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  • Don’t try to distract Tom Brady by shining a laser in his face
    by Bernd Buchmasser on July 18, 2019 at 3:00 pm

    Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images A Chiefs fan has to pay $500 for the ill-fated attempt. “Laser focus!” is one of Tom Brady’s go-to phrases to fire up his teammates. One fan of the Kansas City Chiefs took it a bit too seriously, though, during his club’s AFC Championship Game appearance against Brady and the New England Patriots: he tried to distract the quarterback by shining a green laser pointer in his face — a stupid and potentially dangerous attempt at impacting the game. And as we now know also a costly one. According to TMZ, Chiefs fan Dwyan Morgan was sentenced to pay a $500 fine after pleading guilty to ‘disturbing the peace.’ The 64-year-old, who has been banned by the Chiefs from Arrowhead Stadium for life since he was identified, was originally facing up to one year in jail plus a $1,000 fine but the judge reportedly decided to limit the sentence after Morgan plead guilty. He paid the fine and the matter is now considered closed. While the laser pointing has a lasting effect on Morgan, it did not have any noticeable impact on the game between New England and Kansas City: Brady, who just like the game officials and personnel on either sideline appeared to not have noticed the green light during the fourth quarter, led his team to a 37-31 victory in overtime — leading three touchdown drives after the incident. What’s the lesson that comes from this? Don’t try to distract Tom Brady, you can’t stop the inevitable from happening anyway. […]

  • New England Patriots links 7/18/19 - Questions for camp: Will Tom Brady still be Tom Brady? Hint: Yes
    by Marima on July 18, 2019 at 2:41 pm

