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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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Patriots Roster Projection, v3

4th preseason game means zero.  For the most part.  Actually, for the full part.  In fact, not even waiting for the end of the game to get this thing going…

Offense:

QB (3):

Locks:  Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett

In:  None

Out:  None

Way Out:  None

Comments:  Still don’t see Brissett losing his spot.  Regardless of how many yards he threw for yesterday.

RB (6):

Locks:  Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, James White, Dion Lewis, James Develin, Brandon Bolden

In:  None

Out:  D.J. Foster, Glenn Gronkowski

Way Out:  LeShun Daniels

Comments:  None of the top six played in the last game.  That tells me everyone is in…including, yes, Bolden.  Foster has some skill, but there is no room.

WR (4):

Locks:  Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell

In:  None

Out:  Austin Carr, Devin Lucien

Way Out:  Cody Hollister, K.J. Maye, Tony Washington

Injured Reserve:  Julian Edelman (out for the season)

Comments:  Thought maybe Mitchell would end up on IR, but he came back to practice this week.  So let’s put him back on the squad.  Carr is a sleeper, but still see him ending up on the practice squad…or another team.

TE (2):

Locks:  Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen

In:  None

Out:  James O’Shaughnessy, Jacob Hollister

Way Out:  Sam Cotton

Comments:  No reason to think a third TE breaks camp with the team…still…especially seeing O’Shaughnessy playing in the fourth quarter of the final preseason game.

OL (9):

Locks:  Nate Solder (LT), Joe Thuney (LG), David Andrews (C), Shaq Mason (RG), Marcus Cannon (RT)

In:  Ted Karras (G/C), Conor McDermott (T), Cameron Fleming (T), LaAdrian Waddle (T)

Out:  Jamil Douglas (G), James Ferentz (C)

Way Out:  Cole Croston (T), Andrew Jelks (T), Jason King (G), Max Rich (T)

Injured Reserve:  Antonio Garcia (T) (out for the season)

Comments:  No changes.  I can’t say I have a ton of insight into the offensive line anyway.  Though I am guessing Garcia may have run out of time now.

DE (3):

Locks:  Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise

In: Geneo Grissom

Out:  None

Way Out:  Michael Bart

Injured Reserve:  Derek Rivers (out for the season)

Comments:  Grissom goes back a spot, but still think he makes it.  He did play a ton in the last preseason game…not usually a good sign.  But…another guy whose main contribution is on special teams.  And we know how Bill feels about special teams guys.

DT (5):

Locks:  Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine, Adam Butler

In:  None

Out: Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo

Way Out:  Josh Augusta

Comments:  Butler apparently didn’t play in this last game.  He’s also apparently on the squad because of that.  Hamilton got a little banged up.  Maybe that gets him on IR.

LB (6):

Locks:  Dont’a Hightower, David Harris, Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy

In:  Harvey Langhi, Marquis Flowers

Out:  Jonathan Freeny, Trevor Bates

Way Out:  Brooks Ellis, Nick Usher

Injured Reserve:  Shea McClellin (designated to return)

Released:  Christian Kuntz

Comments:  Top 4 did not play from what I could see in the last game.  Seem like locks.  Langhi was hurt they say.  I say he’s in.  I can’t even say if Flowers played, but they just traded for him, so he’s gotta be in, right?  Freeny played a ton last night…and right until the final whistle…not a good sign.  Kuntz lasted a day, but good for him.  McClellin?  Who knows?  Another guess.

CB (6):

Locks:  Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones

In:  Justin Coleman, Cyrus Jones

Out:  D.J. Killings

Way Out:  William Likely, Dwayne Thomas

Comments:  I don’t remember seeing Coleman playing at all last night.  Kind of tells me he made it.  But maybe not.  If Cyrus’ injury is serious, maybe Coleman makes it regardless.

S (4):

Locks:  Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards

In:  None

Out: Kenny Moore

Way Out:  Jason Thompson, Damarius Travis, David Jones

Comments:  I don’t think Richards played either.  So looks like he gets his third year here after all.

Specialists (5):

Locks:  Stephen Gostkowski (K), Ryan Allen (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Matthew Slater (ST), Nate Ebner (ST)

In:  None

Out:  None

Way Out:  None

Injured Reserve:  Brandon King (ST) (designated to return)

Comments:  King hasn’t been around a while.  I’ll just give him the 2nd IR-return spot.  For the hell of it.

Practice squad?  Sticking with the same 10 as last time:  Foster, Carr, Lucien, Jacob Hollister, Douglas, Ferentz, Hamilton, Augusta, Killings, Moore.  No reason to change.  Because it won’t be these 10 anyway…

New England Patriot Roster Projection-Defense

Moving on to the defense…while being thankful the roster apparently has not changed in the last couple of days.  Cuz, you know, Bill likes to consistently churn the back-end of the roster and mess us all up.  Wait, I may be the only one who cares about the bottom of the roster.  Anyway, here goes:

DE (5):

Locks:  Trey Flowers, Kony Ealy, Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise

In:  Geneo Grissom

Out:  None

Way Out:  Caleb Kidder, Rob Ninkovich (retired)

