Fantasy or Reality: Patriots season expectations


Fantasy or Reality: Patriots season expectations

Opening day of the Patriots regular season is less than two weeks away, so what better time to make some predictions for key players on this team?

The "Uno Sports Tonight" crew did that Thursday, with Mike Flynn of 98.5 The Sports Hub and the Boston Herald's Steve Buckley stopping by to make some predictions on important questions involving Patriots skill positions.

The first question:  Will Stevan Ridley will surpass 1,300 yards rushing this season?

Flynn was not convinced.

"I got fantasy. I think he has the ability to do, the line to do it, but I think Blount is going to make the team and he's going to take away a lot of those  carries, Bolden will take those carries," Flynn said. "Vereen's your third-down back and they run so many different packages, just when you think you can tell who is the running back, they throw somebody else in there."

The next query moved over to the defensive side of the ball, and pondered the impact Chandler Jones could have in year two.

Following an opening six-sack season cut short by injury, can Jones reach double-digit sacks in his sophomore campaign?

Buckley was emphatic with his answer.

"I think it's a slam-dunk reality because I think he is going to be a great, great player and I believe most of those sacks were early in the season." Buckley said. "So, when you factor in a year's experience and a year's health, I think he gets it."

Finally, the issue of Danny Amendola's health came to the table. 

The former St. Louis Ram has been no stranger to injury and if such ailments pop up again, the Patriots receiving corps could be in deep trouble.

Asked if Amendola can remain on the field for at least 14 games, Flynn would not even commit to that.

"I'm going to say fantasy. You know last couple years, has been injured," Flynn said. "You look at a couple of games, especially his big games, stuff over the middle, he may play 13, I think I'm going to go fantasy."

Do you agree with these takes? Any of these suggestions that you feel differently about? Have your say in the comments section below.

Who's the most overrated Patriot?


Who's the most overrated Patriot?

Covering the NFL for almost 20 years allows you to make relationships with a bunch of people. So I thought I'd tap into some of those people as we gear up for New England Patriots training camp for a series of pieces about topics we've been kicking around.


The panel consists of one former Pats player still in the game, two scouts of AFC teams, one front-office member in the AFC, and one NFC scout. They all requested anonymity for obvious reasons (as the player said, "hey, I might want to end up back there!") I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I had talking to these guys.

Today's topic: Who's the most overrated Patriot?

Scout 1: It’s Malcolm Butler. If you’re an elite corner in this league, you have to be able to cover all kinds of receivers. He can’t. You don’t put him on Julio Jones in the Super Bowl. He doesn’t draw AJ Green. Sure, he has the quicks to step inside and deal with Antonio Brown, but there’s no size disadvantage. To me, that’s why you don’t pay him the money [Stephon] Gilmore got. To me, that’s why Gilmore is here. Listen, it’ll work this year because now you have the big guy and an excellent number two. But if Butler thinks he’s going to make the same time of cash Gilmore did, he’s either a) getting bad advice or b) about to prey on some sucker in free agency. Would you want $7 million a year to win? Or $10-plus to be on a shitty team?

Scout 2: Mike Gilislee. What they ponied up for him doesn’t amount to a whole lot, but if you think he’s going to be an upgrade from what you had (LeGarrette Blount) or what you have (Dion Lewis and James White), then I think someone is fooling themselves. How important is durability? It may not mean everything, but it means a hell of a lot more than Gilislee can provide. He’s always dealing with something. He may be able to go laterally in a way Blount couldn’t or can’t, but will that matter when he’s inactive for six to eight weeks?

Scout 3: David Harris used to be that player you put in the lineup and never had to worry, but his ability has waned some and at this point, I think he’s a two-down linebacker and even that I’m not totally sold on. I don’t think he runs well. I know he doesn’t cover well. If I saw him out there and trusted my quarterback, I’d have him spread it out and isolate Harris. Guaranteed to scheme him right off the field. We’ve been able to do that in previous meetings. I can’t imagine it will get any better. I would have just stuck with [Shea] McClellin and [Kyle] Van Noy. Not as stout but more versatile, and isn’t that what a coach wants?

Ex-Patriot/Current Player: I’m always amused when I hear how much the game planning or scheme or coaching adjustments is always a “thing” week after week with you guys (read: media). How about the players? We’re the ones who have to process the info, then do it on the field. Sometimes we get asked to do something in a game that we never practice. Or haven’t in years. That speaks  to the intelligence of the guys I played with and the talent too.

