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Are We Ready? Part III…

Lastly, everybody else:

Defense:

DE (3):

Locks:  John Simon, Chase Winovich

In:  Derek Rivers

Out: Deatrich Wise, Keionta Davis, Nick Thurman, Tashawn Bower

Comments:  Wishful thinking on Wise I guess.  Rivers perhaps too.  With Wise, it’s probably time for him to go.  He still looks like he can add value, but they haven’t played him much.  And when they do, he always commits at least one dumb penalty.  As for Rivers, he has played one season out of his three thus far.  Two full years on injured reserve.  I only added him here because while we have seen enough of Wise on the field, we really haven’t with Rivers.  Can he play?  Who the hell knows?

Truth be told, this position could use a major upgrade, so they both probably won’t be here when the smoke clears.  And it probably won’t matter.

I’m not sure I even want Winovich to play full time either.  He looks to me like a situational pass rusher and core special teamer.  But what do I know?

I’d use a few draft picks here for sure.

DT (4):

Locks:  Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, Beau Allen

In:  Byron Cowart

Out:  None

Comments:  I don’t know a single thing about Allen.  He has to be as good as Danny Shelton though, no?  Well, the 2019 version.  Not the 2018 healthy scratch one.  Again, I am not sure why we will miss Shelton anyway.  When did he become a key loss?  It’s not exactly like the Pats were real stout against the run last year.

In a normal year, Guy may be a candidate for an extension and a lower cap number.  But again, I don’t think the Pats are doing that with anyone this offseason.  Everyone who watched tape swore that Guy was awesome…and has been since he has joined the Pats.  I’ll take their word for it.  Again, how were they against the run last season?  Sigh…

Expect a draft pick or two here as well.

LB (5):

Locks:  Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley

In:  Shilique Calhoun, Brandon Copeland, Terez Hall

Out:  None

Comments:  Calhoun I guess plays some “edge” and is a special teamer.  Copeland comes from the Jets, which automatically makes me question him.  Hall is getting some buzz here in the spring as a guy that could make some noise.  That should make Hall himself nervous.  Too early for that kind of hype.

Hightower is one of the three aforementioned players with huge cap hits that could be addressed.  But similar to Devin McCourty last season, we think Dont’a gets all his money on this contract and plays this year as is.  Leadership, team transition, call it what you want.  Hightower has won Super Bowls and will probably be seeking one last big fat contract before he is done.  He was allowed to shop himself last time he hit free agency (a la Devin), but nothing apparently materialized and he ended up back in NE.  Maybe he took a discount last time.  But not next time.  Bill will gladly take the compensatory pick next year when Dont’a walks.

Big year for Bentley.  Let’s see if he can get back to what he showed in his rookie season before his injury.  Because he was no great shakes last year.

Draft picks are sure to be had here as well.

And at least Elandon Roberts is gone.

CB (5):

Locks:  Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams

In:  None

Out:  D’Angelo Ross, Lenzy Pipkins

Comments:  Some buzz about trading Gilmore now…who is the last of the three I mentioned earlier (Hightower, Thuney) that would be normal candidates for extension or trade to get the cap number down on a team that would seem to be transitioning.  Steph has another year besides this one left on his deal and after he won NFL Defensive Player of the Year last season, no doubt will be looking for a HUGE payday in his next deal.  At age 29 right now, he is unlikely to get it here.  I expect him to be here this year at the current cap number.  Then I would absolutely not rule out a trade next offseason, even if this season goes way better than expected.

Pretty solid cornerback group otherwise.  Keeping Jason McCourty at his inflated option price probably helped keep his brother Devin.  But in today’s NFL, with its emphasis on passing, you would seem to need a slew of good corners.  So having Jason around won’t hurt them.

Jones plays well out of the slot and Jackson is still young and improving.  He may be the #2 guy this year anyway.

I don’t see the Pats giving up on last years’ second rounder Williams.  Although, they gave up on the previous years’ second rounder, Duke Dawson, fairly quickly.  And Joejuan got busted for drugs earlier in the offseason.  So that can’t help.  But since the drugs were weed, he’s probably safe.

S (5):

Locks:  Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Terrance Brooks

In: Obi Melifonwu, Adrian Phillips

Out:  Adarius Pickett, Malik Gant

Comments:  Somewhat surprising Devin got as much dough as he did…but it was only for two years, so I am ok with it.  Especially under the circumstances.  Meaning, his leadership matters.  And, more importantly, a LOT of contracts are coming off the books in the next couple of years.

In fact, while we are talking about it, the Pats only have 12 players under contract in 2022.  8 are 1 million-ish and under.  Joejuan is about 2 and N’Keal about 3.  Only Jonathan Jones at about 8 and Mason at about 10 are significant outlays that year.

