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As We Wait…

…with bated breath for the first game of Week 3 in the NFL season, the New York Jets versus the Cleveland Browns, we can address a few additional football topics.  Specific to the hometown New England Patriots, I mean.

Wait, is anyone really anxious to see Jets v. Browns?  I guess…J-E-T-S fans could be excited about Sammy Darnold.  Browns fans can be excited by almost getting a couple of wins against alleged Super Bowl contenders in the Steelers and Saints.  Perhaps the nation is fired up to see this new Cleveland kicker that no one’s ever heard of…someone who only made 69.5 percent of his kicks in college too…that should work out nicely.

Anyway, as for the Pats, we could talk about the Jacksonville beating.  But why bother?  The offense couldn’t do anything and the defense stunk.  Some think that because it was Week Two, the Pats didn’t overextend themselves, knowing that beating a fired up Jags team in their home opener in 90 plus degree weather was unlikely to happen.  The offense didn’t exactly take a lot of risks, after all.

That doesn’t explain how poorly the D played though.  Sure, when you lose 2 of your better players in Trey Flowers and Patrick Chung fairly early in the game, that certainly doesn’t help.  But that doesn’t explain Eric Rowe and all the linebackers looking putrid.  And Adrian Clayborn running past Blake Bortles numerous times, leaving Bortles plenty of room to run for yet another first down.

I don’t have any answers.  All I am thinking is that the Pats sometimes look very average in September and then fix problems as the season goes along.  Though I was pretty pissed during the game, I have started to trend in that direction throughout the week.  Maybe this year is different though, who knows?

Perhaps the Patriots have fixed one of their issues already…a punt returner.  Because CYRUS JONES IS BACK!  He is?  Really?  Didn’t see this one coming.  And I’m sure he’s not really going to make much of a difference.  I’m not sure I understand…even if it is just to return punts for two games until Julian Edelman comes back.  But they gave Jones a two-year contract.  Not that that necessarily means a whole bunch.  But still…does that mean they have bigger plans for Cyrus?  They didn’t sign Corey Coleman or Bennie Fowler to two-year contracts, to the best of my knowledge.  We’ll see…

You wanna talk about Josh Gordon?  I don’t.  Why?  That’s all people are talking about locally now and I’ve had my fill.  He supposedly has great talent.  I say “supposedly”, because he really hasn’t played in 5 years.  So how do we know he still has “it”?  Wide receivers coming into this system often take forever to figure things out, if they ever even do.  Can’t afford that kind of time here, but it may happen.  I have no problem with the trade, as who really cares about the 5th round pick?  It’s worth the gamble, even if he goes and gets loaded tonight and gets banned from the NFL yet again.  Because of the potential for that and all the other uncertainty revolving around Gordon, I am not getting my hopes up.  But I certainly will be paying attention.

You wanna talk about Ian O’Connor’s book?  I suppose we can chat a little.  I mean, it’s kind of old news now a rift has formed between Bill Belichick and Tom Brady over time.  Some of the excerpts from the book are gold though.  Bill and at least some of the coaches think they could have taken an average quarterback and made him do the same things Brady has done in his career?  Laughable.  Brady is shocked that he was getting old and Bill was looking to the future to replace him at some point, just like what has happened to EVERY OTHER PATRIOT, INCLUDING ALL THE LONG TIME GREATS.  Laughable.

Listen, this was bound to happen.  Anyone that has a head on their shoulders should know that this wasn’t going to end well.  “This” being Brady’s career in New England.  And…it will get worse, I think I would bet the house on that.  Unfortunate, of course, but who really didn’t see this coming?

This topic is going to be beaten to death over the next few weeks, so I’ll stop here now.  Once the book officially comes out, maybe I’ll read it and share some thoughts.  In any event, hopefully, Bill and Tom can put their differences aside and just win games together.  Because they needed each other for this long run of success.  We should be all able to agree on that.  Thank God Brady has Matty Patricia’s defense coming up on Sunday Night.  That should be a recipe for success.  Then again, Eric Rowe will be out there again trying to stop Matty Stafford…

As for the beginning of Week Three’s slate:

New York Jets at Cleveland (-3.5)

When do you think the Browns were last favored in a game by three and a half points?  I don’t know the answer, but I can’t imagine it’s in the decade of the 2010’s.  Maybe it was, but they still shouldn’t be favored by that here either, even against the Jets.

