Phil Perry

Postcard from Camp Day 15: Rivers leaves practice with apparent leg injury

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Postcard from Camp Day 15: Rivers leaves practice with apparent leg injury

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, West Virginia -- The Patriots and Texans finished up a physical practice at the Greenbrier on Wednesday afternoon, their final joint session before Saturday's preseason game in Houston. 

The Patriots took another hit at the defensive end position as Derek Rivers left the practice a little over an hour into the practice following a kick coverage drill. Patriots trainer Jim Whalen appeared to be checking on Rivers' left knee. Rivers got off the turf and walked into the Greenbrier Sports Performance Center with team staffers. He did not return. 

Here are some of the other news and notes we picked up from Wednesday's workout . . . 

ATTENDANCE

* LaAdrian Waddle and LeShun Daniels, both of whom failed to finish Tuesday's practice, joined the list of Patriots absentees from Tuesday: Nate Solder, Tony Garcia, Matthew Slater, Brandon King, Keionta Davis, Deatrich Wise, Dont'a Hightower (PUP), Andrew Jelks (NFI), Shea McClellin, Matt Lengel and Mike Gillislee. 

 

NOTEWORTHY MOMENTS

* About 15 minutes after Rivers' injury, Kony Ealy was rolling around on the ground, reaching for his shoulder. He returned at 11:50 and had a handful of effective pass-rush snaps during a hurry-up period coming off the right edge. He said after practice he feels as though he's heading in the right direction and building some positive momentum. 

* With LaAdrian Waddle out -- joining Nate Solder and Tony Garcia as injured left-tackle options -- Cameron Fleming took all of the reps with the top group on Tom Brady's blind side. Fleming was beaten by Whitney Mercilus for a pair of sacks in team drills and he lost to Mercilus in their lone 1-on-1 rep against one another. At one point, the Patriots placed Dion Lewis just off of Fleming's hip to chip Mercilus, and Mercilus ran over Lewis. Fleming did get the better of Mercilus at the end of practice, putting Mercilus on the ground and helping to give Brady enough time to find James White for a touchdown to finish off a hurry-up period.

* The Patriots came onto the field with a defense that seemed to be a healthy mix of regulars and reserves. Jordan Richards and Duron Harmon were the safeties. Derek Rivers was at one end with Harvey Langi on the other. Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore were at the corner spots. On the next series, Patrick Chung came onto the field as did Devin McCourty. Trevor Bates and Jonathan Freeny handled the edges while David Harris manned the middle. 

* Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola and Cyrus Jones were the returners during what was a significantly more physical set of special-teams periods.

* After sitting out most of Tuesday's practice, Stephon Gilmore was out there in 11-on-11 work. Eric Rowe saw time in the slot with Malcolm Butler and Gilmore on the outside and handled himself well.

* James O'Shaughnessy made what was perhaps the play of the day, plucking a Tom Brady pass off of the helmet of Bernardrick McKinney. Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was as excited by that play as he's been all camp. O'Shaughnessy has missed significant practice time due to injury but was a full participant on Tuesday, seeing passes in fully-padded 11-on-11 work for the first time in a long time. He caught all four balls (three from Garoppolo) thrown his way. 

* Harris had some difficulty keeping up with Texans backs in coverage, allowing Texans quarterbacks to complete all five passes that were sent in his direction. 

* After a quiet practice on Tuesday, Brandin Cooks caught five of eight passes from Brady, including a long touchdown on a post route with Texans corner Kevin Johnson in coverage. Cooks did have one drop. 

 

1-ON-1 NOTES

Cannon beat Watt

Mercilus beat Fleming

Thuney beat Dunn

McDermott beat Scarlett

Hatley beat Karras

Ferentz beat Ankou

Pratt beat Cannon on speed to power

Andrews beat Hatley

Ankou beat King

Fleming got the edge on Lee

McDermott got the best of Tony Washington

Mercilus breezed past Croston

 

11-ON-11 NOTES

TEXANS OFFENSE

* Rivers sacks Savage. Patriots sideline into it. 

* Miller run. 

* Miller run. 

* Savage incomplete to Ellington. Gilmore in coverage. PI on Gilmore. 

 

* Watson complete to Stephen Anderson. 

* Foreman run. 

* Watson run. Ealy pressured him out of the pocket. 

* Foreman run. Ealy blown out of the play. 

