|Patriots DBs finish spring workouts in Arizona||04.17.15 at 7:55 am ET|
Over the last couple of years, a handful of Patriots’ defensive backs have made the trek out to Arizona to work with Will Sullivan, who has collaborated on training schedules for several NFL players over the course of the offseason, including Darrelle Revis.
Sullivan’s work with several members of the New England secondary has been well-documented in stories here and here, and he texted over a photo on Thursday night of many of the Patriots who have been with him in at his facility in Arizona. It’s a group that includes cornerback Alfonzo Dennard and safeties Devin McCourty, Tavon Wilson and Duron Harmon. (Cornerback Logan Ryan had worked with Sullivan earlier in the offseason.) With the Patriots set to begin their offseason workouts at Gillette next week, the group said farewell to Sullivan (for now) on Thursday night with the group shot.
|Forgotten 5: Quintet missed end of 2014 season but could play larger role for Patriots in 2015||03.04.15 at 12:49 am ET|
While everyone is familiar with the season-ending injuries to starters like linebacker Jerod Mayo and running back Stevan Ridley, there were others who also who saw their 2014 season come to a premature end because of injury. While the five players we have listed below might not be considered elite-level talent, they’re still part of the franchise as of this writing, and depending on their health and contract situation, their status could tell us a lot about how the team decides to proceed in free agency and the draft.
Wide receiver Aaron Dobson – According to a report from the Boston Herald, the receiver is spending time working at the Fischer Institute in Phoenix this offseason while re-dedicating himself to the game. The Marshall product followed up one of the best rookie seasons any receiver has ever had with Tom Brady (37 catches, 519 yards, 4 TDs) with just three catches for 38 yards this past year, eventually landing on injured reserve after injuring his hamstring in Week 13. It was essentially a lost year for Dobson, who had foot surgery in March and didn’t get on the field until mid-August. By that point, he had already lost valuable time, missing out on key spring workouts. It’s a key offseason for Dobson — he won’t turn 24 until June, but has to be aware that he needs to have a good stretch if he wants to gain some traction in the New England offense.
Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard – Bumped down the food chain because of the offseason pickups of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner (it’s hard to remember, but after Aqib Talib went down with an injury early in the 2013 AFC title game, Dennard was New England’s No. 1 corner), it was mostly a lost season for the 25-year-old. Like Dobson, he initially battled a shoulder injury, but there were times when he was healthy and he was still a scratch. The 5-foot-10, 200-pounder played in just six games (four starts) before going on injured reserve in December. It represented a career low-point for the Nebraska corner, who had just 15 tackles, one pick and one pass defense in 2014, a dropoff from 40 tackles, one interception and eight passes defensed in 2013. While the Patriots’ secondary is a bit of a fluid situation at this point, many critics believe that he could be a candidate to have his deal re-done in the offseason, or even cut loose depending on what happens with Revis and/or Browner.
Running back Tyler Gaffney – The former Stanford Cardinal was swiped off waivers by the Patriots last summer, and while the former sixth-round pick spent the year on injured reserve because of knee surgery, it will be intriguing what sort of role the Patriots could have in store for him in 2015. Gaffney, who will turn 24 next month, ran for 2,500 yards in four seasons as a collegian, including 1,709 in 2013. That stat line included 330 carries, a 5.2 yards per carry average and a whopping 21 touchdowns. While he’s more of a traditional between-the-tackles back, the 6-foo0t-1, 221-pounder does have some value in the passing game as well, having caught 32 passes (including 15 as a senior) for 264 yards. With the New England backfield in a state of flux, if he’s healthy, Gaffney could see significant reps for the Patriots this year. He’ll certainly be a player of interest when spring camps start up.
Defensive end Michael Buchanan – The 6-foot-6, 255-pounder played in just three games in 2014 before seeing his season come to a premature end. As a rookie in 2013, he wasn’t an overwhelming presence off the edge, but he did have two sacks, and at times, appeared to be trending in the right direction. If he had been healthy, it would have been debatable how much New England would have needed to acquire someone like Akeem Ayers midway through the season. The 24-year-old, who was a seventh round pick in 2013 out of Illinois, was placed on injured reserve in October. This year, he’ll likely face a battle for playing time as a backup edge rusher with the likes of Zach Moore and Ayers, if the latter doesn’t depart as a free agent.
Linebacker James Morris – The Iowa product was on and off the roster last year, signing as an underrated free agent in the spring before being release in May and brought back in June. He was placed on injured reserve at the end of the summer, and could play a role when it comes to working as a backup inside linebacker/special teamer in 2015. (Technically, Morris will be an exclusive rights free agent when free agency begins next week, which basically means that if he wants to play in the NFL next season, he has to sign with the Patriots.) The 23-year-old was just the sixth player in Iowa history to record 400 career tackles after finishing with 400 tackles, 10 1/2 sacks and six interceptions as a three-year starter. The 6-foot-2, 240-pounder was named a team captain in 2013 and started in all 13 games and finished second on the team with 107 total tackles, eight sacks and four interceptions.
|Patriots position-by-position breakdown: Cornerback||02.16.15 at 7:00 am ET|
With the Patriots done for the season, we’ve got an end-of-the-year position-by-position breakdown of where the Patriots stand. We’ve looked at special teams, wide receivers, running backs, tight ends, quarterback, offensive line and safety. Now, it’s the cornerback position.