I know, Cleveland is a little bit of a darling these days.  1-31 the last two years, somehow Hue Jackson keeps his job and the GM is fired.  Then the tie in Week One and a close loss in Week Two…largely again, because their kicker was brutal.  But these guys are still the Browns.  And Tyrod Taylor is still their QB.  But their new kicker has a strong leg, did you hear?

You know what?  This is the NFL.  EVERY kicker has a strong leg.  Maybe teams should be more concerned with getting a kicker who is ACCURATE, even if his leg is a little weaker.  There’s a thought, eh?

Anyway, Cleveland may yet win this game.  But Darnold looks like the real deal.  And Thursday Night games usually stink.  So I am “betting” this one is close.

New York Jets 20, Cleveland 16 (one missed extra point and at least one missed field goal).

Week (against the spread):  8-8

Week (straight up):  9-7

Season (against the spread):  13-19

Season (straight up):  16-16

 

New England Patriot Roster Projection-Defense, v2

Right to the defense…

DE (5):

Locks:  Trey Flowers, Adrian Clayborn, Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise

In:  Keionta Davis

Out:  Eric Lee

Way Out:  Frank Herron

Comments:  Guess I probably should have had Clayborn in the “lock” category all along.  Davis has been getting some prime time and a ton of praise, so I made some room for him.  Not much else has changed here.

DT (4):

Locks:  Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, Danny Shelton

In:  Adam Butler

Out:  Vincent Valentine

Way Out:  John Atkins, Trent Harris

Comments:  Adding Davis, knocks Valentine off.  Davis apparently has played some inside, so maybe that’s legit.  I still wouldn’t be surprised if both Adam and Vincent broke camp with the team.  But one of them may not make it.  Right now I say Vincent.  But tomorrow I could say Adam.  Likely really doesn’t matter either way of course.

LB (5):

Locks:  Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Ja’Whaun Bentley

In:  Marquis Flowers, Elandon Roberts

Out:  Christian Sam

Way Out:  None

Injured Reserve?:  Harvey Langhi

Comments:  Bentley seems to be the biggest story of camp…well, other than that putrid wide receiver group.  The biggest positive story perhaps?  I’m locking him in because of that.  I’d rather keep just about anyone other than Flowers and Roberts.  But my sense is that they are staying.  Langhi may be ticketed for IR again this year.  It is clearly still an underwhelming group.

CB (6):

Locks:  Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Duke Dawson

In:  Cyrus Jones, J.C. Jackson

Out:  Jason McCourty, Ryan Lewis, Keion Crossen,

Way Out:  Jomal Wiltz

Comments:  I’m buying into the “McCourty doesn’t make the team buzz”.  Unless he can play safety and beats that stiff Jordan Richards off the team.  Jason played some safely in the last game.  Not sure that’s enough to keep him.  I just have a feeling Cyrus gets one more chance…especially with the team really not having a punt returner for at least 4 games.  And who wants Edelman returning them anyway once he comes back?  Undrafted free agents usually make the Pats every year.  Sometimes one, sometimes more.  I think the only one of those dudes I have on my squad now is Jackson.  After all, he was supposed to be drafted, but teams shied away because of some of his off-field hijinx.  He may not make it through waivers to the practice squad.  The others like Crossen and Lewis may.  And don’t you want to keep some of these young guys when you look at the group as a whole?  Other than Gilmore, a bunch of question marks.

S (4):

Locks:  Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon

In:  Jordan Richards

Out:  Damarius Travis

Way Out:  A.J. Moore

Released:  Eddie Pleasant

Comments:  Still Richards…yup.  I don’t want it.  But I don’t see him being jettisoned.

