Bedard: Defense proved thin on depth

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Bedard: Defense proved thin on depth

Mike Felger, Tony Massarotti, and Greg Bedard chat a bit about the Patriots, and more specifically the defensive side of things.

Felger notes that losing their starting cornerback and best pass rusher was huge in the AFC Championship Game. He also says that with those two back next season the Pats have a real chance at the Super Bowl again, and Mazz agrees.

"Losing both Chandler Jones and Aqib Talib given where they were a year ago, was fatal for them ultimately for that game against the Ravens," Massarotti said. "If those guys are still here and you can make an upgrade or two at a couple spots, I think you're talking."

Greg Bedard says that while those injuries hurt the Pats, they didn't have suitable backups to fill the void.

"They were too thin in those spots," Bedard said. "I mean, you lose Chandelr Jones, what do you have left. Jermaine Cunningham did nothing for you afetr his suspension, which raises eyebrows. I mean, Justin Francis is out there, an undrafted guy out of Rutgers is starting for you in the AFC Championship Game? They should be better than that.

"Talib, injury problems, it's been a constant in his care, they have a lot to think about. But I agree with your overall premise, I don't think that they're too far away."

Gronk 'taking all positives' out of new preseason approach

Gronk 'taking all positives' out of new preseason approach

For the first time since 2012, Rob Gronkowski played in a preseason game. It was uneventful, much like a majority of this training camp for the Patriots tight end. No touches, no seismic collisions, and no problems in 14 snaps. Was it worth it? Gronk says yes.

“I just felt the benefit when I was out there; the speed of the game, live game speed. It’s been a while for me,” he said. “I felt the benefit of getting in sync blocking-wise, the cadence and everything like that. I’m taking all positives out of it.”

But this isn’t even remotely following the plan over these last handful of seasons. The Pats have treated Gronk differently than just about everyone else. He wasn’t required to play in these games in August. Heck, there were times when his presence in practice wasn’t mandatory. Gronk had his own set of rules. This approach surely isn’t that.

“No matter what it is, preseason,” said Gronkowski. “I’ll be ready to play 60 minutes. The past has been the past, but it was great going out there and getting some work.”

Not exactly enlightening, but were you expecting something else?  Unless we’re getting a joint statement from Gronk INC and the Pats brass, that’s usually how these press briefings go, mixed in with the occasionally goofy Gronkowski. Yes, we got that too when Gronk was asked who would win the Floyd Mayweather/Conor McGregor fight.

“We don’t make predictions,” answered Gronkowski, before backing away from the podium, smiling brightly and commending himself for doing a good Bill Belichick imitation. It wasn’t all that, and maybe it wasn’t that funny, but the big fella is always looking to bring a little levity to just about any situation. 

That trend continued as we tried to delve deeper into his newfound relationship with Tom Brady’s body, Alex Guerrero. So much is made of Guerrero’s belief in muscle pliability and hydration, but there’s also that diet, and a cookbook of Brady’s to boot. The quarterback has proclaimed all of those meals to be delicious. Gronkowski gave it mixed reviews, saying some of the dishes were “kind of hard to eat” although others got the seal of approval: “they’re really, really good.”  Gronk also made sure to clarify that giving up booze in-season is the norm. 

“I don’t do that stuff right now,” he said. “It’s football time. I’ve never really have done that stuff during football time.”

But that he’s approaching the season differently is clearly a nod to Gronk’s football mortality, and the desire to wring out more than just a couple more years from his battered body. He believes Guerrero’s methods are paying dividends, though again, he wouldn’t elaborate how or compare this season to previous ones.

“It’s hard to say because I couldn’t tell you how I felt in the middle of August every single year,” said Gronkowski. “It’s always a new year, and they all blend together, and now going into my eighth season now, it just feels good to be out there practicing every day with the guys.”

Burkhead not spotted at the start of practice for second consecutive day

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Burkhead not spotted at the start of practice for second consecutive day

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady went into detail on Wednesday as to why it's important for him to play with some of his new teammates during the preseason. Even exhibition games are played at a different speed than practice, he explained, and so to be out there mimicking what will happen Week 1 is critical. Brady even went out of his way to mention Rex Burkhead specifically, saying that it was nice to get Burkhead a touchdown against the Texans last weekend. 

Might Burkhead's preseason reps be limited later this week in Detroit? The former Bengals running back has not been spotted at the beginning of Patriots practices on Tuesday or Wednesday. Injury reports are not released during the preseason, so it will be worth watching pregame Friday whether or not Burkhead is on the field and in uniform. 

Burkhead looked healthy by the end of his time playing in Houston -- his final play was a 22-yard catch-and-run touchdown -- and he spoke to reporters on Monday afternoon. 

Also missing from Wednesday's session were Malcolm Mitchell, Matthew Slater, Matt Lengel, Shea McClellin and Tony Garcia. Undrafted rookies Keionta Davis and Andrew Jelks (NFI) were present but not in uniform for the shells-and-shorts session. 

Mitchell played in New England's preseason matchup with Houston but appeared to tweak his knee during one of his first snaps on the field. He stayed in the game, but he has not been seen by reporters at either Patriots practice this week.