 

* Savage complete to Blue with Harris in coverage. 

 

PATRIOTS OFFENSE

* Burkhead run. 

* Burkhead run. 

* Brady complete to Edelman. 

* Lewis run. 

* Brady sacked by Mercilus working on Fleming. 

* Brady complete to Hogan. Mercilus hammers Lewis, who was chipping to help Fleming. 

 

* Bolden run. 

* Garoppolo complete to O'Shaughnessy. 

* Bolden run. 

 

TEXANS OFFENSE

* Savage complete to Prosch. 

* Miller run. Edge set by Van Noy. 

* Savage incomplete to Ellington with Rowe in coverage. Ellington drop.

* Punt. Cyrus Jones returns. Double-caught it. 

 

* Savage hands to Miller. 

* Savage would have been sacked by Harris. Brown blows up screen.

 

* Watson incomplete to Blue over the middle. 

* Foreman run. Stuffed by Branch. 

* Watson complete to Griffin with Ebner in coverage. Ball bobbled.

* Watson incomplete over the middle. Ealy hurt.

 

PATRIOTS OFFENSE

* Brady complete to Cooks.

* Brady incomplete to Cooks. Cooks drop. 

* Brady complete to Cooks on the sideline. Perfect throw and catch.

* Punt.  

 

* Lewis run.

* Brady complete to Hogan. 

* Brady complete to White on screen. 

 

* Lewis run. 

* Garoppolo complete to Lewis. 

* Garoppolo complete to Gronkowski. 

* Allen shanks a punt. 

 

TEXANS OFFENSE

* Adam Butler sack. 

* Miller run. 

* Savage complete to Ellington. Rowe gets to him before any gain. 

* Punt.

 

* Savage incmoplete over the middle. Bates there in coverage. Well played.

* Savage complete to Anderson with Richards in coverage. 

 

* Watson complete to Strong over the middle. Van Noy flushes him from pocket.

* Punt. 

* Watson sacked by Bates. 

* Watson complete to Anderson. 

* Watson incomplete to Allen. Allen drop. Well-placed pass. 

 

PATRIOTS OFFENSE

* Brady complete to O'Shaughnessy. 

* Bolden run. 

* Brady complete to Edelman. 

* Punt. 

 

* Brady sacked by Mercilus, who was working on Fleming. 

* Bolden run. 

* Brady incomplete for Amendola. Cunningham PBU. 

 

* Garoppolo complete to Allen on roll-out. 

* Bolden run. 

* Garoppolo incomplete to Mitchell. PBU Moore. Nearly picked. 

* Punt.

 

TEXANS OFFENSE 

* Miller run. Ealy's back. 

* Blue run. Guy there to make the stop. 

* Blue run. 

* Savage complete to Foreman. Roberts in coverage, looked like he missed an assignment. 

* Roberts strips Ervin, Rowe recovers for score.

 

* Watson incomplete. Langi pressure. 

* Watson complete to Griffin. Harmon there in coverage, but was boxed out.

* Foreman run. Patriots emphasizing strips all practice. Got him on a late one.

* Watson complete to Ervin with Harris in coverage. Eludes Butler pressure.

 

PATRIOTS OFFENSE

* Brady complete to Cooks on post for a touchdown. Beat Kevin Johnson.

* Burkhead run. 

* Brady incomplete to Gronkowski. Gilchrist PBU. Brady grabs his helmet in shame.

* Brady complete to Burkhead. 

* Burkhead run. 

* Mercilus offsides.

* White run. 

 

* Burkhead run. 

* Garoppolo incomplete to Carr. 

* Garoppolo sacked by Kamalu. Pass incomplete to Carr. 

 

TEXANS OFFENSE (HURRY)

* Savage complete to Griffin with Chung in coverage. 

* Savage complete to Miller with Harris in coverage. 

* Savage incomplete for Griffin with Chung in coverage. 

* Savage complete to Miller with Harris in coverage.

* Savage incomplete to Griffin with McCourty in coverage. 

* Savage complete to Strong for a touchdown with Butler in coverage. Butler stumbled as the pass approached. 

 

PATRIOTS OFFENSE (HURRY)

* Brady incomplete for Edelman. 

* Brady complete to Hogan on a post for a touchdown. Cunningham beat in coverage. Watt got a lot of attention. Cannon, Mason, Andrews all got a shot in. 

* Brady complete to Cooks. 

