|Rob Gronkowski, Sebastian Vollmer, Jerod Mayo and Dont’a Hightower among Patriots not dressing||08.28.14 at 7:22 pm ET|
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Patriots are expected to give most of the playing time to second and third-team units Thursday night here at MetLife Stadium.
There were nine players not spotted in uniform for warmups.
Running back: Brandon Bolden
Linebackers: Jerod Mayo and Dont’a Hightower
Tight ends: Rob Gronkowski and Michael Hoomanawanui
Offensive lineman: Sebastian Vollmer
Defensive linemen: Dominique Easley, Chris Jones, Sealver Siliga
New tight end Tim Wright did dress and is wearing No. 81. He could see playing time in the preseason finale.
|5 most important Patriots not named Tom Brady||08.26.14 at 12:00 am ET|
There’s no need to debate who is the most important member of the Patriots. Quarterback Tom Brady has been the single most integral part of New England’s football success on a week-in, week-out basis for the last decade-plus. But who makes up the rest of the nucleus? With the 2014 regular season looming, here are the five most important Patriots not named Brady — in no particular order.
Wide receiver Julian Edelman — Edelman has emerged as Brady’s go-to target of choice over the last year-plus. The former college quarterback topped the 100-catch mark last season, becoming just the third pass-catcher of the Brady era to come away with at least 100 catches in a season (Troy Brown and Wes Welker are the other two.) Over the course of the summer, he displayed an almost creepy level of chemistry with the quarterback. In two preseason games, Edelman has showed that regardless of what happens with Rob Gronkowski‘s health in 2014, he will be one of the fundamental elements of the New England passing game. In two preseason games Brady targeted Edelman 10 times, and the receiver caught all 10 passes.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski — Gronkowski is the difference-maker, the sort of offensive option who can help New England get to its ultimately goal. The only question is his health — the big tight end played in his first 46 straight games in the NFL, but since his forearm snapped blocking on an extra point against the Colts in 2012, he’s only played in nine of a possible 26 games. It’s important to note that the Patriots looked like they learned to survive without him down the stretch and into the postseason last year. According to Football Outsiders, the Patriots averaged 32 points per game and 5.94 yards per play with Gronkowski in the lineup from Weeks 7-14. Without Gronkowski (from Week 15 through the end of their postseason run), New England averaged 30.8 points per game and 5.82 yards per play. It was a drop-off, but not the dramatic dip that some may have anticipated. At the same time, the real struggles in other areas (red zone presence, blocking) have created an environment where it’s simply not sustainable to think the Patriots could hope to win a Super Bowl without him.
Cornerback Darrelle Revis — Revis has only been a part of the New England roster for a few months, but he already figures to be a vital part of any success the Patriots have in 2014. Even for a future Hall of Famer it can be an occasionally dicey proposition joining a new team, but he’s managed to fit in seamlessly. As a new face, he has managed to walk a fine line between being deferential to the established veterans who were already on the roster, but at the same time he’s managed to carve out a leadership position of his own. He was the guy who led a group of defensive backs out to Arizona for offseason workouts with his trainer, and the younger defensive backs (including Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon) have confessed to picking his brain on more than one occasion. He hasn’t played a ton in the preseason (we had him at 36 snaps — with penalties — through the first three games of the preseason, and has one pass completed in his direction in that time), but it certainly appears he’s not hampered by any of the knee woes that managed to keep him sidelined for almost the entire duration of the 2012 season.
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|Setting the scene: Patriots host Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers in dress rehearsal||08.22.14 at 5:10 pm ET|
FOXBORO — As was the case last week, the Patriots will be playing a summer preseason game in very fall-like conditions as temperatures are expected to be in the low 70s with partly cloudy skies for the 7:30 p.m. kickoff against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.
There is no precipitation in the forecast, with a breeze expected out of the east at 10 MPH.
This is the game where Tom Brady, along with the rest of the Patriots starters, are expected to play at least the first half, barring any injury. Brady said this week he is looking forward to the picking up the tempo under all game conditions that are presented.
Linebacker Jerod Mayo, after missing last week for an unspecified reason, practiced this week and could get his first taste of preseason action.
