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Thrown to the wolves: What recent mid-round rookie QBs starting this early say about Patriots’ chances with Jacoby Brissett 09.21.16 at 6:00 am ET
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Jacoby Brissett is expected to make his first NFL start Thursday. (Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports)

Jacoby Brissett is expected to make his first NFL start Thursday. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The first two weeks of this season aside, a fine goal for pretty much any quarterback coming into the league is to be Russell Wilson. The 2012 third-round pick started from Week 1 of his rookie year and averaged 28 total touchdowns over his first three seasons before breaking out with 35 last season (34 passing, one rushing).

As it relates to the Patriots’ quarterback situation, it isn’t Wilson’s entire body of work that matters, but the very beginning of his career. Entering this season, Wilson was the last quarterback drafted in the third round or later to start a game in the first three weeks of his rookie season, a task that has since been undertaken by Cowboys 2016 fourth-rounder Dak Prescott.

Barring an acquisition or some terrific news on Jimmy Garoppolo, Patriots rookie Jacoby Brissett, whom the team drafted in the third round in April, will face the same challenge Thursday. Though mid-round rookie QBs starting this early in the season has historically been a major rarity in the NFL, this season has been something of a when-it-rains-it-pours phenomenon, as Cody Kessler, chosen two spots after Brissett in the late third round, will start for the Browns in Week 3 as well.

While Wilson and Prescott provide precedent for such an occurrence, their situations can’t really compare to Brissett’s. Wilson was given a shot at the starting gig in training camp of his rookie year, something he seized by beating out free agent signing Matt Flynn and former-good-player-whom-I’d-completely-forgotten-started-the-previous-season-for-Seattle Tarvaris Jackson. When Wilson started his first pro game, he’d had a camp and a preseason worth of taking ample snaps with the first-teamers.

In the case of Prescott, the Cowboys learned of starter Tony Romo’s unavailability after Week 3 of the preseason, giving Dallas two and a half weeks to prepare their rookie to start.Screen Shot 2016-09-19 at 9.15.09 PM

Though he had the offseason to learn the playbook, Brissett hasn’t been brought along the way Wilson and Prescott were. With the Patriots giving the soon-to-be-suspended Tom Brady ample reps in training camp along with Garoppolo, Brissett was left to take third-and-fourth-team reps in training camp and preseason games, playing with and against lesser quality players than a team would use to prepare a quarterback for regular-season play. Brissett didn’t throw the ball much in the preseason until the fourth and final exhibition game, when he went 13-for-21 for 152 passing yards.

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Read More: Cody Kessler, Dak Prescott, Jacoby Brissett, Jimmy Garoppolo
Bart Hubbuch deletes Twitter account (with tribute video) 09.20.16 at 9:31 pm ET
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New York Post writer Bart Hubbuch, best known around these parts for being obsessed with the Patriots and trying to get people fired, seemingly deleted his Twitter account Tuesday night.

Hubbuch’s account, which saw him tweet sexist and racist things in addition to making jokes about Patriots fans committing suicide, was noticed to be down hours after he sent a tweet accusing the Patriots of being racist for only starting white quarterbacks.

Bart Hubbuch busts Patriots for quarterback racism 09.20.16 at 1:22 pm ET
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Barring some sort of surprise, Jacoby Brissett will start at quarterback for the Patriots on Thursday. This will mark the first time a black quarterback has tricked the Pats into letting him start, according to smart man with no sort of vendetta against the Patriots Bart Hubbuch.

While the NFL unquestionably took longer to incorporate black players at the game’s most important position than it should have, crying racism at a team that has had one (white) quarterback account for nearly half of its franchise’s wins is dumb. Then again, so is saying girls shouldn’t drink beer.

Since Bill Belichick came to the Patriots, the team has drafted five quarterbacks in the fourth round or higher. Two of them (Brissett and Rohan Davey) have been black.

