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Patriots Training Camp, Tuesday Morning Observations

The action was physical and intense on Tuesday morning. (SBalestrieri photo)

The action was physical and intense on Tuesday morning. (SBalestrieri photo)

The Patriots conducted their fifth practice of training camp under beautiful clear skies and temps climbing into the low 80s by the end of the session.

It was a physical and intense session, one could hear the pads popping all across the field and it was a very productive session for the coaches to evaluate. Bill Belichick even broke out the old “Oklahoma Drill”, something that hasn’t been seen in years. Uber-athletic Jamie Collins excelled in this tackling drill where both players lie on their backs and then the defensive player must tackle the ball carrier. Zach Moore also mad a nice play bringing down the tough Develin.

Among the missing were WR Aaron Dobson, ST Matthew Slater, LB Deontae Skinner DL Dominique Easley, WR Jeremy Gallon, CB Jemea Thomas, G Dan Connolly, TE Michael Hoomanawanui.  Slater, Dobson, Easley and Gallon worked out on the far end of the field with the training staff.

Bryan Stork suffered a lower leg injury halfway thru the session and did not return. Ryan Wendell took the majority of the snaps after his injury. Alfonzo Dennard returned from the PUP List and worked in some individual drills while running conditioning drills with the training staff at other times.

Julian Edelman seemed to catch everything thrown at him all morning, easily the most impressive of the Patriots WRs; Edelman draws coverage from Darrelle Revis most of the time he’s on the field. He made a fantastic one handed grab diving to grab the pass with Kyle Arrington in tight coverage.

Play of the Day 1: WR Brandon LaFell who has had a so-so camp thus far, made a beauty of a catch on a perfectly thrown bomb by Tom Brady, beating both Malcolm Butler and Nate Ebner. The play drew thunderous cheers from the large crowd in attendance.

James Develin continues to have a good camp, besides in the running game (more to that later), he lined out wide a few times and took a few snaps at tight end as well. Develin is a big, physical guy and really packs a punch. In a goal line play at the far end of the field, he opened a hole for Stevan Ridley with a pop you could feel all the way across the field…that drew some oohs and ahhs from the crowd.

Rob Gronkowski continues to work on the side with Tom Brady and coach Brian Daboll. But today Revis joined in providing coverage, albeit very loose coverage but showing he’s a good soldier as well. A particularly poignant moment occurred later when Revis and Brady stood and compared notes and plenty of smiles to boot. It can’t be stressed enough how different the defense looks with Revis out there.

Revis and Logan Ryan were excellent today at the corners with Brandon Browner showing his noted physicality. It will be interesting to see if the NFL cracks down as they say they will on the jams on how that will affect Browner’s game.

Play of the Day 2: In 11-on-11 drills, Ryan Mallett threw a lateral to Julian Edelman. Edelman faked and then threw a strike to Danny Amendola in the end zone. While it was a cool bit of razzle-dazzle, it was probably a teaching point for the defense never to lose their focus. And for the former QB Edelman, a chance to showcase his arm…Slash Edelman? No….I don’t see that happening. Was fun to watch however.

Former Offensive Coordinator Charlie Weis, now the head coach at Kansas was on the field today. He spent some time before practice with Bill Belichick and after was talking animatedly with Julian Edelman and then Brady.

Wednesday’s practice is scheduled for 9:15 am…. Stay tuned.

Patriots Huddle, Tuesday’s News, Notes and Links 7/29


James Develin a versatile fullback, may see some action at tight end in 2014 and was a popular topic choice for many of the Patriots beat writers today. (USA TODAY Images)

Here are a few Patriots links from around the web on Tuesday, July 29, 2014:

ESPN:

James Develin and the Patriots TE Projection:
Mike Reiss looks at FB James Develin and says he may project to play some snaps this season at tight end. Nick Caserio, in his Sunday presser mentioned Develin and his play at tight end last season.

First Impressions, Let’s Talk D:
Reiss looks at the evolving Patriots defense, specifically the additions of Revis and Browner and although early thinks this unit could be much different than units of the past few years.

Ty Law: Pats’ Defense Best in 10 Years:
Talking defense, ESPN’s Lee Schechter talks with Pats HOF CB Ty Law and Law states that the additions made to the defense make this the best unit in the last 10 years that the Patriots have fielded.

