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Summer Is Over…

…bummer.  But you know what that means?

THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE IS BACK!!

Ok, I’d kind of like a little more summer.  But I guess there is nothing I can do about it, sssssooooo…

The defending champion New England Patriots do not actually open the season on Thursday Night Football.  That honor belongs to the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears.  Hey, they’ve been playing each other for almost 100 years, and the NFL is 100 years old this season, so I think we can all live with that.

We will get to that game in a smidge.  But let us follow up on the recent Patriot roster projection columns with some random comments on what the final roster actually looks like.  Not to mention other random NFL thoughts as the season gets set to begin.  Once again, in no particular order:

*3 years, 12 mil (9 mil guaranteed) for Brian Hoyer in Indy??  Yikes!!  Throw in the Colts jacking up Jacoby Brissett’s salary, that is…crazy.  Welp, guess they had to spend Andrew Luck’s salary on someone.

As mentioned in the last projection, I would’ve cut Hoyer too.  No way did I think the Pats would do it though.  And Tom Brady seems a little upset about it, judging by his comments in recent days.  When is Brady going to realize that he can’t play forever and that the Pats will need to get younger at QB someday?  And the sooner the better.  Sometimes he seems to just act like a big baby over stuff.  Once he retires and is running the whole TB12 nonsense he will have to manage people himself, no?  Then he may really understand what it is like to “run a business”.  Can’t wait for that.

In any event, the Pats wouldn’t be winning a Super Bowl with Hoyer if something happens to Brady.  They won’t with Jarrett Stidham either.  But wouldn’t you rather give the experience to the kid anyway?  Seems like a no-brainer to me.  Then you get someone of Hoyer’s ilk off the street to back Stidham up.  Guys like that are a dime a dozen out there.

Which makes Indy’s contract to Hoyer kind of silly, no?

Good for Brissett to cash in a little now that he is the starter.  But a jump that huge may be a little much.

Wait…if Brady gets hurt, they can always bring back Matty Cassel right?  Will that make Tommy happy??

*Speaking of Luck, kudos to him for leaving the sport if that’s what he wanted to do to help maintain his long term health.  Honestly, he could have just been placed on Injured Reserve and missed the whole year…thus collecting his entire salary for the year.  And then retired at the end of the season.  But he passed all that dough that up.  Gotta give him some credit for that.

But boy, the timing left a lot to be desired, no?

A part of me doesn’t blame the fans for being pissed that he retired a couple of weeks before the season.  They will get over it.  But it would have smacked me right in the face as well.

Wonder what his teammates think?  They probably have seen him suffering over the years.  And they also know what it’s like to play in the league.  The sacrifice it takes.  So even though the Colts’ chances decreased after Luck left, my guess is that the players are ok with it.

Maybe not the front office though…and perhaps the coaches.  But again, they will get over it too.

And maybe Patriots Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels saw the writing on the wall when he ended up declining the Colts gig a year and a half ago?  That may be a stretch.  But you never know…

*Speaking of retiring early, is anyone else sick of seeing Rob Gronkowski now?

Kudos also to Gronk if he retired thinking about his health and his future as well.  And if “football was bringing him down” as he said last week.

And now that he is outside of the strict hand of Bill Belichick, he can act however he wants.  Good for him.

But PLEASE stop with the whole “I could come back if I wanted to…” thing.  I hated when Roger Clemens would pull this crap every year.  Take the year off, do your CBD thing and if you want to come back next year, do it.  Already tired of the “will he or won’t he come back” talk.  Not to mention his pimping of the CBD stuff.  But I guess he needs something to do.

Though the Pats could use him, no doubt.  None of the 27 tight ends they brought to camp inspired anyone…

*Was anyone really surprised that Demaryius Thomas was cut and immediately brought back?  Shouldn’t have been.  That was a done deal all along.

It allowed the team to put receiver N’Keal Harry on the injured list in-season.  Meaning he can come back if the team deems him ready about halfway through the season.  And with the injury uncertainty with Julian Edelman, the suspension uncertainty with Josh Gordon, the “what does he have left in the tank” uncertainty with Thomas, along with the very average Phillip Dorsett and the two kids after that, it buys the team time to get Harry fully healthy, while evaluating all else above.

Thomas didn’t show much last year.  Then he hurt his Achilles.  Sure, he played well in the last preseason game against guys that aren’t playing anymore this week.  But there was zero chance of flight risk.

*Speaking of the two kids at receiver, I fully expect Jakobi Meyers to be a healthy scratch every week, despite his huge preseason.

