Patriots Finalize Training Camp Roster

July 30, 2009

With the Patriots first training camp practice beginning in just a few minutes, I thought I’d take a look at a couple of roster moves the Patriots made over the last couple of days.

To start, the Patriots released two players; cornerback Jamar Love and offensive lineman Jermail Porter.  They finalized a four year contract with 2nd round pick Patrick Chung, as well as sixth round pick Jake Ingram.

The Pats also worked out one player, outside linebacker Stryker Sulak.  Sulak was a sixth round pick in this years draft, but was unexpectedly released by the Raiders last week.  At 6-5, 265 pounds, Sulak is an ideal fit as a pass rushing outside linebacker, although playing defensive tackle mostly throughout college, he could be solid in run support as well.

The Patriots also placed five players on the active/PUP list.  The players placed on the physically include Ty Warren, Shawn Crable, Rich Ohrnberger, Darryl Richard, and Mark LeVoir.  Rookie wide receiver Brandon Tate was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list.

That pretty much wraps everything up. The Pats’ first practice is beginning as I write this, so tune in tonight with my thoughts on what I saw today.

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2009 Training Camp Preview: Wide Receiver

July 24, 2009

Overview

I don’t think there’s any question who Tom Brady’s top two targets will be at the wide receiver position in 2009, with Randy Moss and Wes Welker both returning.  But after those two, there are a lot of questions at the wide receiver position, considering the departure of the Patriots’ second outside receiver Jabar Gaffney.  In the offseason, the Patriots acquired veteran Joey Galloway through free agency, Greg Lewis through trade, and rookies Brandon Tate and Julian Edelman through the draft.  Also returning are Sam Aiken, Matt Slater, and Ray Ventrone.  Shun White and Terrence Nunn round out the position.

Projected Depth Chart

1. Randy Moss

2. Joey Galloway

3. Wes Welker (slot)

4. Greg Lewis

5. Brandon Tate

6. (Sam Aiken)

7. (Julian Edelman)

8. (Matt Slater)

9. (Ray Ventrone)

CUTS: Terrence Nunn, Shun White

Burning Questions

1. Who will emerge as the #3 target behind Wes Welker and Randy Moss?  How much tread does Joey Galloway have on the tires?  Is Greg Lewis ready to step up?

2. Can Randy Moss and Wes Welker continue to play at an elite level?

3. Will rookie Brandon Tate be healthy for training camp?  If not, will he go on PUP, or will he be placed on injured reserve?

4. Will the versatility and special teams potential of Ray Ventrone, Matt Slater, Julian Edelman, and Sam Aiken enable them to keep roster spots?

Training Camp Battles

Ray Ventrone vs. Matthew Slater: Both play receiver/safety, both can play receiver, both can return kicks, both can cover punts and kicks extremely well.  But is there room on the roster for both of them?  Maybe, maybe not.  But one thing is for sure, watching these two duel should be good fun.

Joey Galloway vs. Greg Lewis: Both receivers will be in the top four on the Patriots depth chart, but both will be competing to start on the outside opposite Randy Moss.  Greg Lewis may be the underdog, but Joey Galloway, known for his blazing speed, will be 37 years old.

Newcomer Greg Lewis will look to replace Jabar Gaffney

Newcomer Greg Lewis will look to replace Jabar Gaffney


2009 Training Camp Preview: Running Backs

July 8, 2009

Overview

The Patriots had the sixth ranked rushing attack in 2008, and with nearly the entire core of rushers returning (sans Heath Evans and Lamont Jordan, who departed to the Saints and Broncos via free agency), plus newly acquired Fred Taylor, the Patriots running back group looks to be a force to be reckoned with in 2009.  While the Patriots have a great group of backs this year, there really are no defined roles for the backfield.  Kevin Faulk will more than likely continue to handle the 3rd down role, but after that, nothing is decided.  Laurence Maroney, in his fourth year, still has the potential, but he hasn’t been consistent and he hasn’t been able to put the injury bug behind him.  Sammy Morris was the Patriots leading rusher in 2008, he runs with good power and consistency, but is 32.  Fred Taylor is quick, agile, strong, but also 33; so there are questions of how many carries he can handle.  BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a powerful no non-sense back, but he doesn’t have the most natural talent.  Eric Kettani, a HB/FB from Navy, is a longer shot to make the roster.