* Brady incomplete out of the back of the end zone. 

* Brady complete to White for a touchdown. Fleming put Mercilus on the ground. After the play Edelman got mixed up with Gilchrist and Hal. Lots of chatter.

 

TEXANS OFFENSE 

* Watson complete to Hardee. 

* Watson incomplete to McCarron. Perfect pass. Jonathan Jones PBU. 

* Watson sacked by Ealy off the right side. 

* Watson incomplete to Williams. Ealy pressure. 

* Watson incomplete on Hail Mary. Coleman PBU. Ealy good effort. 

 

PATRIOTS OFFENSE

* Garoppolo complete to Carr. 

* Garoppolo incomplete to Carr. Overthrown. 

* Garoppolo incomplete to Amendola. Amendola drop. 

* Garoppolo incomplete to Mitchell. 

* Garoppolo incomplete to Carr. Overthrown. 

 

* Brissett finished his run at the end of practice 3-for-7. 

 

7-ON-7 (RED ZONE)

TEXANS OFFENSE

* Savage complete to Ervin with Rowe in coverage.

* Savage incomplete to Anderson. Butler PBU. 

* Savage complete to Ervin with Harris in coverage. 

 

* Watson complete to Griffin with Ebner in coverage.

* Watson complete to Jaelen Strong in the back corner of the end zone on Cyrus Jones. Perfectly-thrown pass. 

* Coverage sack. Play blown dead.

 

* Weeden complete to Anderson. 

* Weeden tuck and run. 

* Weeden complete to Anderson with J. Jones in coverage. 

 

PATRIOTS OFFENSE

* Brady incomplete to Cooks out of the end zone. Overthrown. 

* Brady incomplete to Cooks. Joseph PBU. 

* Brady incomplete to Edelman. Edelman drop. 

* Brady complete to Cooks over the middle. 

* Brady incomplete to Burkhead. Pass broken up. 

 

* Garoppolo complete to O'Shaughnessy. 

* Garoppolo incomplete to Mitchell. Roberson PBU. 

* Garoppolo complete to O'Shaughnessy. 

Postcard from camp: Branch off PUP, back in action

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Postcard from camp: Branch off PUP, back in action

FOXBORO - The Patriots were back on the Gillette Stadium practice fields for their final workout before heading to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, for joint practices with the Texans.

Players were in shorts and shells. Here's what we saw...

ATTENDANCE
*Alan Branch was back in uniform, indicating he was activated off of the physically unable to perform list. Dont'a Hightower remains the lone Patriots player on PUP.

*Danny Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell both returned to 11-on-11 work and seemed to be full participants. It will bear watching whether either player will be fully involved when full pads are reintroduced.

*Cody Hollister (in a red non-contact jersey) returned to practice. Damarius Travis (also in red) was present for the session as well. Another undrafted rookie, David Jones, was back on the field for the first time since early in camp. James O'Shaughnessy was also back on the field for the first time in several practices.

*Matthew Slater, Brandon King, Tony Garcia and Matt Lengel were not spotted. At today's session.

*Hightower, Nate Solder, Mike Gillislee, Shea McClellin, Andrew Jelks (NFI), Deatrich Wise and Keionta Davis made their way to the lower fields soon after the workout began.

LAPS
*Trey Flowers and Malcom Brown were sent for laps early in the session when it appeared as though they didn't play a misdirection fake correctly.

QUARTERBACK NUMBERS
*Tom Brady was 17-for-24 in team drills. After starting practice hot, he was unable to complete each of his last five throws in what appeared to be end-of-game situations.

*Jimmy Garoppolo went 7-for-14 in the practice. He should have had at least one more completion but Rob Gronkowski dropped one of his passes in the end zone.

*Jacoby Brissett went 1-for-2 in the session. His incompletion was dropped by Sam Cotton.

11-on-11
* Brady complete to Hogan
* Brady complete to Allen
* Edelman run
* Brady complete to White
* Brady complete to Cooks
* Brady complete to Edelman

* Garoppolo incomplete for Cooks
* Garoppolo complete to Bolden
* Garoppolo complete to O'Shaughnessy
* Garoppolo incomplete
* Garoppolo complete to O'Shaughnessy

* Burkhead run
* Burkhead run
* Lewis run
* White run
* Bolden run
* Bolden run

* Lewis run
* Lewis run

* Brady complete to Hogan
* Brady complete to Edelman

* Lewis run
* Garoppolo incomplete for Hollister. Bad collision. 