Why?  Well, he didn’t really mesh with Brady in their short stint together in the third preseason game, for one.  He did return some kicks in the preseason, but I don’t think he is much of a special teamer overall.  He came out of college a little raw.  Probably needs some more time to develop.

It actually wouldn’t shock me to see the Pats try to quietly move him to the practice squad at some point when they need a body elsewhere.

You heard this here first.

*…and GUNNER!!  Great story.  Actually surprised he ended up making the team.  Looks like another team would have claimed him and he would not have snuck down to the practice squad.  Hard for me to believe even that.  But that has to be why he made the final 53.

I hope they use him as a returner.  Especially a punt returner.  No need to subject Edelman to that abuse (unless it is a “gotta have it” moment).  I will say this though:  If I see Gunner Olszewski doing anything on the football field other than returning kicks and other special teams tasks, I will be very, very, very, VERY nervous.

Maybe he turns into something in the future.  But as great a story as he is, he is not ready to be an NFL receiver yet.  Or certainly an NFL cornerback either.

Because, you know, I am an expert!!

*Melvin Gordon wants money and Ezekiel Elliott just got paid.  Good luck with that.  I know, I am a Patriots honk.  But I will never understand why teams spend money on running backs.  Elliott is AWESOME.  But doesn’t Dallas ALWAYS have a great offensive line?  Hmmmmm…Gordon?  He’s good?  But whatever.

I know.  The Pats spent a first round pick on Sony Michel last year.  And he was good last year.  Think he will be GREAT this year.  But still.  By the time his rookie contract is done, he will be discarded.  Make no bones about it.  Take that to the bank.  The Patriots will use him up and let someone else give him a fat second contract.  And let’s not forget about the bad knees going back to college…what will they look like in 3-4 years.

*Houston!!  Keep doing what YOU do!!  Is it this bad while you wait for Nick Caserio to take the reins next year??  Jadaveon Clowney for 20 cents on the dollar.  Then overspending on Laremy Tunsil?  AWESOME!!

By the way, where is that Dolphins “revolt” after the trade of Tunsil??  What a joke.  The ‘Phins are tanking and everyone knows it.  Including the players.  There will be no revolt.

Good luck Brian Flores.

*Antonio Brown.  Has this loser found a helmet yet?  Yes, loser.  One of the most dynamic receivers of this era, this guy is pretty much a laughingstock right now.

Sure, he can come out and make Derek Carr look a lot better than he is this year.

But would it surprise anyone if he went even more off the reservation?

Not me.

I really don’t have much else to say.  His actions speak louder than anything else.

*Final Patriot roster thoughts…in the secondary.  Surprised that Keion Crossen got dealt.  The team seemed to think of him highly.  Not only in the secondary, but as a potential “Matthew Slater replacement”.

Ok, a Slater replacement should not be hard, with all apologies to Bill and his special teams’ cronies across the world.

But still…

On the opposite spectrum, Duke Dawson.

Ouch.

Yet another failure for a second round defensive back in the Billy Belichick drafting queue.

Ras-I Dowling, Cyrus Jones, Patrick Chung (1st time), Eugene Wilson, Darius Butler, Terrance Wheatley, Jordan Richards, Tavon Wilson…and yes, I just looked some of them up.

Some of the other second rounders leave a lot to be desired as well.  But this focus is on defensive backs because this seems to be a real bugaboo for Bill.

Dawson didn’t even play a down for the team.

Yikes!

Let’s just hope Joejuan Williams breaks the mold this time.

I’m not counting on it though.

The chatter on local talk radio this week was that the Patriots swing for the fences in the second round.  Also meaning that they play it safe in Round One.  Then get value in Rounds Three through Seven.

Kind of makes some sense.

But there have some BIG misses in that round.

Gronk, Jamie Collins, Sebastian Vollmer, Matt Light, Deion Branch were hits.  But the aforementioned DBs and some offensive players like Chad Jackson and Adrian Klemm have been big strikeouts.  More K’s than hits.

So maybe there needs to be some change in philosophy?

Ok, I guess they have six rings, so what do I know??

Anyway, the actual Thursday Night game to open the season?

Green Bay at Chicago (-3.5) 

I have no idea, really.  Aaron Rodgers and his new coach, Matt LaFleur, already seem to be at odds on play calling.  But who knows how much of that is actually real?  We do know Chicago still has Mitchell (or is it Mitch?) Trubisky at QB…a good thing?  Don’t think so.  Chicago is at home.

Again, I don’t know.

But one thing I do know?  The Bears had some kicking problems last year with Cody Parkey.  And they replaced him with who?

No idea.  But my feeling on this night is that will actually matter.