Tyler Gaffney Picked up by the Patriots:
Mike Reiss takes a look at Tyler Gaffney the running back drafted by the Carolina Panthers who was placed on Waivers/IR and was plucked by Bill Belichick, much like they did with Jake Ballard a few years ago.

Release of Hull Alters Special Teams Mix:
Reiss looks at the flip side of the Gaffney signing, where the Pats must release a player to get down to the 90 man limit. Josh Hull a free agent LB signed this spring was let go. Hull was trying to become a core special team player much like he was with the Redskins.

WEEI:

Flag Day: Why You Should Expect More Penalties  Against Patriots Secondary In 2014: Chris Price looks at the additions of Revis and Browner in a different light. With the physical style of play of both and the league possibly cracking down more on the secondary, the Patriots may get flagged more in 2014.

Bull Market: Why James Develin And Other Fullbacks Still Matter:
Price goes in a different direction with Develin and writes a detailed piece on the increased role for the “neck roll” guys and how important Develin was for the Patriots running game.

Patriots.com:

4 blogservations after 4 days of Patriots camp:
PFW’s Andy Hart takes a great look at the first four days of training camp and breaks it down into four major takeaways so far.

Making the team: Enduring the journey to relevancy:
John Rooke takes a good look at the grind of training camp and how a player must adapt and overcome to make the 53 man roster. In this case, James Develin who was a popular subject on Tuesday.

CSNNE:

Anderson could prove to be Pats utility linebacker:
Tom E. Curran takes a look at James Anderson and projects him to be the utility linebacker for the Patriots in 2014, a guy who can plug and play into multiple roles.

Develin versatility makes him an option at tight end:
Phil Perry takes a look at James Develin and like Reiss projects him to play some snaps at tight end.

Providence Journal:

Patriots Journal: Edelman is proud to be the go-to guy:
Mark Daniels takes a look at Julian Edelman and his journey to become a valuable cog to the Patriots offense. And how he’s looking to continue his hard work going forward.

Boston.com

5 Takeaways To Go Along With 5 Days of Patriots Training Camp:
Zuri Berry takes a look at training camp and has his 5 biggest things to occur so far. Among his takes are looks at rookies Jimmy Garappolo and James White, the tight ends and lack of push at the DT position.

Asa Watson and Justin Jones Capitalizing On Opportunity To Learn From Veteran TEs: Erik Frenz looks at tight ends Watson and Jones and pens a good piece on their attempt to make the roster. Each brings a different skill set to the table but each is learning from the veterans on the roster.

Boston Herald:

Patriots Notebook: Dobson, Easley grind through rehab:
Jeff Howe takes a look at the injured Pats and writes about the long journey for Dobson and Easley and their physical rehab from surgery this off-season.

Finch Still A Long Shot For the Patriots But Return Game Key

Finch3
Roy Finch has the opportunity to make the 53 man roster via the return game. (@fskott photo, used by permission)

It is easy to pick Patriots running back out of the crowd. At only 5’7 and 167 pounds, Ray Finch’s small stature borders on the diminutive but he’s hoping to not only catch on with the Patriots but make a mark for himself on special teams.

Finch, an UDFA from Oklahoma is a dark horse to make the roster at this point behind fellow backs Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and James White as the fourth running back.  Incumbent Brandon Bolden has excelled as a core special teams player as well as an effective pass blocker. White has looked outstanding thus far in both the running game and coming out of the backfield as a pass receiver.

So for Finch to make the roster, he’ll have to show some promise in the return game. And thus far he’s doing that. During training camp sessions on Saturday, Finch and Danny Amendola shared return duties as punt returners as the Patriots look to perhaps lighten the load on WR Julian Edelman after a 105 catch season in 2013.

On Sunday, Finch was returning kickoffs, something he was good at while in college at Oklahoma. Finch returned 19 kickoffs for a 25.6 yard average in 2013 as a senior after averaging 31 yards per attempt as a junior.

Not since Ellis Hobbs in 2008 have the Patriots had a legitimate threat in the kick return game and it is something they’ve been searching for. Last season they hoped Leon Washington was going to fill the bill but he was released and the kick return game floundered. Edelman has always excelled in the punt return game but having someone ease his load would be a boon for the team.

His speed, a timed 4.44 in the 40, isn’t necessarily his biggest asset as in straight line speed. It is his lateral ability and a talent for shiftiness and quickness in changing direction that may spring him in the open field.