Specialists (8):

Locks:  Stephen Gostkowski (K), Ryan Allen (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Matthew Slater (ST), Nate Ebner (ST), Brandon King (ST), Brandon Bolden (ST), Nicholas Grigsby (ST)

In:  None

Out:  Corey Bojorquez (P), Geneo Grissom (ST)

Way Out:  None

Comments:  Looks like Allen has held off the kid, as “Bojo” hasn’t punted in the preseason at all.  I actually looked to include Grissom this time around, since he was playing with the first string defense last game.  Yes, I swear I saw him.  But in the end, since he is a guy that can come and go off the roster, I kept him off.  But we haven’t seen the last of him, I can promise you that.

As far as the IR/PUP/NFI and practice squad go, well, I took a stab at some IR guys earlier.  Doesn’t look like anyone is eligible for the PUP list, as it appears all of the preseason PUP guys were activated off it.  The NFI list has a couple of wide receivers on it in Darren Andrews and Cody Hollister…but if they were healthy they sure as hell ain’t helping that group anyway.

Practice squad?  10 spots there.  If we go by my calculations, I would put the following 10 on the ideal initial practice squad:  Etling, Webb, McCarron, Lucien, Ferentz, Lee, Valentine, Sam, Lewis and Crossen.

New England Patriot Roster Projection-Defense

Moving right on to the defense…

DE (4):

Locks:  Trey Flowers, Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise

In:  Adrian Clayborn

Out:  Keionta Davis, Eric Lee

Way Out:  Frank Herron

Comments:  I’m putting Flowers in the Shaq Mason category.  Trey is in the last year of his deal and may command big money next year.  Money I don’t think the Pats will pay.  Now, he may not command “Chandler Jones money”.  He hasn’t had the start to his career that Chandler had.  But he may still be too expensive for Bill’s taste.  I think if a trade made sense, Bill may do it.  I probably wouldn’t, as you can see the depth is a little thin at this position.  But I’m not ruling out the possibility.

Hopefully Wise can build on a decent rookie year and that Rivers can show something after missing last year due to injury.  Clayborn is probably a lock due to the contract…a surprising one at that…with like 2/3 of his sacks coming in a single game last year.  But again, every year there is a long-time veteran that just doesn’t fit in the Patriots’ system.  For some reason, I think it may be him.  Just a hunch.  It’s probably wrong though.

Lee flashed after being claimed on waivers last year…in the regular season anyway.  So he probably has a chance.  Davis always seems to be around when I write these projections, but not sure he is any type of answer.  I’ve never heard of Herron, so he will need to make some noise in camp for me to take him seriously.

DT (5):

Locks:  Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, Danny Shelton

In:  Adam Butler, Vincent Valentine

Out:  None

Way Out:  John Atkins, Trent Harris

Comments:  One more guy I put in the “possible trade” category is Brown.  His contract is up after this season.  And he may require an investment.  The acquisition of Shelton could grease the skids for that…though Shelton’s contract is up after the year too.  Seeing that they just made the trade to get Shelton, a trade of him seems unlikely.  But maybe with the other guys around, Brown can be shopped.  Again, I do not think this will happen, but I am not overlooking the possibility.  Guy has his fat contract and played well enough last year I guess, so he’s in.

We had Butler as “way out” in the initial projection last year.  Smart.  But of course, he was someone we never heard of and he needed to catch the eye to improve his standing.  And he certainly did it appears.  I think with a year of development, he sticks again.  Valentine missed all of last year.  But if he is healthy, he stays.  Because he is also young and cheap.  And Bill likes his fat guys.

This years’ “never heard of dudes” in this category are Atkins and Harris.  So we will follow their camp progress…or lack thereof.

LB (5):

Locks:  Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy

In:  Marquis Flowers, Elandon Roberts, Ja’Whaun Bentley

Out:  Harvey Langhi, Christian Sam

Way Out:  None

Comments:  Once again, an absolutely putrid group here, especially if Dont’a can’t stay on the field…which is bound to happen.  A stud when healthy, unfortunately, that almost is never the case.  They love Van Noy and gave him a ton of dough…still trying to figure that one out.  Flowers and Roberts stink, simple as that.  But who else is there?  And the team likes these guys too.  Bentley makes my team because some of the draft picks have to make it, don’t they??  (My team has the three first and second rounders and fifth rounder Bentley making it and the five sixth and seventh rounders on the outside looking in).  Sam, as a sixth rounder, may sneak on, who knows?  And Langhi showed some promise last year as an undrafted free agent, made the team, played sparingly, then had that horrific car accident.  Who knows how well he has recovered?  If he has fully, he will get his shot, since again, this is a sad linebacking corps.