Comments:  This is what I wrote in the first roster projection last year:  “Flowers and Grissom don’t appear to be stars in the making.”  Oops.  At least on Flowers.  Welp, I’ve been completely off before.  And most assuredly will be again.  Truth be told though, most people thought Flowers was on the fringe of the roster before the 2016 season.  Now he is the unquestioned top defensive end on the team.  So I wasn’t the only one.  There have been plenty of whispers about Ealy early in camp.  His attitude.  His fit on the team.  His “coachability”.  And he has been on the sidelines quite a bit, from all reports.  But the key phrase here is, “early in camp”.  I’m not taking him off the lock list…yet.  Rivers and Wise were two of their four draft picks.  Not likely to go anywhere.  And I am hearing Wise is running with the starters at this point.  Grissom takes Ninkovich’s spot.  It helps that he is a factor on special teams as well.  Most were surprised at Nink’s sudden retirement.  But maybe we shouldn’t have been.  He’s getting up there in age and also wasn’t the same difference maker last year as in previous years…you know, before the PED suspension.  Yup…

DT (4):

Locks:  Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine

In:  None

Out: Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo

Way Out:  Josh Augusta, Adam Butler

Comments:  Pretty much cut and dried here.  Branch re-signed on a nice deal.  Guy was signed to a fat deal himself, kind of out of nowhere.  May be a little push for Brown in his third year.  But the Pats like to rotate their big guys anyway.  Valentine showed enough last year to be locked in this year.  Hamilton and Kilgo may find themselves on the practice squad and therefore may surface on the active roster at some point this season.  And Augusta and Butler are “Way Out” for the simple reason that I’ve never heard of them.  Good enough for me.

LB (6):

Locks:  Dont’a Hightower, David Harris

In:  Shea McClellin, Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy, Harvey Langhi

Out:  Jonathan Freeny, Trevor Bates

Way Out:  Brooks Ellis

Comments:  When I started putting together this column last week, I actually had Harris as only “In” and not a lock.  Thought he may be that typical veteran who was a star elsewhere and then couldn’t adapt to the Patriots system/culture/etc.  Seemed to be a prime candidate for that.  Then I saw they gave him the green dot like 2 days into camp, leading the communication on the defense.  I know, that is “early in camp” too.  But I look at this development a little differently, right or wrong.  McClellin, Roberts and Van Noy all bring different skills to the table so I figured they all stick for now.  Langhi gets a nod here, simply because almost every year an undrafted free agent makes the squad out of the gate…and usually contributes.  He is the early pick simply because they gave him the most dough.  Freeny gets squeezed here, but wouldn’t shock me if he makes it, primarily for his special teams ability.  Bates is from Maine and that’s nice.  Ellis?  Yup, no idea who he is.

CB (5):

Locks:  Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones

In:  Cyrus Jones

Out:  Justin Coleman, D.J. Killings

Way Out:  William Likely, Dwayne Thomas

Comments:  Here’s another thing I wrote in the first roster projection last year:  “Cyrus Jones HAS to be better than any of the teams’ third cornerbacks last year, doesn’t he?”  And I had Jonathan Jones as “Way Out”.  Oops.  And.  Oops.  But I can’t see them giving up on Cyrus after only one year.  Wouldn’t be unprecedented though.  Jonathan has been apparently playing the slot in camp.  Add in the fact he is, yup, a special teamer…that makes him a lock.  Seems to me they like Rowe a lot too.

As for Gilmore and Butler, that whole scenario in the spring still baffles me.  Butler has done everything the team asked since he came out of nowhere 3 seasons ago.  Played at an All-Pro level the last two years, playing for peanuts and didn’t utter much of a peep about that.  I mean, he knows how this organization operates.  But still.  Then New England gives Gilmore a huge deal right out of the gate as free agency opened.  Not typical Patriot behavior.  Don’t blame Butler at all from being pissed.  Wasn’t surprised there was the stuff about him working out a contract with the New Orleans Saints and hoping the Pats worked out a deal with them.  Nothing materialized with the Saints (or any other team, for that matter) and Butler is still here without a long-term deal.  And even since then, you haven’t heard much from him regarding all of it.  And now I think most expect Butler to play with a chip on his shoulder and help himself in free agency next year.  That will also benefit the Patriots of course.  But did the team play this out right?  Time will tell.  But hope Gilmore ain’t a colossal bust…

Coleman could I suppose be a back-end guy, but there’s no room.  Killings was I believe the 2nd highest paid undrafted free agent in the Pats pool, so maybe he gets on the practice squad and gets elevated at some point.  Likely & Thomas?  Maybe I should watch more college football, so I can know who some of these camp bodies are.

S (3):

Locks:  Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon

In:  None

Out:  Jordan Richards

Way Out:  Jason Thompson, Damarius Travis, David Jones, Kenny Moore

Comments:  Richards probably actually gets one more chance behind the three no-doubters and makes the squad when they break camp.  Three safeties is kind of thin.  But the other guys?  You know what I am going to say.

Specialists (6):

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

In:  None

Out:  None

Way Out:  None

Comments:  Nothing really to say here.  Some are surprised Belichick did not bring another kicker to camp due to Gostkowski’s uneven year last year.  I’m not.  There are plenty of kickers “kicking” around (haha) and I’m sure Bill has one or two or three in mind if last year’s issues move forward into this year.  No sense in wasting another camp spot on a kicker.  Other than that, the six here are pretty obvious.

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.  Actually, I’d say no one actually starts on the PUP list this year.  Only Hightower and Branch are currently on the preseason PUP list.  Hard to believe they will miss the first six weeks of the season, but I suppose you never know…

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