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Five Patriots who might be feeling bubblicious

08.08.10 at 5:25 pm ET
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With 17 practices in the books and the first preseason game of the season looming Thursday, it’s not too early to start making roster predictions. While there are mortal locks to make the team (and mortal locks to be cut loose) there are always a few players who are on the bubble at this time of year. In particular, based on what has transpired so far, these five players might need a positive preseason to help land themselves a final roster spot:

Wide receivers Torry Holt and Sam Aiken: Their fortunes are tied together. When it comes to Holt, it’s not that the new veteran has necessarily had a bad training camp — it’s just that he hasn’t done much of anything to show up on anyone’s radar screen, positively or negatively. As for Aiken, he does have special teams experience over Holt, but last year’s special teams captain appears to have been usurped by a variety of candidates for the role of punter protector. If Aiken’s role on special teams is lessened, so are the chances of him making the team. But the bottom line is that right now, with youngsters Taylor Price and Brandon Tate both having a good camp, it could come down to Holt and Aiken for the final wide receiver spot.

Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis: Seems like we’ve been here before. Green-Ellis was considered someone who was on the bubble the last two preseasons, but in each case, ended up doing enough to merit a roster spot, thanks in large part to some impressive production in the preseason. (In his defense, he’s also managed to put up some good numbers when called upon in the regular season — he rushed for 50-plus yards on three occasions in 2008, including a 105-yard performance against the Bills.) With four running backs in front of him on the depth chart (Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk and Fred Taylor), his fate could be tied to how many wide receivers they decide to keep — if they go with an extra pass catcher, Green-Ellis could be on the outside looking in when cuts come down. He could also sneak in if the team feels Taylor isn’t durable enough for another 16-game season.

Cornerback Terrence Wheatley: He’s seen a lot of time this summer with the special teamers, and could nose his way onto the roster if he continues in that direction. But there’s no denying the fact that Wheatley is starting to run out of time. There have been some positive moments for him, but they’ve been few and far between.

Defensive lineman Ron Brace: Brace is the only player currently in camp who hasn’t been pads yet, which means it’s a pretty safe bet that no matter what happens with him this week in the days leading up to the Saints game, he won’t play on Thursday night. I don’t think the Patriots would release him after one season, but what has transpired for him thus far has to be considered tremendously disappointing, especially after he told the media in training camp that he was embarrassed after what transpired his rookie season and wanted to re-commit himself to the game.

Read More: BenJarvus Green Ellis, Ron Brace, Sam Aiken, Terrence Wheatley

Report: Patriots have expressed ‘strong’ interest in Schobel

08.08.10 at 11:22 am ET
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The Patriots have “strong” interest in pass rusher Aaron Schobel, but the former Bill is seeking “big” money, according to Comast’s Mike Giardi. (Giardi quotes a source as saying Schobel’s situation isn’t like that of Junior Seau, who a contract that was below market value to come out of retirement and play for New England.) Schobel, who became available last week when he was released by Buffalo, is one of the best pass rushers currently available — the 32-year-old had 78 sacks over the last nine years with the Bills.

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Who are the Patriots most frequent trade partners?

08.07.10 at 3:17 pm ET
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t1-davis

Al Davis and the Raiders have made eight trades with New England since 2000, more than any other franchise. (AP)

If the Patriots were going to try and swing a deal to try and create more depth either at outside linebacker/defensive end or left guard, who is New England’s likeliest trade partner? Based on how the Patriots have operated in recent years, here are a few of the prime candidates:

Oakland: Ah, yes. The Raiders. Since Bill Belichick took over the Patriots in 2000, the Patriots have made eight trades with Oakland, more than any other team in the league. New England and Oakland have made blockbuster deals (sending Richard Seymour to the Raiders last September in exchange for Oakland’s No. 1 pick in 2011), as well as relatively low level deals. There doesn’t appear to be a wide variety of possible trade scenarios, but as we know, when it comes to dealing with the Raiders, all bets are off. Oakland does have Robert Gallery penciled in as their starting left guard, a 30-year-old who has spent the last six seasons with the Raiders. And at outside linebacker, one intriguing name is Kamerion Wimbley, a pass-rusher for the previous four seasons in Cleveland before he landed with the Raiders this past offseason. It’s unlikely Oakland would deal him so quickly after acquiring him, but again, with the Raiders, you never know. The 6-foot-4, 255-pound Wimbley had 11 sacks in 2006 with the Browns in their 3-4 scheme.
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Jonathan Kraft on D&H: Brady relationship ‘stronger’

