November 1, 2014

Pats Cut Chad Jackson

logoby Scott Benson
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Surprising news comes from Foxborough this afternoon, where Mike Reiss reports the Patriots have released third-year receiver Chad Jackson, the 36th pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.

The move comes one day after Jackson had apparently made the club as the Pats cut down to the required 53-man limit. Perhaps it had been last gasp attempt to exchange Jackson for a future pick that necessitated the extra day. Either way, the big story is the Pats have given up on a 23-year old player to whom they had already committed significant resources.

Early in camp, Jackson had some well-documented problems getting on the same page with Tom Brady, but by the end of the month, he had been responsible for what were arguably the team’s two best scoring plays of the pre-season. His slip on a fade route Thursday night cost the Pats the ball, leaving an easy end zone interception for R.W. McQuarters; a microcosm of the player’s career here if we ever saw one.

Nobody’s getting rich on blowing the 36th pick in the draft. And if I recall correctly, this was a player that Bill Belichick worked out himself. By the way, what is it with the Patriots and collegiate pass catchers? Since selecting David Givens with the 244th pick in 02, the Patriots have drafted TE’s and WR’s Bethel Johnson (03/pick 45), Spencer Nead (03/234th), Ben Watson (04/32nd), PK Sam (04/164th), Andy Stokes (05/255th), Jackson, David Thomas (06/86th), Garrett Mills (06/106th) and Matthew Slater (08/153rd). Much like Johnson before him, the Pats will be reminded again and again of this high-profile whiff.

This must have been interesting news for C.J. Jones and Ray Ventrone, who are now presently better pro prospects than a guy who once went in the second round. Jones had a moment or two in the pre-season (good and bad), and maybe his long kick return on Thursday night gave him a final push on to the roster. Ventrone was the wide receiver group’s sturdiest runner after the catch this month, and maybe he works his way into the slot somehow if Wes Welker is slow to recover from a rib injury he suffered a couple of weeks ago.

Ventrone catching passes from Tom Brady? As Chad Jackson and the Patriots reminded us earlier today, you never know.

The Pats are now at 53 players, including the suspended Kevin Faulk.  They’ll have a choice of standing pat for a week (after all, they’ll only use 45 players against the Chiefs, the only game Faulk is due to miss) or adding an allowable 54th man while they still have the Faulk exemption, delaying the final roster decision another week.

The Sunday Links

logoby Scott Benson
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The Patriots cut down to 54 players last night, and the keyboards of New England’s football media have been clacking ever since. Let’s get to all of moves in this week’s Sunday Links.

In the Globe, Mike Reiss says veteran Fernando Bryant was this year’s surprise cut, and wonders if a door has been opened for the return of Ty Law. I’ve always been skeptical that the Pats could scratch Law where he itches the most – his wallet – but I admit I thought of the same thing when I first heard Bryant was gone. All the career redemption talk is great but if we know Law, it will all come down to money just as it always has. Does that sound like a fit to you?

Chris Gasper breaks down the Pats roster as it stands this morning. It was also announced yesterday that the NFL has suspended Kevin Faulk for totin’ those blunts to Lil Wayne’s Lafayette tour stop. The Pats will get a roster exemption for aother week or so while the capain cools his heels. Reiss eyeballs Herm Edwards and his Chiefs, who will be making a tour stop of their own a week from today. They are going to be totally blown away by all the shopping. I bet they don’t even know!

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Quick Reaction – The Final 54*

logoby Scott Benson
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Near as I can figure, this is the way the Pats 53-man roster shakes out after the final cuts were announced today:

Offense (28*)
Quarterback (3) Brady, Cassel, O’Connell
Running back (5*) Maroney, Faulk*, Evans, Jordan, Morris
Wide receiver (9) Moss, Welker, Gaffney, Jackson, Washington, Aiken, Jones, Ventrone, Slater
Tight end (3) Watson, Thomas, Spach
Offensive line (8) Light, Mankins, Koppen, Yates, Kaczur, Hochstein, Britt, Connolly

Defense (23)
Defensive line (6) Seymour, Wilfork, Warren, Green, Wright. L. Smith
Outside linebacker (4) Thomas, Vrabel, Woods, Crable
Inside linebacker (5) Bruschi, Mayo, Alexander, Guyton, Izzo
Cornerback (4) Hobbs, L. Sanders, Wheatley, Wilhite
Safety (4) Harrison, Lynch, Meriweather, J. Sanders

Special Teams (3)
Specialists (3) Gostkowski, Hanson, Paxton
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Alternate Universe

logoby Scott Benson
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The Patriots have already released four of the twenty-two players they must shed before their final 53-man roster is finalized late this afternoon. Pats fans are red-penciling their dog-eared rosters as we speak, considering the permutations of this guy or that. As fans, their conclusions will in part be driven by certain conventional wisdoms, honed through diligent watch over daily reportage and weekly exhibition games.

Yet I wonder, will they be vexed by the unforseen? Will they learn first hand of an Alternate Universe?

Matt Cassel Stays, Matt Gutierrez Goes

I thought Cassel looked better Thursday night than he had all pre-season. Of course, that’s not saying much, and when you factor in that he didn’t put a single point up, it’s saying even less. But he did improve, showing a more purposeful pocket presence and a quicker, more confident release. It was still inconsistent, but it was better. Gutierrez was just a mess. Though he’s largely outplayed Cassel to date, in our alternate universe, the Pats opt for Cassel’s experience for one more year, with the idea that Kevin O’Connell will be ready to compete with for the number two spot (maybe with a vet FA?) in 2009.

