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  • N’Keal Harry listed among second-year players ‘set to make big leaps’ in 2020
    by Bernd Buchmasser on May 27, 2020 at 7:10 pm

    David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports Related: Patriots roster breakdown: WR N’Keal Harry N’Keal Harry joined the New England Patriots with considerable expectations for a rookie pass catcher being inserted into one of the most challenging offensive systems in all of football. When the team picked him 32nd overall last spring, after all, he became the first wide receiver selected by the club in Round One since Bill Belichick’s arrival in 2000. Despite his talent and impressive college production in combination with his draft status, however, the rookie appeared in just eight games after starting the season on temporary injured reserve. That said, he was able to move up the depth chart throughout the season and ended it as the Patriots’ third wide receiver behind Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu. Heading into 2020, Harry is therefore in line to make the famous second-year jump — at leas according to NFL Network’s Judy Battista, who named as her choice among players entering Year Two who are “set to make big leaps” during the upcoming season: What a weird, frustrating rookie season he had. He was the first receiver on whom Bill Belichick had used a first-round pick, and with that came high expectations. He hurt his ankle in the preseason and missed the first nine games of the regular season. By the time he got on the field, Tom Brady’s frustration with the offense had already boiled over, and Harry struggled to gain his trust while trying to understand the Patriots’ complicated offense. The results were ugly — Harry caught just 12 passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns. It’s ridiculous to think that Brady’s departure could make anything better in New England, but that might be the case for Harry, who never got out of Brady’s doghouse and can only go up. At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, he should at least be a reliable red-zone target for Jarrett Stidham or Brian Hoyer. As a result of his at times slow growth process and stint on injured reserve, Harry finished his rookie season with just 14 receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns as well as six carries for an additional 56 rushing yards.

  • ESPN season projections still see Patriots as a top-10 team in the NFL
    by Bernd Buchmasser on May 27, 2020 at 7:00 pm

    David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports Related: Rob Ninkovich thinks that Brian Hoyer will be the Patriots’ starting quarterback in Week 1 With the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick duo getting split up over the course of this year’s offseason, the New England Patriots are entering something they have not experienced since the early 2000s: life without the greatest quarterback to ever grace the gridiron. Naturally, expectations for the team heading into their 2020 campaign are therefore all over the place — from “everything will be fine” to “Tank for Trevor!” to “meh”. The self-proclaimed world wide leader in sports, meanwhile, still has the team listed as a top-10 squad in the NFL in its new projections for the upcoming season: ESPN currently has New England ranked at number nine, with a 8.6 percent chance to win the Super Bowl and a 60 percent chance to participate in the playoffs for a 12th year in a row. Another streak, however, would come to an end in case the projection turns out to be accurate. According to ESPN analyst Seth Walder, the Buffalo Bills have a bigger chance of winning the AFC East than the 11-time defending champions. However, the two teams’ odds are nearly identical: Here’s how close the margin is: Buffalo has a 41.0% chance to win the division while the Patriots are all the way down at ... 40.9%. This division is a toss-up for the first time since we discovered fire. The Bills rank one spot behind the Patriots in FPI’s rankings but have a slightly easier schedule. For their non-common opponents, the Patriots play the Ravens and Houston Texans, while the Bills play the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans. The Patriots are one of four teams currently not projected to repeat as division champions. The Houston Texans are projected to get leap-frogged by the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South, while the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers are projected to be shoved aside by the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings, respectively.

  • Josh McDaniels needs to heed his own advice in 2020
    by Bernd Buchmasser on May 27, 2020 at 6:00 pm

