Tag Archives: NFL

Takeaways from Ryan Mallett’s trade

The Patriots seemed destined to jettison backup quarterback Ryan Mallett long before finishing the job Sunday in a deal that sent the fourth-year player to the Houston Texans for a conditional seventh-round pick.

And while it all was inspired by the arrival of Jimmy Garoppolo — the largest takeaway from Sunday’s move — the trade also represents Mallett’s low appeal in a quarterback starved league and how Bill Belichick will go to whatever length possible to derive value from a player who no longer had a future with his team.

According to the Boston Herald, Mallett was dangled as bait to the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills before eventually being dealt to the Texans. The Texans, who might have been anticipating the Patriots’ release of Mallett in the cut down to 53 players Saturday, were forced to fork over a seventh round pick to acquire him.

Here are some other thoughts on the trade:

- Garoppolo obviously beat out Mallett in training camp to be the Patriots’ top backup quarterback. Mallett finished 14 of 26 passing (53.8 percent) for 161 yards and one touchdown. He had an 85.6 quarterback rating. Meanwhile, Garoppolo was 46 of 79 passing (58.2 percent) for 618 yards, with five touchdowns and an interception. He had a 99.0 quarterback rating. And it was obvious despite being a rookie that Garoppolo had a comfort level that Mallett just didn’t show on the field. He only improved over time, something Mallett did not do.

Read the rest of this post on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

5 takeaways from the Patriots-Giants game

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Before the Patriots’ preseason finale, there was a trumped up expectation that some of our open questions on the team would be definitively answered. That most certainly was not the case Thursday night.

Instead, after the Patriots lost to the New York Giants 16-13 at MetLife Stadium, there were more questions about the state of this team in its current form than before. And forgive me if I’m being dramatic, but there’s also the future of the franchise to consider. On Thursday night, a window to 2017 and beyond was on display. Here are my takeaways from Thursday’s game that explores these issues.

1. Shuffled line sees at least one consistent presence — Josh Kline played all of the team’s snaps at left guard. He had been an expected competitor for the starting position along with Jordan Devey. Devey played left tackle for the Patriots before he was replaced by Chris Barker (who started at right guard). Marcus Cannon, who was suited up for Thursday’s game, did not play a snap as the team decided to rest its key players. So the likes of Nate Solder, Dan Connolly, Sebastian Vollmer, and Ryan Wendell were absent from the final preseason matchup. It may be presumptuous, but after a strong start to training camp for Kline, he could very well be Mankins’ replacement. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean Kline, or anyone else for that matter, will live up to Mankins’ reputation as a top notch player. It was a mixed bag Thursday night for Kline and it’s not too bold to say he probably wishes he had a couple of plays back, including one notable sack allowed. Whether Kline is the future, or whether it is some combination of Devey and Cannon, no one knows outside of the organization. There was no way to answer that question Thursday night with what was displayed on the field. Instead, we must wait until the regular season opener.

2. The amazing Tim Wright — The fact that Tim Wright suited up and was able to catch four passes for 43 yards after basically a day and a half with the organization is outstanding. This sport is not like baseball, in which players can simply be subbed in, hit, and be seen as an instant impact. Football requires more learning and chemistry. So it was nice to see him get in tune with Jimmy Garoppolo Thursday in what can only be assumed was a slimmed down version of the team’s playbook on display. Wright can definitely generate some excitement as the team’s flex tight end, lining up detached more often than not, in this pass happy offense. It’ll be fun to see how this develops.

Read the rest of my takeaways on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

Scouting new Patriots tight end Tim Wright

FOXBOROUGH — You’re going to hear two things about new Patriots tight end Tim Wright in the next day.

1) He’s a good barber. (Seriously, we all could care less.)

2) He’s a hard worker. (Tuesday’s talking point.)

What’s more interesting and revealing about Wright is how he converted from wide receiver at Rutgers to tight end in the NFL. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, he rivals the size of Patriots wide receiver Brandon LaFell (6-3, 210). But more importantly, he’s close enough to the mold of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (6-1, 245) who excelled in New England’s offense as a receiving threat. Wright caught 54 passes for 571 yards and five touchdowns last season, his rookie year.

The New Jersey native did most of his damage in the middle of the field. He caught 38 of his passes between the hash marks, 24 of which were between 1 and 9 yards. When he ventured outside the hash marks, he was less prolific, targeted only 24 times while catching 16 passes.

Read the rest of my scouting report on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

Patriots players keep their eyes front and center ahead of the cuts

FOXBOROUGH — It’s too much to ask Patriots players to describe their thoughts on their roster status.

It’s not that they don’t have any thoughts (they do). They simply cannot share them. That would be breaking a golden rule in Bill Belichick’s house.

But at this point in the year, when the roster is trimmed from 90 to 53 players within a span of five days, the topic of anxiety and focus leap to the forefront, despite a Thursday night game in New York and the regular season only 13 days away.