Green Bay 24, Chicago 23.

2018 Season (against the spread):  147-120 

2018 Season (straight up):  171-96 

Career (because I love numbers!) (against the spread):  290-244 (54.3%)

Career (straight up):  351-183 (65.7%)

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More Leftovers…

More random jibber-jabber, in no particular order:

*CELTICS?!!  Who saw that smokeshow over the Bucks in Game 1?  How about…NO ONE?

I think we should all take the first round pounding of the Indiana Pacers with a huge grain of salt.  The Pacers really weren’t any kind of playoff team.

But that game against the Bucks Sunday?  Where the heck did that come from?

The Celtic players have told us all year to “not worry about us, we will be fine come playoff time”, blah, blah, blah.  But did any of us actually believe that nonsense?

Nope.

But let’s pull back the reins a bit.  It was a nice game.  But there is plenty of series left.

The Celtics shot 54% and the Bucks 35%.  The “Greek Freak” shot 7 for 21 himself.  The C’s are perfectly capable of firing up their share of bricks.  And the Bucks at home are bound to be better.  This alone should give everyone pause.

So even though Paul Pierce actually said: “this series is over”.  Let’s not let the rest of us get carried away…yet anyway.

*The Boston Bruins actually got by the Toronto Maple Leafs in their first-round series.  We weren’t that confident about that when we last wrote about the team.

Now they are facing a battle with a hot Columbus Blue Jacket team.  You know, the one that dumped the President’s Trophy winners the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round?

The series is currently tied 1-1, as of course, we all know.  But that double OT loss was a bad one for the Bruins.  Are they tired?  Maybe.  Are they banged up?  Maybe.

But some really stupid decisions in that game.  Patrice Bergeron’s essentially game-ending penalty.  Charlie Coyle’s dumb pass.  Jake DeBrusk going in alone on the goalie and dropping a pass back to a covered Bruin.  The list goes on.

The power play has disappeared.  So really has David Pastrnak.  Pasta, Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Torey Krug, among others, need to play like they are capable of (Krug at least offensively).  I’m not sure what to do about Zdeno Chara.  At times it has been ugly with him.  But you can’t exactly bench him…not that I’m suggesting that is the solution.  Completely anyway.

So if the mental mistakes of Game Two continue, it will be a short series.

But the more important thing is having some of the teams’ best players actually start showing up.

*Patriots draft.  Good or bad?

Who the hell knows?!

Can’t ever tell with these things until a few years down the road…at least.

But a snap judgment?

Who the hell knows?!

In all seriousness, it appears that the Pats did ok.  Based on what the “experts” say.  Ok, let’s not really pay attention to the experts.  Cuz they don’t know everything either.

As for the players, I didn’t exactly love them taking a wide receiver in the first round.  But I wasn’t opposed to it either.  I know nothing about this N’Keal Harry kid.  And anyone around here that says they do is lying.  But WR is a huge need for the Patriots.  So if this was one of the best at the position, I’m sure as hell ok with them adding him to the group.

I’m not sure why they needed another cornerback to add to the roster…at least one taken at #45 in the draft.  The CB room is stacked already.  But then I thought about it a little.  And if this Joejuan Williams kid can actually play, then it can’t ever hurt to have another solid guy in that group.  Besides, some of the other cornerbacks in the room may be a fit at safety as well.  As we saw with Jonathan Jones in the Super Bowl.  And that safety group is getting up there in age.  So it appears they did ok here.

I am not going to go through the rest of the picks individually.  You know, since I am not Mel Kiper or Todd McShay.  But we HAVE to talk about the quarterback.  4th rounder?  I guess.  On one hand, this kid Jarrett Stidham was supposed to be a first rounder if he came out last year.  So “they” say anyway.  Then he sucked badly enough last season to drop to the fourth round this year.

What does that tell us?  I have no idea.

Stidham has to be a better prospect than last years’ seventh-rounder, Danny Etling.  He probably isn’t even much worse than the current backup, Brian Hoyer.

Either way, adding another guy to the QB room and basically taking another shot at a kid that COULD be the replacement for Tom Brady down the road is not a bad thing.  And if Stidham really had first-round talent at one point and you get him in the 4th round this year…well, it’s worth it.

The rest?  I never mind the Pats loading up on the line, on either end of the ball.  They took 4 mid-round swings there.  A punter in the fifth?  Meh.  But that’s about where Bill Belichick likes to take his special teamers.  There’s nothing we can ever do about that.

