a damper on both team’s tempo throughout the game.

Tom Brady and Darrelle Revis got their first game action of the year in and both looked sharp and ready to go for the 2014 season. The Patriots rolled up 35 first downs with a balanced attack, netting 14 passing and 15 rushing first downs while going six of seven in the red zone.

Here are some other observations from Friday night’s game:

Offensive Line Rebounds: Overall Friday’s performance was a big step in the right direction for the Patriots OL who responded after a pretty dismal performance in Washington the week before. The team used a lot of different combinations during the night, which one would expect during a pre-season game, but the one thing that stands out is the 250 yards rushing after only getting 63 the week before.

It shows that the unit was dominating the point of attack and they did throughout the night and all of the running backs got to show their stuff. It wasn’t perfect but Dave DeGuglielmo’s boys will have a lot more positives to watch in this week’s film session.

All 3 Quarterbacks Play Well: Friday night’s game had Tom Brady play most of the first quarter and then Jimmy Garappolo got to showcase his game against higher tier opposition when he came in with 5:09 remaining in the first quarter. Ryan Mallett who was banged up this week, played the entire second half. All played very well.

Brady was 8-10 for 81 yards with one TD and one INT although his pick-six to Cary Williams was more of Steve Maneri running the wrong route than a mistake by Brady. But seeing that Maneri has been on the team for all of four days, perhaps he gets a pass on that one.

Brady threw a nice touchdown to Kenbrell Thompkins on a back shoulder throw at the left sideline around the 2 yard line. Thompkins made a good catch on the ball and was able to get it in the end much to the delight of Brady. You can see that Brady is trying to get Thompkins involved a lot this summer.

Garappolo had another impressive outing going 6-12 for 72 yards and two TDs. He threw a bullet to Brandon LaFell in the back of the end zone for one of his two scoring throws and looked pretty comfortable out there playing with the ones.

Mallet went 7-11 for 92 yards with one TD pass and one TD run. He threw the ball much better this week, his decision making much quicker and showed some great touch on the ball with his 17 yard scoring pass to Brian Tyms in the corner of the end zone.

Brian Tyms and Malcom Butler Are Pushing Hard For Roster Spots: Both players at the time they were brought in were thought of as not much more than camp bodies, but they are proving to be much more. After shining in Washington in their debuts, they both turned in good second week performances.

Tyms has been making plays in practice and in games, and his catch in the end zone off of a Mallett pass was a beauty, out-leaping Curtis Marsh in the corner for the score. Tyms even did a little Randy Moss imitation as his touchdown celebration to the delight of fans. At this point of pre-season, Tyms is pushing Josh Boyce hard for one of the final roster spots at wide receiver.

Butler after shining in D.C. against the Redskins got the surprise start next to Revis at corner against the Eagles this week. Before people read too much into that, remember that the Patriots are going to be without CB Brandon Browner for the first four weeks of the season and Bill Belichick wants to see what the other players can do, (he’s said as much in pressers), however Butler looked good and was again productive.

He forced a fumble on the Eagles first play from scrimmage, ripping the ball out of Ifeanyi Momah’s hands after the huge 6’7 WR caught a quick slant and later added a fumble recovery in the second half. Belichick lauded his play in his post-game presser adding, “He competes hard,” he said. “I’d say he’s played a lot of snaps in these first two games and gotten a lot of snaps in practice, he competes hard every day.”

Safety is Still Wide Open: It is looking increasingly like the Patriots won’t have a designated safety opposite Devin McCourty but one who’ll play depending upon the opponent being faced. Against the Eagles, the Patriots opened with slot corner Kyle Arrington playing in the strong safety spot.

Logan Ryan, Pat Chung, Nate Ebner all got a lot of looks as well. It was interesting that Duron Harmon didn’t register a lot of snaps but did a nice job of intercepting a Mark Sanchez pass. Harmon read the play well and broke on the ball just as Sanchez released it, returning it 33 yards.

Tight End Position Is A Mess Right Now: Friday consisted of Maneri and a bunch of guards coming in to block. Does anyone have Tony Gonzalez’s number on speed dial?