“You have to find your way, find your spot on the team and what you’re good at and what your strengths are,” Finch told the media this weekend. “The Patriots are known for playing guys on special teams and if you can play special teams they’ll find a spot for you. And eventually you can work your way up the food chain, so to speak, to the offense.”

Finch knows he’ll have to make his bones in the return game and then he may possibly be able to get some touches with the offense. Playing with the backups on Sunday, he took a swing pass from quarterback Jimmy Garappolo and was able to make a nice play showing his open field quickness.

Nick Caserio said in his presser yesterday, “In Roy, it’s his ability to move laterally. He was good with the ball in his hands. They played a lot of running backs at Oklahoma and when he got touches he was able to make some plays in space.”

After watching Finch in mini-camp in June we wrote that he’d be an immediate crowd favorite and after seeing his speed and quickness in the return game, he’s catching on with Patriots fans. But will it be enough to unseat Bolden?

It is still early but for now even with an uneven start, Bolden has the advantage. He’s had trouble holding onto the ball early in camp, but we’re only through the first four days. Bolden is a proven NFL talent that has stepped up in both the running and passing games when called upon as an emergency backup. He’s a core special teamer and his pass blocking skills are far better than those of Finch.

Finch’s problems in that area aren’t one of strength, he bench pressed 225 pounds 22 times at his pro day. But the shortness of his arms is a detriment in the pass blocking department. He struggled with it in college and in the pros; it is an entirely different animal.

Finch is one of those intriguing prospects who always seem to find a way to make the Patriots roster out of training camp. And if he does, it will be through special teams and fans will get a chance to see him show his stuff for real. In the event you make it down to training camp, you’ll see for yourself, he can really move. The biggest running back of 2013, LaGarrette Blount, has left in free agency and the team has given his #29 to the smallest of 2014, Finch. Smallest but perhaps not the least, stay tuned.

Be sure to follow PatsFans.com during training camp, we’ll have daily updates, photo galleries and any breaking news from Foxboro. 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 Training Camp Player Spotlight: Brandon Browner


Brandon Browner brings a level of size and physicality to the corner position that the Patriots haven’t had under Bill Belichick. (USA TODAY Images)

The New England Patriots felt a need to upgrade the cornerback position in 2014 and signed Darrelle Revis to replace the departed Aqib Talib. But seeing the schedule and facing the likes of Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford, and Jay Cutler who all have big, physical targets in the passing game, the Pats went out and signed Brandon Browner from the Seattle Seahawks.

Browner, 6’4, 221 has the size and physicality they were looking for to shut down the big physical wide outs they’ll face in 2014. Browner, who turns 30 on Aug. 2, had multiple suspensions from the league and after a slow start in 2013 had been replaced in the starting lineup by Byron Maxwell in Seattle.

But judging from the comments from his former coach Pete Carroll, the Super Bowl Champion Seahawks will miss his presence. “He’s a very unique football player,” said Carroll. “He’s got a great sense for the position and he’s tough, a really tough dude. He’s a fantastic football player.”

2013 Summary:
Browner’s season last year was probably one he’d rather forget. He started off slowly and was replaced in the starting lineup by Maxwell whose salary is just $645,000 and played well in his place. Maxwell, the younger, cheaper option played well and chipped in 4 interceptions in 2013.

Worse, Browner was suspended indefinitely by the NFL for marijuana use and was forced to watch the Super Bowl from home. His lengthy suspension was initially tied to missing drug tests while playing in Canada. It was eventually dropped to a four-game suspension which he will serve the first month of the season. Regardless, it was a sting he admitted that hurt him badly.

The NFL reinstated Browner as a free agent and he signed a 3 year deal with the Patriots that will pay him between $12 – 16 million dollars depending upon playing incentives and roster bonuses.

What To Watch For In 2014:
Browner is the biggest corner in the NFL at 6’4 and has the size and strength to match up with those big, physical WRs that the Patriots will face. One need only look at the AFC Championship Game, especially after Talib’s injury where Demaryius Thomas dominated and his value is apparent. Patriots corners weren’t able to deal with Thomas’ size and physicality and he had his way catching 7 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown.

Browner’s ability to jam wide receivers at the line and disrupt timing within the first five yards will be keys for his success. Both he and Revis excel at this and this should immediately help the Patriots pass rush, having opposing quarterbacks with the unenviable position to having to hold the ball a little longer going through their progressions.