    David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports Related: Running backs project to be a focal point of the Patriots’ offense in 2020 Entering the 2019 offseason coming off a Super Bowl win, the New England Patriots decided to add size to their offensive skill position group. Alongside returning veterans Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett, the team therefore invested a first-round draft pick in N’Keal Harry and also added Demaryius Thomas, Dontrelle Inman, Maurice Harris and Matt LaCosse in free agency — all while waiting for Josh Gordon to return from suspension. Looking back on the roster construction process from today, we can say that the plan did not bring the desired results. Inman and Harris failed to make the team, Thomas was traded before appearing in a single game, Gordon was released a few weeks into the season, and LaCosse’s impact was minimal. The Patriots were attempting to build a big-bodied team on the offensive side of the ball, but eventually ended up as one without a clear identity. In order to prevent something like this from happening again, the team will need to self-scout and figure out why the offseason acquisitions and initial idea for the offense did not work out last year. On top of this, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels needs to go back to a statement he made one year ago and heed his own advice: “Whatever style you want to be, it should reflect the talents of your team.” The veteran signal caller said this when asked about the team’s investments in tall pass catchers over the previous two months, but the message also rings true heading into 2020. After losing quarterback Tom Brady during the offseason, McDaniels and his offensive coaching staff — let alone head coach Bill Belichick — will have to find a way to do what they could not last year: create an offensive identity clearly built around the team’s talents. What does this mean for the post-Brady Patriots, especially on the offensive side of the ball? Considering that the running back group is one of the deepest in football, the pass catching corps outside of Julian Edelman and James White still relatively green within the team’s system, and the offensive line a strength with David Andrews cleared to return, the natural instinct is to say that New England should build from the ground game up. The NFL is a passing league, and projected starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham will need to show that he can carry the team if asked to, but the talent — in particular the proven one — suggests that McDaniels needs to form a unit similar to the one that helped the club win the Super Bowl back in February 2019: a smash mouth attack that effectively ran the football and forced teams into investing additional defensive resources to slow it down. “You gotta look at who you have and what they do well, and then you gotta look at who are we playing and what are the best advantages we can gain this week,” McDaniels said back in 2019 when discussing the construction of his offense. “You try to, as many times as you can in the game, gain an advantage. Sometimes that’s with skill, sometimes that’s with size, sometimes that’s with tempo, sometimes that’s with play style or personnel groupings.” Heading into 2020, it appears as if a focus on running the football is the easiest way to gain such an advantage considering New England’s current personnel and how it feeds off each other and in relation to the quarterback position. This does obviously not mean that the Patriots will suddenly turn into the Lamar Jackson-led Baltimore Ravens, though — Stidham is an adequate athlete but not that kind of an athlete. If McDaniels wants to follow the guideline he talked about last year, however, he needs to recognize that creating an offensive style around the established talent is the easiest way to help his young passer grow into the starting position (especially in light of the current Coronavirus situation) while also lifting some pressure off a comparatively inexperienced group of wide receivers and tight ends. They all will need to make plays either way, such is the nature of the game these days, but their coordinator said it himself: “Whatever style you want to be, it should reflect the talents of your team.” Right now, and with obvious room for improvement elsewhere over the next few months, those talents are more easily found in the backfield and in the blocking up front than in the elements associated with the passing game.

  • Patriots roster tier: The quarterbacks
    by Keagan Stiefel on May 27, 2020 at 5:00 pm

    Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images Related: Patriots roster breakdown: 90 players in 90 days For the first time in 20 years, the Patriots will take the field sans Tom Brady. The face of the franchise and greatest player in the history of the league signed with Tampa Bay in March and launched the organization into a new era. The good news is life goes on. The bad news: we are entering the unknown. So let’s enter it together and take a look at the current Patriot roster and make a tier list that ranks each players chances of cracking the final 55. The tier list will be comprised of five categories. The Guy: Each position group has their guy. In terms of the QB position it’s the starter, but in other places it can be the best player, a leader, or sometimes you just look and say “it’s him”. Roster Locks: This one is pretty obvious. Guys who’s only chance of missing out on the final 55 is injury or being an idiot. Fringe Roster Guys: These are the guys who will enter camp battling for a roster spot. Veterans trying to keep their jobs and late round guys or UDFA trying to take them. Longshots: One of these guys is going to end up making the roster but entering camp these are the players who’s names you kind of know but not really. Camp Body (No Chance in Hell): Here is where it get’s interesting. I‘ll have some fun with this one and I will bet that none of the players I put in this category will make the roster. If one of them does I will donate $100 to the charity of the readers choosing. (I’m new here so it shouldn’t be hard to root against me and for the guys fighting for a job.) Without further ado, the list. The Guy Jarrett Stidham – This season belongs to Jarrett Stidham. Though we have a small sample size, against subpar competition, Stidham proved he could go last preseason. He showed great poise, good footwork, and a whole lot of arm talent in the time he had to play. I highlighted a few of the things that show how different of a quarterback he is than Brady. Little stuff like buying time for his receiver to get open here.— keagan (@KeaganStiefel) May 11, 2020 Easily picking up a 3rd and 11 in Titans territory on a run. I’m in love.— keagan (@KeaganStiefel) May 11, 2020 Roster Locks Brian Hoyer – Hoyer is heading into his third stint in New England for good reason. No matter where he has been he has done a good job. He never really got a fair shot in Cleveland or Houston (though he had winning records in both stops) but he has been solid throughout his 11-year career. The real reason he is a lock though is because of Stidham: Stidham is headed into Year Two and there is no chance in hell that Bill Belichick has two quarterbacks with a combined one year of NFL experience headed into this next season. We all know what Hoyer can do. Fringe Roster Guys N/A Longshots J’Mar Smith – I believe J’Mar Smith could have been drafted. Smith started 43 games in college and ended his career with 66 total touchdowns to 21 interceptions and improved his teams record every year as a starter. He has an impressive arm and is a pretty damn good athlete. Though I have him listed as a long shot he still has a chance to make the roster, the Patriots have been more receptive to having three quarterbacks on the roster, and Smith is the third best one they’ve got. That’s easy math, baby. Camp Body (No Chance in Hell) Brian Lewerke – I know the caption is mean but to me Lewerke just doesn’t have it. Heading into 2017 it looked like Lewerke could be the next Michigan State guy to have a long career in the league (Brian Hoyer, Kirk Cousins, Drew Stanton, etc.) but his inconsistent play in his final two seasons saw his draft stock plummet. He threw 24 interceptions and only 25 touchdowns in his final two college seasons as the leader of an anemic Michigan State offense. In terms of positives, he is a tough SOB who isn’t afraid to mix it up to get a few yards. He also has a tendency to make great throws towards the sidelines and played well when the roster around him was better early in his career. So there you have it, episode (?) one of the Tier List series. I will be back this week to rank the running backs. Until then tell me what you think in the comments.

  • Robert Kraft on donating Super Bowl 51 ring: ‘We’re going to come back and the ring epitomizes that’
    by Bernd Buchmasser on May 27, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images Related: Patriots owner Robert Kraft optimistic that the NFL will play this fall Despite the current health emergency created by the ongoing Coronavirus crisis, and the uncertainty it created all over the country over the past few weeks, New England Patriots owner Kraft and his organizations have been active in trying to support communities in this time of need. The Patriots provided their team plane to help deliver 1.2 million protective masks to Massachusetts, for example, and also teamed up with the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation to distribute over two million meals to families affected by the pandemic. Just recently, Kraft donated his personal Super Bowl ring from New England’s comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons three years ago. As part of the “All-In Challenge” initiated by the founder of sports retailer Fanatics, Michael Rubin, the ring was officially sold for $1.025 million. On Tuesday, Kraft spoke about this gesture during an appearance on FOX News. “That one is pretty special,” the 78-year-old said about the meaning of the ring he donated. “And, you know, I have a good friend, Michael Rubin, who started the ‘All-In Challenge’ and he said, try to come up with something special that could garner a lot of support. I thought about our fifth Super Bowl, when we were down 28-3 with two minutes to go in the third period and had 0.4 [percent] chance of winning the game, and 99.6 to lose.” “And we came back and it was a great victory,” he said about the Patriots’ 34-28 overtime win. “And in some ways, I feel the mood of our country is a little down now. We’re still the greatest country in the world. We’re going to come back, and so I think that our ring epitomizes that.” Kraft also added that the ring was bought by a Patriots fan who wishes to remain anonymous at the moment, but that he hopes the buyer will come public at one point in the future. Including the money raised via the Super Bowl ring, the fundraiser has now generated over $51 million in donations, according to its website, that will be used to support Feeding America, Meals on Wheels, World Central Kitchen and the No Kid Hungry initiative.


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