Read More: Bart Hubbuch, Jacoby Brissett,
With help from Devin McCourty, Malcolm Butler embracing bigger role in Patriots secondary 08.31.15 at 2:29 pm ET
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Malcolm Butler

Malcolm Butler

FOXBORO — The biggest change to the secondary this season is Malcolm Butler’€™s move to left corner, where he has enormous shoes to fill with Darrelle Revis a Jet once again. While there will be questions in New England’€™s secondary until it shows sustained stability, the Patriots seem confident in Butler’€™s move to a key role in his second professional season.

“Much improved, much improved on everything,” Bill Belichick said Monday of Butler’€™s progression from his rookie season to now. “He worked hard in the offseason. It’€™s obviously just his second year, the change of lifestyle, becoming a professional athlete, working at this job every day, becoming more mature, more dependable, having a better understanding of what we do, having a better understanding of what our opponents do or the passing game in the National Football League. He’€™s made a huge jump from year one to year two as most of our other players have.”

It’€™s odd to know the pinnacle of a player’€™s career so early into it, as Butler will always be best-known for intercepting Russell Wilson in the final minute of the Super Bowl in February. The next thing Butler can do is establish himself as a starting cornerback, something he was not as a rookie due to both his lack of experience and the Patriots’€™ depth at the position.

The Patriots are now leaning on him to replace Revis and prevent New England’€™s secondary from getting picked on by opposing quarterbacks. As he continues to learn the ropes, he’€™s leaning on former All-Pro cornerback and current very-much-non All Pro cornerback Devin McCourty.

A star at safety, McCourty isn’€™t the oldest member of the Patriots’€™ secondary, but he’€™s certainly the best. As he enters his sixth season in the NFL, McCourty is being looked to as a leader of a group that lost Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner in the offseason.

“That’s the quarterback of the defense I would say, him and Mayo,” Butler said Monday. “Devin back there gets us fired up for the game. He doesn’t only lead by example, but his words lead by action. Just a great player, great leader, doing great things.”

McCourty returned Butler’€™s praise.

“He’€™s a hard worker,” McCourty said of Butler. “I think that started last year, I guess everyone knows him from coming in in the Super Bowl, but since he came in here in OTAs and everything, he’€™s just been putting in a ton of hard work.”

The beginning of McCourty’€™s career was rather odd. He was an immediate star cornerback as a rookie following his first-round selection, but he regressed as a corner the next season. Since then, he’€™s becoming one of the top safeties in the league.

Butler, on the other hand, was undrafted and started just one game as a rookie. The expectations on him are very high, as his cornerback spot is where many feel the Patriots are set; the right corner spot is currently more up in the air, with Tarell Brown the favorite at the moment.

Given how well Butler has performed in the preseason, it’€™s reasonable to agree with that line of thinking. Belichick feels OK with Butler where he is because he feels that players drastically improve from their rookie seasons to their second seasons.

“I think that’€™s where players make the biggest leap is A, you have that understanding of what it’€™s going to be like. It’€™s not new; you at least know what training camp is going to be like, what a regular season is going to be like, what a game is going to be like, what the coaches expect, all those kinds of things,” Belichick said. “So you have a little bit better idea of being able to plan or anticipate for it, but then the knowledge that you have about yourself, about your opponents, about how things worked, and that’€™s a huge amount of information that those second-year players have that the rookies just don’€™t have no matter how smart they are or how hard they work or whatever they’€™ve been exposed to in the past, some more than others. But going through it and experiencing it is invaluable, really.”

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Read More: Devin McCourty, Malcolm Butler,
Rookie recap: How draft picks of Patriots, AFC East foes are fitting in so far 08.30.15 at 4:08 pm ET
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Malcom Brown

Malcom Brown

On draft day*, it’s easy to get carried away with each player’s potential impact out of the gate. We all go to extremes with expectations and are often proven very wrong in short order. It isn’t until the players have actually spent some time on the field as a professional that we can actually gauge how they might fit in as a rookie.