Defense Still Mixing: The Patriots mixed their fronts a lot on Friday, continuing to play a lot of 3-4 with Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich lining up as OLBs and the three down linemen initially consisting of  Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly and Joe Vellano. Jones is still a little ill-at-ease standing up, with Jerod Mayo out, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins got the call as the inside LBs.  Collins seems to be a better fit outside, but as things evolve, this will be something to watch.

The team will be looking at film and then back to the practice fields to prepare for the Carolina Panthers, don’t be surprised if Belichick handles this coming week much like a regular season as they try to get into the routine. We’ll be there at practice on Monday and be sure to check out PatsFans.com for the latest updates. We also are updating the stats database and now have the PatsPicker where you can play GM and select your own 53 man roster for the Patriots.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at stevebpatsfans@gmail.com

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots – Eagles Pre-Season Game 2, What To Watch For


Tom Brady will get his first playing time of 2014 on Friday against the Eagles. (USA TODAY Images)

The joint practices are over and now the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles get down to business as they play their second pre-season game at Gillette Stadium on Friday night. Game time is slated for 7:30 p.m. and will be carried both locally and on the NFL Network.

With the injuries mounting again during this year’s training camp, the Patriots will be missing some of their regular starters but we should still see the opening day starters for at least a while for the first time in 2014, including Tom Brady, Julian Edelman and Darrelle Revis.

Here are five things to watch for, from a Patriots perspective in Friday night’s game:

Patriots Monday, Aug.11 Training Camp Observations

Tyms with a fantastic effort on the sideline. (SBalestrieri photo)

Brian Tyms with a fantastic effort on the sideline, hauling in a Jimmy Garappolo pass. (SBalestrieri photo)

The New England Patriots conducted their 13th practice of training camp in light shoulder pads (shells) and shorts on Monday, August 11, 2014 under sunny skies and temps hovering in the low 80s.

For the most part it was a very low-intensity workout, with little of the fireworks we’ve seen in other practice sessions. With the Eagles coming into Foxboro tomorrow for joint practices prior to their pre-season game, it was probably on the coach’s radar to do so.

MIAs: Ryan Mallett, Brandon Browner, Brian Stork, D.J. Williams, Michael Hoomanawanui, Jeremy Gallon, Kanoris Davis, Cameron Gordon and Ja’Gared Davis were amongst those who didn’t practice.

Big Returns:
The big news of the day had to be the return of both Aaron Dobson (PUP) and Dominique Easley (NFI) to the squad for the first time in 2014. This was huge news for the team as Dobson is expected to make a big jump in 2014 as the outside or “X” wide receiver.

Easley was the Patriots first draft pick in 2014 NFL Draft and is expected to be a penetrating disruptor along the defensive line. Easley did take part in the walk-thru at the beginning of practice and then both took part in only in positional drills and worked with the training staff on the side for most of the session.

Rob Gronkowski wore a red, non-contact jersey today and took part in some 7-on-7 work for the first time. Today was another big step for the Pat’s big tight end who continues to work on the side with Tom Brady and Darrelle Revis at other times. But for Gronk, he looks like he will indeed be ready to go for the opener in Miami.

I watched the new tight ends today, (Ben Hartsock, Steve Maneri and Terrence Miller) and they’re still all trying to assimilate in the Patriots offense as quickly as possible. But none did anything to stand out today.

Malcolm Butler continues to impress: Butler, who made such an impression in Washington, had perhaps the play of the day. With Brandon Browner missing, Butler got some first team reps opposite Revis. Brady threw a rocket to the left sideline intended for Kenbrell Thompkins. Butler got a great break on the ball, knocked it up into the air and seemed to haul in the ball for an interception as he went to the ground.

He also made a nice play in positional drills, hauling in a deep pass in the back of the end zone. With the log-jam at cornerback, Butler remains on the outside looking in, but is going to make the decision a tough one if he continues to play like this.

Josh Boyce had a rough afternoon, failing to hold onto a few passes that were easily catchable. One bounced up high and was eventually picked off by Nate Ebner. Another pass may have hit his hands but was picked on a nice play by Jemea Thomas.

With Ryan Mallett out, Jimmy Garappolo got a lot of snaps today and had a decent day, most of his throws were accurate and he showcased his wheels on another play of the day when rolled out left and threw a bb to Brian Tyms who made a tiptoe catch along the sideline. Those two continue to work well together and bring to mind the team work of Tebow and Sims in 2013.

