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Patriots Training Camp Report: Aaron Dobson Healthy and Contributing

Written by: Steve Balestrieri
Posted August 4, 2015 at 6:24 am

3rd Year WR is making a case for himself

On Sunday morning, the play of the day for the Patriots 4th practice belonged to Aaron Dobson. He streaked down the right sideline during 11-on-11 drills with Malcolm Butler in tight coverage. QB Tom Brady arced a deep ball that it seemed that Butler had the better position on to intercept it.

But Dobson leapt up and pulling the contested ball down and made a fantastic play hauling it in as both players tumbled to the ground. This is the type of play that will not only win a player a roster spot but earn the trust of Brady. This is the Aaron Dobson that was missing last year.

Dobson is locked in a roster battle with Brian Tyms, Brandon Gibson and Josh Boyce for the 4th wide receiver position on the team. The top three, Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola are locked in and were successful especially down the stretch and into the playoffs.

Dobson after a good rookie campaign of 2013 where he caught 37 passes for 519 yards suffered a foot injury that required surgery in the offseason. He missed all of the spring OTAs and mini-camp. He also was absent for nearly all of training camp, finally making an appearance on the final day.

So not only was has conditioning not where it should have been, his skills were rusty and most importantly he missed a golden opportunity to work on his chemistry with Brady. In his stead, newcomer LaFell got a ton of reps and became a trusted member of the offense.

Dobson only played in four games and had 3 catches for 38 yards before blowing out a hamstring in Green Bay ending his sophomore season that truly never began.

“Last season was last year, this is a new year, so I’m just trying to do my best this year,” he told the media after Sunday’s practice.

Here is the video we took of Dobson’s catch on Sunday:

Now the tables have turned somewhat, and LaFell hasn’t been to practice yet, being on PUP and Dobson, feeling the pressure to perform, has been getting a ton of first reps and has had an impressive start.

“I feel that the longer you’re in a system, the more comfortable you’re going to get,” he said. “The more repetitions you get, the more comfortable you get. This is my third year being in the offense, so I’m just getting more comfortable as time goes on.”

Dobson knows that it is just a first, albeit important step and that being a trusted member of the offense with Brady means you’ll see the ball much more, especially at crunch time and in key situations.

“It takes time,” Dobson said. “Just being out here, gaining his trust, just out here making plays. Play after play. I’ve got to make a play for him to trust me.”

Dobson rededicated himself to coming in to this season in the best possible shape and spent the offseason working out in Arizona with Devin McCourty and former teammate Darrelle Revis. Not only getting in tip-top shape, but working against two of the better defensive players out there, has gotten him much more prepared for the competition this summer.

“We did a lot of work out there, so I feel like it benefited me a lot,” Dobson said.

So instead of watching from the sidelines, Dobson is out there working, and competing daily. He knows he has to keep making plays like the one of Sunday and has been doing just that. On Saturday he had a couple of big plays as well, catching a Brady pass in the corner of the end zone. He again out-jumped the athletic rookie corner Darryl Roberts and was able to haul in the contested pass. He added another similar play over Jimmy Jean later in practice.

These are the kind of plays that get the attention of Brady and the coaching staff. Right now Dobson is ahead of Tyms, Gibson and Boyce. But it is still early in camp and there is a long way to go. The best way for him to keep the other players at bay is to keep making plays and contesting everything thrown his way.

One interesting aspect of the camp thus far is that when the team goes into a Special Teams period, Brady works on some goal line work with the Twin Towers, (TEs Rob Gronkowski and Scott Chandler), as well as Julian Edelman. Dobson took part in some of those last week.

His presence gives Brady another big (6’3, 210) target along with the 6’7 Chandler and the 6’6 Gronk in the red zone that will give him plenty of options. Edelman remains the shifty tough to cover wide receiver that will greatly benefit having the big men drawing plenty of attention from opposing defenses.

Dobson also brings in the extra element in that he has the ability to stretch the field both vertically and horizontally that the offense needs. With LaFell, Amendola and Edelman, the Patriots offense with the short to medium passing game is set. Gronkowski and Chandler can provide safety outlets and attack the seams. A healthy and confident Dobson can add an extra element to the offense that just makes a defensive coordinator’s job that much harder.

All it takes is hard work…and what do the coaches think? Back in June during mini-camp Tom E. Curran from Comcast Sports New England asked OC Josh McDaniels what to expect from Dobson this season after that injury plagued 2014.

“I know this,” McDaniels told Curran. “I am excited about him.”

Stay tuned to for the latest camp updates and check out our daily photo gallery on our Facebook page.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at

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

Patriots Training Camp Report: Taking Stock On Off-day Monday

Written by: Steve Balestrieri
Posted August 3, 2015 at 6:35 am

Plenty to dissect after first four days of practice

The Patriots players have Monday off after conducting the first four practices of the 2015 season, with the last two in full pads. The team gets back to work with afternoon practices slated for 1:45 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday and a 7:00 p.m. practice scheduled for Wednesday night inside Gillette Stadium that is for season ticket holders and Foxboro residents only.

Now is a good time to break down the first four days of camp and list some of our top performers in the first week of training camp.

Training camp is a long grind and some guys can have an off-day mixed in there but the coaches are always looking for consistency. With so many slots up for grabs the intensity has been on display, especially in the last two sessions.

Top Performers – Offense:

Julian Edelman – Edelman has picked right up where he left off in the Super Bowl. He’s caught nearly everything thrown in his direction and he and Malcolm Butler have been contesting every drill against one another like it is a playoff atmosphere. That has been one of the highlights of the camp.

Edelman made a beauty of a high leaping catch on Sunday over Nate Ebner before tweaking an ankle later in practice…that will bear watching.

Rob Gronkowski – No issues for the big man entering camp this season. He’s coming in healthy, ready and has, like Edelman picked right up where he left off last year. In one-on-one drills Gronk shows why he’s nearly uncoverable as he can beat defenders using athleticism or his physicality. He has great hands and a huge catch radius.

Gronk and Scott Chandler should provide the Patriots offense two enormous targets that will open up a lot of terrain for the wide receivers. Gronk as always is fun to watch and not many players love to play with his passion.

Tom Brady – Distractions? Suspension looming? You’d never know it to watch Brady out there during practice. He always is intense and uber-competitive…even in practice and the recent Super Bowl victory hasn’t changed that bit. On Sunday he was engaged in a friendly trash-talking back-and-forth with the defense and the defensive coaches in the goal line portion of practice.

