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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…

So Where Do They Go From Here? Part II

No need for any preamble here.  We will jump right into the “non-Brady” positions:

Running back:

Under contract:  Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, James Develin (FB), Jakob Johnson (FB)

Free Agents:  None

Comments:  Now that we have vomited up all those words on Brady, how much can we say here?  Well, in this section, not much.  All of these guys but Michel and Harris will be entering the final year of their contracts in 2020.  If Harris is ready to contribute after essentially a redshirt year (read:  learning how to pick up blitzes), then that could make Burkhead or (gasp!) White expendable.  I doubt it on White, but at a 4.6 mil cap hit, maybe he gets an extension.  Burkhead’s 4 mil cap hit could put him in jeopardy, but honestly, I’d find a way to keep them all around.  Remains to be seen how Develin recovers from his neck injury, so that could factor into any decision making at this position.  Michel isn’t going anywhere, despite his largely disappointing play to start his career.

Wide receiver:

Under contract:  Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Mohammed Sanu, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, Quincy Adeboyejo (Futures), Devin Ross (Futures)

Free Agents:  Phillip Dorsett

Comments:  Bye bye Phil.  At least I hope.  But there is work to be done here.  Is there going to be space on the roster?  You have to figure Jules, Sanu and Harry are locks to return.  Despite Sanu’s ineffective play down the stretch.  Maybe the ankle injury was worse than we knew.  Maybe an offseason in the offense will help.  Hard to believe the Pats will give up on him.  Jules isn’t going anywhere.  Hope he heals up and they can lessen his load a bit next year.  Harry needs to take that next step.  Meyers may also get that chance.  There should be one more quality veteran added here as far as I am concerned though.  And I am not talking about the return of Gunner.

Tight end:

Under contract:  Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo

Free Agents:  Benjamin Watson

Comments:  Great career Ben and thank you for your service.  I will never forget you chasing down Champ Bailey in 2005.  But the only thing that needs to be said about this group is that they all should be flushed and the personnel has to be completely revamped here.  Will Rob Gronkowski come back for one more run?  It’s only a matter of time before we start hearing that nonsense.  But I will say I won’t rule it out.  Hopefully, he won’t do all that garbage leading up to any kind of announcement.  But after a year off, it would not shock me if he felt awesome and wanted to give it one more go.  I’m not banking on it, however.

Offensive line:

Under contract:  Isaiah Wynn (LT), David Andrews (C), Shaq Mason (RG), Marcus Cannon (RT), Korey Cunningham (T), Hjalte Froholdt (G), Yodny Cajuste (T), Najee Toran (Futures)

Free Agents:  Joe Thuney (LG), Ted Karras (C), James Ferentz (C), Marshall Newhouse (T), Jermaine Eluemunor (G) (Restricted)

Comments:  A return to good health for Andrews will be a huge boost…if indeed that is the case.  I don’t know where he stands with that though.  From people who actually analyze offensive line play, Karras was “ok”.  But the main criticism was that he “couldn’t block at the second level”, which seems important…especially for Michel.  Since, you know…Michel can’t seem to gain any yards on his own.  Have to imagine Thuney will get megabucks elsewhere and since the team is already paying one guard (Mason) a lot of money for the next 4 seasons, it’s doubtful they pay a second guard even more.  Mason had his problems last season and hopefully, they were injury related as many have intimated.  Wynn was hurt for a great deal of the year, but maybe he finally plays a full season next year.  Perhaps that is at Thuney’s old position since that’s where many felt he belonged when he was drafted.

Cunningham was rarely active after being traded for late in the preseason.  Seems like a waste.  But maybe offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia knew he was a project and was preparing him (and Eluemunor?) for 2020 instead?  Maybe Froholdt and Cajuste learned something in their year off and can apply that on the field in 2020 as well?  Cannon was kind of putrid this season and at his high cap number could be a casualty.  Especially if any one of those jamokes can contribute something going forward.