Depending upon the opponent, Browner has the ability to match up with either the #1 or #2 wide receiver option and with over the top safety help in the deep passing game, forces quarterbacks to throw a pinpoint pass due to his height and length.

The NFL is a copycat league and the Super Bowl champion Seahawks showed the blueprint on how to shutdown the most prolific scoring offense in NFL history. With the additions of both Browner and Revis, the Patriots now can counter with arguably the best secondary in the Bill Belichick era.

Browner will miss the first four games of 2014 but the Patriots have the depth to cover his loss with both Logan Ryan and Alfonzo Dennard vying for starting reps in his absence. Both have done so in the past and played well. Ryan right now has the upper hand since Dennard is recovering from off-season shoulder surgery and hasn’t made an appearance in OTAs and mini-camp.

But the depth is now such that Kyle Arrington can remain in the slot where he is most comfortable and productive and there has even been talk of getting Ryan some reps at safety in an attempt to put their best players on the field.

Regardless, the Patriots secondary, most specifically the cornerback position has been upgraded in a big way in 2014. Browner, along with Revis gives the Patriots something they’ve been searching for quite some time, physicals corner that can jam at the line of scrimmage and re-route the opponent’s passing game.

Browner brings the size of a strong safety to the perimeter and will be one of the players to watch in training camp. The Patriots defense now (on paper) has the pieces to be one of the top units in the NFL. It will be interesting to watch how Belichick tinkers with it during the season to get the most out of it. And Browner figures to be a big part of it.

Be sure to follow PatsFans.com during training camp, we’ll have daily updates, photo galleries and any breaking news from Foxboro. 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 Training Camp Player Spotlight, Darrelle Revis


Darrelle Revis brings a badly needed upgrade to the Patriots secondary. (USA TODAY Images)

The landscape of the New England Patriots secondary changed very quickly this spring with the signing of cornerback Darrelle Revis. Patriots’ fans had momentarily gone into panic mode with the news that Aqib Talib had signed with the Denver Broncos, but all that changed rather quickly. With the news of Revis’ signing and consequently Brandon Browner, the cornerback position in New England now is not only one of strength, but arguably the strongest it has been in the Bill Belichick era.

Until blowing out an ACL with the Jets, Revis was the gold standard of NFL cornerbacks, “Revis Island” was a frequently heard term describing his ability to shadow and shut down an opponent’s top wide receiver. Revis worked his way back to health in 2013 and now completely ready to go, will inject new life in a Patriots secondary.

2013 Summary:
Revis was traded from the Jets to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the spring of 2013 for a first and a fourth round draft pick and worked his way slowly back from his ACL injury. During joint practices in Foxboro against the Patriots in August, he took part in individual but not any team drills.

Yet, he played in all 16 games, albeit not quite 100 percent physically and was frequently misused in head coach Greg Schiano’s zone heavy defensive system. The Bucs struggled on both sides of the ball and Revis was not the impact player he’s been in the past.

“Every coach has their own philosophy and coaching style. It could work; it could not work. It didn’t, and we went 4-12,” Revis said. “The result is 4-12. That’s what you get. It’s already spoken what happened. A lot of us got fired.”

With Schiano’s firing, new coach Lovie Smith jettisoned Revis and his $16 million dollar contract so that the Bucs could dip into the free agent pool and look for help at many positions of need. The Patriots and Bill Belichick were happy to oblige.

What to Watch For in 2014:
Coming to New England gives Revis a chance to play for a winner and a realistic shot at playing in a Super Bowl. And coming back to the AFC East where he spent the first six seasons of his career.

“I’m really excited,’’ said the 29 year old Revis. “I went down a list of teams where I thought I could win and New England kind of stuck out for me. It’s been great and I can’t wait for training camp.’’

Not since Ty Law roamed the secondary for the New England has the Pats had a talented corner such as Revis. He provides an immediate upgrade over Talib in terms of durability and most importantly Revis is much more technically sound than Talib. His ability to shut down an opponent’s top wide receiver allows Belichick to be much more creative (read aggressive) with the Patriots defense.

Thus far, Revis has been doing and saying all the right things in New England, praising the “Patriots Way” and the wide receivers have raved about his ability to cover during the spring practices stating he was making their life difficult.

