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New England Patriots

Patriots Talk: Players That Have The Most To Prove

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Patriots Talk: Players That Have The Most To Prove

It is here. The final game of the preseason is tonight against the New York Giants. The Patriots now have to see who else can prove their worth and make the final cuts. With players like Julian Edelman falling to an ACL torn or Kony Ealy being traded, many roster spots are now left open. As of now, there are several players on the roster who still need to prove themselves to make the roster for the 2017 NFL season.

Austin Carr (Wide Receiver) – Arguably the most polarizing and most spoken name after hearing of Edelman’s injury is none other than Austin Carr. As of now, he has been a player that has done well in both training camp and in the preseason (especially his touchdown catch in the first preseason game against the Jaguars) Due to his ability to play in the slot that he was well-known for at Northwestern, he has been seen to make the fifth and final slot for the receiving position.With wide outs like Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola and Matthew Slater (mainly special teams) likely making the four top spots at wide receiver, Carr could make a push for the fifth spot of players like Cody Hollister with a strong performance tonight.

Brandon Bolden (Running Back) – While Bolden has been a major special teams players, with the addition of Marquis Flowers from the Cincinnati Bengals, his butt is on the hot seat. He provides little as a running back and with the amount of depth the Patriots have especially with strong performances from Dion Lewis, D.J Foster, and Mike Gillislee, he will be one of the few special teams who likely won’t be able to validate their position. The current picture looks like the end for Bolden unless he gets on the practice squad if he clears waivers.

Cyrus Jones (Cornerback) – Oh boy, the one issue that seems to be a never ending concern is Mr. Cyrus Jones. Despite being the highest draft pick in the Patriots 2016 Draft, he has had severe difficulty adapting to the game. The player had these same issues at Alabama until his final year where he broke out. So far, Jones has shown little to no improvement as a defensive back and has been shown to be a liability as a punt/kick returner. He has mainly been competing with Eric Rowe for the slot corner back position, but Jones’ best chance of making the final 53 roster is his job as a special teamer. He has shown some improvement in that area, but there are many issues that still need work. Jones is the most likely of any on this list to make the final roster, but having a horrible game today would be the signal to sign his release papers.

Adam Butler (Defensive Tackle) – Possibly the biggest surprise to see on this list is Butler. The reason for why he is a major player is due to the lack of depth at defensive tackle. He has shown an ability to break through the defensive line and make a presence in the backfield, but long time players like Malcolm Brown and Alan Branch are the current starters at the position. The undrafted free agent out of Vanderbilt has been quite the surprise and considering how much depth is still at the position, he could make spot if he shows something against the Giants tonight.

Jacoby Brissett (Quarterback) – While the team has traditionally carried two quarterbacks on the roster, Brissett was added onto the roster when he was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Many have felt that Brissett despite being able to handle the quarterback position. He still has much to improve and with both veterans on the team at Quarterback, he is likely to be stashed onto injury reserve or be put onto practice squad once waivers are cleared.

Jacob Hollister (Tight End) – Hollister is an undrafted rookie free agent that has been on the hot spot for awhile now. His first preseason game where he had over 116 yards receiving had many thinking eh could be a third tight end behind Allen and Gronkowski. Even though Matt Lengal has been pushed to injury reserve, Hollister is now competing with James O’Shaughnessy for the final tight end spot. Without another strong showing with this final preseason game, he could very well be on the cutting block.

As of now, there is a lot of names that can be tossed around to make the final cuts but we can never be certain on everything, especially when it comes to Bill Belichick. The game will be starting tonight at 7:30 PM EST at Gillette Stadium.

Stephen is a Contributing Editor for Trifecta Sports Network and covers the New England Patriots and the NFL.

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New England Patriots

Patriots Talk: What To Expect For Week 3

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With the Patriots made a great bounce back after the season opener. However, there is still much that the team needs to do going into Week 3. The Patriots will be essentially repeating last season, a Sunday game against the Houston Texans. The thing about the Texans is that their staff is full of ex-Patriots but their team is completely the opposite of the Patriots. The Texans rely much more on their defense than their offense.

Bill Belichick has managed a consist record against O’Brien’s Texans with their last encounters in three years (with Jacoby Brissett being the starting QB for one of them). Two of the games were in the regular season and one in the postseason.

  • 2015: 27-6
  • 2016: 27-0
  • 2017: 34-16

If we are basing the scores from across both teams’ history, the Texans are completely lopsided in this case as well. Since the team first came into existence in 2002 (that means the Houston Texans are only 16 years old, to put that into even further perspective, Bill Belichick has been the Head Coach of the New England Patriots since 2000, 2 years longer than the Texans have been a football team), the Patriots have been 8-1 against the Texans all-time. In terms of overall scores, the Patriots have never scored lower than 23 points against the Texans.

However, the Patriots shouldn’t just push the Texans aside. This is a football team that has never had a fully healthy JJ Watt to face against especially with a defense that has Jadeveon Clowney or Whitney Mercilus. This is a team that can give the Patriots offense problems. In their last meeting, Brady was only able to make 18 completions on 38 passing attempts with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. The only reason the Patriots won that last game was due to the team having massive headaches at the QB positions and just simple special team mistakes that resulted in two different turnovers.

In addition, the Patriots best weapon, Rob Gronkowski, is currently dealing with a  groin injury and while reports seem positive, that can all change on game day and that simple injury could turn into something much worse (Remember Gronk’s arm brace being a bit massive? It is because they need him to wear that for the rest of his career to prevent further infection or else Gronk would likely have been permanently crippled). It’s still early in the week and things will change as we get closer to game day but its always better to be cautious.

The Patriots will be playing against the Houston Texans on Sunday, September 24th, at 1:00 PM EST at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA.  The game will be broadcast on CBS, and both teams are currently 1-1 to start the regular NFL season into Week 3.

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New England Patriots

Patriots Have A Two-Headed Monster In BackField

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Following an embarrassing week 1 loss, the Patriots returned to the field seeking redemption. They trounced the New Orleans Saints 36-20, this past Sunday. Ah, sweet misplaced aggression. From Bill Belichick’s offense, we saw a multi-faceted passing attack that was redolent of the good ol’ days.

Tom Brady stood immovably strong in the pocket, going through his progressions with laser-like precision. We saw him make crafty check-downs to receivers manifold. An unleashed Rob Gronkowski ran crossing routes like a human-boulder, tearing the Saints secondary to shreds. It all made for a beautiful sight to see.

As prolifically as Tom Brady threw the football, it was the effectiveness of our running backs that was most surprising. In this department, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels hit the Saints with a dual-pronged weapon. Power runner Mike Gillislee scored his 4th rushing TD of the season, while finesse halfback James White pulled in 8 receptions for 85 yards. In tandem, they were absolutely dynamic. And with all our injuries, we’re going to need them to be just that going forwards.

The continued performance of this two-headed monster will arguably be the most critical thing to the Patriots’ success this year. White and Gillislee, early on, have mirrored each other in a productive manner. But beware: The utilization of this duo could become rather calculable. Our one-two punch is going to have to learn to play outside of their respective comfort-zones.

A Tale of Two Tailbacks

When appraising the Patriots backfield, Mike Gillislee and James White should be viewed as a single entity. There’s a mutually beneficial marriage between these two players. They are polar-opposites, who collaborate to produce a formidable rushing attack.

Disclaimer: Some may say that I am negligent to not mention the contributions from Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead. But if this backfield was a cheeseburger, Lewis and Burkhead would merely be the condiments that make it taste just a tad better. There’s no doubt that Gillislee and White are the featured athletes here.