    AFC Championship: Patriots vs. Chiefs | Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images Daily news and links for Thursday TEAM TALK Don Banks Snap Judgments: Musings, observations and the occasional insight as NFL training camps begin to open and players and coaches head back to work over the course of the next 10 days. Patriots Unfiltered 7/17: Fred Kirsch, Paul Perillo, and Megan O’Brien discuss what an 18-game NFL season might look like; a wide variety of offseason topics surrounding the Patriots and the rest of the NFL. (2 hour program) LOCAL LINKS Matt Dolloff explores the 10 biggest questions for the Patriots heading into camp. 1. Will this year’s Tom Brady be any different? Devon Clements (PatriotsWire) 3 biggest holes on Patriots’ roster ahead of training camp. 1. Tight end. Mike Dussault (PatsPropaganda) Tom Brady will look different this year. /NFL enforces new rule in ploy to stem Brady’s power, taking away his favorite helmet. Phil Perry addresses the question of how often will Brady be willing to gamble, particularly with two of his best tight-window receivers -- Rob Gronkowski and Josh Gordon -- currently out of the mix, and says the answer could depend on how well Brady’s rapport with N’Keal Harry develops through training camp. Sierra Goodwill and Evan Lazar discuss the Patriots’ depth at wide receiver and who will be a top target behind Julian Edelman. (4.21 min. video) ‘Could either be amazing, or a disaster.’ Steve Balestrieri (PatsFans) Patriots 2019 training camp guide: Offensive line. “The Patriots return four of their five starters from an offensive line that was just outstanding in 2018 enroute to the team’s sixth Super Bowl title.” Luke O’Brien (FullPressCoverage) Patriots roster bubble: DT Danny Shelton. Phil Perry flips the script with today’s Great Patriots Debate: Who was the most disappointing draft pick in team history? Jerry Thornton (Barstool Sports) NFL.com kick’s Tom Brady out of its ‘Superstar Club,’ replaces him with Deshaun Watson. Evan Lazar previews the Patriots roster position by position as we head into training camp: Tight ends. Tom E. Curran writes that “Gronk is the one that keeps undercutting the decision Rob Gronkowski made in March. Every few days, a new fistful of bread crumbs teasing a possible return are tossed out and they are dutifully gobbled up and regurgitated.” Logan Mullen NFL Rumors: Here’s why Rob Gronkowski ultimately chose to retire: “It appears that, in part, his family was encouraging him to walk away for the sake of his health.” Adam London relays Rich Eisen on why he believes there’s 100% chance Rob Gronkowski returns. Ryan Hannable notes Sebastian Vollmer believes Rob Gronkowski will stay retired. David Latham (LastWordOnSports) Patriots greatest games: The 2013 Broncos comeback. /Super Bowl 51 prequel. Mike Dussault (PatsPropaganda) The 2019 Belichick hoodie preview. /Yes, this is a thing. Henry McKenna (PatriotsWire) Before draft, Baker Mayfield thought Patriots might trade up to pick him at No. 2. Ryan Hannable highlights Jacoby Brissett on ‘Pardon My Take’ discussing his awkward meeting with Bill Belichick following the trade to the Colts. New England No-Huddle podcast: Andrew Callahan explores five questions facing the Patriots heading into training camp; interview with Brandon Gaudin, the play-by-play voice for ‘Madden’; More. (60.37 min.) NATIONAL NEWS Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz (USA Today) NFL countdown: 50 days before season, breaking down top storylines as training camps begin. 28. Both of the Patriots’ first-round picks from 2018 could be facing important camps. Mike Freeman (Bleacher Report) 10-Point Stance: Will Zeke, Gordon use Le’Veon holdout playbook? Josh Alper (ProFootballTalk) Vic Fangio: Having fans at camp one of the things that made NFL popular. Conor Orr (SI) Predicting every team’s record for the 2019 NFL season. Patriots: 12-4. Jason La Canfora (CBS Sports) Which teams are under the most pressure? All 32 ranked by who’s feeling the most heat. Patriots 32nd. John Breech (CBS Sports) Here’s the one game on every team’s schedule that could make or break their season. Patriots: Week 14 vs. Chiefs. Maurice Moton (Bleacher Report) NFL veterans who could find themselves on the roster bubble in training camps. RB Rex Burkhead included. Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) PFT 2019 storyline No. 8: Is Father Time closing in on Drew Brees? Brent Sobleski (Bleacher Report) The top rookie storylines to watch in 2019 NFL training camps. Danny Heifetz (The Ringer) The most underpaid veterans in the AFC: You knew Tom Brady would make this list, but there are plenty of other vested contributors making below their true value. NFL Nation (ESPN) How it started: First jobs in football for all 32 NFL head coaches. Kevin Clark (The Ringer) The grim future of running back contract negotiations. NFL Total Access (NFL.com) Which QB will have most games with 300 or more passing yards in 2019. (1.05 min. video) /Not Tom Brady. Josh Alper (ProFootballTalk) NFL, NFLPA: We had “productive, constructive and beneficial” CBA talks. Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) NFL isn’t “really pushing hard” a new CBA by Week One. /You don’t say... Riley McAtee (The Ringer) An 18-game NFL season doesn’t make sense—but adding a second bye week does. Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports) Here’s why the proposed 18-game schedule with a 16-game limit could actually work. Geoff Schwartz (SB Nation) Why the NFL should flush the idea of an 18-game schedule right down the toilet. EXTRACURRICULAR Staff (TMZ) Tom Brady laser attack suspect pleads guilty in court ... avoids jail time, hit with a $500 fine. Michael David Smith (ProFootballTalk) Fritz Pollard Alliance “concerned” about Texans’ Rooney Rule compliance. Joe Enea (ABC15) ‘Pawn Stars’ help Valley resident, former ESPN analyst Mark May recover stolen Super Bowl rings. […]

  • Film room: How N’Keal Harry can help fill big shoes for the Patriots (Part 3)
    by Taylor Kyles on July 18, 2019 at 12:00 pm

    Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images Read more: How N’Keal Harry can help fill big shoes for the Patriots (Part 2) In the first two installments of this series on New England Patriots’ first-round draft pick N’Keal Harry, we looked at his abilities to help the club replace currently suspended Josh Gordon and free agency departure Cordarrelle Patterson. Harry has the frame and route-running abilities to find success as a prototypical X-receiver in New England’s offense; he also has the vision and agility to be used on misdirection plays. Harry’s potential impact does not stop there, however, as he could also help fill the biggest shoes of them all: Rob Gronkowski’s. The future Hall of Famer, of course, decided to call it a career earlier this offseason. In turn, the world champions lost their biggest receiving weapon — not just in terms of size but also when it comes to putting pressure on a defensive backfield on every single down. Before unrealistic expectations get established, however, it needs to be pointed out that Harry will not replace Gronkowski’s pass-catching role one-for-one. The former is a first-year player, after all, while the latter is arguably the greatest mismatch of his era. That being said, Harry can help take over some of the conceptual ways how New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels got the big tight end involved. Red zone threat In 2018, the Patriots used Gronkowski differently than they did in the years before: while he still made his fair share of plays in the passing game, he served more as a blocker than a receiving threat. This became apparent in the red zone, where the team lacked a conventional and consistent target with the length and overall size to win on jump balls or back-shoulder throws (more on them later). Harry — who was measured at 6-foot-2 and 3/8ths and 228 pounds at the combine — could help fill this void for the Patriots. After all, he regularly showed at Arizona State that he knows how to use his size and properly control his body to make plays inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. NE sneakily lacked a conventional red zone threat in '18 (more on that very soon). Gronk's receiving role was significantly cut back, so he was no longer a regular money zone threat. Harry used his length, frame, awareness, and body control to dominate from the RZ in college pic.twitter.com/9yv0D6u64L— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) July 14, 2019 The plays above show what Harry could bring to the table to help ease the pain of losing Gronkowski as a red zone threat: an ability to out-jump smaller defenders and shield the football off against them. Gronk does all of it on the touchdown reception from last year’s season opener against the Houston Texans, as he times his turnaround perfectly and uses his frame to put himself in the ideal position to come away with the reception. The 32nd overall pick of this year’s draft needs to show that he can do the same against NFL-caliber competition, but his college tape is encouraging. Just look at Harry’s third clip above, which looks almost exactly like Gronkowski’s score against Houston: he positions himself well to put some distance between himself and the defender guarding him, before expertly timing his jump and going up for the football. If Harry can keep outmuscling defenders at the top of routes, he should find success in the league as a consistent red zone threat. Contested catch ability What made Gronkowski such an exiting and productive player was his ability to win contested catches and be successful even with defenders draped all over him. He was outstanding at using his frame and excellent body control to come away as the winner in tight matchups on a regular basis: Some X WRs have been big-bodied targets for Brady, but no one came close to Gronk. His blend of physicality, impenetrable frame, and crazy body control are irreplaceable.Harry has to prove he can out-muscle NFL CBs, but his track record shows he could be an interesting fill-in pic.twitter.com/8E4H338bc8— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) July 13, 2019 On the first play shown here — from week thirteen of the 2017 season — he is able to out-jump Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White to make the catch over him. Even though the defender is in a good position to at least knock the pass incomplete, New England’s tight end holds on. The second play is similar, with Gronkowski displaying tremendous concentration to track the ball and strength to wrestle it away from Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry. Harry’s abilities to locate the football in the air are not dissimilar to Gronkowski’s, and the wideout too has shown proper body control and concentration to hold onto contested throws. The first of his plays, against UTSA is another illustration of that: he once more times his jump well and shields the football from the defender with his frame. Even thought the cornerback keeps battling through the catch, Harry is able to complete it. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady likes to give his receivers a chance to make a play, and Gronkowski earned this trust early on in his career. If Harry can do the same, he could develop into a dangerous jump-ball receiver on the perimeter and in the red-zone. Run-after-the catch ability Gronkowski was a unique weapon. Not only did he possess a 6-foot-6, 270-pound frame that he knew how to use against press-man coverage and when going up for jump-ball passes, he also had the strength and elusiveness to fight through contact in the open field. This made him one of the toughest players to tackle in all of football: when he got going, he was like a freight train on the loose. Harry does not offer the same run-after-the-catch abilities comparative to his size, but he still has the physicality and agility to either evade or run through tacklers to gain additional yards: Gronk was one of the hardest humans to bring down in NFL history and regularly sparked the offense with his otherworldly efforts after the catch.Harry's unconventional elusiveness and physicality with the ball could provide a similar presence for the Patriots offense pic.twitter.com/pCzkkc5PeH— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) July 14, 2019 The first of Harry’s plays here shows this. He catches the slant route from his left-side slot position and quickly turns around to head up the field. An overly motivated safety helps him break a tackle attempt along the way, yes, but he still displays very good body control to keep his feet under him and accelerate to gain significant yards after contact. Will he be confused with Gronkowski for his ability to add yards after the catch? No, because he is differently built. However, he has the speed and strength to stiff-arm defenders out of the way or step through tackle attempts if need be. Back-shoulder throws One of the staples of the Brady-to-Gronkowski connection was the back-shoulder throw and catch. Over the years, the duo made this play one of the best bets in all of football because of its outstanding chemistry and some of Gronkowski’s skills already mentioned above: his ability to use his body in order to position himself perfectly, his timing on jumps (when necessary), and his strength to fight through contact. Harry has yet to prove himself in this department, but a) he and Brady have plenty of time to work on back-shoulder concepts, and b) he already showed his skills in college: 12 to 87 was nearly unstoppable on back-shoulder fades. Brady tried to spark a similar chemistry with Josh Gordon, but his ball placement was poor and they clearly weren't clicking. Harry will have plenty of time to gain his QB's trust on this staple play pic.twitter.com/449ssHub5s— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) July 14, 2019 Arizona State liked to throw it to Harry on back-shoulder passes, as the two plays against Texas Tech illustrate. Both times, the wideout makes a decisive cut back for the football to get himself in a favorable position versus the defensive back. Again, he uses his frame to shield the defenders off — and his ability to track the football in the air. All in all, Harry’s size and physicality should help him to find success on some of the plays that the Patriots liked to run with Gronkowski. As noted above, he will not be a one-for-one replacement for one of the most productive players of all time. However, the first-round rookie will add an element to New England’s aerial attack the club lost when Gronkowski announced his retirement in March. […]