But Brady has been in mid-season form with his accuracy and touch, even this early in practice. Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald noted Brady’s numbers through 3 practices in 7 on 7s and 11 on 11s he was 67 of 82 (81.7 percent). Sunday he was pretty much on the same pace.

Aaron Dobson – Dobson entered 2015 in a make-or-break type scenario where he was trying to erase an awful 2014 that was delayed and ultimately undone by injury. He committed himself to coming into camp in the best condition of his career and it has shown up in practice.

Dobson is trying to nail down that 4th WR slot and with Brandon LaFell out on PUP, he’s making the most of his opportunities. He had arguably the play of the day the past two days in camp. On Sunday he leapt high and was able to pull down a deep Brady pass over Malcolm Butler when it appeared Butler had an interception. He’s off to a good start for 2015.

Honorable Mentions – Tre’ Jackson and Shaq Mason, the rookie guards have taken nearly every first team rep and thus far have looked very solid in there.

Top Performers Defense:

Jamie Collins – Collins is the “Super Freak”, an unbelievable blend of size, athleticism and smarts that is fun to watch on a daily basis. He is following up a very impressive sophomore season with a fantastic start to 2015. He’s easily been the Patriots best player on defense thus far.

On Sunday in a goal line situation, Collins recognized Brady was throwing to Scott Chandler on a fade into the right corner of the end zone. Chandler was covered by Jonathan Freeny but had body position. Collins flew over and swatted the ball away, a great reaction which set off a huge celebration by the defense.

Jabaal Sheard – Sheard may be the most underrated signing this spring. After languishing in Cleveland where the team kept changing defensive philosophies each year, he’s seems to be a great fit with the Patriots defense.

Big, strong, physical and athletic, Sheard has been shining in one-on-one drills. During Sunday’s 11-on-11 team work, he would have had an easy sack on Brady as he blew right around the left side. I think he’s primed for a big season.

Malcolm Butler – Butler is intent on proving he’s more than a one play trick pony and he’s following it up with an impressive camp showing. If the season started today, he would be your starting left corner and he will have earned it.

Showing no effects of that dreaded Patriots “sophomore slump” for cornerbacks, Butler has taken a much more vocal, active role in the secondary. He’s played very well and contests everything. His matchups with Edelman are entertaining to watch.

Tavon Wilson – Say what? Yes that Tavon Wilson. Wilson is in a fight for Nate Ebner for that 5th safety slot and Wilson is going to make the coaches decision a very hard one. With Devin McCourty, Pat Chung locks and rookie Jordan Richards and Duron Harmon near locks…it is going to be tough.

But Wilson has been very good through the early going. He’s been tough, consistent and shows up in every drill. Many (this writer included), didn’t give him much of a chance to make the roster this summer. Well Wilson is intent of proving everyone wrong and has outperformed many of his peers. This battle will bear watching as camp rolls along into the second week and the first pre-season games.

Honorable Mention – Antonio Johnson, the 8th year defensive lineman is having a quietly solid camp. He shows up every day and contributes inside. Keep your eyes on him if you make it down for camp and the pre-season games.

Stay tuned to for the latest camp updates and check out our daily photo gallery on our Facebook page.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at

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

Patriots Training Camp Report: Day 4 Edelman, Butler Duel Highlight

Written by: Steve Balestrieri
Posted August 2, 2015 at 4:55 pm

The Top WR/CB having some great battles

The Patriots conducted their fourth practice of training camp on Sunday morning in full pads once again in front of a large vocal crowd.

They haven’t announced their schedule yet for the next few days

MIA List: The following players were spotted on the field as the injured list grows:
Quarterback Matt Flynn (NFI)
STs Gunner Matthew Slater (PUP)
WR Brandon LaFell (PUP)
LB Dane Fletcher (PUP)
LB Chris White (PUP)
OL Ryan Wendell (PUP)
DL Vince Taylor (PUP)
OL Caylin Hauptmann (PUP)
TE A.J. Derby,
DL Chris Jones (PUP)
DL Alan Branch (NFI)
RB Tyler Gaffney – Gaffney was present yesterday but took a bone-jarring hit from Sealver Siliga…this will bear watching. Taylor could be seen riding the bikes at the far end of the field with Hauptmann?

Joe Vellano limped off in the first hour and didn’t return.

Linebackers Donta Hightower and Xzavier Dickson were wearing red non-contact jerseys, although each took part in much of

Butler – Edelman Duel Entertaining: Much like the Edelman – Revis duel last summer, this one between the two standouts is very entertaining and getting a buzz from the crowd. There is a lot of trash talk going on between the two.

Butler broke up one play in the end zone but just moments later Edelman came down with a hotly contested ball. In the collision, Butler hit the turf. Edelman, much to the delight of the crowd, spun the ball in front of the prostrate Butler.

Brady loved it, racing over for a chest bump with Edelman and then even giving a high five to Butler. Brady was also giving the defense the business after LaGarrette Blount  scored on a goal line run. For what it’s worth, the offense scored on three of four goal line plays, with Jamie Collins breaking up a pass to Scott Chandler on the only stop which was on first down.

Tarel Brown Turns it On: Brown had his most active day and was providing good tight coverage consistently through the session. He had a nice pass breakup during the positional drills against Boyce, and in team drills against both Dobson and Tyms.

He was playing with confidence and looked pretty solid out there, with lingering injury effects. He was even used as a kick returner…I don’t recall ever seeing him do that with the Niners or Raiders…whatever it takes to help the team…makes the team.

Tom Brady looked very sharp in both 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work today…we weren’t charting  exact numbers but he was completing most of his throws. Jimmy Garoppolo got one series with the top offensive unit and looked sharp.

Bryan Stork continues to impress, the second year center won some big one-on-one battles during positional play. During the goal line portion, he was doing a good job on Malcom Brown. With the play of the Stork and the two rookie guards, things are looking good for the offensive line.

Shaq Mason and Tre’ Jackson continue to get most of the reps at guard, Jackson has been very consistent while Mason had some issues in pass protection in one-on-one. Geneo Grissom beat him cleanly and Trey Flowers did as well.

Antonio Johnson is quietly having a solid summer; the eighth-year veteran has had plenty of starting experience and is making the most of his snaps. During goal line work, he shot a gap untouched and stopped LaGarrette Blount cold, Jerod Mayo came in and helped him clean it up for no gain.

Blount had a pretty good day, in short yardage he’s making some decisive, quick cuts and has always had that second gear if he can get to the second level. He’s showing nice burst getting to the line. Jonas Gray has been solid as well.

