So the last couple of weeks have been dominated by the Boston “winter” sports teams in this space. There’s been plenty of other stuff going on, so I’m dumping it all here, like it or not. Ready? Again, in no particular order…
*One last Celtics note to start though: About 30 seconds after posting my last piece I found out Isaiah Thomas wasn’t getting suspended for popping Dennis Schroder in Game 3. So I guess you can disregard an entire paragraph wasted on worrying about his potential suspension. Timing…always been a strong suit of mine…either way though, the C’s dodged a bullet there.
*If Steven Wright is still pitching this well when all the Red Sox’ injured starters come back, he better stay in the rotation. David Price will obviously keep his spot. Can’t see Rick Porcello and his contract go to the bullpen. Never been a bullpen guy. Same for Clay Buchholz. Eduardo Rodriguez is a starter and you want that youth and potential ace material in the rotation. But if they try to stick Joe Kelly back in the rotation at Wright’s expense…ugh. Of course, Wright could suck by then. And there is the strong likelihood that Bucky will get hurt anyway. So the solution will probably sort itself out. Surely with no help from John Farrell though.
*Speaking of Price, I am not worried about him at this point. But I can say it was pretty disturbing to cough up a 5-1 first inning lead against a team whose lineup is absolutely putrid. Especially since I witnessed it live.
*Along the same lines as Wright getting yanked around all the time despite pitching well, may I present you…Heath Hembree? Same deal. These two guys always seem to get outs when given the chance, only to be the first guys discarded because they have options or whatever other reason. I know, I know, it’s not like they have had a long run of success in the majors. And maybe they don’t always pitch in high leverage situations, especially Hembree out of the ‘pen. But have you seen enough of guys like Noe Ramirez? Seems like that dude has pitched in every game this year…and not exactly that well. Matt Barnes? Tommy Layne? Why don’t teams always just go with guys that actually, you know, get outs? I get it…contracts, options, whatever…but isn’t the goal to win?
*Another thing likely no one cares about: Edwin Escobar got designated for assignment this week by the Sox. Who is Edwin Escobar, you ask? Well, he and Hembree were the return in the trade of Jake Peavy in 2014. Escobar was thought of as having some decent potential at the time. He just turned 24 and is LEFT-HANDED. That’s kind of the key here. I have absolutely no idea if he can pitch at the major league level. But was it really necessary to DFA him in favor of William Cuevas? Who is Cuevas, you ask? A right-handed pitcher that is older for one. But seems to be just another guy from what I can see.
I’d rather keep the lefty around to see if he’s anything. Plus, there wasn’t another 40-man roster move available if you wanted Cuevas up so bad? 60 day DL for someone (Panda perhaps, since they don’t want him around anyway)? DFA Bryce Brentz (outfielder that hasn’t developed and is now playing in AA as a 27-year-old)? Or just call up Roenis Elias in the first place, since he was on the 40-man roster already? Ok, that’s probably a lot of words for something only I care about. But still…
*Dominique Easley was surprisingly released by the Patriots about 10 days ago. No one saw this coming…or would admit to it anyway. You see, these beat writers know a lot more than they can actually tell us. If they spilled the real story, they’d likely lose their sources of information. And then eventually, quite possibly their jobs, since they couldn’t provide anything at all to their readers. Trust me, I get it. But it’s frustrating nonetheless.
So in the meantime, we are told a bunch of things: “He has the knees of a 40-year old.” “There is a pending lawsuit against him for his dog biting someone.” “The team didn’t like that he couldn’t practice immediately as a rookie, due to dog-related injuries.” “He was a locker room cancer.” “There is no one reason he got released.” “The team and the player had a difference of opinion on how to rehab his injuries.” Etc.
Maybe it was a combination of all of these and the “cancer” thing was the icing on the cake. I’m betting there is even more to the story. Easley will count more against the salary cap this year now than if he was still on the team. Hard to believe they would dump him if it was just a concern about rehabbing injuries. And if his knees were that bad, they could again stash him on injured reserve at a lesser cost.
Easley looked like he could play a bit when he was on the field. He is still young overall, despite the knees. Then he went unclaimed on waivers. Yup, definitely more to that story.
*Couple of big trades in the NFL with the draft coming up. The Tennessee Titans traded the number one pick overall, and a couple of other picks, to the Los Angeles Rams for Vince Ferragamo…er, oops, I mean a slew of high draft picks. Great deal for the Titans. The Rams? Maybe they should have kept their pick a few years back and taken Robert Griffin III?