Projected Depth Chart

1. Laurence Maroney

2. Fred Taylor

3. Sammy Morris

4. Kevin Faulk (3rd down)

5. (BenJarvus Green-Ellis)

CUTS: Eric Kettani

Burning Questions

1. With the oldest groups of backs in the NFL, will this group be able to hold up throughout training camp?

2. Will Laurence Maroney finally be able to bite the injury bug and live up to his potential?

3. Who will be the Patriots starting back opening day?

Training Camp Battles

Everyone vs. Everyone: The great thing about this group is that nothing is decided.  Who will start?  Who will be #2?  Age, injuries, and skill will all be factors.  There’s only so many carries that can be given out, and the backs are going to go out and have to earn them in training camp.


2009 Training Camp Preview: Quarterbacks

July 5, 2009

Overview

One thing’s for sure, there won’t be a battle for the starting quarterback job this training camp, as a hopefully healthy Tom Brady will be back in pads for the first time in nearly a year.  But just because Brady is the starter doesn’t mean there won’t be competition and other storylines at the position.

Projected Depth Chart

1. Tom Brady

2. Kevin O’Connell

3. Matt Gutierrez / Brian Hoyer

Burning Questions

1. How will Tom Brady, coming off knee surgery, perform the first time in full pads?  Where will his confidence be?  Will he be his old self?

2. Is Kevin O’Connell ready to be the 2nd quarterback behind Brady?

3. Will the Patriots opt to keep three quarterbacks, or will they stick with just Brady and O’Connell?

Roster Battles

Matt Gutierrez vs. Brian Hoyer: The competition for 3rd string quarterback looks to be stiff.  Guttierez has a strong arm and is in his third year in the system, while Hoyer looks poised and accurate for a rookie.

Courtesy Patriots.com

Courtesy Patriots.com


Training Camp Position Battles: Vol. 2

August 13, 2008

Back-up/2nd String Quarterback

Not too much has changed in this battle.  Cassel really struggled in the preseason opener.  Gutierrez looked okay.  Cassel looked decent in practice, Gutierrez looked okay in practice.  So far, it’s been really hard to say who has the upper hand.  Right now, if I had to place a bet, I would say that chances are Cassel gets traded for a conditional pick, and Goots stays on as number two.  However, Gutierrez would only be there for a year, as O’Connell, who looked good in the opener, will be waiting in the wings.

Wide Receiver:

The #2 wide receiver spot was Chad Jackson’s job to lose, and, as of today, he looks like he’s lost it.  After looking lost at times during practice, and especially during last Thursday’s game, it looks like Chad Jackson has been booted down to #4 on the depth chart.  Jabar Gaffney, who has been consistent as usual, will assume the #2 spot, with Welker manning the slot, and Moss #1 on the outside.  Behind Jackson, is Kelley Washington at #5.  With Sam Aiken’s status in question, there could be an opening at the sixth spot (if there is a sixth spot).  C.J. Jones has looked horrific, while Matt Slater has looked really good (I can just about guarantee that Slater makes the roster at this point).  I have also been surprised by the play of Ray Ventrone, who keeps on looking  more and more like a receiver.

Right Tackle:

I really can’t say anything about this position.  It’s such a mess right now.  It could be O’Callaghan, it could be Kazcur, it could be Britt, it could be Welbourn.  My hunch is that, in the end, it will be Kazcur, but we won’t know until Light and Neal come back.

Inside Linebacker:

I thought this was going to be a big battle heading into camp ( that is between Jerod Mayo vs. Victor Hobson).  At one point, I thought Hobson was going to make a big impact.  However, so far, he has struggled to make the move inside, as Mayo has flourished.  Amazingly enough, rookie free agent Gary Guyton has looked a lot better than Victor Hobson, and that is REALLY saying something.