James White continues to get most of the reps as the third down back, although today we saw the most of Travaris Cadet that we’ve seen so far. Both had their moments. Dion Lewis flashed in a few reps.

On the tight end front, Rob Gronkowski continues to look like vintage Gronk. He’s nearly unstoppable in 1-on-1 drills. Scott Chandler had a quiet day; I didn’t see him catch a pass in team drills. Jake Bequette is working hard and had a few moments but is battling for reps.

Play of the Day: Aaron Dobson made another standout play in team drills catching a Brady pass deep down the right sideline over Malcolm Butler. It looked like Butler had a bead on the ball and it would be picked off. But Dobson came down with it for an impressive play.

Dobson is rebounding from his nightmarish sophomore season and although it is early, (we will keep repeating that), he’s got the inside track on the #4 WR position over Tyms and Brandon Gibson…for now. He seems to be finding his way back in the most trusted of the Brady receivers ….always a good thing. He’s making steps every day.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at

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

New England Patriots News 8-2 and Notes Around the AFC East

Written by: Steve Balestrieri
Posted at 5:51 am

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news notes and what’s happening around the division:

Patriots Cut Three Players: The Patriots announced on Saturday that they had cut three players; defensive backs Justin Green and Derek Cox as well as linebacker D.J. Lynch.

Green was originally signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent in 2013 and had a couple of stints on the practice squad as well as the 53 man roster. He was traded during training camp to Dallas for DE Ben Bass last August. But he was released by the Cowboys in September and was re-signed to the Pats practice squad in December.

Cox hasn’t played in the NFL since 2013 and played for the Jaguars and Chargers. After being released by San Diego, Cox signed with Minnesota and later Baltimore but was released before the season began by each.

D.J. Lynch was signed by the Patriots as an UDFA out of Bowling Green. He was hurt in Friday’s practice and limped off the field. His release is probably injury related.

Back to Football, Camp Begins and the Team Looks Forward: With all the off-the-field distractions this spring with the overblown Deflate-gate saga and Tom Brady’s suspension as well as his upcoming court case, getting back to football is a priority.

The message uttered by Bill Belichick has resonated with the players. The Super Bowl was last season, as well as the Deflate-gate distractions. The team and the coaches will only talk about looking forward to this day’s practice and not let their sights get too far ahead or behind.

This is one of the little things that Belichick does that strikes home with the players. And when you listen to any of them speak to the media, the message is always the same. So many people question whether the Brady suspension will be a distraction for the team. While his absence would be a definite detriment to the offense and the team in general, Belichick won’t let any of it distract the 53 men in the locker room.

Blount gets out of the doghouse quickly: What a difference a day makes. On Thursday and Friday, running back LaGarrette Blount wasn’t on the field for apparently failing his conditioning runs. We heard unconfirmed rumors that the running backs have to complete 50 yard dashes under a certain time in sets of 12. Blount supposedly could only manage nine.

Well he passed them on Friday and was in uniform on Saturday and was running like a man possessed. He was very impressive, especially in the goal line situations, showing very good initial burst and even looks a tad leaner.

Already facing an opening game suspension, the last thing Blount needed was to miss significant time at the beginning of camp due to not being in proper condition. Now he’s back, and healthy which is good news for the Patriots offense.

Richards Gets Early High Marks: After uttering a collective groan when Jordan Richards’ name was called by the Patriots in the 2nd Round of the 2015 NFL Draft, Patriots fans weren’t expecting much. Richards was thought to be a sixth or seventh round choice and not much more.

It may be time for fans to re-evaluate that original thought. Richards was known as “Coach Richards” at Stanford due to his intelligence and football intellect. And he’s proving those evaluations correct. Despite missing most of the spring OTAs due to academic requirements at school, Richards is proving to be a very fast learner.

Both Bill Belichick and Devin McCourty have raved about his ability to pick up the Patriots defense so quickly and his instinctive play, which was supposed to be lacking is proving to be an asset. He’s had some very good plays on the field and now he’s trying to put it all together.

While it is still very early in the process, with only three days of training camp under his belt, Richards is already ahead of the learning curve. He’ll be an intriguing player to watch as camp continues along and the pre-season games begin.

Patriots Release Deflate-gate E-mails: Just when you thought it was safe to read about just football related material, the Patriots produced a number of emails between Stacey James and the NFL’s attorney Jeff Pash. The emails show the Patriots frustration with the erroneous information being leaked to the media, supposedly by the league office.

Pash in the emails steadfastly refused to believe that the league would release any information that would detrimental to the Patriots case even after ESPN, who was the publisher of the original piece stated that their source was from the NFL front office.

This case just keeps getting weirder by the day, now we’re reading the two sides are negotiating a settlement prior to going to court on August 12. Isn’t that what the appeal was supposed to be about in June?

East Bound and Down…Notes Around the AFC East:

Richardson In More Hot Water for Jets, Smith Breaks Ribs: The beginning of training camp didn’t go too smoothly for the Jets. Defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, already facing a four-game ban for violating the league’s substance abuse policy was arrested on July 14.

Richardson was street racing, and was clocked by police going 143 mph and resisting arrest. Now the team isn’t going to commit to the talented lineman past his 2016 contract. With a deep DL, the Jets could work a trade in the near future.

During the first training camp practice, rookieWR Devin Smith from Ohio State came down awkwardly after making a catch and broke his ribs. He was kept in the hospital as a precaution and is expected to miss most of training camp.

Dolphins’ Landry/Suh Among Standouts In Camp: With the Dolphins first day in pads on Saturday, WR Jarvis Landry was the player to watch during the Dolphins practice. Landry was snagging everything thrown his way including a one-handed grab in 11-on-11 work.

Ndamukong Suh, Miami’s big DL signed this off-season was also impressive according to reports coming out of camp. Miami is giving Brice McCain extended looks at RCB early in camp and experimenting moving Jamar Taylor into the slot.

Early Bills Reports Say Taylor getting QB Nod: While there is only three days  in the books for the Buffalo Bills, early report suggest that Tyrod Taylor is outplaying both E.J. Manuel and Matt Cassel.

ESPN’s Mike Rodak and Vic Carrucci are both reporting that both QBs (Manuel/Cassel), struggled on Saturday. Rodak reported that the combined stats for Manuel and Cassel were only 1-8 in 11-on-11 work.