Rob Gronkowski also took a step forward this week, joining in on 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 contact drills but is not expected to play. It would not be surprising to see the tight end skip the entire preseason and attempt to make his debut on opening day in Miami on Sept. 7, as he said this week was his intention.
Gronkowski and Mayo were among several Patriots taking part in pregame sideline-to-sideline sprints at 5 p.m. with trainer Jim Whelan and strength and conditioning coach Moses Cabrera, two and a half hours before kickoff. Also in the group of wind sprinters were Sebastian Vollmer and Dont’a Hightower. That is usually an indication that they won’t be dressing and playing.
The Vollmer sighting is significant, as he missed all three full practices this week and is likely to sit out the third game.
There’s something else to consider. When Brady comes out of the game, either Jimmy Garoppolo or Ryan Mallett will enter the game. If it’s Mallett, there are several teams with scouts on hand to watch.
Nine teams have scouts at the game, including Baltimore, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, Miami, Minnesota, the Giants, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay.
Mallett played the entire second half against the Eagles and had impressive moments. Garoppolo played in the first half after Brady came out after two series.
|Tom Brady expects to play a half, ‘hopefully, play a lot more than that’ against Panthers||08.20.14 at 6:16 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Tom Brady knows what everyone else does about preseason game No. 3 – it’s the real dress rehearsal for the regular season opener on Sept. 7 in South Florida.
And Brady will be going up against a very physical and aggressive Panthers team that is thinking along the same lines when the Patriots and Carolina square off Friday night at Gillette Stadium.
For that reason, Brady and his offensive mates have done a lot of game-planning off tape from their game last November in Charlotte and Carolina’s first two preseason games to be ready for what’s ahead Friday.
“We’ve done a bunch of that, and it’s a good game to really gauge where we’re at because we’re playing a really good team, a great defense ‘ one that we played last year and really struggled with at times,” Brady said, referencing the 24-20 loss to the Panthers on the controversial no-call involving Luke Kuechly and Rob Gronkowski in the end zone. “So, this will tell us where we’re at.
“We’ve got to go out there and execute really well in order to move the ball down the field. They’ve got some of the best linebackers, a very good secondary and one of the best pass rushes in the league. It’s a good challenge, and I think the guys are excited. This is big week that we’ve tried to make some improvements, and we’ll see if it pays off.”
Besides Kuechly, the Panthers feature linebacker Thomas Davis and defensive linemen Greg Kelly and Star Lotulelei who combined to sack Brady twice while recording three tackles for losses in the Panthers’ win. Game planning for this preseason opponent only makes sense.
“Yeah, definitely,” Brady said. “I think this has been a good week of preparation for us. In the last two weeks, we’ve actually had the opportunity to practice against both those teams, which you’re kind of learning on the fly. We didn’t do a lot leading up to those two weeks because we figured the three days of practice would get us familiar enough. This week has been much more like a normal week.
|Rob Gronkowski clears another rehab hurdle with return to live practice action||08.18.14 at 6:10 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Rob Gronkowski took another step forward in his rehab Monday, as he got extensive work in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills while in full pads.
The tight end acknowledged he’s still on the road to recovery after last year’s season-ending knee injury, but just the sight of him on the practice field with the rest of his teammates engaged in something more than a low-intensity walkthrough is certainly encouraging.
“It felt good,” he said following a practice session that went for roughly two hours on Monday afternoon. “I wasn’t like full,full contact or anything like that — it was just little routes and that kind of stuff. But I’m feeling good. Progressed a lot out there — routes versus the defense in 7-on-7, some team things. Overall, it just feels good to be back out there with my teammates and competing.
“It’s always a step forward when you’re participating in more and more. Probably [Tuesday], pick it up even more,” he added. “It’s going well so far — no setbacks or anything. Just having a blast being back out there, having fun catching some balls and making some plays.”
Gronkowski didn’t go wire-to-wire in the 7-on-7s and 11-on-11 drills, but in his first action in a padded practice since last December, he certainly didn’t appear to struggle with his routes. He was able to make a couple of impressive connections in the early going with quarterback Tom Brady, and while he didn’t take any sizable hits, he did get some contact while wearing a massive black brace/sleeve on his left arm. There was one play where he was stripped near the sidelines by rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler, but other than that, he appeared to be in good shape for someone who suffered a serious knee injury the first week of December.
