Training camp opened up this week for the New England Patriots. Led off by another informative Bill Belichick press conference…not. He’s never telling us why he didn’t play Malcolm Butler in the Super Bowl last year. But I don’t mind people still asking.
I will also tell ya…this whole thing about badmouthing the taskmaster Belichick is laughable. Sure, he isn’t perfect. Butler, trading Jimmy Garoppolo for 25 cents on the dollar and we could list several more probably. You’re bound to make some mistakes over 18 years. Have we forgotten all the good he has done too?
Even more, he had Jimmy Football set up to lead the Pats for the next decade or so…once Tommy Boy finally decides to decline, that is. And at 41, it may come sooner than people, or even he, is ready to accept.
Sure, the thought of trading Brady is hard to stomach. But the end will come. And at his age, there is a very good chance it could come quick. So what’s wrong with having someone good ready to go next? Tommy Boy didn’t like it though. And got owner Robert Kraft to side with him. But why is Bill the bad guy here?
Same with the Rob Gronkowski trade rumors. Gronk may be the best tight end of all-time. But he’s hinting at retirement and gets hurt a ton. So why wouldn’t Belichick try to get some value for the guy in a trade while he can? Certainly can investigate it. I would. I may not actually do it. But, based on the circumstances, it’s smart to see what was out there. So why was Bill the bad guy here too?
In any event, even if none of these zipperheads get along, with the players not going to voluntary workouts and all that nonsense that people were flipping out about this summer, I am not sure it will matter in the end. Unless Brady pulls a Brett Favre in his age-41 season with the Vikings.
Moving on, the team has 90 players in camp, so let’s get to why we are here. The Pats made a few roster moves this week, so I included them…since I already had the players lined up. The first roster projection of the year, right here:
Locks: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer
Out: Danny Etling
Way Out: None
Comments: Unless you think the seventh-rounder Etling is the 2018 version of the 2000 Brady that was drafted in the sixth round and you want to put him on the team. I don’t. I see practice squad written all over him. Plus Bill usually keeps only 2 quarterbacks anyway. Hoyer is a safe backup. It would be hard to believe Etling could beat him out this summer to take the backup job. I don’t see it anyway. But who saw Brady take the backup job back in 2001? I suppose at least he had a full year in the system, something Etling obviously doesn’t have.
Locks: Rex Burkhead, James White, Sony Michel, James Develin
Out: Mike Gillislee, Jeremy Hill, Ralph Webb
Way Out: None
Comments: Burkhead signed a decent sized three-year deal, so it looks like he heads in as the lead back. Until Michel replaces him. Likely due to injury. White is the third down guy. The team loves Develin. The locks are pretty easy.
A pretty solid fall for Gillislee. He was the man last year early and didn’t take advantage of his opportunities. Lost the job to Dion Lewis and now it looks like he will lose his entire fat paycheck this year. Hill is nice to take a flyer on. But as a 4th back…you can find those anywhere. Unless someone gets hurt, I expect him to be gone, with the team going with more depth at other positions. I’d normally have Webb as ‘Way Out”, but I think they gave him a nice signing bonus as an undrafted free agent. Has to count for something I guess.
Locks: Chris Hogan
In: Jordan Matthews, Phillip Dorsett, Kenny Britt, Cordarrelle Patterson
Out: Braxton Berrios, Riley McCarron
Way Out: Devin Lucien
Suspended: Julian Edelman
PUP/IR/Traded/Released: Malcolm Mitchell
Released: Cody Hollister
Comments: Welp, this is one fine mess! Hogan is the only lock, with Edelman suspended the first four games for PED use. Matthews would seem to be the closest to another lock. But he could be one of those guys that never find a rapport with Brady, despite having success elsewhere. Patterson will be kept for kick returns and gadget plays. Dorsett would seem to be buoyed by having a full year in the system, and a full training camp this year. Remember, Jacoby Brissett was traded for Dorsett like 5 days before the season last year. I have no idea if he can actually play, but he would seem to have a leg up on others this year now based on the above. And…people that watch film said he got open a ton last year, just Brady never threw to him, for whatever that’s worth. I wasn’t bullish on Britt initially. But I read something recently that the team likes him as the #3 guy during Jules’ suspension. Guess that means he is on the team.