Exec: It’s all about what you value. I may look at a player who two gaps and say, ‘I have no use for that.’ But they may look at that same player and say ‘we have to have him.’ Part of my job, part of our scouts job, is to identify who works for what we do, who else values that and who won’t get anywhere near the player. Truly, I don’t even like that word, overrated. (Okay then, what player on that roster wouldn’t you have any interest in?) Kony Ealy, but not because of a scheme fit.. He didn’t get it coming out of Missouri. Then Carolina gives up on him. Why would I trust him now?


Patriots take another hit on the edge with injury to top draft pick Rivers


Patriots take another hit on the edge with injury to top draft pick Rivers

Derek Rivers was taking part in a kickoff drill during Wednesday's joint practice with the Texans when he went down with an apparent knee injury. When the rookie third-rounder out of Youngstown State tried to plant and change direction, his left leg seemed to buckle underneath him, and he went down quickly. 

After having his leg checked by head trainer Jim Whalen, Rivers walked back to the Greenbrier Sports Performance Center under his own power but with a noticeable limp alongside Whalen and head team physician Dr. Mark Price. 


Rivers did not join his teammates on their trip to Houston for Saturday's preseason game. He made his way back to Boston on Wednesday night for further testing. (Offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle, who did not finish Tuesday's practice at the Greenbrier, also traveled back to Boston on Wednesday.)

The Patriots ask their defensive linemen to wear knee braces, and Rivers had his on at the time of the injury. Bill Belichick has spoken openly in the past about the benefits of having his offensive linemen sport the braces as a preemptive measure. If Rivers is able to avoid significant damage to his knee, he may have one of those braces to thank.

Rivers had seen time both on the edge and as a stand-up linebacker who floated all over defensive coordinator Matt Patricia's front of late. He could be seen rushing from the outside, dropping into coverage on running backs, or standing over interior offensive linemen during recent practices.

Against the Texans, Rivers flashed an ability to break into the backfield on both days of joint work before his injury. He indicated recently that he was beginning to grasp concepts better and think more quickly in the scheme after arriving to the Patriots as a player who worked almost exclusively as a hand-in-the-dirt left defensive end at Youngstown State.

The Patriots were already without their full contingent of end-of-the-line players before Rivers' injury. Rob Ninkovich announced his retirement early in training camp, and rookie Deatrich Wise left last week's preseason game against the Jaguars with a head injury. Linebacker Shea McClellin, who has experience on the edge, missed both joint practices with the Texans. 

Left at the position are Trey Flowers, Kony Ealy, Geneo Grissom and undrafted rookie Caleb Kidder. Lawrence Guy has some positional flexibility, giving the Patriots another potential option, as does undrafted rookie defensive lineman Adam Butler.

Butler took part in 11-on-11 work against the Texans on Wednesday as a stand-up defensive end. He had played primarily defensive tackle -- including spending some time at nose tackle -- this summer, but he said after Wednesday's workout that he had been working on standing up since arriving to New England in the spring. With good quickness and athleticism for his size (6-foot-5, 300 pounds), Butler is an interesting fit on the edge. 

Linebacker Harvey Langi has seen a heavy workload on the outside with the top Patriots defense in recent training camp practices. He, along with fellow linebacker Kyle Van Noy, have some versatility to play both off the ball and on the end of the line. 

The Patriots signed undrafted rookie Keionta Davis earlier this week, giving them some depth on their defensive front, but he has not yet practiced with Belichick's club. It was discovered at this year's NFL Scouting Combine that the Tennessee-Chattanooga product had a bulging disc in his neck, which likely forced teams to pass on him during the draft.

For about 30 minutes on Wednesday, it looked like the Patriots might be down another edge defender. Ealy went to the turf following an 11-on-11 snap against the Texans and made his way to the sidelines for further evaluation. He eventually returned to the field and had multiple impactful pass-rush snaps during Houston's hurry-up period. 

It was the second consecutive day that Ealy showed up positively in terms of pressuring Texans quarterbacks. He was asked following Wednesday's workout what he can focus on in order to continue to build on the positive momentum he seemed to spark in West Virginia.

"Just keep buying in with the team and do what I need to do individually for my preparation," Ealy said.

Though he missed his share on Wednesday, the reps he's received of late have helped his development in the Patriots system, Ealy explained. 

"With repetition, you have no choice but to get better," Ealy said. "That's what I feel like I'm doing . . . Despite any (injury) mishaps, we don't want those, but if definitely puts you in a position to see what you're team is built off of when you have shorter numbers.

"I feel like we did what we needed to do under the circumstances, and that gets back to the great coaching that we have and the motivation to push ourselves that we have between each other."