Taylor, the more mobile QB was scrambling around, throwing shorter passes according to Rodak and completed 3-4 in later 11-on-11 work. This will be an issue to monitor in the coming days as the Bills are still searching for their 2015 QB.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and

Patriots Training Camp Report: Day 3 Blount Returns With a Bang

Written by: Steve Balestrieri
Posted August 1, 2015 at 5:35 pm

Big Running Back is impressive in practice

The Patriots conducted their third practice of training camp on Saturday morning in full pads for the first time under sunny, warm skies in front of another big crowd.

The big news of the day was that running back LaGarrette Blount practiced for the first time as did DT Dominique Easley. Blount had failed his conditioning test and Easley started camp on PUP.

Blount hardly looked like a running back that couldn’t pass his conditioning run. He looks a little leaner and was running extremely well. He showed great burst off the snap. Blount is at his best when he get a head of steam going into the second level. The way he was hitting the holes today, including some excellent work during short yardage, he should be primed for a very good year.

Easley showed no signs of rust or injury so perhaps his PUP designation was just a precaution prior to the pads coming on. He looked sharp and in shape and took an active part of all drills and 11-on-11 work.

MIA List: The following players were spotted on the field as the injured list grows:
Quarterback Matt Flynn (NFI)
STs Gunner Matthew Slater (PUP)
WR Brandon LaFell (PUP)
CB Derek Cox
LB Dane Fletcher (PUP)
LB Chris White (PUP)
OL Ryan Wendell (PUP)
DL Vince Taylor (PUP)
OL Caylin Hauptmann (PUP)
TE A.J. Derby,
DL Chris Jones (PUP)
LB D.J. Lynch (who left the field midway through Friday’s practice)
DL Alan Branch (NFI) Branch could be seen on the lower fields working out with the training staff

Linebackers Donta Hightower and Xzavier Dickson were wearing red non-contact jerseys although Dickson was seen in a coverage ILB role frequently during 7-on-7 work. Jerod Mayo seems fully healed from his knee injury and is an active participant.

Sheard Off To an Impressive Start: Yesterday we remarked that new Patriots DE Jabaal Sheard looked very impressive physically. He impressed today in positional drills. He rag-dolled Kevin Hughes in a 1-on-1 drill and left Marcus Cannon  grabbing for air doing a nifty spin move at the far end of the field. Sheard looked to get a nice burst in full team drills and is very good at setting the edge in the running game. He’s been working mostly from the left side.

From our limited vantage point and in a bit of good news that rookie Shaq Mason seemed to more than hold his own numerous times in 1-on-1 work, although it was tough to see who he was going up against. He and center Bryan Stork stood out among the best of the OL.

Trey Flowers is getting a ton of reps in the early going and looks like a nice edge setter in the running game. The jury is still out on his pass rushing skills but he seems to have a good burst off the line and is active with his hands.

Jake Bequette had a good day catching the ball and does not look out of place at all as a tight end. During 7-on-7 drills he made a really nice grab of a Brady pass on Tavon Wilson. It is going to be an uphill battle for the converted DE but he is putting in the work.

Play of the Day #1: Aaron Dobson went fully stretched out on a Tom Brady bomb down the right sideline, and hauling in the ball on a play that went for 40+ yards. Brady’s pass was just a tad too long and Dobson went for it with Darryl Roberts in tight coverage, hauling the ball in as he hit the turf.  It was a great play for a guy looking to get his career back on track.

He also beat Jimmy Jean in a leaping grab in the end zone; Jean gave him a pat on the head after the play in another nice sequence.

Jordan Richards is a pretty impressive guy for a rookie that missed nearly all of the spring workouts due to NCAA requirements that the school has to graduate before he can practice.

He has seemed to pick up the Patriots defense very quickly, recognizing a look from the offense and already calling out tendencies and signals.  He was called “Coach Richards” at Stanford because of his intelligence and thus far it is very apparent that the nickname is well-earned. While it is still very early in the process, you have to be impressed with his instinctive play and has great ball awareness.

During 1-on-1 drills, he provided tight coverage on the towering Scott Chandler and fought him for the ball as it was delivered right on target from Brady…he eventually knocked it away. He intercepted Jimmy Garoppolo on Thursday and nearly had another pick on Friday. He’s off to a great start.

Play of the Day #2: During the running game drills in the middle of the field where the offense was going across the field sideways, Sealver Siliga provided the big hit of the day. Running back Tyler Gaffney had a sliver of daylight and was just hitting the hole when Siliga crossed at the line and hit Gaffney with a thunderous hit that de-cleated the running back and dropping him at the line.

For some reason, Bill Belichick got incensed at the offense during 11-on-11 drills and made the entire offense run a lap.

It was great to have our salary cap contributor Miguel Benzan with Derek Havens and myself as our other contributor, Russ Goldman had to miss today’s practice session. Be sure to check out his salary cap pages.

Stay tuned to for the latest camp updates and check out our daily photo gallery on our Facebook page.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at

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

Patriots Training Camp Report: Day 2 is about the Defense

Written by: Steve Balestrieri
Posted July 31, 2015 at 3:20 pm

QB’s take a step back as secondary steps up

The Patriots conducted another two and a half hour practice session on Friday in the morning before an even bigger crowd than Thursday.  The sun was bright and temps were said to be in the low 80s but it felt much warmer than that.

The team was once again IAW the CBA, without pads but low and behold, the team busted out the jerseys for the first time this season and we were finally able to check out a lot of the new faces.

The theme of today however was once again the quarterbacks; Unlike yesterday however, neither Tom Brady or Jimmy Garoppolo was as sharp as they were on Thursday. That’s not to say that they were bad, just not up to yesterday’s performance. Training camp is long and a grind and they’ll have days like that.

Garoppolo was holding the ball too long in the pocket and like yesterday it almost cost him a couple of turnovers. Rookie Jordan Richards made another nice play today, when he read a play very well and then broke on the ball and knocked it away. It is still very early, but so far he’s had a few nice flashes.

Safeties Have Good Session: Like the Richards’ play, the strong safeties had a solid day. Both Pat Chung and Tavon Wilson had solid outings. Chung spoke after practice about how playing against Gronkowski makes him better and he was solid today. Gronk made a few plays but he does that against everyone.

Likewise, Wilson had a very good morning practice, he made a few nice breakups on fade patterns to Chandler. On one particular play right in front of us, Chandler had a step on him towards the right corner of the end zone. Garoppolo laid the ball out perfectly but Wilson was able to recover and knock it away.