The Cleveland Browns traded the number two overall pick (and one other pick) to the Philadelphia Eagles for another slew of picks. Although the Browns can’t possibly be sold on the aforementioned RG III as their QB of the future, they need help all over the field, so it’s probably a good deal for them. The Eagles? Mystifying.
Philly already locked up Sam Bradford for huge dough…albeit for only 2 years. And claimed they are not trading him and he will be the starter this year. They also signed Chase Daniel to a pretty pricey backup deal…and he isn’t even any good. Now they are going to take either Jared Goff or Carson Wentz as well?
Furthermore, when did Goff and Wentz become even Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota? I’m no college football expert. Looking at the numbers, Goff looks like he had a decent career. But Wentz played at North Dakota State and seemingly came out of nowhere. Not a whole hell of a lot accomplished in college either it seems. Kind of a gamble dealing several picks for the chance to take him, no? QB’s are always a gamble. But they’d better hope this isn’t like 2011, where Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder went 8, 1o & 12 (yikes!) because QB-needy teams panicked and took them all waaaaaay too early.
It’s interesting also to look back at the times QB’s were drafted 1 and 2, one of them usually had a long career and the other? Not so much. (1971-Jim Plunkett/Archie Manning, 1993-Drew Bledsoe/Rick Mirer, 1998-Peyton Manning/Ryan Leaf, 1999-Tim Couch/Donovan McNabb…and maybe still too early to tell on 2012-Andrew Luck/RG III and 2015-Winston/Mariota). Every pick in any draft is a gamble of course. Just seemed like a lot to give up for the Rams and specifically, the Eagles.
That’s enough for now…but nope…I am far from done…
The Patriot’s win was a little closer than I expected. Maybe the weather was a factor. Maybe rust. Who knows? But it was still quite comfortable in the whole scheme of things. Being at the game, I never felt like it was in jeopardy. Even though the Pat’s D was kind of atrocious…but more on that later. Some random observations, starting with my favorite:
*Crybabies/whiners/losers/etc. Welp, sure looked like the Steelers jumped on the bandwagon with all the Patriot-bashing that has occurred over the last several months. And that really heated up with some “new” stuff this week. Maybe they just felt they should jump on board since they lost a game everyone was watching.
Mike Tomlin. “The headsets never work at Foxborough”. OK. Coming from a guy that once tried to trip a Raven player returning a kickoff a couple of years ago. Maybe he should look in the mirror. As haters would say against the Pats when it comes to that kind of stuff: “there’s more where that came from”. Or, “where there is smoke, there is fire”. Trick play on the FIRST SERIES OF THE SEASON?! Taking your sweet arse time in the last quarter down 2 TD’s? Playing for a FG in the 4th quarter on the road down 2 scores against a Super Bowl contender, with a kicker that missed 2 FG’s already? Oh yeah, that’s Todd Haley’s fault, not Tomlin’s. Or the weather’s…
Maybe he is feeling the heat. 11-5 last year, but a playoff loss. Two 8-8 seasons before that. No playoff wins since 2010. A defense that is without Dick LeBeau for the first time in forever…some Steelers fans may say that is a good thing actually…and doesn’t appear to be very good regardless. The D talked a lot of smack about how they were going to jam Gronk and take him away. Then for some reason had no one cover him on a handful of plays. And on the others he still did what he wanted to. Anyway, Mikey has a Super Bowl on his resume…but that was 2008. 2nd year as coach, maybe that team was a bunch of Bill Cowher leftovers?
Big Ben. “Unwritten rule was broken by the defense shifting at the goal line”. What? If it’s unwritten…nevermind. But there was nothing wrong with the play. Hard to ever take anything serious from a criminal. Wait. He was never convicted, just accused a whole bunch. My bad. As haters would say against the Pats when it comes to that kind of stuff: “there’s more where that came from”. Or, “where there is smoke, there is fire”. Oops, I already said that. Kind of applies again here though, no? Nice throw to Duron Harmon by the way. Oops again, he’s on the home team. Or was that throw Haley’s fault too?
Anyway, enough of that garbage. Onto the actual performance:
*Tom Brady. As I’ve always said, why use him in the preseason? Sure, he had a little rust maybe when he overthrew a wide open Danny Amendola for a potential TD early. And that was a terrible throw to Dion Lewis late, when a first down may have led to more clock killing…and a lot of happy gamblers, assuming the Steelers don’t score with 2 seconds left. But a total of 7 incompletions…not too shabby.
