Wilson making a good impression in camp


Wilson making a good impression in camp

FOXBORO -- There wasn't a whole lot of buzz surrounding Tavon Wilson in last April's draft. But the Patriots, seemingly impervious to popular opinion, picked him anyway -- and in the second round, no less.

It was clear they believed in him as a senior coming out of the University of Illinois, and it looks as though the rookie has made good on their good faith so far in training camp.

"I think he's been steady for us since he's got here," Bill Belichick said in his press conference Thursday. "Tavon works hard, he's very attentive. You ask him a question, he really pays attention. And he's a hard-working kid both on and off the field."

He'll need to be if he wants to make an immediate impact in New England. The Patriots signed veteran safety Steve Gregory this offseason, and the 29-year-old has been getting most of the first-team reps alongside strong safety Patrick Chung. For Wilson to get to Gregory's level in the secondary -- even though Gregory is still feeling his way around New England's system -- will probably take some time.
But Wilson's making positive strides, according to his coach.

"Steady improvement. Long way to go. Tough position to play," Belichick said. "Tough position to transition into because of a lot of the different things in the passing game, formations, matchups. All those type of things that veteran safeties would recognize: Where the advantage of the matchup is for the offense, and what we can do about it schematically or what we can do about it in terms of anticipation by formation and so forth?

"I think Wilson is coming along. As long as we can keep making progress and keep heading in the right direction, I think eventually it'll come together for a lot of these guys."

WATCH: Celtics vs. Sixers

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Patriots DT Branch wins appeal of four-game suspension

Patriots DT Branch wins appeal of four-game suspension

FOXBORO -- Alan Branch knew he had a good case, otherwise he wouldn't have appealed. It was just a question of when that appeal might be heard. 

As of Wednesday, the Patriots defensive tackle hadnt heard anything as it related to the appeal of his four-game suspension. But by Saturday morning, according to Field Yates of ESPN, Branch had won the appeal and been cleared of the league's ban. 

Branch's agent later confirmed the news on Twitter.

Word of Branch's punishment, which stemmed from what was reported as a positive marijuana test, became public when reported by ESPN on Nov. 21. Per the league's substance abuse policy, appeal hearings are typically scheduled for the fourth Tuesday after a player has been informed of his penalty. The policy notes that it is possible for appeals to be heard on another date should the two sides be able to work out different schedule, but Branch was not optimistic that would be the case earlier this week. 

Good news came quickly, though. 

Had Branch been forced to miss any time, it would have docked the Patriots arguably their top interior defensive lineman. Branch has started every game, and he leads all Patriots defensive tackles with 457 snaps played. 

The Patriots recently waived running back DJ Foster and signed defensive tackle Darius Kilgo, seemingly as a way to build some depth on the roster if Branch had been suspended. 

By having his four-game suspension wiped away not only are the Patriots saved from having to deal without one of their top players in the trenches, but Branch saved himself a relatively hefty financial penalty.

A four-game ban would have cost him nearly $300,000 in base salary as well as four game-day bonuses adding to $100,000. He also stood to lose as much as $750,000 in season-long playing-time incentives. In all, had the suspension stood, it could have cost him about $1.1 million. Patriots salary-cap expert Miguel Benzan goes into more detail about the potential financial impact of Branch's suspension here

Thankfully for Branch, he doesn't have to worry about that any longer. With this situation in the rear view, he can now focus on helping the Patriots win games during the stretch run of the regular season and into the playoffs.