Depth chart (regular-season stats via coaches film review): Darrelle Revis (49 tackles, 2 INTs, 14 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble recovery), Brandon Browner (26 tackles, 1 INT, 6 passes defensed), Kyle Arrington (33 tackles, 1 sack, 4 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles), Malcolm Butler (14 tackles, 4 passes defensed), Alfonzo Dennard (15 tackles, 1 INT, 1 pass defensed), 1 fumble recovery), Logan Ryan (36 tackles, 2 INTs, 6 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble)
Overview: In much the same fashion the Patriots underwent an Extreme Makeover at wide receiver at the end of the 2006 season, they did the same thing at cornerback this past offseason. While the overhaul at wide receiver prior to 2007 wasn’t enough to get them over the top, it was just enough this time around, as the New England secondary was a difference-maker throughout the season and into the playoffs.
While Browner was sidelined for the first four games because of a suspension for a 2013 violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy, the impact was immediate, as second level corners like Dennard were immediately pushed down the depth chart in favor of top-shelf talent like Revis and Browner, and teams that had feasted on the New England corners in previous years were shut down across the board. While there was a mixture of man and zone over the course of the season, Revis was able to lock down most of the No. 1 receivers he ended up going head-to-head with, while Browner was a versatile and feisty presence who worked equally well against bigger targets, which included receivers and tight ends.
For the most part, the rest of the corners were able to fill in nicely around Revis and Browner: Arrington was a quality presence in the slot for most of the season, while Butler provided nice depth, eventually emerging on the biggest stage against the Seahawks in the title game. (More on that shortly.) Ryan occasionally struggled in coverage, and teams started to understand that if you had a deep passing game and wanted to test the Patriots, you stayed as far away as possible from Revis and Browner. Meanwhile, Dennard was an afterthought, struggling with injury for most of the year before going on season-ending injured reserve in December.
Going forward, the whole offseason starts with Revis: he is technically under contract for 2015, but his cap hit is so enormous it’s debatable as to whether or not the Patriots can think about bringing him back at that total. Presuming he finds a way to stick around – from this viewpoint, he’ll be around for at least one more season – that would allow the rest of the corners to slot neatly into place for another season. Browner, Butler, Ryan and Arrington are all under contract for 2015, while Dennard now likely faces an uphill battle for playing time against a Super Bowl hero in Butler. He could end up being cut somewhere down the line if the roster numbers don’t add up or if the Patriots try and add to their depth at the position either in free agency or the draft.
Best moment: Prior to Super Bowl XLIX, there were a ton of memorable performances by the New England cornerbacks, including the work that Revis did against a several of high-profile receivers, including A.J. Green and Sammy Watkins. (There was also the high-energy jolt of Browner, who played with an edge and made plenty of receivers think twice when it came to going over the middle.) But you’d be foolish not to pinpoint the performance of Butler at the end of the Super Bowl, jumping the route and picking off the Russell Wilson pass for Ricardo Lockette. It was a great play on several levels, but maybe the most impressive things about Butler’s execution was the fact that he was beaten on the play the week before in practice by the scout team duo of Jimmy Garoppolo and Josh Boyce. When the play happened in the Super Bowl, he was able to recognize what happened and make the biggest play of his career.
|Patriots promote WR Josh Boyce to active roster, place CB Alfonzo Dennard on IR||12.27.14 at 5:46 pm ET|
The Patriots made several personnel moves on Saturday night, signing wide receiver Josh Boyce to the 53-man roster from the practice squad and placing cornerback Alfonzo Dennard on injured reserve. In addition, the Patriots signed defensive back Daxton Swanson to the practice squad and released defensive lineman Cam Henderson from the practice squad.
Here’s a portion of the statement issued by the team on the moves:
Boyce, 23, was drafted by the Patriots in the fourth round (102nd overall) of the 2013 NFL Draft out of Texas Christian. He played in nine games with three starts as a rookie and finished with nine receptions for 121 yards. Boyce was released by the Patriots on Aug. 30, 2014 and signed to the practice squad on Sept. 1.
Dennard, 25, is in his third season with the Patriots after joining the team as a seventh round draft pick (224th overall) out of Nebraska in the 2012 NFL Draft. He played in six games with four starts in 2014 and registered 15 total tackles and one interception.