With the Patriots expected to play much more man coverage with the additions of both Revis and Browner, their ability to match up and physically jam receivers at the line will be much improved. The team is now stocked at corner with Logan Ryan and Alfonzo Dennard backing up the new duo and those two will compete for the starting job for the first four weeks while Browner serves a four-game league mandated suspension.

This will allow Kyle Arrington to remain strictly in the slot where he’s much more effective and comfortable. It will also allow more freedom for safety Devin McCourty to be more of a playmaker. The trickle-down effect of having the quarterback to having to hold the ball a little longer in the pocket is that it will now make the Patriots pass rush much more effective.

Patriots’ fans flocking to training camp beginning on Thursday will be watching Revis closely are bound to be slightly disappointed, because you won’t witness much action on his side of the field. Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett and Jimmy Garappolo will undoubtedly not throw much on Revis, taking their chances elsewhere.

The days of using converted wide receivers in the secondary such as Troy Brown and Julian Edelman are now thankfully long gone and “Revis Island” is now (at least for 2014), residing in the 508 area code. The Patriots pass defense of 2014 should be a very different, much improved unit and it all starts with Revis.

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 Huddle: Wednesday’s News, Notes and Links for 7/16


With training camp only a little more than a week away, questions about Rob Gronkowski’s availability remain. (USA TODAY Images)

Some Patriots related news and links around the web on Wednesday, July 16, 2014:

Boston.com:

Uncertainty Behind Starters at Linebacker In Patriots 2014 Training Camp Battle:
Erik Frenz penned a nice piece this morning about the depth or lack of at the linebacker position behind starters Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins

ESPN Boston:

An Early Read on the Pats Roster:
Mike Reiss is back and uses his mailbag questions to take an early look at the Patriots roster and some of the camp battles that will ensue.

WEEI:

Countdown To Camp, Running Back:
Chris Price looks at the running back position for the Pats and gives his thoughts on three questions that must be answered as well as who makes the final 53 man roster

Providence Journal:

Health of Rehabbing Players Will Be Key Storyline As Patriots Open Training Camp:
Mark Daniels of the ProJo takes an in-depth look at the health of many of the key players including 1st round draft pick Dominique Easley and how these issues will affect the team at training camp next week.

MassLive.com:

Patriots Training camp preview, Tight End a Question Mark after Rob Gronkowski:
With Nick Underhill now in New Orleans covering the Saints, Nick O’Malley doesn’t miss a beat with a piece about the tight end position entering training camp.

Bubble Watch, Running Back Brandon Bolden:
O’Malley takes a look at the running back position, specifically Brandon Bolden and points out that James White may ease him off the roster.

Forbes Magazine:

New England Patriots Tickets up 31.1% Since Last Season:
Jesse Lawrence takes a look at ticket prices and Pats ticket prices have skyrocketed this year to the fifth most expensive in the NFL

The Enterprise:

First and Ten: AFC East Still Looks Like the Patriots’ World:
Glen Farley takes a look around the division and makes a definitive case on why you can book another division title for the Pats and Bill Belichick

PatsFans.com:

2014 Patriots Salary Cap Breakdown- Dead Money:
PatsFans’ Miguel Benzan takes a look at the cap and the issue of dead money facing the Pats cap and Aaron Hernandez leads the way at $7.5 million

2014 Patriots Eligible For the Practice Squad:
Benzan looks at the Pats roster and posts a list on whom is eligible for the Practice Squad this season which may play into cuts later in camp.

A Historical Look at the uniform numbers for the new Patriots, #39 Brandon Browner:
John Morgan continues his fascinating look at the players who have worn #39 for the Patriots including Danny Woodhead, Laurence Maroney and Sam Cunningham.

Five Questions Heading Into Training Camp For the 2014 Patriots


Tom Brady and the Patriots are looking for another long run in 2014. (USA TODAY Images)

With Training Camp only about 10 days away, the New England Patriots have re-tooled the roster and are now on a short break before the pre-season begins and the competition at many positions commences in earnest.

What a difference a year makes. On the opening day of camp in 2013, coach Bill Belichick had to answer questions about the arrest of Aaron Hernandez, quarterback Tim Tebow and seemingly endless questions about the availability of tight end Rob Gronkowski.

The team has made some splashes on the free agency front as well as the draft. Did they do enough to put themselves over the top this season? We have five questions concerning the team heading into training camp and the 2014 season.