James White continues to impress in the passing game and Brandon LaFell is starting to gel with Brady. With Dobson returning, LaFell is looking to find a role and he’s hauling in many more passes coming his way now in week 3.

Julian Edelman made a beauty of a catch on a deep Brady bomb right down the middle of the field. But while the crowd loved it, there was a blatant push off by Edelman with one hand, while hauling in the ball with the other.

Bob Kraft was on hand and greeted some people in the crowd which was a bit of a surprise to see the Pats owner walking up the hill during practice.

Interesting to watch edge players Chandler Jones and Michael Buchanan take some reps with the linebackers in positional drills. And for what it is worth this early, the Patriots continue to tinker with their front, sometimes 4-3, sometimes a 3-4 or a 4-3 under but it has been intriguing to watch.

The Eagles joint practice begins at 2 p.m. on both Tuesday and Wednesday, we’ll be there to cover both so stay tuned to PatsFans.

Patriots Training Camp Photo Gallery, Aug. 11, 2014

Julian Edelman hauls in a pass. (SBalestrieri photo)

Julian Edelman hauls in a pass. (SBalestrieri photo)

Here are some of our best shots of Patriots Training Camp, August 11, 2014 practice:

Danny Amendola greets fans prior to practice. (SBalestrieri photo)

Danny Amendola greets fans prior to practice. (SBalestrieri photo)

Dominique Easley took the practice field for the first time in 2014. (SBalestrieri photo)

Dominique Easley took the practice field for the first time in 2014. (SBalestrieri photo)

Cameron Fleming, drew laughs from the crowd, by jogging out in Tom Brady's jersey. (SBalestrieri photo)

Cameron Fleming, drew laughs from the crowd, by jogging out in Tom Brady’s jersey. (SBalestrieri photo)

New tight end Ben Hartsock (SBalestrieri photo)

New tight end Ben Hartsock (SBalestrieri photo)

Aaron Dobson practices for the first time in 2014. (SBalestrieri photo)

Aaron Dobson practices for the first time in 2014. (SBalestrieri photo)

James Develin comes up with TD in 2 minute drills. (SBalestrieri photo)

James Develin comes up with TD in 2 minute drills. (SBalestrieri photo)

Josh Boyce (SBalestrieri photo)

Josh Boyce (SBalestrieri photo)

Easley took part in the walk thru only. (SBalestrieri photo)

Easley took part in the walk thru only. (SBalestrieri photo)

Gronk took part in 7-7s for the first time in camp. (SBalestrieri photo)

Gronk took part in 7-7s for the first time in camp. (SBalestrieri photo)

Garappolo with a screen pass. (SBalestrieri photo)

Garappolo with a screen pass. (SBalestrieri photo)

Garappolo to Boyce. (SBalestrieri photo)

Garappolo to Boyce. (SBalestrieri photo)

 

Robert Kraft on the practice field. (SBalestrieri photo)

Robert Kraft on the practice field. (SBalestrieri photo)

KT gets coached up by Josh McDaniels. (SBalestrieri photo)

KT gets coached up by Josh McDaniels. (SBalestrieri photo)

Brandon LaFell with a stretch on the sidelines. (SBalestrieri photo)

Brandon LaFell with a stretch on the sidelines. (SBalestrieri photo)

New TE Miller in a 1-1 drill. (SBalestrieri photo)

New TE Miller in a 1-1 drill. (SBalestrieri photo)

Offense lines up. (SBalestrieri photo)

Offense lines up. (SBalestrieri photo)

Swanson with a great play to break up a pass. (SBalestrieri photo)

Butler with a great play to break up a pass. (SBalestrieri photo)

Swanson hauls it in. (SBalestrieri photo)

Butler hauls it in. (SBalestrieri photo)

Pass to Boyce is tipped.... (SBalestrieri photo)

Pass to Boyce is tipped…. (SBalestrieri photo)

And then picked off by Nate Ebner. (SBalestrieri photo)

And then picked off by Nate Ebner. (SBalestrieri photo)

Tyms with a fantastic effort on the sideline. (SBalestrieri photo)

Tyms with a fantastic effort on the sideline. (SBalestrieri photo)