Late-game preseason action fine with focused Branch

854893.jpg

Late-game preseason action fine with focused Branch

FOXBORO -- Deion Branch had never been here before.

It was the fourth quarter of a preseason game. Most of the Patriots' top offensive unit didn't even play. And here's Branch, on the field, waiting to return punts.

Branch had two punts kicked in his direction on Monday night -- both in the fourth quarter -- but he let them fly over his head inside the 10-yard line.

Still, the fact that he was out there that late in such a meaningless game was new to him. He said afterwards that he knew it was coming.

"It wasn't strange," said Branch. "We spoke about it before the game."

Belichick had previously told Branch that he was going to get him the extra playing time on Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. It was a way to make up for him missing the team's preseason opener. But it was also a sign of what the Patriots have on their roster, which is, a plethora of wide receivers.

Even without Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots still have receivers battling for roster spots. And with the numbers New England presents at the position, the veteran Branch isn't necessarily guaranteed anything.

Still, even having to play in the fourth quarter of a preseason game, some veterans would see that as a sign of disrespect. Not Branch. He knows the deal in New England.

"I'm just controlling my job to come here and play ball, and help the team," said Branch after New England's 27-17 loss to the Eagles.

"Every year there's competition. You know, every year. It doesn't change."

Branch finished the game with three receptions for a team-high 51 yards. Afterwards, he was saying all the right things. But perhaps, that state of mind is exactly why he shouldn't be worried.

"I feel good about my situation, as far as everybody's role," said Branch. "Nobody has a role right now. Nobody's made the team.

"Right now, it's just all about me going out, doing what I have to do to make the team."

Jerod Mayo: 'Cyrus Jones will probably be most improved this year'

Jerod Mayo: 'Cyrus Jones will probably be most improved this year'

Jerod Mayo still has faith in New England Patriots cornerback Cyrus Jones.

The cornerback, who was the Patriots' top pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, struggled mightily in his rookie season. He fumbled his way out of a role on special teams, where he served as a returner.

SUBSCRIBE Audioboom | iTunes | Google Play | Spotify

He then failed to perform at nickel cornerback, and the Patriots traded for Eric Rowe, who pushed Jones down the depth chart and often onto the inactives on game day. Jones' emotional outburst during Week 5 when he got ejected for punching Browns receiver Andrew Hawkins didn't help.

Despite all that, Mayo thinks Jones will turn things around.

"I think Cyrus Jones will probably be most improved this year," Mayo said in the latest edition of "The Ex Pats" podcast. "I want people to remember a rookie [Matthew] Slater. A rookie Matt Slater was terrible. He would sit here on this podcast and tell you he's terrible, and I think Cyrus Jones is more athletic than Matthew Slater. I think -- I know for a fact, because I've seen it time and time again, the biggest leap not only in athleticsm but also in confidence is from year one to year two."

Jones admitted to the Baltimore Sun that his rookie was "hell." He added he felt "embarrassed." The 23-year-old cornerback said he didn't feel like he was a part of New England's Super Bowl LI win.

“Failure is another opportunity to begin again more intelligently,” Jones wrote in a now-deleted Instagram post.

Mayo seems to think Jones has learned his lesson, and will rebound with the help of Bill Belichick. And the Patriots may need Butler to be the most-improved player. Malcolm Butler's future with New England has become uncertain, and the remaining top cornerbacks are over 6-feet.

The Patriots need a slot corner. Jones is the next man up.

"As much as the media has kind of battered this young kid, Bill's going to boost him up this entire offseason," Mayo said. "Bill -- he's the best at putting lowlights up after a game . . . But during the offseason, he kind of -- it's individualized coach. He knows this guy's confidence is in the toilet. He's going to boost him up as much as possible.

"You know [Jones] can play football. He played in the SEC. He played on the top team on the country, and was a standout performer. So this is a confidence issue. This entire thing is a confidence issue, and I think they fix that."

Report: Patriots asked Seahawks about a trade for Richard Sherman

Report: Patriots asked Seahawks about a trade for Richard Sherman

PHOENIX -- The Patriots pulled off what many considered a surprise free-agent signing when they acquired corner Stephon Gilmore. As it turns out, before they picked up the former Bills cover man, they inquried about a separate move that would have been even more eye-opening. 

According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, ahead of coming to a deal with Gilmore, the Patriots were among the teams that spoke to the Seahawks about a potential trade for Richard Sherman.

MORE PATRIOTS

During the NFC coaches breakfast on Wednesday morning at the Arizona Biltmore, Seattle coach Pete Carroll acknowledged that multiple teams have contacted the Seahawks about Sherman. But, Carroll said, "I don't see anything happening at all."

Sherman, who turns 29 next season, will make $11.431 million for 2017. He's due $11 million in the final year of his contract in 2018.