Saints be praised: Gregory, Pats defense embrace new challenge

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Saints be praised: Gregory, Pats defense embrace new challenge

FOXBORO -- Steve Gregory rushed in off the edge of the Patriots defensive line and made a beeline toward Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

Coming in on a safety blitz, Gregory wasn't allowed to finish off the play full speed; Brees, along with every other quarterback on the field, was wearing a "no contact" red jersey. Still, the Patriots safety explained that Tuesday's joint practice with New Orleans was an effective simulation of what Patriots players might see once games begin.

"It simulated a game a little bit more than going against your own guys for so long," Gregory said. "It kind of gave that game atmosphere a little bit. You kind of had to be on top of your stuff, play your schemes, against something where you don't really know what's coming at you so. It was a good test for us."

Gregory signed a three-year deal with the Patriots this offseason after six seasons in San Diego. He said his new team's first practice with the Saints helped him and the rest of the Patriots secondary get better at their on-field communication as they saw formations and plays they haven't seen for the last two weeks. He admitted that as the Patriots defense went against the Patriots offense so frequently during camp, players began to pick up on each other's tendencies, making it easier to be in the right place at the right time to make a play. Tuesday was different.

And going against the Saints -- one of the best offensive teams in football in recent years -- made it an especially challenging day.

"To get out there and communicate with each other, against another team, in a situation that would be game-like, that was great," said Gregory, who picked off a Brees pass in 11-on-11 work. "It was great for us to grow today and get better back there.

"The Saints have a lot of talented guys out there, especially Drew, their running backs, receivers and tight ends. It poses challenges for defenses so it's good for us to go against an offense like that."

Gregory will be back at it again later this morning, trying to get a handle on Patriots coverages at something close to full speed. And even though he's not allowed to sack Brees, Gregory hoped he'd be at the line again, rushing in hard, not letting up until the last second.

"It's awesome man," Gregory said of the two opportunities he had to rush the quarterback on Tuesday. "DBs, we always think we're the best blitzers on the field. Any time we get a chance to go, we love it."

How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

Ever since Derek Carr signed a five-year, $125 million extension with the Raiders to give him the highest average annual contract value in league history, some version of the same question has been posed over and over again. 

What does this mean for other quarterbacks looking for new deals? 

Despite the fact that Carr's average annual value surpasses the previous high set by Andrew Luck ($24.6 million), and despite the fact that Carr's contract provides him the security that alluded him while he was on his rookie contract, his recent haul may not mean much for the likes of Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins and other top-end quarterbacks.

They were already expecting monster paydays down the road that would hit (or eclipse) the $25 million range, and Carr's record-setting contract may not even serve as a suitable baseline for them, as ESPN's Dan Graziano lays out.

So if Carr's contract did little more for upper-echelon quarterbacks than confirm for them where the market was already headed, then does it mean anything for someone like Jimmy Garoppolo? 

Carr and Garoppolo were both second-round picks in 2014, but from that point, they've obviously taken very different roads as pros. Carr started 47 consecutive games in his first three years and by last season he had established himself as one of the most valuable players in the league. Garoppolo, by comparison, has started two games. 

Both players still hold loads of promise, but unless Garoppolo sees substantial playing time in 2017 and then hits the open market, he won't approach Carr's deal when his rookie contract is up.  

ESPN's Mike Reiss projected that a fair deal for Garoppolo on the open market might fall between the $19 million that was guaranteed to Chicago's Mike Glennon and Carr's contract, which includes $40 million fully guaranteed and $70 million in total guarantees, per NFL Media.

Perhaps something in the range of what Brock Osweiler received from the Texans after Osweiler started seven games for the Broncos in 2015 would be considered fair: four years, with $37 million guaranteed. Because Osweiler (before his deal or since) never seemed as polished as Garoppolo was in his two games as a starter in 2016, and because the salary cap continues to soar, the argument could be made that Garoppolo deserves something even richer. 

Though Garoppolo is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency following the 2017 season, there is a chance he doesn't get there quite that quickly. The Patriots could try to come to some kind of agreement with their backup quarterback on an extension that would keep him in New England, or they could place the franchise tag on him following the season. 

Either way, Garoppolo will get paid. But until he sees more time on the field, a deal that would pay him in the same range as his draft classmate will probably be out of reach.

Patriots release camp dates; open practices begin July 27

Patriots release camp dates; open practices begin July 27

Football is coming.

The Patriots announced on Thursday that veterans will report to training camp on Wednesday, July 26 and that the first public practice will take place the following day.

Each of the team's first four practices -- from July 27-30 -- are scheduled to take place on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium "in the nine o'clock hour," according to the Patriots. Updates to the training camp schedule, including more specific start times for practices, can be found at patriots.com/trainingcamp.

The Patriots Hall of Fame will hold its induction ceremony for former corner Raymond Clayborn on Saturday, July 29 around midday following that morning's training camp practice. Held on the plaza outside the Hall at Patriot Place, the ceremony will be free and open to the public.

The Patriots will host the Jaguars for two days of joint practices open to the public on Monday, Aug. 7 and Tuesday, Aug. 8. The preseason opener for both clubs will take place at Gillette Stadium on Aug. 10.