Berrios may have a chance. But I see the practice squad in his future. Speaking of the practice squad, McCarron was on it for all of last year I believe. And there was some buzz about him in the spring too. Then the Pats signed Matthews, traded for Patterson and drafted Berrios. So much for that buzz. Lucien spent some time on the practice squad last year, I think maybe the whole year too, after getting drafted in the seventh round in 2017. But they thought so much of him that they let him walk, only to re-sign him like two days ago. Hollister was another long-term practice squad dude from last year. But he had some sort of “non-football” injury I guess and they just dumped him.
Mitchell is kind of a sad story. Football one anyway. We all know he was at like a fourth-grade reading level in college and then took action to improve and is now an author. But he can’t stay on the field in the sport. Too bad. He showed promise in 2016. But then missed all of 2017. And now may miss all of 2018. The talk is they are trying to trade him, but good luck with that. Who knows what will happen, but the end result is that he won’t be on the roster this year any way you slice it.
Locks: Rob Gronkowski
In: Dwayne Allen
Out: Jacob Hollister, Troy Niklas, Will Tye, Ryan Izzo
Way Out: Shane Wimann
Comments: Gronk…of course. But I battled with the rest. Allen’s salary and production would seem to make him a natural cut. But he stuck around all last year. So will he again? Someone still has to beat him out. Maybe Hollister takes a step up? Maybe Niklas lives up to his draft position of several years back? It won’t be Tye or Izzo. Izzo seems like a practice squad guy as a seventh rounder this year. Tye seems fungible. It sure as hell won’t be Wimann, who I’ve never heard of…and I expect you haven’t either. Maybe they keep three TE’s too. I don’t know how many people really pay attention to backup TE battles. But if you do, this could be a good one. It’s Allen for now, until further notice.
Locks: Trent Brown (LT), Joe Thuney (LG), David Andrews (C), Shaq Mason (RG), Marcus Cannon (RT), Isaiah Wynn (T/G)
In: LaAdrian Waddle (T), Matt Tobin (T), Luke Bowanko (C/G)
Out: Ted Karras (G/C), James Ferentz (C), Cole Croston (T), Jason King (G), Ulrick John (T)
Way Out: Nate Theaker (G)
Retired: Andrew Jelks (T)
Comments: Seems like Big Trent is going to get first crack at replacing the overrated and overpaid (especially now) Nate Solder. But they may cycle through a few guys in camp before it’s over. Waddle is back. Tobin and John were brought in to presumably battle. Some people insist that first rounder Wynn can play tackle. And then there is Croston, who spent all of last year on the active roster and barely played. So there may be some drama here yet. The “ins and outs” may change weekly, or even daily, at that position.
Karras has seemed to be a capable backup along the interior. But then again, he was cut last year out of camp. And then they brought in Bowanko this offseason. Karras’ time may be officially up now. Ferentz and King seem to be fringe players. No one has ever heard of Theaker. Jelks was getting some buzz in the spring…even though he had missed 3 straight years of football. So much for that buzz. But he probably made the right decision by retiring.
Going back to the starters, other than left tackle, the line appears set. But I think we should watch out for one thing. A Shaq Mason trade. What? Yup. We know Bill ain’t paying Shaq big money next year. The market for guards went up with a huge contract or two this past offseason. Does Bill preemptive strike and unload him for value in camp? Maybe. What it would also do is open a spot for Wynn at guard, where most think he will end up anyway. Something to consider. I think there may be a few candidates for trade on defense as well. But we will get to that in due time.
Next: Defense and Specialists