Cornerback:

I think the cornerback position is looking a bit more solidified then when I last spoke about the position.  At this point I think the starters will be Fernando Bryant and Ellis Hobbs, with Terrence Wheatley as the third cornerback.  Jason Webster was looking good, but injuries have held him back a bit.  Jonathan Wilhite looked good at the start of camp, but again, injuries have held him down.  Mike Richardson, a slightly bigger corner, is a guy who I really like, but I think he might not make the final roster.  Then, the wildcard is Lewis Sanders.  A free-agent pickup this offseason, Sanders looked tremendous in the Ravens game, making two great knock-downs.  Sanders is by far the biggest and most physical cornerback on the roster, and that alone may help him gain a roster spot.

Running Back:

To see my thoughts on this position, check out my post from two days ago.  But here’s the skinny.  Maroney is starter.  Heath Evans is most likely safe because he is the truest fullback on the roster.  Lamont Jordan has looked great, and adds the most versatility, so I would think that he will be on the roster.  Kyle
Eckel is all but gone.  BenJarvus Green-Ellis will be practice squad.  Then there’s Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris.  Both could be at risk, and in the end, I think Morris gets cut (well, I would rather keep Faulk), although there’s an outside shot Belichick keeps all five.


Preseason Game 1: The Aftermath

August 10, 2008

With the Patriots 16-15 preseason loss to the Ravens in the books, its time to take a look back at the impact of the game.  While there were some things that can be said, keep in mind that it is only the preseason, in fact just the first game, so there are still going to be a lot of changes, as well as a lot of more chances for players to prove themselves.

First, I’ll talk about the backup quarterbacking battle.  With Tom Brady sitting out, all three backups were given a chance to prove themselves.  Cassel, who made his third career preseason start, struggled mightily.  He was missing his throws, had a couple of miscues, and just never looked comfortable under center.  He finished 1/4 for 11 yards and an interception (which seemed to be more Chad Jackson’s fault than his).  While a lot of people thought Matt Gutierrez really struggled, I thought he looked alright.  Of course he had his ups and downs, including an interception that was a misread that was followed by a soft throw.  However, he showed some good zip, accuracy, and an ability to anticipate the rush and throw on the run.  Kevin O’Connell also had his ups and downs, but looked more up than down to me.  He showed a quick release, an ability to throw the ball deep, tuck in the ball and run, all while showing good poise and accuracy in the pocket.  He will be a solid NFL quarterback.

Next, I wanted to talk about some of young linebackers, specifically the play of Jerod Mayo, Shawn Crable, and Pierre Woods.  Crable and Woods dominated the outside, both wreaking havoc on the quarterback, all while diagnosing run plays well.  Crable even added a sweet interception.  Jerod Mayo also looked fantastic.  He showed quick feet, hard hitting ability, as well as a good knowledge of the defense.  However, I think this video sums up Mayo’s night:

A few more thoughts:

  • I might have been wrong about Ray Ventrone.  He made a few catches, including that one great sideline catch.  As much as he struggled making the transition to receiver in mini-camp, he has really turned the corner.
  • C.J. Jones might as well buy himself a bus ticket to leave Foxborough.  He made a horrible fielding decision on a return, fumbled a punt, and dropped a pass on 4th down that caused a Kevin O’Connell interception.
  • Chad Jackson really struggled in game 1.  He looked lost on the field, missed some assignments, didn’t make a catch.  Not a good 1st impression.
  • Rookie tight end Jonathan Stupar really caught my eye.  He looked big, athletic, and showed solid solid hands en route to a two catch, 17 yard performance.
  • Was Victor Hobson in the game?
  • Strong play from Brandon Meriweather at safety.
  • Patriots rookie cornerback Terrence Wheatley looked solid.  He got the start and put together four tackles.
  • The Patriots’ offensive line situation is a mess.  Period.
  • Vince Redd made a nice pass rush -> deflection in the second half that really caught my eye.  Fellow rookie free agent Gary Guyton also had some solid play.
  • Tank Williams… major loss (more to come on that).
  • Feranando Bryant looked really good.  I wonder if he and Wheatley will actually end up being the starting corners, even when Hobbs comes back.
  • Billy Yates struggled a bit at the right guard spot.
  • Although BenJarvus Green-Ellis only got one carry, he looked really quick and powerful on it, showing great acceleration.  I’d really like to see more from him.
  • Gostkowski went 3/3… good start from him.  Chris Hanson struggled a bit.