* Foster run
* Brissett complete Amendola 
* Daniels run
* Brissett incomplete for Cotton. Ball dropped. 


* Brady complete to Cooks
* White run
* Brady incomplete for Cooks. Gilmore PBU.
* White run. 
* Brady complete to Mitchell. 


* Burkhead run. 
* Burkhead run. 
* Garoppolo complete to Amendola. 
* Burkhead run. 

* Brady complete to Gronkowski.  
* Lewis run. 
* Brady complete to Edelman. 
* Lewis run. 

* Brady complete to Cooks. 
* Brady complete to Gronkowski. 


* Garoppolo complete to Cotton. 
* Bolden run. 
* Bolden run. 

* Garoppolo incomplete to Cotton. 
* Garoppolo complete to Carr. 
* Garoppolo complete to White. 


* Brady incomplete for Allen. 
* Brady complete to Gronkowski. 
* Brady complete to Gronkowski. 
* Brady complete to Edelman. 
* Brady complete to Hogan. 
* Brady incomplete to Allen. 
* Brady incomplete to Allen. 
* Brady incomplete to Edelman. 

* Garoppolo incomplete for Gronkowski. Harmon PBU. 
* Garoppolo incomplete to Gronkowski. Gronkowski drop. 
* Garoppolo incomplete for Mitchell. 

* Brady incomplete. 
* Brady incomplete for Amendola. J. Jones PBU. 
* White run. 


 

Patriots 53-man roster projection 2.0: Keeping three QBs

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Patriots 53-man roster projection 2.0: Keeping three QBs

Rodney Harrison gave a colorful description of Bill Belichick's approach to roster-building when the former Patriots safety spoke to The Ringer for a piece on how the Patriots have taken "no-name" players and turned them into valuable commodities.

“When the season started, he showed us an empty depth chart,” Harrison said of Belichick. “He does not care how many Pro Bowls you’ve made. He says: I don’t make the depth chart; you guys make the depth chart.”

Training camp matters. Training camp performances matter. And in New England, when well-established players say they're "just trying to make the team," that's not just humility.

The reality is, even accomplished players aren't guaranteed spots. Years ago, Lawyer Milloy was the foremost example of that. More recently, deals involving Logan Mankins, Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins have put players on notice.  

Want a shot? Be on board. Be improving, or at least maintaining a level that your peers have yet to hit. Be available. Be, in Belichick's eyes, "what's best for the team."

With that in mind, after 12 practices and one preseason game, here's our best guess at what the Patriots 53-man roster will look like.

For a glance at our first 2017 roster projection, which was released following OTAs and minicamp, head here.

QUARTERBACK (3): Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett
Jacoby Brissett is the lone question mark here. Headed into training camp, I assumed he was a lock for the 53-man roster. But after a handful of bumpy training camp practices and consistent issues with sailing passes too high, his rate of progression has become a bit hazy. He sticks in this projection due in part to the fact that Jimmy Garoppolo is in the final year of his rookie deal.


RUNNING BACK (5): Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, James White, Dion Lewis, Brandon Bolden
The first three names listed above should come as no surprise to anyone. Same should be said for Dion Lewis. His heavy-ish workload (23 snaps) against the Jags in preseason game No. 1 seems more to me like an opportunity at full-speed reps for a player who missed a large chunk of the last two seasons. Showcasing him for a trade? Seems unlikely since his injury history would limit the return for Lewis regardless of how good he looks in exhibition play, but never say never. Brandon Bolden gets the nod here primarily for his special-teams work, but he has the size (5-foot-11, 220) to serve as a big back should Mike Gillislee continue to deal with injury issues.



RECEIVER (6): Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell, Matthew Slater
This group could have a slightly different look headed into Week 1, especially with Matthew Slater dealing with an injury, but things seem set here for the most part. Austin Carr's performance in the preseason opener was encouraging, but it's hard to envision him winning a roster spot unless there's more injury-related shakeup at the position.