  • Patriots roster breakdown: LB Kyle Van Noy
    by Bernd Buchmasser on July 18, 2019 at 11:00 am

    Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images Van Noy enters 2019 as one of the Patriots’ core defenders. The New England Patriots, who will be off until training camp starts later this month, currently have 89 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on August 31 and ultimately make the team. Over the course of the summer, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots defend their Super Bowl title. Today, the series continues with one New England’s most important defenders. Name: Kyle Van Noy Position: Linebacker Jersey number: 53 Opening day age: 28 Experience: 5 Size: 6’3, 250 lbs. 2018 review: After emerging as one of the Patriots’ starting linebackers in 2017, Kyle Van Noy took his play to another level the following year. The Brigham Young product, who joined New England via trade from the Detroit Lions midway through the 2016 regular season, developed into a reliable and versatile presence at the heart of the team’s defense and one of the unit’s most valuable and indispensable members. Van Noy appeared in all nineteen of the world champions’ games in 2018, and rarely left the field: he played 946 of a possible 1,043 defensive snaps during the regular season (90.7%), and all but one of New England’s 188 snaps in the playoffs — no other linebacker on the team’s roster saw more action than the former second-round draft pick. And usually when his number was called, Van Noy was able to deliver no matter where he lined up. The veteran defender, after all, was used all over the field: he played on the line scrimmage as an edge/outside linebacker hybrid; he played off the line in a more classic linebacker role; he played over the weak side and the strong side of the offensive formation; he played as a traditional Mike linebacker; he was used in coverage and against the run; he rushed the passer off the edge or blitzed up the middle. In short, Van Noy was a jack-of-all-trades. As such, he was immensely productive no matter the task. He registered a team-high 59 tackles in the running game, but was also able to regularly pressure the quarterback (in fact, only Trey Flowers was more disruptive): on the year, Van Noy impacted opposing passers a combined 48.5 times — he sacked them on 6.5 occasions and also added 16 hits and 26 pressures to his name. His playmaking did not stop there, though. Van Noy, who surrendered 22 receptions on 37 targets in coverage for 207 yards and a touchdown, also had an interception and forced a pair of fumbles; he furthermore had two recoveries. And that’s just his defensive output, as he also made an impact on his 150 special teams snaps (of 545; 27.5%): in week seven against the Chicago Bears, he recovered a blocked punt and returned it 29 yards for the first touchdown of his five-year career. His best performance of the year, however, might have come on the game’s biggest stage. Against the Los Angeles Rams, Van Noy had an integral role in one of the best defensive efforts in Super Bowl history. Playing all 65 of New England’s snaps, he was (again) all over the field and finished with 3 tackles, a 14-yard sack and a pair each of quarterback hits and hurries. Van Noy, who also took over play-calling duties from Dont’a Hightower after he temporarily left the game because of a minor injury, was outstanding — as he was for most of the year. 2019 preview: Entering the final season of the two-year contract extension he signed in 2017, Van Noy is a lock to make the Patriots’ 53-man roster. In fact, he also appears to be a realistic candidate to see another new deal come his way before or during the season (one that might also bring his $6.29 million salary cap hit down a bit). And why not? He is still only 28 years old and has proven his value to the team repeatedly in 2017 and especially in . 2018. When it comes to his 2019 campaign, Van Noy’s role should therefore be expected to look similar to the one he played last year: he will again line up all over the field as the running mate of the aforementioned Dont’a Hightower and see considerable action each week — expect him to regularly be on the field for 90+% of defensive snaps and to be an impact player no matter how he is used. […]

  • Patriots training camp competitions to watch: Slot cornerback
    by Bernd Buchmasser on July 18, 2019 at 10:00 am

    Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images Who will earn the nickel and dime roles in New England’s secondary? Few secondaries in the NFL are as deep as the New England Patriots’ — one that features playmaking ability across the board, combined with experience and developmental upside. That being said, only three of the roles within the unit are actually etched in stone: Devin McCourty will be the starting free safety, with Patrick Chung as his strong/box safety counterpart. Stephon Gilmore will be the number one cornerback. This, in turn, leaves plenty of room for competition between the remaining cornerbacks on the roster — especially when it comes to the slot cornerback position. When looking at the list of competitors, we will see a lot of talented names that should find their way onto the 53-man roster. Will they live up to the expectations, though? And how will their actual roles look like? Let’s try to break it down. The competitors CB Jason McCourty, CB J.C. Jackson, CB Jonathan Jones, CB Duke Dawson Jr, CB Keion Crossen, CB Ken Webster, CB D’Angelo Ross New England has an intriguing mix of relatively proven talent and youth among its cornerbacks projected to see regular action in the slot: Jason McCourty and J.C. Jackson, for example, played significant snaps from the inside last year but are also capable of moving to the boundary. Meanwhile, Jonathan Jones proved his value as a slot cornerback/free safety hybrid that also plays a key role on special teams. The latter also is true about Keion Crossen. The rest of the group listed above, meanwhile, has yet to appear in an NFL game. Duke Dawson, a second-round pick last year that was essentially redshirted, is the player to watch among them. Rookies Ken Webster and D’Angelo Ross, on the other hand, are bubble players who need to prove their value on special teams to potentially earn the final spot alongside roster locks McCourty, Jackson, Jones and Dawson (as well as Gilmore and Joejuan Williams). Speaking of Williams, he will also somewhat factor into the equation in the slot. His role will likely be more package specific than any of the other players’ listed above, however. The deciding factors Instincts: You may be the best athlete on the field but if you lack instincts as a cornerback, your time in the NFL will be limited. Just look at the aforementioned J.C. Jackson, for example: he did not have draft pedigree or outstanding measurables, but he showed a natural feel for the game almost immediately after joining the Patriots as an undrafted free agent. The younger players on the roster — primarily Dawson — need to prove that they have similar skills in this area as well. Quickness and acceleration: Playing slot cornerback is similar to playing slot wide receiver: you have a lot of space to operate with, but need the quickness and short-area acceleration to be successful. When it comes to competition for playing time or a roster spot in the slot, the athletic profile of each competitor will be a key factor. Players like Jones or McCourty have proven themselves in this area. Tackling and technique: As is the case at the outside cornerback position, slot corners need to be able to attack their matchups and apply their technique — from hand usage to footwork — no matter the coverage New England plays. The main difference is that man-to-man concepts do not have the advantage of using the sideline as a natural boundary. Technique and tackling (and the aforementioned instincts) become therefore even more important when playing in the slot. Ball skills: Whether it is bat-downs, tips or interceptions, defensive backs need to be able to play the ball. New England’s current group of cornerbacks is no exception: Jason McCourty registered 15 ball contacts during the 2018 season; Jones and Jackson had 9 and 7, respectively. The youngsters on the roster need to show similar production in order to carve out a consistent role on the Patriots’ defense this season. Positional versatility: As is the case at most other positions, being versatile certainly helps. Whether it is Jones’ ability to play slot cornerback and free safety, McCourty’s and Jackson’s skills in playing on the perimeter and on the inside, or Crossen’s special teams contributions — they all do more than just one thing. And the more you can do, the better your chances at making the team and finding a spot on it. The prediction As noted above, six cornerback spots are already taken: Stephon Gilmore, Joejuan Williams, Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson, Duke Dawson Jr. and Jonathan Jones are all locks to make the Patriots’ 53 this year. That being said, there is still plenty of training camp competition ahead of us in the slot: How will McCourty, Jackson and Jones split time on the interior? Will Dawson be able to challenge Jones’ role as a slot corner/free safety hybrid? Who will get the final roster spot? Keion Crossen, Ken Webster or D’Angelo Ross? The questions will get answered over the next month, but it is not hard to see that McCourty and Jones will be the most prominent slot options depending on the opposing players: both have plenty of experience and slightly different styles to combat various types of wide receivers. Jackson, meanwhile, will see regular action as well but primarily move inside whenever his one-on-one matchup does. Dawson will probably also see his fair share of action, but still is projected to be behind Jones on the depth chart. The veteran is too established a presence, after all, and will keep the job for the foreseeable future. Dawson, however, could be groomed to potentially take over for the impending free agent in 2020. The battle between the depth guys, finally, will come down to special teams contributions and defensive upside. Crossen and Webster have the best outlook when it comes to winning this competition given their experience (Crossen) and intriguing athletic profile (Webster). […]

 

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