Offensive Player of the Game: Lamont Jordan, #32

Jordan really looked good out there.  He proved he was in good condition, carrying the ball 19 times for 76 yards and a touchdown.  He’s the best north-south runner we’ve had in a long time, and he reminds me a bit of Antowain Smith with his ability to take on tacklers, catch the ball, and surprise you with agility.

Defensive Player of the Game: Shawn Crable, #98

Crable finished with 4 total tackles (3 solo), as well as a sack, and an interception.  He put constant pressure on the Ravens’ quarterbacks.  He also showed a strong tackling ability, and good coverage skills.  I just keep thinking about a future linebacking core that includes Crable, Mayo, and Woods… and how good that would be.

Overall, it’s just good to have a game in the books.  I would have liked for us to win, but that wasn’t really the point.  The point is to give the young guys a shot, and just see what happens.  There wasn’t much of a gameplan, the defense didn’t even use a blitz, its all about getting in playing shape, and earning a roster spot.


Advancing Through the Paces: Rookies

July 28, 2008

Just days into training camp, the Patriots already seem to be coming together.  Well, a little bit.

After a sluggish beginning to training camp, which can be expected, the Patriots really picked up the intensity days two through five.  The team started with individual drills and fundamentals, and has now moved onto full team and situational work.

With all of this in mind, I’m beginning to not only get a better picture of what our roster will be like, but who is out-playing who, who’s looking good, etc.

I’ll start off this mini-series by talking about some of the rookies.  Jerod Mayo is a beast.  He’s hitting hard, going all-out on every play.  He has shown a strong ability to defend the run, but has looked incredible rushing the passer, and has looked just as good in pass coverage.  He’s strong, quick, explosive, and never takes a play off.  Here’s my guarantee: Jerod Mayo will make an impact this year.  If you don’t believe me, just wait and see.

Terrence Wheatley has also looked really good so far.  He hasn’t made many mistakes, and has taken advantage of his oppurtunities with Jason Webster out the last couple of days.  He hasn’t made any big plays, but he hasn’t given up any either, and that, in essence, is a very good thing.  Fellow rookie cornerback Jonathan Wilhite has also performed well.  He’s gotten significant playing time as the slot corner, and has played well, and even shown good hands (which was a knock on him coming out of college).

The more I watch Shawn Crable, the more I think he’s going to be a really good player for the Patriots.  He’s shown good moves and speed coming off the edge, and could factor in as a situational pass rusher his rookie season.  Kevin O’Connell, on the other hand, likely won’t contribute his rookie year (unless you count garbage time).  However, he has looked better than he did during Spring camps.  He’s shown a quick release, and a better knowing of the system.

The rest of the rookies haven’t been too noticeable, but are noteworthy.  Matt Slater has looked really good in the return game, bringing one back during special teams work.  He also flashed some skill as a receiver, something I didn’t really expect.  Bo Ruud, on the other hand, hasn’t shown anything, due to an injury that has prevented him from participating in training camp thus far.  BenJarvus Green-Ellis started camp on PUP, but was off the next day.  He hasn’t done anything to help himself, but he hasn’t done anything to hurt himself either, although he has struggled in pass protection.  The two rookie free-agent linebackers, Vince Redd and Gary Guyton have both shown a little flash.  Redd looked strong off the agent, and showed a big-hit ability.  Meanwhile, Guyton showed the ability to drop back into coverage, even getting a pick-six during red zone work.