As such, here’s a look at where each of the Patriots’ draft picks stand with the regular season less than two weeks away:

Malcom Brown, DT: There haven’t been many big surprises with the 32nd overall pick to this point, as he figures to be part of a relatively crowded rotation on the Pats‘ defensive line

Jordan Richards, S: Perceived as a mega-reach in the second round, Richards has made good impressions in training camp. He figures to serve as a backup strong safety this season, but he will certainly make an impact early on special teams.

Geneo Grissom, DL: Projected to the NFL as an outside linebacker by many, the third-round pick has gotten reps at both defensive tackle and defensive end. Rumor has it the Pats like versatility.

Trey Flowers, DE/OLB: The fourth-rounder out of Arkansas, who compared himself to Bobby Boucher when he first talked to the New England media, has displayed some nice explosiveness off the snap, and certainly appears to be the sort who can work in at least a part-time rotation.

Tre’ Jackson, OG: The first of two fourth-round guards, Jackson is ahead of fellow rookie Shaq Mason as far as chances of being the starter on the right side go.

Shaq Mason, OL: The second of the Pats‘ fourth-round guards, Mason is a proficient run-blocker (playing at Georgia Tech will do that to a guy), but he’s behind as a pass-blocker due to his college program’s run-heavy scheme.

Joe Cardona, LS: The fifth-round selection of Cardona, a longsnapper out of Navy, was viewed as a classic Bill Belichick pick. So far, Cardona figures to be a fine replacement for Danny Aiken.

Matthew Wells, LB: The sixth-rounder didn’t last long with the Pats, as he was dealt to the Bears for second-year guard Ryan Groy on August 10.

A.J. Derby, TE: The sixth-round tight end figured to have a tough time cracking the roster this season, but he remains Patriots property after the team waived him and placed him on IR after he went unclaimed.

Darryl Roberts, CB: The seventh-round cornerback started the preseason opener, but was injured against the Packers. ESPN’s Mike Reiss reported that it’s a serious wrist injury that could cost the Marshall product his rookie season.

Xzavier Dickson, LB: The seventh-rounder played six snaps in the third preseason game, the least among Pats linebackers.

Around the division:

Jets: Sixth overall pick Leonard Williams suffered a muscle strain in his knee in the Jets’ third preseason game. It isn’t expected to keep him out long, and he is expected to be a starter at defensive end from the get-go due to Sheldon Richardson’€™s four-game suspension. He got a safety in the second preseason game against the Falcons. Second-round receiver Devin Smith remains out with broken ribs suffered in the second day of practice, while third-round linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin has been out with a recently suffered knee injury.

Bills: Because they didn’t have a first-round pick due to the Sammy Watkins trade, the Bills’ first pick was cornerback Ronald Darby in the second round. Darby had two picks in the Bills’ second preseason game. Third-round pick John Miller is in line to be Buffalo’s starting right guard this season. Fifth-round running back Karlos Williams is out with an undisclosed injury but is expected to be ready for the season-opener. He shouldn’t expect many carries with LeSean McCoy and Fred Jackson ahead of him.

Dolphins: Fourteenth overall pick DeVante Parker was recently activated from the physically unable to perform list. The receiver is coming off offseason foot surgery and hopes to be ready for the season, albeit with very limited practice time. It seems the potential starting status of fourth-round guard Jamil Douglas is dependent on the status of starting left tackle Jason Fox (concussion), whose absence creates a domino effect that would seemingly slide Dallas Thomas to left tackle and Douglas into the lineup at guard.

*On the three draft days; Roger Goodell is lucky that Deflategate has pushed moving the draft to primetime down the list of incredibly dumb things he’s done as commissioner. What a bozo move.

Christopher Price contributed to this post.

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Read More: 2015 Patriots Training Camp, A.J. Derby, Darryl Roberts, Geneo Grissom
Bill Belichick on Reggie Wayne: ‘I think he can help us, but we’ll see’ 08.25.15 at 1:26 pm ET
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Bill Belichick was very measured in his assessment of Reggie Wayne Tuesday when he spoke to reporters at Gillette Stadium.