As many Patriots fans would admit, calling James White a “running back” is sort of inappropriate. This is his formal title, yes, but it’s a misnomer of a title. Go back and watch last year’s Super Bowl. White should just be listed as a wide receiver on the depth chart. That’s what we’ve always used him as. In the absence of Julian Edelman, he may be our most dependable option on passing 3rd-downs.

This year, White is on track to haul in 88 receptions for 920 yards, while racking up an additional 392 rushing yards. That type of production would be invaluable. His hands are immeasurably better than any other RB’s on this Patriots team. Opposing defenses cannot commit to defending one facet of his game or the other, at least so far. But on Sunday afternoon, we saw a pattern being established.

Chances are, if White’s on the field, Tom Brady is going to be throwing the football. It’s no secret. James White has only 12 rushing attempts, this season. Here is where Mike Gillislee comes in. He’s the jelly to White’s peanut butter; the ying to his yang.

Gillislee is off to a fast start, with his new team. He is a virtual inversion of James White. Gillislee is a durable smashmouth back, who acts as a battering ram on the goal line and on rushing downs. Currently, he’s on track for 912 rushing yards and 32 rushing TD’s.

But again there is an appreciable formula, in regards to how Mike Gillislee is leveraged. This is something that will not be overlooked by our future opponents. Since the start of last year, Gillislee has 0 receptions. That’s right, a big fat goose egg. When Gillislee is on the field, 99% of the time he’s going to be hitting his holes as the running play is designed.

Variety is the Spice of Life

It’s odd that both White and Gillislee play such singular roles, because they are physically comparable. James White is slightly more compact, at 5’9” 204 lbs. Mike Gillislee is a rugged 5’11” 208 lbs. But concerning their speed, they’re almost interchangeable. Just look at their 40-yard dash times. White runs a 4.57, while Gillislee runs a 4.55. This is encouraging: They should be able to learn how to imitate each other.

Bill Belichick doesn’t allow any of his players to become complacent. Such comfort could compromise the Patriots playbook. In the coming weeks, look for Mike Gillislee to be a part of more passing formations, and for James White to run the ball more frequently. The Pats have to keep their opponents honest and unprepared.

A live-action attrition has been induced in the Patriots’ leading receivers. Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, and Rob Gronkowski are currently banged-up. Whether these guys are sidelined or active, the Patriots will be using them minimally. Hence the importance of the running game. Our backfield, with James White and Mike Gillislee at the helm, will certainly be carrying more of the load than anyone expected.

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Who Is New England’s NFC Rival?

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New England hasn’t started off the greatest thus far this year. That comes as no surprise, however. The Patriots have had multiple rough starts in past years and still went to the big show and won it all. So, even though New England isn’t going to go undefeated, as many hoped, Tom Brady and company are still likely to be in yet another Super Bowl this year. But who will they play? What NFC team this year has what it takes to give the Pats a rival in this year’s Super Bowl?

How about the Detroit Lions? With the highest paid NFL player on the roster, quarterback Matthew Stafford has led his team to two victories so far and the Lions remain the only team in the NFC North to be undefeated. Detroit looks to be a contender all year-long. They upset the New York Giants on Monday Night with the win on the road. The biggest challenge for Detroit, however, will come Sunday when the Lions face last year’s Super Bowl losers, the Atlanta Falcons.

Are the Falcons tough enough to return to the big game? Matt Ryan is healthy as ever and Atlanta and their explosive offense are getting the job done. They also are undefeated going into week three. Devonte Freeman and Julias Jones are on top of their game. With the way they toppled the Chicago Bears on Sunday, the Falcons have a good start to returning to the Super Bowl again this year.

The Detroit Lions and the Atlanta Falcons play this Sunday. Could this be a preview of this year’s NFC Championship Game? Is one of these two teams going to be a rival for the New England Patriots in this year’s Superbowl? Granted, this is only week two and there is a lot more weeks of football left to play out. I believe that either the Lions or the Falcons could be the team to give us a good show and a close game against the New England Patriots in a great Super Bowl.

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