Brian Flores crew deserves some praise in the film session tonight. Perhaps like the WRs felt last season going against Darrelle Revis made them better, the safeties will feel the same going against Gronk and Chandler.

On the subject of tight ends, Jake Bequette is now strictly a tight end, and sporting number 85. He did have a drop in team drills but also had a really nice catch today. It will still be an uphill battle for him but he will bear watching.

Corners being very competitive: Like the safeties, the corners had a pretty solid day today. They did a nice job in coverage and were covering the wide receivers closely. Malcolm Butler is a confident guy right now; and his play reflects that. He looks very solid in coverage and broke up a few plays. Robert McClain and Bradley Fletcher had some pass breakups too.

Tarel Brown is looking healthy and competitive as well. He was sporting and odd number, 9 during practice. After the session was over, both Derek Havens and I spoke with WEEI’s Chris Price and he said in all his years covering the Patriots he could not recall a single player, let alone a cornerback wearing the number 9. Price also had a nice quote on watching Garoppolo and new WR Brandon Gibson developing a nice chemistry in 11-on-11 work. “Last year we saw Jimmy G. and Tyms, this summer I think we’ll see Garoppolo and Gibson a lot.”

Offensive Line Surprises So far: Although you can’t really read too much into it since the pads haven’t even come on yet but the two rookie guards Tre’ Jackson and Shaq Mason have been getting the lion’s share of the snaps with the starting unit with Bryan Stork at center, Nate Solder at left tackle and Marcus Cannon at right tackle.

Of course we’ll get a better feel for things once the pads come on and the play starts getting physical but it has been a nice start for bookend rookie guards.

One of the more interesting things to watch is nearly the complete lack of snaps for RT Sebastian Vollmer. Given his age, (31), and his injury history especially with his back, it is understandable if the team wants to limit his workload early in camp and ease him back in for the long haul. Or the team could want to see if Marcus Cannon can handle the load at RT. It will be an interesting scenario to monitor as camp goes along. As far as we can tell Vollmer is healthy. Or could another Logan Mankins’ situation be looming? Things that make you go hmm….

Rookie linebacker D.J. Lynch limped off the field about halfway thru the session and didn’t return. He looked to be in quite a bit of discomfort. James Morris returned today after leaving yesterdays’ session early. Matthew Wells got quite a few reps today as an inside linebacker in a coverage role.

James White continues to get a ton of reps as the third down back. He and Jonas Gray are getting a lot of work in the screen game. Right now Travaris Cadet is getting most of his work on special teams. He and Tyler Gaffney haven’t seen the field much yet.

Stay tuned to for the latest camp updates and check out our daily photo gallery on our Facebook page.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at

Patriots Training Camp Report: Super Bowl Champs Open 2015

Written by: Steve Balestrieri
Posted July 30, 2015 at 8:33 pm

Day 1 about Brady, Kraft and getting back to football

The Patriots opened training camp under hot steamy conditions on Thursday morning in front of a very large crowd at the Gillette Stadium practice fields.

Tom Brady was obviously the star of the day and he received a huge ovation when he took the field. Brady made a rare acknowledgement to the crowd, and quickly got down to business. Robert Kraft spent about an hour at practice as well and likewise received a large ovation which he returned and waved to the corners of the practice fields.

Like mini-camp Bill Belichick continued the maddening practice of having the players in tee shirts, with no jerseys or jersey numbers, and the majority of the players with few exceptions had the numbers removed from the helmets as well. As a result, it was very, very difficult to identify many of them during practice.

But the day was about, as Belichick noted in his press conference, getting to the business of football and that they did. With no pads, it is next to impossible to judge the running game or the battles in the trenches. Rookie guards Tre Jackson and Shaq Mason were on the field, but Mason missed a snap count on a field goal attempt and had to run a lap. But overall, like the spring it was more of a passing game exercise.

Edelman/Gronk Shine: Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski picked up right where they left off in February. Both were outstanding; I didn’t see a ball hit the ground that was thrown to Edelman, be it during team drills or individual ones.

He made a couple of highlight catches, extending up and making a nice snag in the corner of the end zone during WR drills. He also ran a beauty of a fade route in the left corner of the end zone that Brady hit him with perfectly. During team drills, he was Brady’s favorite target with an un-official, 10 grabs by our count.

Gronkowski seems in mid-season form; he ran a route in the back of the end zone where Brady put a pass up high where only he could reach it.  The safety (we thought Harmon originally, but later learned it was Tavon Wilson), had great coverage, but couldn’t leap with the big guy who snagged it out of the air and then shoved Wilson to the ground with a thud. He then proceeded to do the Gronk spike, to the delight of the crowd.

Garoppolo looks much improved: Jimmy Garoppolo had an impressive first day of camp. With many eyes watching him and his snap count much more closely due to the looming Brady suspension, Garoppolo was definitely under the microscope.

Early in the day during WR drills, his accuracy was slightly off and threw three times behind receivers, but he started to find his rhythm. He made a mistake where he took too long to diagnose a play and rookie Jordan Richards, reading the play very well, picked him off in the middle of the field.

After that; He was extremely sharp; he seemed to be making much quicker decisions and his accuracy and arm strength were excellent, putting some nice zip on his passes.

Good News, Bad News at Linebacker: The good news for the Patriots linebackers was that Dont’a Hightower was not only present but was an active participant for much of the day. He is looking far ahead of his timetable on his return from his shoulder surgery. Jerod Mayo was on the field for part of the early part of practice but wasn’t seen later….possibly for rehab work.

The bad news was that James Morris pulled up during a drill in the back of the end zone and grabbed his leg. He was attended to by a couple of members of the training staff and left the field. He didn’t return but seemed to be walking pain-free. This is a situation that will bear monitoring in the upcoming days. Morris was injured twice in his rookie season and spent the entire season on IR. With Morris injured, Dane Fletcher on PUP and Mayo and Hightower on the mend, the depth at LB is stretched thin.

Red Zone Work: In a similar move to what transpired in the spring workouts, during special teams work, Brady moved off to the side and was working on some red zone, goal line work. Joining him were tight ends Gronkowski and Scott Chandler as well as WRs Edelman and Aaron Dobson.

Chandler is an intriguing player, at 6’7, he presents a big, big target and the Patriots are looking like they’ll line the two up and run some skinny crosses that will free up one of them in a fade pattern.

Dobson, taking advantage of Brandon LaFell’s absence was working with Edelman basically doing much of the same. Dobson seems healthy and has an effortless looking stride that belies his speed. He and Edelman worked together well.