TIGHT END (4): Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, James Develin, Jacob Hollister
On an offense that came into training camp with seemingly very few jobs open, the third tight end role -- if the Patriots wanted one -- was one of the most hotly-contested. Matt Lengel (more of a blocking option) and James O'Shaughnessy (missing practice time due to injury) could be surpassed as the top option by Jacob Hollister, undrafted rookie out of Wyoming who caught seven passes for 119 yards against the Jags. "He's done a good job of adapting to the things that we've asked him to do," Belichick said on Friday. "He's learning. He's got a long way to go. There are a lot of things that he needs work on in all phases of the game, running game, passing game, kicking game. But he's a hard working kid. He’s out there every day and he's made improvement. Had an opportunity to make a couple of plays last night and made them so that was good.”

 

OFFENSIVE LINE (8): Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Ted Karras, Tony Garcia, Cam Fleming

Ted Karras has shown good versatility and impressive power at times in camp, and he seems to have locked down the role of primary interior backup since he can play both guard spots and center. On the edge, things are a little less clear. Cam Fleming has not had a clean-and-tidy camp as he's competed with LaAdrian Waddle for reps. Yet Fleming has plenty of game experience in Dante Scarnecchia's system and he's proven both at tackle (where he started on the left side Week 1 in 2016) and as a jumbo tight end that he can serve in a variety of roles and give a representative effort. Because it's unclear as to whether or not Tony Garcia will be ready to be the team's swing tackle in his rookie season, Fleming provides some veteran insurance. Rookie Conor McDermott, one of the team's four draft picks this season, could be a nice depth option on the practice squad.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS (3): Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona

Stephen Gostkowski missed a long field goal against the Jaguars on Thursday, but the Patriots appear comfortable with him as their lone kicking option. Despite some of his issues dating back to last season, his track record puts him among the best kickers in the league. 

 

DEFENSIVE LINE (8): Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Vincent Valentine, Lawrence Guy, Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise, Derek Rivers, Geneo Grissom

The glaring omission here is Kony Ealy, who the Patriots acquired in a trade with Carolina last offseason. Ealy's former head coach Ron Rivera said at this year's league meetings that Ealy will be fine if he listens to the Patriots coaching staff, but it's not clear how well that relationship has started off. Ealy said he was held out of the first day of camp because of a disagreement with Belichick, and he's gone mostly unnoticed since he's been on the field. He told me after the Jaguars game that he's still trying to learn the techniques he's being taught by the Patriots, but he felt as though he was headed in the right direction. For now, it looks like he could be on the outside looking in. Undrafted rookie Adam Butler, who has shown flashes of potential in camp due to his quickness on the interior, is an ideal candidate for the practice squad. Geneo Grissom has received less work on the edge of the Patriots defense as camp has worn on, but his special-teams value could win him a job.



LINEBACKER (6): Dont'a Hightower, David Harris, Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin, Harvey Langi, Jonathan Freeny

Like many of the position groups we've covered, things are relatively set at the top. (Should Dont'a Hightower begin the season on the physically unable to perform list, that would obviously change the outlook.) One or two depth spots, however, seem fluid. Harvey Langi has seen a great deal of time on the left edge recently with Rob Ninkovich retired and Shea McClellin missing practice time. Langi's an intriguing athlete, and while he admits he has a lot to learn to understand the team's defensive principles, but gauging by the amount of practice time he's accrued alongside established veterans, the coaching staff seems to be encouraged by what they've seen. The undrafted rookie out of BYU has also seen extensive work in the kicking game, which is his best ticket to a roster spot. Jonathan Freeny is still considered a valuable special teams asset. He's also in his third year with the team, understands the system, and therefore provides some depth as an off-the-ball option. Elandon Roberts could factor into the mix here as a hard-hitting run defender, but his aggressiveness against the run got him into trouble against the Jaguars.


CORNERBACK (5): Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore, Jonathan Jones, Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones

Five may be a little light in terms of numbers, and perhaps players like Justin Coleman or undrafted rookies Kenny Moore and DJ Killings will show that they deserve spots on the active roster. But with two corners who figure to start wire-to-wire if healthy, maybe the Patriots feel like they can get away with what they have here. It seems as though Cyrus Jones will have a good long crack at being the team's primary returner. The Patriots under Belichick have never released a first or second-round pick before the player's second season.



SAFETY (5): Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Patrick Chung, Nate Ebner, Brandon King

This is one of the most experienced groups on the Patriots roster, and there seems to be very little in the way of pressure coming from young-up-and-comers for any of their active roster spots. Brandon King is listed as a defensive back but often practices with the linebackers. He's established himself as a core special-teamer over the last two seasons and appears to be on track for a similar role in 2017.