That shouldn’€™t come as too big a surprise, as Belichick is typically more effusive in praising players who either used to play for him or don’€™t play for him than he is with guys on his roster.

With the team announcing the signing of the 36-year-old receiver Tuesday, Belichick wasn’€™t too elaborate when asked about the six-time Pro Bowl player’€™s career.

“Outstanding,” he said. “I think all of that’€™s on record.”

Asked how he envisioned Wayne fitting in with the Patriots, Belichick didn’€™t say much other than that he’€™s familiar with the player.

“I’€™ve coached him in Pro Bowls, those kind of situations,” Belichick said. “This is obviously different, we’€™ll see how it goes. Glad to have him, excited to have in on the team. I think he can help us, but we’€™ll see.”

Wayne has played his entire career with the Colts, who drafted him 30th overall back in 2001. Belichick expressed optimism that the player would be able to adapt to a new system in New England.

“I wouldn’€™t say he’€™s played in one system. He’€™s played for one team,” Belichick said. “I think in the last three years, you’€™ve seen him doing a lot of different things. He was primarily on the left in the previous offense with Tom Moore and all that. Since then, he’€™s done different things, but it doesn’€™t really matter.

“Just like any player, we’€™ll see how things come together when we ask a new player to do what we ask him to do and how he does it, how that develops and so forth. I don’€™t really know about any of that. We’€™ll see how it goes.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Reggie Wayne,
Malcolm Butler thinks Reggie Wayne’s smarts will help Patriots 08.24.15 at 6:18 pm ET
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Malcolm Butler

Malcolm Butler

FOXBORO — With the signing of Reggie Wayne, practices might get a little more difficult for Patriots’€™ cornerbacks. Or easier. It’€™s hard to tell. Wayne will be 37 in November.

“Never in a million years I thought I’d be playing against a guy I’d been watching for such a long time,” Butler said Monday of working with the former Colt, “but [I’m] glad to have him. Time to get to work.

“I know him well from playing with the Colts and Peyton Manning. [He’€™s] just a guy that’€™s been around for a long time and has always been productive. I’€™m just looking forward to it.”

The spectrum of possibilities for Wayne’€™s impact is pretty clear. He can either be the latest in a line of big-name receivers the Pats have gotten at the end of their careers who didn’€™t work out (Torry Holt, Chad Ochocinco among them) or a pleasant surprise that wraps up a prolific career with one more productive season.

Butler considers himself fortunate to have the six-time Pro Bowl selection as his teammate. Though Wayne is no spring chicken, Butler said the veteran receiver’€™s smarts were apparent in film preparation last season.

“Just his knowledge of the game: knowing where to be, knowing where to line up, knowing how to release on the cornerbacks,” Butler said when asked what stood out. “Just all of the savvy things that veteran receivers know.”

Wayne’€™s production has been up and down since the Colts made the switch from Manning to Andrew Luck. He had one of the best seasons of his career when Luck was a rookie, as his 106 receptions and 1,355 receiving yards made for the second-highest totals of his career in each category. A torn ACL derailed the next season, while he was mediocre last season in his final campaign with the Colts (64 receptions, 779 yards, two touchdowns).

The Patriots hope that Wayne’€™s experience and knowledge will allow him to be an impact player as they deal with injuries at the receiver position (in addition to the injuries to Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell and Aaron Dobson, the Pats placed Brandon Gibson on injured reserve Monday). Butler doesn’€™t see why Wayne wouldn’t be able to help the Pats where they might need it.

Even if Wayne doesn’€™t become a go-to guy for whoever’€™s at quarterback early on, Butler said that his presence will improve him as a player via practice reps.

“Most definitely,” he said. “I’€™m looking forward to everyone making me a better cornerback. Working hard if it’€™s anybody: Reggie Wayne, Danny Amendola, anybody. Just looking to get better.”

There’s no guarantee that the Wayne signing will be any sort of game-changer for the Pats, but they’re clearly optimistic.

Read More: Malcolm Butler, Reggie Wayne,



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