Play of the Day: This one is a no-brainer…During team drills with the offense inside the red zone, Brady handed the ball off to Brandon Bolden running to the left. Bolden then handed it to Edelman for an end around. But like the Baltimore playoff game, Edelman pulled up and showed his QB skills.

He launched a pass down the right side to Brady who channeling his inner-Randy Moss, plucked the ball out of the air with one hand. Brady then lumbered down the sideline and tucked the ball inside the pylon for a touchdown.

This is a play to remember because if Brady does have to serve his suspension, they could pull this play off with Garoppolo who is much more athletic with ease. File that one away for a rainy day.

We are really anxious once the pads come on, to see how the edge rushers that the team added this spring, Jabaal Sheard, Geneo Grissom,  Trey Flowers look in the pass rushing drills. But for now, that will probably have to wait until Sunday.

Stay tuned to for the latest camp updates and check out our daily photo gallery on our Facebook page.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at

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

Tom Brady Needs an Epic 4th Qtr Comeback in Court And To Speak

Written by: Steve Balestrieri
Posted July 29, 2015 at 6:11 am

“As always, I am bound, of course, by standards of fairness and consistency of treatment among players similarly situated, and I have had those standards in mind throughout my consideration of this appeal.”
Roger Goodell

That statement alone should bring a chuckle to anyone’s face that has been following the Deflate-gate mess since January. If this entire scenario wasn’t sad enough, Goodell and the NFL has made this fiasco an even bigger black eye for the league.

Roger Goodell has upheld the Tom Brady suspension for the entire four games and even fired a pre-emptive strike in court, filing in New York Federal Court to have his suspension upheld rather than allow Brady and the NFLPA to file in either Boston or Minneapolis where more union friendly judges can be found.

Goodell took over a month to release his decision and based nearly his entire decision on the fact that Brady “destroyed his cell phone” and even used his increasingly more frequent propaganda machine, the offices of ESPN to leak that information out.

But like all of the leaks from Baghdad Bob….er Goodell the devil is in the details. In the footnotes of the league’s 20 page finding that can be found here, that was first reported by Mike Florio from ProFootball Talk. Brady offered the league the spread sheets for everyone that he texted in time period mentioned, so that the league could contact them for anything related in the case.

Much like the self-serving Wells Report, a look at footnote 11 on page 12 shows:
“After the hearing and after the submission of post-hearing briefs, Mr. Brady’s certified agents offered to provide a spreadsheet that would identify all of the individuals with whom Mr. Brady had exchanged text messages during [the relevant time] period; the agents suggested that the League could contact those individuals and request production of any relevant text messages that they retained.

 Aside from the fact that, under Article 46, Section 2(f) of the CBA, such information could and should have been provided long before the hearing, the approach suggested in the agents’ letter — which would require tracking down numerous individuals and seeking consent from each to retrieve from their cellphones detailed information about their text message communications during the relevant period — is simply not practical.”

The league deemed it not practical and as Florio points out, the texts, numbering 10,000 seems like a tremendous number. But they work out to about 83 texts a day both sent and received. Dismissing those to anyone totally unrelated to the Patriots or the NFL would be a simple task, but hey why bother? This was pre-determined since before the AFC Championship Game.

Now, is Brady destroying his phone an illegal act? No and he like many countless people has the right to destroy his own phone…one that was not supplied by the league or the team. And Brady has no compulsion to turn it over. Remember the Ray Rice case, when called to testify, Goodell also declined to turn over his phone as well, but apparently, that wasn’t deemed relevant.

The NFL already had in its possession all texts between Brady, McNally and Jastremski. So any other texts were either just a fishing expedition or just Goodell trying to flex his authority over the players

But Brady’s destruction of his phone does give the appearance of guilt in this case, very much so. And that is what the NFL has been dealing here since January….appearance is everything.

Let’s leak out thru the Mort Report that 11 of the 12 Patriots footballs were a full 2 pounds PSI under the league limit. Which was a blatant lie, but that got this ball rolling. And forget releasing the correct information, which the league had, to the Patriots until the Wells Report was released.

The then aforementioned Wells Report was released and again things looked bad for Brady and the Patriots. Even though Wells exonerated New England from wrongdoing…that wasn’t going to cut it for Goodell who slapped them with a $1 million dollar fine and two draft picks taken including 2016’s first round selection.

But while the NFL has held on to shady scientific findings by Exponent, Brady’s team  released its own findings from AEI which blew the Exponent case out of the water. But the NFL put its own spin on it.

“The NFLPA and Brady didn’t dispute the findings in the Wells Report, based on experiments conducted by Exponent, that the period of time McNally spent in the bathroom was more than enough time for him to release air from each of the footballs.”

“The report said Brady and the NFLPA submitted alternative scientific analysis from AEI and had Dean Snyder, of the Yale School of Management, an economist who specializes in industrial organization speak giving counter arguments to the findings of the Wells Report.”

After “listening” to each argument, Goodell came to the conclusion that “the decline in pressure cannot be explained by environmental, physical or other natural factors. Instead, at least a substantial part of the decline was the result of tampering.”


The NFLPA released a statement of its own, blasting the NFL in no uncertain words:

The Commissioner’s ruling today did nothing to address the legal deficiencies of due process. The NFL remains stuck with the following facts:

  • The NFL had no policy that applied to players;
  • The NFL provided no notice of any such policy or potential discipline to players;
  • The NFL resorted to a nebulous standard of “general awareness” to predicate a legally unjustified punishment;
  • The NFL had no procedures in place until two days ago to test air pressure in footballs; and
  • The NFL violated the plain meaning of the collective bargaining agreement.

The fact that the NFL would resort to basing a suspension on a smoke screen of irrelevant text messages instead of admitting that they have all of the phone records they asked for is a new low, even for them, but it does nothing to correct their errors.

The NFLPA will appeal this outrageous decision on behalf of Tom Brady.

The Patriots released their own statement on Tuesday stating this:

“We are extremely disappointed in today’s ruling by Commissioner Goodell,” the Patriots said in a statement. “We cannot comprehend the league’s position in this matter. Most would agree that the penalties levied originally were excessive and unprecedented, especially in light of the fact that the league has no hard evidence of wrongdoing.”

“We continue to unequivocally believe in and support Tom Brady. We also believe that the laws of science continue to underscore the folly of this entire ordeal. Given all of this, it is incomprehensible as to why the league is attempting to destroy the reputation of one of its greatest players and representatives.”