CB (5):

Locks:  Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Duke Dawson

In:  None

Out:  Cyrus Jones, Ryan Lewis, Keion Crossen, J.C. Jackson

Way Out:  Jomal Wiltz

Comments:  Gilmore is the clear #1 now, but who plays the other spots and in what order is anyone’s guess right now.  The staff seems to like Rowe.  And also Jonathan Jones, who got more time at corner as the year went on before he went down with an injury late.  Some people think Jason McCourty may not be quite the lock some think he is.  We’ll see, but that’s where I’m leaving him now.  Dawson clearly makes it as a second round pick, but how much he plays is up for debate.

Lewis had some buzz in the spring and was on the practice squad most, if not all, of last year.  But then the team signed McCourty and drafted Dawson.  So much for that.  Crossen was a seventh rounder and I’m not sure who Jackson or Wiltz are, so let’s leave them where they are for now.

Cyrus Jones?  Interesting case.  Is he worth keeping around and trying to salvage?  Perhaps.  He looked a little better in the preseason last year before being lost for the year with injury.  But a ton better?  I don’t think so.  I don’t think he fumbled on returns anyway.  Has Bill given up on second rounders before?  Yup.  Bill actually has taken several bad second round picks during his tenure.  But he will get some kind of shot this summer, I will bet you that.  Perhaps Cyrus or one of the others can play safety?  They could also try to trade him, but what the heck are you going to get for him with how his career has gone thus far?  It will be interesting to watch, since I have a feeling he may stick around.

S (4):

Locks:  Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon

In:  Jordan Richards

Out:  Damarius Travis, A.J. Moore

Way Out:  Eddie Pleasant

Released:  David Jones

Comments:  Locks are easy…then we get to Richards.  Another dude who I think is atrocious.  But another dude I think the staff loves for some reason.  I don’t know if one of the corners can convert to safety and knock him off.  Or one of these other safety characters can do it either.  Jones spent last year the practice squad and was then dumped before camp.  Travis was around on the practice squad last year too, but no one is chatting him up now.  Moore?  No idea.  I do know they signed Pleasant the other day, so that seemingly leaves him out of the mix, barring a miracle.  Right now, looks like Richards will be around.  Sad to say.

Specialists (8):

Locks:  Stephen Gostkowski (K), Joe Cardona (LS), Matthew Slater (ST), Nate Ebner (ST), Brandon King (ST), Brandon Bolden (ST), Nicholas Grigsby (ST)

In:  Ryan Allen (P)

Out:  Corey Bojorquez (P), Geneo Grissom (ST)

Way Out:  None

Comments:  It’s amazing that with Gostkowski’s inconsistency the past few years the team has not brought someone in to at least challenge him a little bit.  It just doesn’t make much sense.  But with Stephen and Cardona facing no competition, they are locked in.  The fact that another punter is in camp this year means Allen’s job is not safe.  He probably holds the kid off, but we shall see on that.

The rest of the locks basically do not play another position, so they are listed here.  And since Bill loves his core special teamers, they all stick with the exception of Grissom.  But Geneo will be back.  He’s a guy they can bounce on and off the roster and no one else wants him.  So he will always be available.  And perhaps even break camp with the squad as well.

That’s about the size of it.  I’ll wait until later in camp to project the practice squad and IR/PUP/NFI and other lists.  Looks like Slater, Ebner, Britt, Cyrus Jones and Jonathan Jones are starting on the preseason PUP list.  Bolden is on the non-football illness list apparently as well.  Some of these dudes starting on the regular season PUP list will open up roster spots for others.  Let’s see how that all goes.

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