Vereen And White Should Give The Patriots A Boost in the Passing Game


A healthy Shane Vereen and the addition of James White should help Tom Brady in a big way in the Patriots passing game. (USA TODAY Images)

With training camp slated to start in less than three weeks, the New England Patriots will be looking to make strides in many areas. The Patriots offense in 2014 will be looking for much bigger contributions in the passing game from not only its wide receivers but from also their running backs.

With a lack of depth at the tight end position, one area that the team will look to for increased production in the passing game is from out of the backfield especially with Shane Vereen and rookie James White.

Vereen and veteran Brandon Bolden were expected to provide that dimension in 2013 and Vereen certainly looked the part, getting off to a great start in Week 1 in Buffalo. With a fleet of rookie wide receivers and missing tight end Rob Gronkowski for the first six weeks of the year, Vereen was being looked to as a way to offer QB Tom Brady another outlet in the passing game. And with over 150 yards combined rushing and receiving, he was a huge spark in the comeback win.

Injury/Lack of Production: But during the game, Vereen suffered a broken wrist and missed the next eight games. He played the remainder of the season with a cast on his arm which seemed to hinder him and suffered from numerous drops down the stretch.

Bolden, has never been able to consistently produce from week to week and while he had a couple of decent games catching the ball in Vereen’s absence, notably Atlanta and in Cincinnati, he didn’t provide nearly enough spark out of the backfield that was needed.

In the eight weeks that Vereen was out of the lineup, Patriots running backs accounted for only 27 receptions for 171 yards, an average of only 3.3 catches for 21.3 yards per game. Stevan Ridley and LaGarrette Blount weren’t big contributors in the passing game only catching 10 and two passes for the entire year, but Ridley hauled in nine of his ten during the time that Vereen was missing. Fullback James Develin caught four passes for the year, and one during this time frame, in a week two win against the Jets.

Blount has since moved on via free agency to Pittsburgh and while Vereen only played in half of 2013’s game still hauled in 47 passes for 427 yards and three touchdowns. Projecting those numbers over a 16 game season and Vereen would have been in the neighborhood of 94 catches for over 850 yards.

White Adds Another Option: Adding in the rookie White from Wisconsin will certainly help matters. Built similarly to Vereen (5’10, 204), White has sure hands, excellent vision and good burst, he’s a very good option out of the backfield in the passing game. And like Vereen, he’s a good pass blocker as well. White is a good inside runner, surprising for someone his size and had only 2 fumbles in over 750 touches in his college career, something that can be circled especially when the Patriots are in the red-zone. “Ball security is job security,” he told the media at his introductory press conference.

White could be looked at as Vereen’s eventual replacement as he, Ridley and Bolden all enter the final year of their contracts, but the Patriots also have the option of using both in a two-back set in their “20” or “21” personnel packages that give them great options in the passing game.Sharing reps will not be an issue with White, as he was part of a running back committee in Wisconsin and will be in New England as well.

Look at TC Roster: With a training camp roster at running back of Ridley, Vereen, Bolden, White, Jonas Gray, Stephen Houston and Roy Finch, competition will be intense on the field.  Ridley, Vereen and White are virtual locks for the roster. The team has been working out FB Devlin at tight end this spring and he may remain there and still contribute in short yardage in the backfield.

Gray and Houston are bigger backs much like Ridley, more adept at providing the power running inside than in the passing game, the wildcard remains the diminutive Finch at 5’7, 167 pounds. Finch has an uphill battle to make the roster out of training camp but is guaranteed to be a fan favorite once people get to watch him weave in and out of would be tacklers.

His path may be best suited toward the return game, but one look at him in mini-camp and it is easy to imagine Bill Belichick trying to get the ball in his hands in space somewhere in the passing game. Mark him down as someone to watch.

So while the Patriots will be looking for increased production out of their second year wide receivers, they should also be getting a big increase out of the backfield in 2014. Adding in White and a healthy Vereen to the mix should reap immediate dividends for the team to start off in the right direction.

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.

PatsFans.com Daily Patriots News Links 6/26


In our links today, PatsFans looks at Tom Brady, his red zone numbers from 2013 and how he should be primed for a bigger 2014. (USA TODAY Images)

Here is a list of the top Patriots related web links for Thursday, June 26, 2014.