08.07.10 at 11:30 am ET
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Jonathan Kraft

Jonathan Kraft

The Dale & Holley show aired live from Patriots training camp Friday afternoon, and the hosts talked to Pats president Jonathan Kraft about the NFL from the front office perspective. Kraft talked about the urge to increase the regular season to 18 games, any kind of change that could be made to the oft-criticized rookie pay scale and the quality of the relationship between Tom Brady and the front office.

“From where I sit, the relationship we’ve had with him and the relationship that I’ve had with him has always been the same and if anything, it’s stronger,” Kraft said. “I’ll echo what [owner] Robert [Kraft] has said a bunch of times, I really believe that Tom Brady is going to be the quarterback of this team for a long time to come.”

Below are highlights. To listen to the full interview, click on the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

On expanding the regular season to 18 games:

At the end of the day, we’re all in a business where we want to serve the fans’ needs, and right now it’s pretty clear that the fan base is no longer enamored [with] the 16 [game regular season] and four [game preseason]. To be really frank about it, I’m not sure the players need [four preseason games].

When you look at it right now, [to cut] two of those games, they’re going to need to be more efficient in managing their time and using practice right and probably they’ll end up doing what we’re doing here with the Saints next week, where you bring a team in and you really see a lot in practice. What I think you’d see in those practices they’ll use the rookies a fair amount — the younger guys — and see how they’re doing there. At the end of the day, the players and their conditioning and what they do in the offseason has evolved to the place where we just don’t need four preseason games.

The economic model has built up over time where it’s a 20-game season. It’s not like you can go and play a 16 and two. You can’t take that out of the mix with what the NFL annual product is, but taking two of the games and making them regular-season games feels like it’s the right thing to do. The fans want it, I think our business partners do and the commissioner is working with the [players] union to make sure that the players have a say in this thing, too.

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Examining what could be next for the Patriots at left guard

08.07.10 at 1:30 am ET
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If the report of Nick Kaczur suffering a “significant” back injury is correct, it will leave the Patriots even thinner at a position — left guard — where they are already lacking depth.

Pro Bowler Logan Mankins, currently locked in a contract imbroglio with the franchise, hasn’t reported for training camp. Kaczur, who had been primarily used as a tackle through his NFL career, took the majority of reps at Mankins’ old spot throughout the early stages of camp, and it looked like he could enter the season as the starter.

But with Kaczur lost to injury — he’s now missed the last 11 training camp practices, not including walkthroughs — much of the responsibility would shift to Dan Connolly, Connolly has seen many of the reps at left guard since Kaczur went down, and it figures Connolly, a career backup interior lineman, would move into the full-time starters’ spot at left guard if Kaczur is out for a significant period of time.

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Read More: Dan Connolly, nick kaczur, training camp,

Report: Kaczur has significant back injury

08.06.10 at 10:42 pm ET
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According to ESPN.com, Patriots offensive lineman Nick Kaczur has told teammates he has a significant back injury that could potentially sideline him for the entire 2010 season. The report states that Kaczur, who has been out of the Pats’ last 11 training camp sessions, was slated to move from tackle to guard, could seek another medical opinion, but the prospects for a return any time soon remain “grim.” Five-year veteran Dan Connolly has been lining up with the starting unit with both Kaczur and holdout Logan Mankins not available.

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Patriots cut Clayton, add Barrett

08.06.10 at 10:36 pm ET
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The Patriots announced Friday night they have signed safety Josh Barrett and released running back Thomas Clayton. Here’s the complete statement from the team on the transaction:

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Patriots claimed and were awarded S Josh Barrett off waivers from the Denver Broncos today. In addition, the Patriots released RB Thomas Clayton.
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Read More: Josh Barrett, Thomas Clayton, training camp,
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