“Our focus is always on worrying about what we can control,” Patriots offensive lineman Marcus Cannon tells me. “And that’s our technique and how we practice, and that’s all you can control. You can control yourself. And that’s it. What I can do to help the team is all I can control.”

In only three minutes, Cannon tells me in one form or another that he can only control what he can control seven times. We’ve heard this before. The laser focus and talking points are drilled into the team, keeping players seemingly distant from each other (they’re not) and more intently concerned with bettering themselves (they are) in an effort that benefits the team dramatically, but dulls their personality. It starts with Belichick, of course, but it has seeped into the very core of the franchise, with each player outwardly unaware or unconcerned with the mechanisms of the franchise, and awkwardly immune from direct questions about it. It is what it is.

“You can only worry about yourself,” Cannon said. “I can only worry about myself. All I can worry about is coming in here and getting in my playbook and seeing the things that I’m doing wrong and fix ‘em. That’s what I have control of.”

Read the rest of this post in Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

5 takeaways from the Patriots-Panthers game

Forget the score. Preseason games are all about what you can learn about your team and this week there was just a few things we had our eyes on as the Patriots took on the Carolina Panthers.

The Patriots continued to mix up the combinations of offensive and defensive players with roster spots and playing time on the line. With the first cuts just days away (Aug. 26), that’s the main focus of our takeaways.

1. Has Patrick Chung taken the lead? — If you’re like me, and you were zoned in on the Patriots safeties, you know that the competition has not been one of the easiest to decipher. Whether it’s judging by snap counts or quality play — even 1s vs. 1s in the preseason— it’s been hard to get a gauge on who the Patriots want to play opposite of Devin McCourty. For Chung, who has made two starts in the team’s three preseason games, there may be an all-too-quick negative reaction to his abilities, particularly in pass coverage. There’s never been a knock on him for his physicality or his nose for the football. But Patriots fans have too many memories of missed tackles, poor angles, and deep passes on his watch in his first stint with the team. Despite all this, it appears that he has taken the lead at strong safety over Duron Harmon and Tavon Wilson — but with a caveat. The Patriots showed us a wrinkle in Friday’s game against Carolina, which could help explain how the team views each player. Chung played in the base defense while Harmon came onto the field in sub defenses, usually the nickel, to help with pass coverage which is his strength. While minimizing Chung’s weakness in pass coverage, Bill Belichick and company appear to be utilizing Harmon’s strengths in what will likely be a safety-by-committee role. (Wilson was marginalized.) Could these specialized roles be the answer for the team? For right now, that would make the most sense. Of course, we’ll just wait till teams start targeting one or the other to see if they are forced to adapt.

2. Expect Jordan Devey and Josh Kline to make the team — We watched Jordan Devey play right guard and left tackle Friday night, and left guard earlier in the preseason, so we know he has the versatility that Belichick craves. The same for Kline, who we’ve seen at right and left guard, but has also subbed in as an eligible tight end to help in power packages. There’s an allure to both of these two, who may not be the most polished players, but are certainly cheap and useful. Once the Patriots decide which offensive linemen they’re going to keep, they can be moved around at will if any injury arises. There’s an attraction there that I don’t think the team will want to pass up.

For the rest of my takeaways, view the original post on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

Updated Patriots depth chart

The Patriots third preseason game will be the final time a number of the team’s players — 15 to be exact — will get an opportunity to prove themselves.

The league’s first mandated trimming of rosters will be Aug. 26, just four days after the Patriots take on the Carolina Panthers. For the NFL, 53-man rosters won’t be due until Aug. 30, two days after the team’s final preseason game against the New York Giants.

So this is a time when tensions are high for those renting space at the bottom of the roster and those whose jobs are up for grabs. After Friday’s preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles, we have plenty of information to update our Patriots depth chart, which recognizes players that are virtually guaranteed to make the team (highlighted in green) and players that are most likely to get cut (highlighted in red). Everyone else is still in the competition.

See the new depth chart on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog. You can see my first version of the depth chart here. And here is the second.

5 takeaways from the Patriots-Eagles game

Here are some thoughts and observations from the Patriots second preseason game, a 42-35 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

1. Nothing is safe at safety — Kyle Arrington started at safety for the Patriots opposite Devin McCourty. Arrington’s play and toughness has often been referenced by Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who he has used both as a starting cornerback, a slot corner and now back deep, a new and different look for all involved. Belichick actually addressed Arrington’s possible use at safety early on in the week.

“I think Kyle has a really good skillset to play anywhere back there,” Belichick told reporters Monday. “He’s fast, he’s tough, [and] he’s a good tackler, which your safeties need to be. Not that your corners don’t need to be, but I’d say it’s even more important at safety. He tackles well, he runs well, he’s a very athletic player. So I’d say his toughness and his tackling are similar to Devin [McCourty], same type of player who played corner to safety with similar type skills – speed, range, toughness. Those assets you need at safety, and Devin has them and Kyle has them.”