PatsFans.com:

Patriots Morning Huddle 6/26 – Thursday News & Notes, Focusing on Red Zone Numbers – Ian Logue takes a look at Tom Brady’s Red Zone numbers, an under the radar play from Super Bowl XXXVI and more

Five Reasons 2014 Will Be A Comeback Year For The Patriots’ Tom Brady- Was 2013 just a one year drop-off due to a revamped wide receiving core or was this the beginning of Tom Brady’s decline? Read why Brady is due for a large comeback.

WEEI.com:

Deconstructing Patriots Roster By Age, 2014 Edition – Chris Price breaks down the Pats roster by position and comes up with an average age and compares them to 2013 and years past.

With Spring Workouts Done, 2014 Patriots Roster Begins To Take Shape – Chris Price does his own 53 man roster projection and sees where the cuts may take place.

Bleacher Report:

Projecting the Ceiling, Floor for New England Patriots in 2014 – James Christiansen of B/R and NE Patriots Draft takes a look at what the ceiling and floor could be for the 2014 New England Patriots.

CSSNE:

Surprise twist to the search for the original Patriots fan- Rich Levine digs into who was one of the original Patriots’ fans. Nice piece with a surprise ending

Yahoo Sports:
Which running back committees are most interesting, effective?-Yahoo’s Eric Edholm takes a look at the running back by committee groupings in the NFL and has a Top 10 list of the most intriguing. And see where the Patriots group lands.


Tom Brady is looking to rebound in a big way in 2014. (USA TODAY Images)

Tom Brady is at the crossroads in 2014 for the New England Patriots. The soon-to-be 37 year old quarterback is facing questions about his ability for the first time since taking over the starting job for the Pats in 2001.

Brady is a sure bet first ballot Hall of Famer when he finally decides to hang up his cleats for good, but after a rough 2013, many are stating that he no longer ranks among the elite of the NFL quarterbacks. They believe that he’s in decline and will only slide further as Father Time catches up to him.

There is no doubt that Brady suffered his worst statistical season in many years in 2013. But how much was on him and how much was due to factors outside of his play? Brady’s numbers last season passing were 380 for 628, good for only 60.8 percent which his far below his normal percentage. But he did pass for 4343 yards and 25 touchdowns against only 11 interceptions.

He had issues to be sure, with his accuracy, his decision making and his movement in the pocket. All of which begin to show in quarterbacks at his age, but there were many other important factors that came to bear as well.

Losses in 2013 Too Big To Overcome: Gone in the off-season were Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead, free agents who signed respectively in Denver and San Diego. Brandon Lloyd was released and made a career change to an actor and was making zombie films.

Aaron Hernandez was arrested in June and is currently still in jail awaiting murder charges for not only the Odin Lloyd homicide, but a double murder committed in 2012 just prior to him signing his long-term extension.

Rob Gronkowski had numerous off-season surgeries on his broken forearm. He subsequently needed back surgery in June that held him out for the first six games of the regular season.

So starting the season in 2013, Brady was missing targets totaling 338 receptions for 3984 yards and 30 touchdowns the year prior. Worse, two of the targets that were supposed to take a lot of pressure off of his revamped and young wide receiver core, running back Shane Vereen and wide receiver Danny Amendola, both went down with injuries in Week 1.

While both came up big in the Patriots opener, their injuries were a huge blow to Brady’s already stretched-thin receiving crew. Help was found in the place of Julian Edelman, who turned in a career season of 105 receptions for 1056 yards and six touchdowns.

Once Gronkowski returned the offense took off. Brady’s completion percentage returned to levels more around his norm and the Patriots were scoring at a rate even higher than Denver. After Gronkowski went down against Cleveland with a season-ending ACL injury, the offense once again had issues, especially in the red-zone. Rookie wide outs Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce all struggled at times with the playbook and injuries to themselves.

As a result in the AFC championship game in Denver, Brady was throwing passes to Austin Collie, Matthew Slater and tight ends Michael Hoomanawanui and Matthew Mulligan. While the roster wasn’t what was needed to win in Denver or beyond, Brady did have his share of issues during the season, making some wrong reads and suffered from some poor throws as well. Was the 2013 season just an anomaly due to outside factors or has Brady truly slipped and is no longer and elite quarterback?

We tend to disagree that Brady is no longer a Top 5 QB here and we’ll spell it out further as we lay out the reasons why we think Brady will rebound in a big way in 2014: