|08.27.13 at 12:54 pm ET|
With the Patriots roster slowly but surely taking shape as cuts come into the picture, it’s worth taking another look at the team’s 2013 draft class and where each of the rookies stand as the the regular season approaches. Here’s a quick look at the group, which did not feature a first-round pick.
Jamie Collins, OLB, Southern Miss (second round, 52nd overall)
Collins has done some of the expected and some of the unexpected in his first camp. He was brought in to add a pass-rusher to the team’s rotation at linebacker, but he’s also seen some time playing inside (he even started in Jarod Mayo’s place against the Lions). His best performance of the first three games came against the Buccaneers, as he led the team with six tackles (three solo and one of which was for a loss).
It would seem given that he’s played both outside and inside that the Patriots are kind of letting him feel his way around and find a spot, something Bill Belichick hinted at when they drafted him. Assuming he ends up playing mostly outside, the Pats can use two of a group of Dont’a Hightower, Rob Ninkovich and Collins.
Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall (second round, 59th overall)
The Patriots have thrown to Dobson a ton in the preseason — 21 times, to be exact — and he hadn’t done much with it in the first two weeks. Targeted a total of 13 times in the Philadelphia and Tampa Bay games, Thompkins had just four catches for 65 yards. He nearly matched that production in the next game against the Lions, reeling in four catches for 50 yards.
All in all, Dobson hasn’t been bad, but undrafted free agent Kenbrell Thompkins has been better. With that being said, expect both rookies to be lined up outside for the Pats when the season starts, but Thompkins should be considered to contribute ahead of the higher profile Dobson.
Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers (third round, 83rd overall)
Ryan had a good week when the Patriots practiced with and played against the Buccaneers, as he had a pick-six against Bucs starter Josh Freeman and practice and returned another interception for a touchdown in the game, the latter of which was against Mike Glennon.
The Patriots have their starters at corner with Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard and nickel Kyle Arrington, but Arrington appears to have played himself into the backup slot corner role behind Arrington. Ras-I Dowling would probably be more likely to play outside than Ryan, but that could change, as the 2011 33rd overall pick remains unproven.
Duron Harmon, S, Rutgers (third round, 91st overall)
Harmon was the biggest head-scratcher of the draft at the time, as he was ranked as the 26th-best safety (good enough to make someone an option as an undrafted free agent), but he ended up being the ninth safety taken.
The Patriots know that Devin McCourty will be one of their starting safeties, and even if Adrian Wilson is on the bubble, they have lots of bodies at the position with Steve Gregory and 2012 second-round Tavon Wilson. Belichick was as complimentary of Harmon as he could be about a rookie recently when he said that he has had “a good camp.” So there’s that.
Josh Boyce, WR, TCU (fourth round, 102nd overall)
A foot injury kept him off the field in rookie minicamp, but the injury suffered at the combine is in Boyce’s rearview mirror now. He’s production in games has increased has been greater in the second and third preseason games, as he had no catches (one target) against the Eagles, three grabs on four targets against the Bucs and two catches on five targets against Detroit.
Michael Buchanan, DE/OLB, Illinois (seventh round, 226th overall)
Buchanan finds himself in a battle with the likes of Jake Bequette, Jermaine Cunningham, Justin Francis and Marcus Benard for a job as a defensive end. Given that he probably isn’t a serious candidate to make a big impact as a rookie, he might be better off redshirting in some way, shape or form.
Steve Beauharnais, LB, Rutgers (seventh round, 235th overall)
Beauharnais looks to be a smart special teams guy for now, with the potential that he could at some point contribute as a linebacker. It’s hard to see him making it to the practice squad if they waive him, as some team would surely grab him.
|08.27.13 at 8:30 am ET|
Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard was due to appear in court in Nebraska on Tuesday for a probation violation hearing, but the court date was moved to Sept. 6, according to a report from the Lincoln Journal Star. That means, unless the date gets rescheduled again, Dennard would have to be in Nebraska two days before the Patriots’ season-opener against the Bills in Buffalo.
In April Dennard was placed on probation and sentenced to 30 days in jail — to be served next March — after being convicted of assaulting a police officer outside a nightclub days before he was drafted by the Patriots in 2012. Then in July, Dennard was arrested for suspicion of DUI.
Worst-case scenario for the Patriots is that Dennard’s court date is not moved and the judge orders him to serve his jail term immediately for violating terms of his probation. That would force the cornerback to miss the first five games of the season.
|08.27.13 at 7:30 am ET|
While most of the personnel moves that happen at this time of year are free agents signing with a team after they’ve been cut loose, there are occasional trades — there were a few made over the last week, including the Bills dealine linebacker Chris White to Detroit for quarterback Thaddeus Lewis on Sunday. While the Patriots have never been particularly active in the trade market at the end of the summer, they have made an occasional move here and there. Here’s a list of the deals made by the Patriots over the last decade that took place between the final week of August and the start of the regular season.
Sept. 1, 2012: Acquired wide receiver Greg Salas in a deal with the Rams for an undisclosed future draft pick.
Aug. 26, 2009: Traded offensive lineman Russ Hochstein to the Broncos for an undisclosed draft pick. (Earlier that month, they also traded defensive lineman Le Kevin Smith to the Broncos for an undisclosed draft pick, and acquired defensive end Derrick Burgess from the Raiders in exchange for offensive lineman Al Johnson.)
Sept. 2, 2006: Acquired wide receiver Doug Gabriel from the Raiders for an undisclosed draft pick. (Later that same month — one day after the start of the regular season — the Patriots traded wide receiver Deion Branch to the Seahawks for an undisclosed draft pick in 2007.)
Sept. 1, 2006: Traded running back Patrick Cobb to the Steelers for an undisclosed draft pick.
Aug. 23, 2005: Acquired wide receiver Andre Davis from the Browns for an undisclosed draft pick.
Aug. 26, 2003: Acquired offensive lineman Jamil Soriano from the Chicago Bears for an undisclosed draft pick. (It was the second deal of the month between the Patriots and Chicago, as New England acquired defensive tackle Ted Washington from the Chicago Bears for a 2004 fourth-round draft pick on Aug. 20.)
|08.27.13 at 1:06 am ET|
The NFL Players Association has come to the defense of Aaron Hernandez, at least with regard to money the organization claims he is owed.
The NFLPA on Monday filed a grievance on behalf of the former Patriots tight end in an attempt to force the team to pay $82,000 in offseason workout bonuses.
On June 26, the day he was arrested on a first-degree murder charge in the murder of acquaintance and former semi-pro linebacker Odin Lloyd, the Patriots cut Hernandez and terminated his contract. Last week, a grand jury indicted Hernandez for the murder, moving the case toward a trial. Hernandez is being held without bond in the Bristol County jail after pleading not guilty to the murder and multiple weapons chargers.
Hernandez signed a five-year, $40 million contract extension in 2012. That extension included standard bonuses for offseason workouts. He earned $82,000 in bonus money for attending offseason activities with the Patriots from April to June while recovering from shoulder surgery. Those bonuses had not been paid when Hernandez was arrested and his contract terminated.
Hernandez’s contract with the Patriots included $12.5 million guaranteed. Of that guaranteed money, $9.5 million has already been paid. The Patriots voided future guarantees on the contact, even though $1.137 million of his $2.5 million salary for 2013 became guaranteed on March 17.
Hernandez’s contract also included $3.25 million in deferred signing bonus to be paid in March 2014, money Hernandez and his representatives could claim he’s also owed.
“On behalf of all players, it is our responsibility to protect the rights in the collective bargaining agreement. We are not tone deaf to what the allegations are in this case, but for the benefit of all players, there are important precedents here we must protect,” the NFLPA said in a statement Monday afternoon.
|08.26.13 at 6:43 pm ET|
FOXBORO — If Tim Tebow is worried about making the 53-man roster when final NFL cuts are made Saturday at 6 p.m. ET, he’s certainly not showing it.
There’s been plenty of conjecture in the last two weeks as to whether his poor statistical production along with the lack of on-field performance will spell the end of his days in New England. He cleared one apparent hurdle when the Patriots cut their roster down to 77 active players before Monday’s practice.
Tebow is just 5-for-19 for 54 yards, one interception and 17.6 quarterback rating in two games. He did not get on the field against the Lions last Thursday.
Is he unsure about his future?
“I’m not worried about that,” Tebow said. “[I am] just focused on today. I learned very early on in my career at Florida to worry about what I can control and the things I can’t control, I’m not going to spend time worrying about. But I can control my attitude, my effort and focus every single day. Those are the things I’m going to worry about.
“Just trying to get better every day and improving, because I think that’s what it’s all about. I’ve been trying to get better every day so hopefully, that’s something I’ve been able to do.”
Still the question had to be asked of New England’s most famous back-up QB: Any sense of your fate?
“I’m just focused on today,” Tebow said with his typical smile.
Is this week any different?
You don’t even think of what could be?
“No, just another game,” Tebow said. “You focus, not even on that game, but on preparing for that game. You focus on today, the install and getting ready for practice.”
|08.26.13 at 5:06 pm ET|
Making his weekly appearance with Salk & Holley, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was characteristically tight-lipped when it came to making major decisions on his roster this week, though he did discuss the process and the different challenges that face him each year at cut-down time.
The Patriots have to be down to 75 players on Monday and 53 players by 6 pm Saturday in compliance with the league’s deadlines. The Pats made a number of moves on Monday, cutting five players, putting two on injured reserve, putting two on the reserve/non-football injury list and re-signing a pair of players who had previously been cut in cornerback Stephon Morris and defensive lineman Scott Vallone. The moves leave the Patriots with 78 players.