Of course, Gronkowski has gone through this process before. Last summer, the world anxiously awaited his return from a variety of injuries, including a forearm issue that ultimately ended his 2012 season. While he wouldnt compare last year’s rehab to the one he’s currently going through — “We’re not allowed to do that,” he said with a grin — you get the feeling that he’s more confident in his ability to play the entire regular season this time around as opposed to last summer.
“Still operating off the same plan,” he said when asked if the goal is to play the entire 2014 season.
|Fantasy Football: Top 30 tight ends||08.12.14 at 10:57 am ET|
This is the final position rankings article in our summer series. If you want to keep up with all our rankings and updates, head over to rotobahn.com, where you will find all up-to-date rankings and cheat sheets. And, yes, it’s still free.
Today we’ll rank the tight ends and place them into tiers as we did with the other positions. If you missed any of our earlier articles, they are indexed below. Remember, our rankings are based on standard scoring rather than PPR.
The tight ends are insanely deep if you just need a decent option. There is more startable depth than we’ve ever seen before. Having said that, if you are looking to gain an edge at the position, you will want to focus on options from Tier 1 or 2. I’ll get into exactly how I am drafting the position when we release Rotobahn’s 2014 draft plan, and also in my Drafting In Reverse series that will premier next week.
On Sunday, Jim Hackett and I hosted our first Fantasy Football Hour on 93.7. If you missed it, you can listen here. Jim and I will be back with a fresh podcast later this week and we’ll be back on the air next Sunday at 7:30 a.m. Join us!
Tier 1 (1)
Jimmy Graham, Saints
Yes, he gets his own tier. No offense, Rob Gronkowski fans, but Graham has to be considered a better bet to stay healthy. He’s also going to be harder to double team with all the young talent in New Orleans. Graham’s foot injury from 2013 is a mild concern in terms of re-occurrence, but all other fantasy arrows are pointing decidedly up.
Tier 2 (2-3)
Gronkowski would be at the top of Tier 1 if his injury history wasn’t so significant. Even with all the surgeries and missed games, he still is the best option at the position on a per-game basis. Thomas is a step down from the top two, but he’s locked into a large role in Peyton Manning‘s offense and that’s huge. Manning made Dallas Clark a star and he made Jacob Tamme relevant. What else do you need to know?
|Rob Gronkowski on practice sessions against Darrelle Revis: He’s making me a better player||08.10.14 at 6:30 pm ET|
The tight end, who continues to work his way back from a season-ending knee surgery, has been a regular presence in pads throughout camp. However, he hasn’t engaged in any 11-on-11 work to this point in the summer. Instead, the closest he’s come has been semi-regular work with Brady, catching passes in a series of drills with the quarterback while Revis offers resistance.
“It’s good just to have a defender out there, instead of [me] just running my routes [against] air,” Gronkowski said following practice on Sunday when asked about working against Revis. “To break off a guy right in front of you, just like it’s a game — you have to break off the guy, break off the defender. Having Darrelle out there and having him give me some contact — a little bit, pushing me on my routes — [it's] just making me a better player out there right now.”
The work looks a lot like what Brady and former teammate Randy Moss used to do when the receiver was with the Patriots from 2007 through 2010, with the only difference being that those sessions were used to build communication and a rapport between Brady and Moss. The current work between Brady and Gronkowski is another step in the rehab process for the tight end, as well as a chance for Revis to spend some time working against a bigger target like Gronkowski.
“[It's] basically more of a drill for me, but he’s definitely learning too, I would say,” Gronkowski said. “He’s just breaking a little bit, not going full, full out. He’s just helping me out and getting me back adjusted to having a defender out there in front of me.”
Gronkowski, who did not play in the preseason opener against the Redskins (and missed the three practices leading up to the contest) remains optimistic about the state of his rehab.
“Pretty good. Improving every single week,” Gronkowski said. “No setbacks or anything like that — just going out there and getting better every single time I get out on the field.
“Getting closer every single day to getting in there with the team and getting in there and getting some contact,” he added. “Just talking to the trainers — we don’t have a set date yet or anything. Just taking it day-by-day and we’ll see how tomorrow goes. Just improving every day.”
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