There were plenty of people who claimed that Robert Kraft caved in to work a back-door deal for Brady’s suspension and they were certainly left with egg on their faces. And did Goodell handle that situation with kid gloves? No he took a shot at Kraft and the Patriots.

On page 1, paragraph 3, Goodell writes, “The Patriots did not appeal the discipline that was imposed on the club.” That’s league speak for you admitted your guilt Bob. There’s your sign.

So Brady and his team will have to fight on with the deck stacked against them in Federal Court. He’ll need to rally the lawyers and fight the procedural process most of all. While many argue that Brady coming out publicly is a bad thing right now that it will play into the hands of the NFL, I say, it is time for him to speak. Not with a released statement thru the NFLPA or his agent. But it is time for him to speak and tell his side. Baghdad Bob has already spoken, and according to his “sources” second-hand smoke isn’t dangerous….silence though may be.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at

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

Jordan Richards One of the Key Players To Watch in Camp

Written by: Steve Balestrieri
Posted July 28, 2015 at 7:00 am

The Patriots begin training camp on Thursday morning, the rookies are already in camp and the veterans report tomorrow, (although Tom Brady is already there). We’ve been highlighting the various positional battles that will be ones to watch once the pads come on, but another intriguing will be at safety.

Specifically on how does 2nd round draft pick Jordan Richards fit into the Patriots plans this season. Richards was picked up from Stanford. Most draft experts and fans thought that Bill Belichick reached for Richards early with the 64th overall selection.

With the top three safety options with starters Devin McCourty, Pat Chung as well as Duron Harmon returning, safety wasn’t deemed that big of a need. The team also has Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner returning although they’ve contributed more on special teams.

Last season playing more of a Cover-1 scheme, the Patriots utilized more of a one deep safety look with McCourty playing the center field role. That allowed Chung to play closer to the box, which for him is a strength and the results spoke for themselves. Now with cornerbacks Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Kyle Arrington and Alfonzo Dennard gone, the scheme is expected to change.

With more zone looks this season, the Patriots may opt for more of a Cover 2 look with two deep safeties at the back end of the secondary. While this is not necessarily a strength of Chung’s, it is something that has been the area where most expect Harmon to step up.

Last season, when the Patriots would move McCourty to the slot, Harmon would step in and play the deeper safety role, so where does Richards fit into the equation?

Richards was projected to be a late round draft pick but Bill Belichick is never one to follow conventional wisdom. He saw something in the Cardinals’ safety that others didn’t and the Patriots jumped on him with the last pick in Round 2 of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Richards is a physical, extremely intelligent player who, like McCourty made all the calls for the Stanford secondary. In a great piece on Richards, Allen Dumonjic writes that Richards calls didn’t just end with the secondary.

“Richards had made all of the defensive calls and checks in Stanford’s defense in his senior season. He made sure the defensive linemen heard whether they were in a three- or four-man front, whether the linebackers had to pattern match or spot drop, whether the coverage was single high or split-field safeties. He controlled calls against up-tempo offenses, according to Akina, and had played each of the six defensive back positions, including both safety spots and emergency cornerback.”

While others were worried about his measured speed and instincts at the NFL level, the Patriots …obviously are not. Because he knows everyone’s responsibilities in the defense, his reaction time should be much quicker. He was known by the other Cardinals players as “Coach Richards”.

He even helped his secondary coach Duane Akina, who was a late hire by Stanford to learn the Cardinals defense and secondary calls to bring him up to speed.

Chung has a contract extension and is the returning starter at strong safety but Richards best fit is there as well. Like Chung he’s very physical as well as willing and able plug in run support.

He has very good play recognition and is able to sniff out screens and dumpoffs and is quick to come up in support. He’s not a deep cover safety with his lack of speed (4.59 in the 40), although in Stanford he did play there and in the slot.

With his size and physicality, Richards could find a role in the linebacker/safety hybrid slot in sub-packages. Like Chung he’s at his best as an in the box type safety. And his athleticism, while knocked, belies a good time in the 3-Cone Drill. The Patriots have always coveted players more with impressive 3-Cone times rather than straight line speed because it shows the ability to change direction quicker.

But he has to capability to be more, if the Patriots choose to play a quarters type coverage in the secondary, Richards could handle that with ability to diagnose plays quickly and knowledge of the defense.

In an interview with WEEI’s Chris Price, Akina his secondary coach summed Richards in this way.

“We asked our safeties to do quite a bit. He has ability and flexibility — he’s not just a box safety. He can be a physical guy. He can line up in the slot and play man coverage,” Akina said. “It’s an insult to call him a box safety. As a collegian, he worked hard on all aspects of defensive back play, including man coverage. He’s been engaged in a lot of concepts.”

 “People have no idea. Everyone wants to measure how tall guys are or how fast they are. And some measurables are important. But at the same time, if you understand that Jordan doesn’t run a 4.37 like Earl Thomas, that’s OK, but you also have to understand that he plays at 4.37 speed because of his intellect.

“In a system like the one in New England that will put stress on safeties and their abilities to make the right call at the right time, you just can’t go out and find guys like Jordan. You just can’t find guys like that who make plays like that and have that decision-making ability like he has.”

“I’ve coached some safeties over the years, and I think everybody in New England will be pleased with Jordan.”

Richards will have to earn his reps, Chung isn’t going anywhere for the time being and for at least the start of the season, he’ll have to work on special teams. But there is plenty of room for him to grow and Richards can do a lot of different things on the field. Now he just has to go out and earn it.

Number 37 for the Patriots will be a guy that will definitely be on the radar to watch during training camp.


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

New England Patriots News 7-26 and Notes Around the AFC East

Written by: Steve Balestrieri
Posted July 26, 2015 at 5:00 am

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news notes and what’s happening around the division:

Say What? Owners of Ravens, Colts Adamant to Goodell That Brady’s Suspension Must Stand:
In yet another bizarre twist of the already twisted Deflate-gate story, ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio reported on Friday that a “very vocal minority” was urging NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell not reduce Tom Brady’s suspension at all. Speaking on the San Diego station ‘Mighty 1090’, Paolantonio said, “You’re angering some of the hard-core owners out there,” speaking in terms of reducing the suspension.

“I know who they are and I’m gonna name ‘em right now: Jim Irsay of the Colts. Steve Bisciotti of the Ravens and others in the AFC who believe the Patriots have gotten away with murder for years and have not been publicly punished properly.”