*Gronk. What is there to say? Please, please, please just stay healthy!
*Dion Lewis. Talk about out of nowhere. 15 carries? The pass catching…ok. Moves in the open field…ok. But solid ground work…who saw this coming? It’ll be a while before he gets 15 carries again, I imagine, what with LeGarrette coming back. But other than the fumble, quite a game for the guy.
*David Andrews/Shaq Mason/Tre’ Jackson. 3 kids getting significant PT in the middle of the line after the somewhat surprise inactivation of Ryan Wendell. Seemed to hold up well. But next week against Buffalo will be something to keep a close eye on. Their DL is significantly better than Pitt’s. But hopefully a nice confidence booster for them.
*Brandon Bolden. Yuck. Blount is no Hall of Famer, but glad he will be back next week.
*Aaron Dobson. Yuck again. Seemed to see pretty good playing time, but targeted only once. At least he caught it.
*Reliance on Gronk and Julian Edelman. See above on Gronk. Apply it to Julian too. Brady can’t just laser focus on these guys all year long. It’s only one game. But already seems to be going in that direction. Not good.
*Dominique Easley. Seemed to be poised to take a step up this year. But now he is hurt again. With the 23 defensive linemen Billy B kept on the roster, hopefully they will be able to withstand his loss in the short term. As usual though, no idea how long he will be out. And the DL couldn’t stop D’Angelo whether he was in the game or not, so…by the way, I just said D’Angelo as in “D’Angelo Williams”. Not D’Angelo as in “Le’veon Bell” or “LeSean McCoy” or “Demarco Murray”. I think you get the point.
*DB’s. Talk about yuck. Guys were running wide open all over the secondary again last night. As I’ve said more than once, asking Malcolm Butler to go from undrafted free agent playing 16% of the snaps to #1 shutdown corner is quite a bit much to ask, in my humble opinion. Despite the great 2nd half in the Super Bowl. Maybe it works over the course of the year. That’s what we have to hope for. As well as the rest of the secondary taking shape over the next several weeks. The team has always seemed to figure this kind of stuff out over the years, even if that means a healthy dose of Hank Poteat, Earthwind Moreland and even Troy Brown and Edelman. But seeing Nate Ebner out there last night for a handful of snaps is not something I want to see at all going forward. I also wish the Patriots could finally figure out how to cover a tight end. Heath Miller was always open as well. As are all the other TEs they face. That’s what made them go out and get Scotty Chandler, right?
*Marc Bertrand. I have to add this “joker” to the list for one reason and one reason only. Driving home, I was listening to the postgame show and he was going through the scoring that happened during the game. When it came to the clip of Will Johnson scoring his TD, he actually stated, “a little bit of Johnson goes a long way!”. I’m sure there were not a whole lot of people listening at that time. But I say he should be put on probation for his job at the very least. Not because the quote was offensive, as he most assuredly meant it to be. But because the joke was colossally stupid. Just dumb and not funny in the least bit. Did anyone laugh? I mean, besides the Beetle himself? Did DeOssie even get it? I probably should cut him some slack, since he did his normal show in the 10-2 slot and here he was 11 or so hours later, back on the air. But…
‘Nuff said…we’re onto Buffalo…
Locks: Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Trey Flowers
Way Out: None
I wanted to split out the defensive ends and defensive tackles, but with the way the Patriots kind of shuffle these guys around, maybe that wasn’t such a smart idea. In any event, it looks as if the team has more DL types than pure DE types as of right this second. The possibility also exists that if Jamie Collins, Don’t’a Hightower and Jerod Mayo are all healthy, either Collins or Hightower will rush the passer more from this position. So I went with all 4 pure DE types being locks. Obviously changes if Flowers’ injury from the exhibition opener is serious.
Locks: Dominique Easley, Malcolm Brown, Sealver Siliga, Geneo Grissom
In: Zach Moore
Out: Alan Branch, Joe Vellano, Casey Walker, Antonio Johnson
Way Out: A.J. Pataiali’l
Not many people loved the Grissom pick…where it happened in the 3rd round anyway. So regardless of how well he does now, it’s unlikely he won’t make the squad. Moore seemed to have some potential last year and I wouldn’t think he would be cut either. Though I do wonder why they moved him inside this year. But he would seemingly be DE depth as well. Branch is the vet on D that I could see them moving on from kind of unexpectedly. I don’t think the salary is prohibitive. But if they wanted to keep all of these younger bodies in tow it may be a move that has to be made. The other vets are fringe guys anyway. And A.J. Pahkjnafanjknj…I admittedly know nothing about.