A running back in the third?  Actually, not opposed to it.  They kept 4 last year and then Jeremy Hill got hurt.  If this Damien Harris kid can play, he can get right in the mix there immediately.  I’ve said it a million times, the team will continue to run the ball more.  The more capable bodies they have there, the better.  Especially when Rex Burkhead (and Sony Michel?) can’t stay healthy.  And we really do not want James White running the ball a whole lot.

Lastly, the Patriots are taking some heat for not drafting a tight end.  Let’s face it, they are not going to find another Rob Gronkowski.  Period.

As we have said before, not sure Jared Cook would have been the answer either.  So let’s roll with what they have:  Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Ryan Izzo, Matt LaCosse, Stephen Anderson, Jacob Hollis…oops, Hollister just got traded to the Seahawks for a bag of footballs.  Maybe they add some more kids and a vet or two like Benjamin Watson.  What’s the difference?  As long as they can block, if the team runs more, they won’t throw a ton to the TE anyway.

And again, for emphasis, they weren’t finding the next Gronk in this draft.  I don’t care what they say about T.J. Hockenson.  There’s been plenty of those types of guys drafted high in past years.  Guess what?  They weren’t Gronk either.  So not taking a tight end doesn’t bother me in the least bit.

One last nugget:  Gotta love the SEVEN trades pulled off by Bill.  Overkill?  Perhaps.  But, “it is what it is”.

*The Red Sox still stink.  That will likely change at some point.  But this start is a joke.

We covered that a great deal last time, so we won’t delve deep this time.  But we have a few things here:

*Does everyone know that Marcus Walden leads the Sox in wins with 3.  Really?  LIke the 15th guy on the staff has the most wins on the team 20% of the way through the season?  Wow.

*Something that may only interest me:  Brandon Workman has pitched 12 2/3 innings and has only given up 2 hits.  Awesome, right?  I’d hold off on that actually.  I think we have to factor in the 12 walks he has allowed too.  12 walks in 12 2/3 innings?  Seems hard to do.

*Michael Chavis is up from the minors and actually hitting the ball a bit.  And walking some too.  Small sample size, but worth noting.  You know, since a lot of the rest of the team isn’t.

As long as Chavis is hitting, he should be in the lineup.  Even when all those injured second basemen come back.

I’m sure he won’t be in the lineup though.  But he may also not be hitting when the injured come back.  So it may not matter.  But you can’t tell me he can’t offer more than those injured 2B, Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt.  Certainly offensively anyway.

The team will most assuredly send their top hitting prospect back down to Pawtucket for more “seasoning”.  And maybe he needs it.  Or will need it.

But don’t do it if he is producing.  Unless he gets nailed on the juice again…

What Are The Pats Doing?

What do you mean?  They are doing what they ALWAYS do.

To back up a little bit…so that Gronk piece last week was supposed to be an update on the New England Patriot free agency action.  Then he kind of threw a monkey wrench (wait, is it politically correct to use this term anymore?  Brief research indicates that it’s ok, but you never know these days.  But…I digress…) into that plan.

So the Pats are doing what they always do during the free agency period.  Eschew the bigger names and sign a bunch of depth-type guys and see who sticks.

What’s wrong with that?  Doesn’t that always seem to work?  For the most part anyway, I would say?

But the fans once again do not like it.  Talk radio hosts don’t either.  So yet again, we have to listen to everyone squawk about how “Bill never does anything” and “we need a receiver who can stretch the field” and all that crap.

Doesn’t anyone ever learn?

Sure, I suppose it would be nice to have had defensive end Trey Flowers return.  Or have the Patriots sign a high profile free agent from outside the organization such as linebacker C.J. Mosley or the “Honey Badger”, safety Tyrann Mathieu.  OR trade for another high profile guy such as receivers Odell Beckham Jr. or Antonio Brown.  Who doesn’t love a big splash?

But this is not how New England does business.  This is not how Bill Belichick has EVER done business.  No, we can’t count the acquisitions of Randy Moss or Corey Dillon back in the day.  Bill took advantage of disgruntled stars supposedly on the decline.  Beckham and Brown may have been disgruntled, but they don’t appear to be on the decline at all.  Not the same situation.

Maybe you can count the Adalius Thomas acquisition as an exception.  But you get the point:  it’s rare that Belichick signs off on these types of things.

So even though the re-signing of Brandon Bolden and the signing of Matt LaCosse may be the two biggest moves of the offseason thus far (Ok, it’s actually the trade for Michael Bennett.  But once again, you get my point), there is no reason to panic at this point.

Especially considering that we have about three and a half months before training camp even opens.  Not to mention a draft at the end of the month.