“[There’s] probably at least a couple meetings a week, with maybe some other discussions along the way,” Belichick said of finalizing his roster. “I think there’s some other things you’ve got to take into consideration, the 45-man game day roster, the 53-man roster, the practice squad roster. You just have to be aware of what your salary cap situation is and look into what your potential expenses are going to be during the season because you’re going to have to somewhere along the line replace somebody. I don’t think everybody’s going to be healthy for the entire season. I hope so, but that’s just not realistic.
“You’ve got to do some budgeting and you have to take a look at where your depth is. If you carry certain guys on your practice squad, maybe they’re depth, but then where is your depth coming from at other positions where you might not have a player on the practice squad? Who could you get to the practice squad? Who’s practice squad eligible? All those kind of things, but a lot of them end up taking care of themselves.”
Belichick said that things get trickier when dealing with players who have missed practices or preseason games due to injury, particularly ones who have missed significant time.
“Those are always the tough ones,” he said. “How much do you wait [to see] what the player can do, or maybe what he’s done in the past or where you think he’ll be. It’s what we have to do. It’s not the ideal situation, but whatever information we have, it’s all we have. We have to make a decision with it.”
Ideally, Belichick said, the financial and injury concerns are ultimately trumped by how players perform and what they prove they can give the team, but the other factors add to the challenging process.
“Let the players play, and somebody merges ahead of somebody else, or sometimes injuries occur or what have you, and then there are some times when you have to really make a decision based on the amount of information you have,” he said. “Sometimes it’s not as much as you’d like, but it’s all what you have and then you just have have to do the best you can there. It’s a combination of all those things.”
|08.26.13 at 4:36 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Will Tim Tebow play a lot on Thursday night in the preseason finale? How much will the starters play, if at all. How much planning is going on for the first two games of the season? How much review still needs to be done on players to get down to 53 by Saturday’s 6 p.m. deadline?
All of these questions and much more is on the plate of Bill Belichick and his staff as they plan for the preseason finale against the Giants while also keeping an eye on the Bills and Jets, the two teams they’ll play in the first five days of the regular season.
Adding to the intrigue was the news Monday that undrafted free agent Jeff Tuel could get the starting nod at quarterback for the Bills in the preseason because of a concussion to Kevin Kolb (possibly career-ending) and a knee injury to EJ Manuel.
However, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported Sunday that Manuel is progressing very well from his scope of last week and might be on track to start against the Patriots on Sept. 8.
If he isn’t ready to go, then it’s Tuel time for the Bills against the Pats. What does that mean to Belichick?
“The analysis and all that is not really there yet,” Belichick said of the Washington State product. “It’s more just a few first look and just trying to get to know the teams.”
The season opener will also be the first real NFL game experience for new Bills head coach Doug Marrone. So, tendencies will be at a minimum.
“Opening day is always a hard game to prepare for, no matter who it is because you either don’t have any history or you have a lot of history, more than you need,” Belichick said. “You have to try to figure out what that balance is. I think that most teams that go to training camp and spend the weeks in training camp, the weeks in the preseason games, you’re certainly going to see some of that on opening day. A team isn’t going to come in there and not do anything they worked on all year on opening day and have a whole new scheme. But I’m sure everybody has some wrinkles, has some things that they’re holding back, has some changes that they haven’t shown that you have to be ready for and that’s part of opening day.
“We’ll have them, I’m sure Buffalo will have them and we’ll see how it all turns out and then things will start to settle in a little after that but that’s part of opening day. Yeah, you can look back at all the stuff he’s ever done at New Orleans, the Jets, Syracuse, this year. Yeah, you can put an encyclopedia together but there’s still only one game. There are only so many plays you can run in that game. I’m sure they can do the same thing: they can go back and watch all our games from the last decade and find some relevance. But you have to put your chips on some number and go with your preparation there and if it changes, deal with it during the game.”
In general, with the flurry of activity around the league combined with his own in-house roster decisions, including what to do with Rob Gronkowski (PUP), DL Armond Armstead and WR Mark Harrison (NFI), this is arguably the busiest week of the season for Belichick and his staff.
“This is a big week for us,” Belichick said Monday. “We have a lot of things going on obviously. We have a roster reduction that has to be done tomorrow; we made a few moves today. As our coaching staff, trying to get things ready for the Giants obviously, evaluate our team, start to get ready for Buffalo and then we have a Thursday night game right behind that that we can start to do some preparation for before we get fully into the Bills ‘ a lot of moving parts. As always there are some conversations with other teams in the league at this time of year relative to roster movement and things like that. We’ll just try to take it one day at a time here and just chip away at all the different things that are happening.