The bottom line was that this group was not very good this year.  Whether help comes from one or two or three of these guys from within or the outside, this position will be crucial to address.  Especially if the aforementioned 43 year old QB returns.  Kind of goes without saying I suppose.

Specialists:

Under contract:  Stephen Gostkowski (K), Jake Bailey (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Brandon Bolden (ST), Brandon King (ST)

Free Agents:  Matthew Slater (ST), Nate Ebner (ST), Nick Folk (K), Justin Bethel (ST)

Comments:  Slater will have a contract if he wants one.  Bethel maybe too.  Hell, Likely Ebner as well.  I will say that I’m really not too worried about the gunners in any way, shape or form.  I AM worried about the kicker position though.  Does Gostkowski’s hip heal enough in order to justify the 5 mil cap hit on technically the last year of his deal?  Folk actually kicked pretty well for a fraction of that.  Mike Nugent sucked for likely that same fraction.  And Kai Forbath didn’t inspire confidence in his one game.  4 kickers this year after only 3 the last 23 years…with one of those for only 8 games.  I ask the people that wanted Gostkowski gone the past few years, how you feeling now?  Perhaps there is an open competition next summer between Gostkowski (if he is ready to go), Folk and some kids, perhaps a draft pick?  We will see how that goes.  But we cannot have any more Mike Nugent’s running around Foxborough.  Not if the Patriots expect to compete.

Next:  The defense.

Week Five…

…started off with the second straight Thursday Night game that went down to the wire.  How about that?!

The Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks apparently played a barnburner, though we didn’t actually see much of it.  Because the Seahawks were wearing those hideous uniforms, we didn’t have the desire to even put the game on.

Ha!  No, not really.

Just with the Boston Bruins opening up their season and the MLB playoffs gearing up, without three or four sets of eyeballs, you imagine it may be hard to focus on one sporting event.

Just know that if it was the New England Patriots, we would have watched the whole game.  Maybe the next day, but still.

In any event, I hope this is a trend of the Thursday games meaning something.

Oh, and I actually did see Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein miss a 44 yarder to put the nail in the coffin of the Rams L.

The Rams’ “Big Z” is one of the better ones out there.  And most people around here wanted Stephen Gostkowski gone for quite some time now.  Once again I implore you to be careful what you wish for.

Best of luck, Mike Nugent.

New England Patriots (-15.5) at Washington 

I have no idea why Redskins coach Jay Gruden named his starting QB yesterday.  Gruden tabbed Colt McCoy for Sunday’s tilt.  I can’t say we should be surprised, because Case Keenum is still hurt and we all know Gruden doesn’t want to start Dwayne Haskins (didn’t help that he was putrid in relief of Keenum last week).  And that he loves McCoy.  But why not keep the Pats guessing up until game time?  Wait…I suppose it doesn’t matter.  Nevermind.

New England Patriots 41, Washington 9.  

Tampa Bay at New Orleans (-3.5)

Are the Bucs for real?  Not feeling it.  Yet.

New Orleans Saints 27, Tampa Bay 23.

Minnesota (-4.5) at New York Giants

The Vikings passing game sucks right now.  Hard to figure, with the weapons it has.  I know the coaches, specifically the new Offensive Coordinator, are trying to make the running game the center of the offense.  Which isn’t horrible I guess either, when you have someone like Dalvin Cook.  Though, you know, the NFL is now a passing league.  But I’m not the head coach I guess.  Anyway, realistically, even with the emergence of the Giants’ new kid QB Daniel Jones, the Vikings should win this game.  But I heard a stat the other day that was quite disturbing.  And I wish I could remember it exactly.  Or find it somewhere on the interwebs.  And I can’t do either.  Something about the Vikings being 0-12-1 or something as road favorites on the East Coast under head coach Mike Zimmer.  But don’t quote me exactly.  In any event, for better or for worse, it was at that exact moment I decided to take the G-Men in this game.

New York Giants 24, Minnesota 20.

Chicago (-4.5) at Oakland 

Does Chase Daniel give the Bears a better chance to win than Mitchell Trubisky?  Something to think about.

Chicago 23, Oakland 13.