Arrington, who is waiting to see how he looks on film before declaring whether or not he was comfortable, has disrupted the training camp competition at the position. Along with Logan Ryan, who got his first snaps at safety Friday, the Patriots appear to be uncomfortable with Duron Harmon (two tackles, one interception), Patrick Chung (one tackle), and Tavon Wilson. Wilson sat out of Friday’s game with an injury after starting last week against Washington.

What’s more, with the integration of Alfonzo Dennard into the Patriots lineup after his injury, the emergence of cornerback Malcolm Butler, and both Arrington and Ryan’s versatility, the Patriots may not need the plethora of defensive backs they have now. The select few — McCourty, Arrington, Dennard, Ryan, Butler, Darrelle Revis, and Brandon Browner — are ahead of the rest of the pack. And now, it appears the coaches view an all cornerbacks secondary (including McCourty) as an option that can’t be passed up. Others will certainly feel the squeeze.

2. Ryan Mallett shows growth — Call it baby steps. But it did appear that backup quarterback Ryan Mallett improved over his last outing, finishing 7 of 11 passing for 92 yards and a touchdown Friday against the Eagles. His touchdown strike, a 17-yard pass on a fly route to Brian Tyms, was precisely the kind of bold decision making that he had lacked in previous outings. And for once, he put the ball in a position where a number of receivers could make plays. (Tyms had another opportunity to catch a pass from Mallett in the end zone that was dropped.) And then he gave us some added value by showing off his (limited) mobility. He ended up with nine yards rushing after taking two sacks. But he also had a 6-yard rushing touchdown. It was a win-win for Mallett on Friday despite entering the game after rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (who continued to impress). Mallett’s journey is all about small wins now. He needs to have as many good outings as possible for his next job and he’s got only two more opportunities left.

Read the rest of my takeaways on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

Cary Wiliams reverses course, apologizes to Bill Belichick

Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Cary Williams was in a position to boast Friday night and chose not to.

Williams had a good outing against the Patriots, a team two weeks ago he called cheaters in reference to Spygate, the Patriots 2007 video taping scandal that rocked the NFL. (Last week, when asked about those very same comments, he stood by his remarks again.)

But after picking off Tom Brady and returning the interception 77 yards for a touchdown in the Eagles’ 42-35 loss, Williams was singing a different tune. He spoke with Patriots coach Bill Belichick in the team’s postgame handshake and made sure to apologize.

“It was just mutual respect between two guys,” Williams said. “Coach Belichick respected me and I respected him. I respect the organization and I told him I was sorry for the words that I said. That was just pure emotion and sometimes you say things that you don’t really think about.

Read more of Cary Williams’s comments on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

5 takeaways from the Patriots preseason opener

LANDOVER, Md. — The Patriots lost to Washington 23-6 Thursday night in their preseason opener.

Here’s five takeaways from the team’s first exhibition game:

1. Hello Jimmy Garoppolo — First and foremost, wow. (Stands and claps at computer.) In 12 training camp practices, I had yet to see Garoppolo look as impressive as he did on Thursday night against Washington. He showed some escapability, scrambling for opportunities to throw and pick up some yards, and he showed touch on his deep ball, something we knew he was capable of from his time at Eastern Illinois. But he also showed us that he can make anticipatory throws, the kind that NFL starting caliber quarterbacks are required to make on a regular basis. He hadn’t given us a whiff of any of that in practice. He had been struggling in 11-on-11s, operating indecisively, and throwing off the mark way too often. Typical rookie stuff. But Thursday night, he hit the out routes in stride, placed his deep balls with pinpoint accuracy, and found a rhythm that wasn’t apparent before. He was fantastic.

2. Brian Tyms’s chances haven’t changed much — Before everyone wakes up in the morning and starts looking to buy Brian Tyms’s jersey, take note that he still will not likely make the Patriots 53-man roster, barring some unforeseen injury or cosmic disturbance. Tyms was fantastic as Garoppolo’s wingman Thursday night. He caught five of six passes thrown his way for 119 yards, including the 26-yard touchdown he took with him all the way into Washington’s stands. His 53-yard catch was a beauty. But it was the one pass he didn’t get, the 38-yard touchdown that was called off after he was interfered with, that was the gem of the night. Tyms bobbled the pass after hauling it in before catching it again on his way down to the ground with Chase Minnifield all over him. It was a highlight play and likely could’ve been overturned had Belichick been interested in challenging the call. (No need with the pass interference, but still.) But all of his success Thursday night, and going forward in the preseason, won’t mean diddly squat because he has at least seven receivers ahead of him on the depth chart: Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Brandon LaFell, Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins, Josh Boyce, and Matthew Slater. Somebody has to go for him to make this team. And more than likely, two of those somebodies have to go with the talent on the roster. But hey, he’d be great for the practice squad.

See the rest of my takeaways on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.