Locks: Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, Jerod Mayo
In: Jonathan Freeny, James Morris
Out: Darius Fleming, Cameron Gordon, Dekoda Watson, Rufus Johnson
Way Out: Xzavier Dickson, L.J. Fort, Eric Martin
Can’t get any more solid than the locks above. Yet again though, the backup LBs are a weak group. Belichick seems to basically use his backup LBs as special team linchpins every year. Even the 4 “outs” are probably known more as special team guys. Anyway, didn’t think much of Freeny until they played him a ton in the first game and he was lauded by Bill this past week. Morris was kept on IR all of last year and I’ve heard whispers that they seem to like him. In any event, don’t be surprised to see Chris White back here once his injury heals. I know, L.J. Fort was already released today. But since I had the bulk of this written before I found out, I’m leaving him here. Proves I got one thing right anyway. Well, maybe it proves nothing, but…
Locks: Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan
In: Tarell Brown, Robert McClain, Darryl Roberts
Out: Bradley Fletcher, Dax Swanson
Way Out: Jimmy Jean, Brandon King
Letting go of arguably their 4 top cornerbacks on paper this offseason (Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Kyle Arrington, Alfonzo Dennard…ok, you can fight me on Fonzie) seemed to be a dicey proposition. That hasn’t changed for me, sorry. Butler goes from 5th or 6th CB to Super Bowl hero to now top CB…just like that? Ryan played ok as a rookie, not so much in his sophomore year. Brown and McClain are veterans who don’t seem to be special. Roberts is a 7th round rookie. If you want to add Fletcher here, throw him in the same category as Brown and McClain. I have Bradley out since I’ve heard nothing from him since the start of camp. He may still make it, especially if they stash Roberts on IR after his injury in the opener. But you can’t tell me that you have any comfort with this group at all. Scary.
Locks: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards
In: Tavon Wilson
Out: Nate Ebner
Way Out: None
Same goes for the safeties. McCourty is a good one, but one of the highest paid? Not so sure. Richards was a reach in the 2nd round, according to everyone (nice reminder of how well Tavon Wilson has worked out as an unheard of 2nd rounder…oops). The other guys? Unexciting. That may be the kindest word to describe them. These DB’s scare the bejesus out of me. That about sums it up.
Physically Unable to Perform (2): Chris Jones, Dane Fletcher
There are 4 dudes on the preseason PUP list. Keeping these 2 on for the regular season. LaFell and Wendell tentatively break camp with the team. Since no one really knows how their injuries are progressing, this could obviously change.
Injured Reserve (2): A.J. Derby, Tyler Gaffney
At least we know these 2 guys are here. Already on the list going forward. And so much for the Gaffney Hall of Fame push. All I heard was that Tyler was going to be a major cog in the backfield this year once healthy. That they stole him from Carolina last year. Listen, if Carolina absolutely wanted to hang onto the guy, they wouldn’t have exposed him to waivers at the time that they did. They would have carried him and then put him on IR when they didn’t have to expose him to waivers. They took a chance that no one would claim him. They were wrong, but if he was that invaluable, he wouldn’t be here in the first place. Plus, he wouldn’t have been a 6th round pick either. But what do I know?
Non-Football Injury (1): Caylin Hauptmann
I think this guy is still on the NFI list and I don’t even know what for. Nor do I care. The Pats did care enough about him to carry him on the practice squad for however long last year. But I’m not expecting him to be a factor at any point, no offense to him or his family.
Practice squad (10):
Total shots in the dark here, as obviously it is early in the preseason. But also because of the eligibility rules. I am not going to pretend I know who exactly is eligible for the practice squad and who is not. Sure, I could do all the research. But, ummmmm…no thanks. Not for this projection anyway. I did just briefly look at the eligibility rules though, for the record. All sorts of stuff about accrued seasons and 46 man game day rosters and third practice squad seasons and changes for 2014 & 2015 that will revert back to 2013 rules for 2016 if there is no extension and blah blah blah. For this exercise, I will just assume anyone with less than 3 year’s experience is eligible. Thank you so much for your understanding…
That’s about it…along with Fort being released there was a trade today and some more roster moves. So I guess I won’t be perfect…