Were They In NYC?: A couple of things stand out on this…and while we all know Goodell works for the owners not the fans or the players, none of the owners were present at the Brady appeal which is “supposed to be” fair and impartial. How can they urge Goodell to keep the four-game ban when they never heard the evidence and testimony in the appeal?

Having the two team owners of clubs the Patriots defeated in the playoffs to reach the Super Bowl complain, reeks of sour grapes. And the fact that the mainstream media isn’t screaming about this defies description. Just picture what the outcry would have been a few years ago if Robert Kraft had urged Goodell to not reduce the suspension of Ben Roethlisberger when the Steelers QB had been accused of a sexual assault.

Irsay and the Colts have had a bullseye on New England since the playoffs of 2003 and 2004. They went so far to have the rules changed on pass interference by the NFL’s Competition Committee which then Indy GM Bill Poilian sat on.

Now the Colts have dropped their last six games to New England including two huge blowout playoff losses including the 45-7 beatdown in the Deflate-gate game. Bisciotti’s team lost a close playoff game last year when the Patriots used unusual formational groupings that left the Ravens confused and embarrassed. Coach Jim Harbaugh cried foul, but the officials had the correct ruling and could even be heard on the sideline cameras telling Ravens defenders who NOT to cover.

After Harbaugh and Ravens complained, Tom Brady shot back with a comment that the Ravens “need to read the rule book.” Baltimore and Indy have a close relationship now that Colts head coach Chuck Pagano came from the Ravens organization.

Surprised that the next week when Colts GM Ryan Grigson emailed the league about the Patriots supposedly deflating their footballs? You shouldn’t be.

Grigson stated that the Colts suspected the Pats were doing this in the November game in Indianapolis. This is extremely suspicious since it would be the Colts who would be in charge of the protocols concerning the footballs prior to the game.

Both of these owners obviously have short memories about getting away with rule breaking, since it was Irsay who went thru a messy DUI/drug case in Indianapolis just a year ago that included a damning video of his arrest.

Bisciotti last May trotted out the victim in the Ray Rice abuse case and in an orchestrated farce had Janay Rice take the blame for being knocked unconscious in an elevator. They even used their official Twitter account to issue the following, “Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.” That tweet was quickly deleted. Janay Rice claims that the team urged her to apologize, Bisciotti later in September lamented that it was a “bad decision by all” letting Janay give a statement.

But in the grand scheme of things, being “generally aware” that “more probable than not” that an equipment violation was being violated is just intolerable for these two.

Paolantonio’s wording was curious however…was it paraphrasing or did the owners of the Colts and Ravens really say that the Patriots “were getting away with murder” for so long? Curious why? Just take a gander at the statue standing next to the one of Johnny Unitas at M&T Bank Stadium.

Training Camp To Begin, Rosters Will Begin to Take Shape:
The Patriots open training camp on Thursday with a 9:15 a.m. practice scheduled to kick things off. Many positional battles will take place and there are plenty of slots available, even for a team that won the Super Bowl last season.

One of the most fun exercises during Training Camp and the pre-season is the predicting of the team’s 53 man rosters. Although it is early and the pads haven’t even come on yet, many of us have already posted a pre-TC projection. Here is a few to take a look at. (SteveB7SFG), 53 Man Roster:

Chris Price, 53 Man Roster:

Mike Reiss, ESPN, 53 Man Roster:

Erik Frenz, B/R,, 53 Man Roster:

Within the next few days, you’ll be able to play GM of the Patriots on and use our interactive Roster Picker to pick your own 53 Man Roster and post it up for others to see. It is always a fun exercise to see how your inner-Belichick plays out.

Pats STs Locks Down Punter Allen:The Patriots announced on Saturday that Punter Ryan Allen has signed a three-year contract extension according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Allen is entering his third NFL season and would have been a restricted free agent after 2015. The left-footed punter made big strides in his second season with a 46.4 yard average and cutting his touchbacks in half from 12 to six.

With Allen’s signing, the Patriots kicking game has signed both the punter and kicker (Stephen Gostkowski), to long term deals just prior to training camp beginning.

Pats Hoping Tarel Brown Returns to Form at CB: On Thursday the Patriots signed free agent cornerback Tarel Brown to a one-year contract. The team had the former Niner and Raider in twice for visits this spring.

Brown was a solid corner for San Francisco but signed a one-year, prove-it deal with Oakland in 2014. He played 1000 snaps for the Raiders before landing on IR with a foot injury. He had no interceptions and a career low four passes defensed last season.

We took a look at the signing earlier this week and gave our take on whether Brown will return to form and fight for starting reps.

Eastbound and Down…..News from around the AFC East:

Williams Has Big Shoes To Fill On the Jets:
New York Jets rookie defensive lineman Leonard Williams, the #6 pick in the NFL Draft this season has been getting praise from the coaches about how fast he’s picking up the Jets system. Coach Todd Bowles spoke about Williams’ maturity and his athleticism.

Williams’ quick rise is good news to the team as he’ll be replacing Sheldon Richardson who was suspended for the first four games of 2015. With an already stout defense around him…Williams should be an impact player as a rookie right off the bat this season.

Dolphins Release QB Freeman:
Josh Freeman’s comeback bid with the Miami Dolphins didn’t last long. Less than three months since signing the former Buccaneers and Viking’s QB, Miami released Freeman prior to training camp even getting started.

The Dolphins are already set at the position with Ryan Tannehill locked into his starters’ position and being backed up by Matt Moore.

Freeman had a rough 2013 season with Tampa Bay, before landing at Minnesota. He was out of football for the entire 2014 season. This release may signal the end of the line for the 27 year old former first round draft pick, quarterback who could still vie for a backup role elsewhere.

Bills Harvin Named “Most Hated” in SI poll:
Wide receiver Percy Harvin who signed with the Bills this spring was named the “Most Hated Player in the Locker Room” in a poll conducted by Sports Illustrated this week.

Harvin had his issues with Seattle and Minnesota and was known for his blow-ups with fellow receivers Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin.

But thus far, his stay with the Rex Ryan-led Bills has been a study in being a team-first guy. He’s been on the same page with the coaches and teammates and he’s been friendly with the both the media and his teammates.

Harvin’s problems in the past stemmed mainly for the way the offense was utilizing him so that will bear watching once the season unfolds and Ryan settles on who his starting quarterback is going to be.

Harvin, speaking to the media during spring workouts says he’s a different person.  “I just ask people to judge me off of what they see, which is what I did in New York,” Harvin said…”Which is why you heard nothing.”

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