Swanson, 23, has spent most of the season on the New England practice squad. He was released from the practice squad on Dec. 23. Swanson was originally signed by the Patriots as a free agent on May 22, 2014. He entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with the Indianapolis Colts on April 30, 2013, out of Sam Houston State. The 5-foot-11, 191-pounder was released by the Colts on Oct. 29, 2013 and was signed to the San Francisco 49ers practice squad on Nov. 18, 2013. He was released by San Francisco on May 12, 2014.
Henderson, 24, had two stints on the New England practice squad this season. He originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with the Atlanta Falcons on April 29, 2013 out of Central Florida. The 6-foot-4, 270-pounder, was released by the Falcons on Aug. 25, 2014 and was signed to the Cleveland Browns practice squad on Dec. 4, 2013. He went to training camp this past summer with Cleveland, but was released on Aug. 25, 2014. He played two seasons at Central Florida after beginning his college career at Vavarro College.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|Brandon Browner reportedly struggling to pick up Patriots’ D||10.09.14 at 9:18 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Brandon Browner, the defensive back the Patriots signed to a three-year, $16.8 million contract in March, is having trouble picking up the defense of Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia.
So much so, that he was held out of Sunday night’s game against the Bengals because he is not up to speed with the system, according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald.
Browner, who missed practice Thursday due to what the team is calling an ankle injury, was held out of the Cincinnati game because he is lagging behind, a source told the Herald. Browner and Brian Tyms were eligible to return against the Bengals after each served four-game suspensions. With Tyms, it appeared to be matter of numbers in the receiving corps. With Browner, it now seems to be a matter of readiness.
Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, Browner’s former teammate, told the Herald in June that the Seahawks gave their corners just one responsibility. Sherman hinted that adding more responsibilities could make him less effective.
Browner may be in the same boat as Darrelle Revis – playing best when he is allowed to play his own game, as WEEI.com’s Chris Price wrote last week. Revis played primarily man coverage against Bengals superstar receiver A.J. Green and posting his best game in a Patriots uniform.
The other factor that figured in slowing Browner’s return to action is the healthy return of Alfonzo Dennard Sunday night after missing the previous three games with a shoulder injury.
|DB Nate Ebner (finger), OL Cameron Fleming (finger) miss Wednesday practice||10.01.14 at 6:41 pm ET|
Defensive back Nate Ebner (finger) and offensive lineman Cameron Fleming (finger) were the only two Patriots held out of practice by the team on Wednesday because of injury.
In addition, the Patriots listed four as limited, a group that includes linebackers Dont’a Hightower (knee) and Jamie Collins (thigh), as well as defensive end Chandler Jones (shoulder).
The Patriots continue preparing for their date with the Bengals Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.
Did Not Participate
DB Nate Ebner (finger)
OL Cameron Fleming (finger)
LB Jamie Collins (thigh)
CB Alfonzo Dennard (shoulder)
LB Dont’a Hightower (knee)
DE Chandler Jones (shoulder)
TE Rob Gronkowski (knee)
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|Unlucky Seven: Who will end up sitting against the Chiefs?||09.29.14 at 12:20 pm ET|
The Patriots will announce their inactives 90 minutes before kickoff on Monday night, but based on what we’ve seen this week and the matchup on Monday, here’s our guess as to which seven players might be inactive:
Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard — The third-year corner was downgraded Sunday night — expect Logan Ryan to get the bulk of the snaps in his place.
Running back James White — Unless there’s a major injury in the backfield, the rookie out of Wisconsin appears to be a ticketed for a redshirt year.
Safety Don Jones — Jones, who was signed earlier this month, was listed as probable on Saturday’s injury report, as he’s been nagged by a hamstring issue that kept him out of last Sunday’s game against the Raiders.
Wide receiver Brandon LaFell — The Patriots have a surplus of wide receivers — Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thomplins have each taken at least one health scratch over the course of the first two weeks. From this viewpoint, it’s no disrespect intended toward Lafell — he’s just the one who drew the short straw this week.
Defensive end Zach Moore — Now that second-year defensive end Michael Buchanan is back to full health, the rookie out of Concordia appears to be the odd man out, at least at this point.
Offensive lineman Dan Connolly — The veteran was limited over the course of the week with a knee issue, and with Bill Belichick talking up both Ryan Wendell and Bryan Stork on Saturday, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Patriots sit Connolly for a week.
Defensive lineman Casey Walker — Walker, who was signed off the Panthers practice squad on Saturday following the announcement that Sealver Siliga was placed on short-term IR, will almost certainly take a seat for Monday’s game against the Chiefs as he literally just showed up.
Here’s a look at the inactives over the first three weeks of the season:
DE Michael Buchanan
WR Aaron Dobson
LB Darius Fleming
DT Chris Jones
G Josh Kline
C Bryan Stork
RB James White
DE Michael Buchanan
LB Jamie Collins
CB Alfonzo Dennard
DE Zach Moore
WR Kenbrell Thompkins
C Ryan Wendell
RB James White
WR Aaron Dobson
CB Alfonzo Dennard
OL Ryan Wendell
OL Josh Kline
DE Zach Moore
RB James White
S Don Jones