Interesting.

Anyway, back to the safeties.  Still old.  How much does Chung have left?  He took a beating last season.  Moreso than he usually takes.  Phillips (allegedly) and Brooks are glorified special teamers.  Maybe Obi-Wan Kenobi too (and I’ve never even seen any of the Star Wars…impressive, no??!!  Ok, ummm…).

Expecting some draftees here as well.

Specialists (8):

Locks:  ????? ?????????? (K), Jake Bailey (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Matthew Slater (ST), Justin Bethel (ST), Brandon Bolden (ST), Brandon King (ST)

In:  Cody Davis (ST)

Out:  None

Comments:  Welp, they will eventually need a kicker.  So…that position has to kind of has to be a lock, no?  I’m thinking inexpensive, mid-round pick.  With Nick Folk (still unsigned) on speed dial.  No one is talking about it now either.  But can we rule out a return for long-time kicker…Stephen Gostkowski…at some point?  Haha…did you think I was going to say Adam Vinatieri?!  Nah.  He may come back to the Colts, but I am thinking his time has come for the old age home.  He won’t be here, for sure.

What if Gostkowski has a clean bill of health late in camp or at least early in the season?  And doesn’t have a job by then?  Would he come back for presumably short money?  I’d keep an eye on that for sure.

The rest of the guys…blah, blah, blah.  Have to have a requisite number of core special teamers, don’t you?

That concludes our waaaaaaay too early look at the roster.  Probably about 60% accurate from who will break camp with the team in August/September.  But always a fun exercise to do…even in April.  Again, since there isn’t much of anything better to do…

Next:  We are done…I wouldn’t have the energy I don’t think anyway…

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.

Much better…

…we’re talking about both the New England Patriots’ performance last Sunday against New Orleans, as well as the Blowhard’s Week Two pick performance (did anyone notice we predicted the exact score & winner of the KC/Philly game?  No?  Not surprised…but it happened!).

Now, we don’t necessarily have to go back and entirely analyze the Pats game from four days ago.  But it was good to see the team get back to doing things that we know they are capable of doing.

However, I wouldn’t say all their problems are solved.  And that’s ok, because it is still September.  Plenty of time still to figure things out.  But it was disappointing to see the offense kind of sputter a bit in the second half against a historically bad Saints defense.  That’s one that stands out to me.  They should have put up 50 against that putrid outfit.

Of course, the injuries didn’t help.  Looked like Rex Burkhead was going to be a big part of the game plan.  He left early.  Phillip Dorsett was getting himself involved, then he left a little later.  No need to even talk about Gronk…we know he is an injury waiting to happen.  Every team has injuries and we will see what happens with these guys…including Danny Amendola and Dont’a Hightower, who of course did not play.  As well as Eric Rowe, who also left the game early.  But they seem to be hitting the Pats early this year.

More importantly, what is up with the playing time of Malcolm Butler and Alan Branch?  Is Butler already starting to be “phased out”, seeing that he won’t be here next year?  Is Branch causing problems somehow, as he has been wont to do in the past with other teams?  Curious dip in PT for these two.  And why did the team even sign David Harris when he has only played three snaps in the first two games…and the linebacking corps is suspect to begin with?

And where is Brandin Cooks?  The team dressed only 3 wide receivers and Dorsett eventually went down.  Plus, Burkhead apparently was going to play some receiver and he went down early.  And Cooks only had 2 catches (4 targets).  Seemed to me this was a game to get him involved more.

I won’t even start on Stephen Gostkowski.  3-3 on chip shot field goals, yes, but were any of them straight?  Another missed PAT and I’m not sure the other three made PAT’s were straight either.  And please recall that the game was played indoors.

Perhaps that is a little nitpicking for the second week of the season.  But they are all relevant talking points.  In any event, we are happy with the win, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

As for Week Three, here’s where we begin:

Los Angeles Rams (-2.5) at San Francisco

Another banner Thursday night game.  This could possibly be a worse matchup than Texans/Bengals last Thursday night.  Sure, the Rams have shown improvement from last year in their first two games of this season, but is anyone buying into them yet?  Sure, the Niners played the Seahawks close last week, but they have scored TWELVE points thus far this season.  Brian Hoyer is locking down that quarterbacking job at this point, I suppose that explains some things.

It’s a divisional battle, so maybe that’s something to grasp hold onto.  The color rush thing is kind of stupid, but if you like it then you can cling to that too.  But this sure smells like another Thursday night stinker.  Will I watch it though?  You bet!!

Los Angeles Rams 17, San Francisco 9.

Week (against the spread):  10-6

Week (straight up):  13-3

Season (against the spread):  16-15

Season (straight up): 22-9

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