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Patriots Talk: Which Undrafted Rookie Will Make The 53-Man Roster?

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Patriots Talk: Which Undrafted Rookie Will Make The 53-Man Roster?

Many players will wonder what they should expect come to the pre-season as that will be the ultimate test to prove their worth to their coaches. However, expectations are hard to meet come game-time when the pressure is on. Many players that are drafted are considered more than likely to stay on the roster but undrafted players are lucky if they make the practice squad.

The New England Patriots are a team that this off-season has signed well over 19 undrafted free agents. Now there quite a long list but to fill out the 90 man roster, there are quite a few names that will likely not make the mentions. The total rookies that have been signed currently to the Patriots are:

 

The Patriots drafted Derek Rivers, Antonio Garcia, Detrich Wise, and Conner McDermont in the 2017 NFL Draft. They will likely at least make the practice squad with Rivers and Garcia likely to be backups at their retrospective positions. For the rest, they will be fortunate to make it until August especially rookie [defensive lineman] Vereen Corey out of Tennessee is has been on injured reserve this off-season. The main names that have stood out are:

 

These six have been given the most attention so far out of all the Patriots Undrafted Free agent class and one who stands out the most is rookie Linebacker Harvey Langi. He was signed to over $115,000 contract deal with the team which was more than any other free agent this year. Langi appeared in 36 games over three seasons at Brigham Young University (21) and registered 139 tackles, 6.5 sacks, two interceptions, one forced fumble and three passes defended at the Linebacker position.

 

Jacob Hollister (left side) is a very interesting case, he was brought in along with his twin brother Cody Hollister during the same week after the draft ended. According to some sources, the Patriot wanted Jacob badly and he would only agree to sign if they took his brother, who played Wide Receiver at the University of Arkansas (right side).

It’s unknown how valid that is but the Hollister twins will be seen often on the offense together during reps and Jacob will be trying to compete against veteran Matt Lengal for the third Tight End spot. Jacob played in 30 games at Wyoming and caught 75 passes for 1,114 yards and 12 touchdowns. Also rushed twice for 48 yards and one touchdown. Most productive season came as a senior in 2016 when he racked up 32 receptions for 515 yards and seven touchdowns.

David Jones is the darkhorse among these 6 players. His ability to play as a defensive back is very much something to watch out for. He has best been described as a intelligent player and a late-bloomer, who only during his senior season, added relatively sudden mass to his frame and might be able to carry more moving forward.

(Weighed less than 180 pounds to weighing in at 210 when coming to the Patriots) It’s unknown by how much he can stand out as he will be competing against Jordan Richards and fellow rookie Jason Thompson for a spot at the strong safety position. He comes the University of Richmond (13) and played in 41 games and registered 195 tackles, 14 interceptions, six passes defended, two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles.

He led the FCS with nine interceptions as a junior in 2015 and his four interceptions against Albany tied the single-game NCAA record. He missed the last half of his 2016 season due to a fractured elbow, so there will be durability concerns going into training camp.

Then of course, there is D.J. Killings. The defensive back prospect came out of UCF (24), he played in 34 games and registered over 99 tackles, one sack, five interceptions (one pick-six), 17 passes defended and one forced fumble. He was also a member of the 2013 American Athletic Conference All-Academic Team.In terms of value and money, Killings received $31,000 guaranteed upon signing with the Patriots, which is just behind Langi and Hollister for the most by an undrafted free agent in this year’s class.

In terms of ability, when watching Killings on the field, he shows flashes of competitive fire and moments of versatility that the Patriots are very well-known to take highly. A prime example was in one game against South Florida, Killings lined up on the sideline, in the slot, at free safety, and then converted in the box in coverage with the tight end. He will likely compete at the Free-Safety position with rookie Damarius Travis for the final spot as both Nate Ebner and Brandon King are vital to Special Teams and it is unlikely he will take on veteran Devin McCourty.

Speaking of likely, there is also the shortest player among the undrafted class; William ‘Will’ Likely III. (That is seriously his full name) The young undrafted free agent was  quite a shock as a defensive back measuring in at only 5’7 and only 175 pounds, isn’t alot to impress most GMs and coaches but like Elanden Roberts was in last year’s draft, height doesn’t measure everything (including one’s drive).

Coming out of the University of Maryland (4), he played in 43 games during his college career and finished with 229 total tackles and seven interceptions.

As a Kick/Punt Returner, he returned 87 kicks for 2,233 yards with two touchdowns and returned 67 punts for 875 yards with four touchdowns. As a junior in 2015, he started one game as both a defensive back on defense and as a wide receiver on offense but his value dropped sadly during his senior in 2016, as he was limited to only six games due to injury. Will is a player that is likely going to have the most to prove out of everyone in this free agent class if he hopes to make the team.

And we will end this list with the most intriguing prospect out of all of them. Austin Carr is  a player that will be playing Wide Receiver and coming out of the Northwestern (80), the young man has already put together quite the resume.

He played in 36 career games and totaled 113 receptions for 1,649 yards and 14 touchdowns and set the single-season school record as a senior with 1,247 receiving yards and tied for second with 90 receptions. He also tied the school record with 12 touchdown receptions. His senior season was good enough to give him the Named Richter-Howard Big Ten Receiver of the Year and was a consensus First-Team All-Big Ten.

Carr has been primarily a player that has been effective in the slot and thrives at catching passes in traffic while running in and out of his routes and despite all his production in college, he was not seen to be worth a pick in this year’s draft despite being PFF’s top college receiver last year.

Carr will be competing with a very strong receiving core that helped in winning Super Bowl LI, and he will be a very thin cut to make come August.

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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Patriots Win Means It Is Business As Usual

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The New England Patriots defeated the New Orleans Saints 36-20 on Sunday to pick up their first win of the season. The win brings the Patriots record to 1-1. Notching this win against Drew Brees and crew means it is business as usual at Gillette Stadium.

Despite having some players knocked around the Patriots offense showcased a number of different looks and was very effective against a piss poor Saints defense.

New England attacked the Saints defense with their running backs starting the game with a power style of running behind fullback James Develin. Like CBS color analyst Tony Romo pointed out, this style felt old school 2001 Patriots. This allowed the Patriots to run the ball right at the Saints front seven and then later open up the field in the passing game.

With the wideouts being battered, Tom Brady relied on his receiving backs like James White who snagged 8 catches, and Rex Burkhead who had 4 catches of his own including an opening drive touchdown catch. Brady also relied heavily on tight end Rob Gronkowski who had 6 catches en route to 116 yards and a 53-yard touchdown on the second Patriots drive of the day.

The first quarter was the one of note for Brady as all three of his passing touchdowns on the day game in the first quarter. it was the first time in the future hall of famers career that he had a first quarter with three passing touchdowns. His final line of the day was 30-39 with 447 passing yards. This was the 10th time in his career that he has eclipsed the 400+ passing yard marker.

Defensively the Patriots held a Sean Payton offense to 20 points. A solid effort with the defense limiting the big plays that cost them in their first game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

While it was key not to overreact to the Patriots week 1 loss, it is also important to not overreact to their week 2 win. The Saints defense is bad, really bad. And the Patriots are truly battered at the receiver position with now Gronk and Burkhead dealing with injuries in addition to Julian Edelman who is out for the year along with Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola who will return at some point.

Brandin Cooks, the newly acquired receiver was quite against his former team. To me, the injuries paired with Cooks lack of a breakout game is still a concerning matter. But seeing the Patriots defense remain strong and hold Brees and the Saints to 20 points is huge.

Eyes must now point forward to next Sunday’s matchup against the Houston Texans.

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