The draft?  Yeah, I know that is a crapshoot.  Especially for Bill and his crew.  But they have 6 picks in the first three rounds.  Gotta believe that a couple of those pan out.  Not to mention that the 12 picks they have overall will eventually turn into 16 this year (5 in the seventh round) and one or two next year.  So they can miss on a great deal on them actually.  Though we aren’t hoping for that of course.

I would guess the focus at the draft would be on tight end, receiver and fat guys on both sides of the ball.  Then again, the Pats won with THAT group of receivers last year, so maybe they just sign a couple more bums off the street to cover that.

But a TE in the first round?  Eminently possible.  Some would even say probable.  But knowing Bill he takes a safety or something.

In any event, this roster is far from being final.  Not to mention I really believe the team thinks Josh Gordon will contribute next season…for whatever that is worth.

As for the free agents they HAVE signed, I can’t say I have a tremendous problem with any of them.  I don’t particularly love Bolden.  But Bill is going to stockpile his special teamers whether we like it or not.  And since Bolden wasn’t here last year and the special team units kind of stunk, bringing him back can’t be awful.  “Safety” Terrence Brooks allegedly will help there too.  Nose Tackle Mike Pennel HAS to be better than either Malcolm Brown or Danny Shelton, right?  LaCosse won’t be Gronk.  But hopefully, he won’t be Dwayne Allen or Jacob Hollister either.  Bringing WR Phillip Dorsett, CB Jason McCourty, P Ryan Allen and DE/LB John Simon back won’t kill you.  We will see about new WRs Bruce Ellington and Maurice Harris.

Then ask me again after the draft…where they may have to take a kicker now too, as Stephen Gostkowski and the team are apparently differing on the amount of compensation in the next potential deal.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  Gostkowski can be shaky at times.  Seemingly during key times.  BUT when you look at the body of work, you have to acknowledge that he has been pretty damn good over the years.

Many people want Gostkowski gone.  But look at some of these kickers floating around the league.  Not good.  Be careful what you wish for.  One of those retreads may end up in Foxborough.  Then you’ll be begging for Stephen to come back.

Now, he should face competition from someone next year.  Say that every year.  Spending a low round pick on a kicker, I would not be adverse to.

While we are on free agents and Gronk and all, many people think Gronk “screwed” the Patriots by waiting so long to announce his retirement.  Because people felt that they could have spent his cap room on a guy like free agent TE Jared Cook.  Or free agent WR Adam Humphries.

But did he really screw them?

We are talking about Jared Cook here.  A 10 year NFL veteran…of 4 different teams.  Now a 5th with New Orleans.  Who has never broken 1,000 yards…or even 900.  Are we as fans really bitter on missing out on him?  I can’t see it.

We are also talking about Adam Humphries.  Now, Humphries is a young, ascending slot receiver…we think anyway.  Could be the next Troy Brown, Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, etc.  But what if he isn’t?  On top of that, how would a big fat contract like the one he supposedly was offered look in the “room”, with Edelman still here making maybe half of what Humphries was making?  Can’t say that would be a positive, though the Pats have certainly dealt with distractions like that before and could have worked around it I’m sure.  But worth noting.

I have to tell you if Gronk “screwing them” is the popular thinking, why are we also not blaming guys like Devin McCourty and Dont’a Hightower for “screwing the Pats”?  Those guys’ inflated cap numbers are not commensurate with their play.  Hightower came out and said he wasn’t taking a pay cut…not sure if the Pats even asked.  Not sure about anyone asking Devin either, but I am betting if they did, he balked too.

Now, we know Bill loves those guys “in the room”.  But Stephon Gilmore restructured.  Maybe they should have considered it too?  Michael Bennett even restructured and made himself some more money in the process.  Maybe Devin and Dont’a could’ve too?  Just sayin’…

Tom Brady will likely restructure down the road as it’s unlikely he will keep that 27 mil cap charge for next season.  And if he really plans on playing until he’s 45, then an extension should be in order as well.

Bottom line?  They will work the cap any way they need to in order to make things work.  Like every other team does.

Speaking of Brady, how does everyone feel about Josh Rosen?  Rosen didn’t have much of a rookie year in Arizona last year.  But he’s young.  And a Top Ten pick from last year.  I know, Blake Bortles was taken third overall in 2014…so I guess Rosen’s draft slot doesn’t mean a whole helluva lot.  Not to mention the fact that I have no idea if the kid can actually play.  But the scenario is worth monitoring.

Don’t the Pats have to add a “real” quarterback this offseason?  I say yes.  But I guess this is where Bill usually says “no”.

By the way, Gronk’s agent flapping his gums about him potentially coming back?  I suppose it’s possible.  But I’m not betting on it…

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