Jacksonville at Carolina (-3.5)

Gardner Minshew vs Kyle Allen!!  Who had this one circled on their calendars in the preseason?!  Both have played well, give the backups credit for that for sure.  Who do you like better?  Side note, the Panthers lost the first two at home and won their last two on the road.  Weird.  Does that trend continue?

Carolina 24, Jacksonville 23.

New York Jets at Philadelphia (-13.5)

Luke Falk is still there.  ‘Nuff said.

Philadelphia 34, New York Jets 10.  Lock of the week.

Arizona at Cincinnati (-4.5) 

0-7-1 combined.  Ugh.  I have nothing to actually say about this game.  If I did, would you care?

Cincinnati 17, Arizona 14.  

Buffalo at Tennessee (-2.5) 

Similar to Daniel/Trubisky discussed above, does Matt Barkley give the Bills a better chance to win than Josh Allen?  As bad as Allen has looked, it’s hard for me to believe that one.  As we write this, Allen still has a chance to play.  Either way, the prediction will remain the same.

Tennessee 19, Buffalo 12.

Atlanta at Houston (-4.5)

The entire AFC South is 2-2.  Seems to me the Texans should be better.  Their games are always close, whatever that means.  Their 4 games have been decided by a combined 16 points.  With Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn on the hot seat, can the Falcons keep this one close to steal it in the end?  0-2 on the road already, my guess is a hearty “no”.  Probably time for a change in Atlanta.  And the Texans need this one with road games against the Chiefs and Colts up next on the slate.

Houston 31, Atlanta 17. 

Baltimore (-4.5) at Pittsburgh

Nice win by Steelers last Monday night.  But the Bengals are…really bad.  I can’t put a whole lot of stock in that win.  Besides, in the parts of the game I was able to see, Steeler quarterback Mason Rudolph seemingly only threw to the running backs.  With an occasional toss to a tight end.  That’s probably not gonna cut it against the Ravens.

Baltimore 34, Pittsburgh 20.

Denver at Los Angeles Chargers (-6.5)

I thought the Broncos were pretty bad and they are 0-4.  But their 4 combined losses are by 23 points.  And you would think a divisional game would also be close.  I’m not thinking that way in this one however.  Joe Flacco looks like a shell of himself.  And he wasn’t even that great in the first place.

Los Angeles Chargers 31, Denver 16.  

Green Bay at Dallas (-3.5)

Pair of 3-1 teams hooking up here.  Wide receiver Davante Adams is out for the Packers.  Things are probably lining up for everyone to pick the 3-1 team that is home.  But the Cowboys opened up against the Redskins, Giants (Eli Manning’s Giants) and the Dolphins.  Fairly easy to go 3-0 against those squads.  Then once they played a real team. they lost.  Sure the Saints game was on the road.  But it was also against their backup QB.  I’m not buying in on this Cowboy team…yet.  Remember, their coach is still Jason Garrett.

Green Bay 27, Dallas 24.

Indianapolis at Kansas City (-10.5)

The Chiefs had a scare last week on the road against the Lions, of all teams.  The Colts didn’t look so hot against the Oakland Raiders, of all teams.  The Colts are also missing a ton of players.  Not ideal for a trip to Arrowhead.

Kansas City 38, Indianapolis 17.  

Cleveland at San Francisco (-3.5)

Baker Mayfield vs Jimmy Football!!!  It’s actually an intriguing Monday Night Football matchup.  This time slot has been atrocious this season, so let’s hope it actually something worth watching.  I’m not sure I am buying into either one of these teams as of yet.  The Browns are off to an inconsistent start and while the Niners are 3-0, they haven’t really played anyone.  The fact that SF is coming off a bye and is at home is what I am looking at right here though for this one.  And I think the Niner coach is much better at his job than the Brown coach, for whatever that may be worth.

San Francisco 31, Cleveland 27.

Week (against the spread):  1-0

Week (straight up):  0-1

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  2-2

Season (against the spread):  33-31

Season (straight up):  43-21

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