Pats Go With Four Backs

I don’t know whether it’s because he’s still coming back from an injury, or whether he’s suffering by comparison, but I’m not sure I saw anything special from Sammy Morris this month. I’ve bought into the five-back theory, but if one of them is just ordinary, then why not use the spot elsewhere? Morris played great for the Pats in 07, but LaMont Jordan looked like the better player in the pre-season. In the Alternate Universe, Morris looked like a less elusive Kevin Faulk.

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Buried In The Meadowlands

logoBy Chris Warner
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I’ve often said that the Patriots don’t care much about preseason scrimmages. This year I’m hoping beyond hope that I’m right, because if they’re playing like this when they do care, it’s going to be a lo-o-ong autumn.

David Carr led the home team to a 7-0 lead on an 80-yard opening drive that included New York hopeful Darcy Johnson taking New England starting cornerback Fernando Bryant on a hayride for eight yards into the end zone. Long before the 19-14 loss came to an end, Pats fans had to wonder what was happening, and whether it would change in time for Kansas City.

Speaking of Darcy Johnson, if you didn’t know who he was before last night, you weren’t alone. The NFL didn’t have him listed on the team’s depth chart. He looked like an all-star, as did much of the Giants roster. The receivers and running backs broke tackles like plates at a Greek wedding, shattering the Patriots defenders on two extended scoring drives in the first half (the first took 4:25; the second, ending in Sinorice Moss’ 9-yard TD catch, lasted 7:05). And those came against the bulk of New England’s starters for a 13-0 halftime lead (Josh Huston’s extra-point kick clanged off the upright. No word as to whether New England claimed the upright off waivers).

For those who figured backup Matt Gutierrez would put an end to the madness, his chance with the first team offense was, to put it kindly, disappointing. Early in the second quarter, Gutierrez was sacked by Renaldo Wynn and Dave Tollefson, who sound more like attorneys than defensive ends. It has gotten to the point where my stress dreams will no longer involve lateness for an exam in a far-off classroom; instead, I’ll be quarterbacking the Patriots on third and long with Wesley Britt at left tackle. I just hope I wake up before I hit the ground.

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The End Is The Beginning Is The End

logoBy Britt Schramm
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Editors Note: This morning I’m happy to introduce you to our newest PD staffer Britt Schramm, who will write “Line ‘Em Up”, our weekly preview of the Patriots’ next opponent.  In his initial post, Britt looks at some of the issues facing the World Champion Giants as they wrap up their pre-season with a final exhibition game with the Pats tonight. Welcome aboard, Britt (SB).

Greetings and welcome to the first of what should be at least 17 installments of Line ‘Em Up, your source for Patriots’ Game Day opponents.  This column will try to provide a different take from your standard newsprint match-up by scouring the Internets for insight by reading local media outlets, message boards and when the opportunity presents itself, the ultimate source for all comedy otherwise known as official players’ blogs.  Glad you’ve come aboard and I hope that you enjoy the ride.

This Week – New York Giants (Preseason 1-2, PF-54, PA-57)

*Disclaimer – Usually, this column will deal with the Patriots’ opponent strategy, players and comments directly involved with the upcoming game.  However, as everyone knows, the last preseason NFL game is basically a meaningless worthless endeavor with the only thing on the line is practice squad roster spots.  So, this week, I will address the upcoming season with respect to the Giants.*

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College Scout, 8/27/08

logosby Greg Doyle
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Editors Note: I’m particularly pleased today to re-introduce you to College Scout, the Patriots-centric weekly college football preview written by Greg Doyle. As regular readers will remember, Greg runs through each week’s slate of TV games and tips you on the top prospects to watch, particularly if you’re a Pats fan. It’s great to have Greg back for another season, his fourth behind the PD keyboard (SB).

We’re back this year for another addition of “College Scout” in which we’ll take a look at the college game with an eye towards the draft. In many cases, we’ll take a look at how certain players would fit with the Patriots (or not fit). Early in the season, we’ll look mostly at seniors and then later in the year highlight top juniors as well. It should be a great year with many great games in week one. I wish I could have highlighted more of them in this entry, but we will have the chance to spotlight many more of the top players as the season moves along.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

North Carolina State vs. South Carolina (8:00 PM ESPN)

The ACC travels to their southern neighbor from the SEC in a good matchup that gets the college football season off to an exciting start on ESPN. This could be Steve Spurrier’s best team since taking over the Gamecocks and at NC State, former BC headcoach Tom O’Brien looks to get the Wolfpack headed in the right direction in his second season there.
 
South Carolina RB Mike Davis (#25)

Davis is a short, compact runner who runs harder than you’d think, given his short stature. He does pack a lot of muscle on his small 5’9″ frame, weighing in at 214. He does not do anything spectacularly, but is a workman-like runner with some shifty moves and power, to go along with average speed. Here is a video of a nice run he made in 2006. Has decent hands with 49 career catches. This is probably a second-day draftee type and the Patriots could be interested given his all-around versatility.

South Carolina WR Kenny McKinley (#11)

McKinley was an All-SEC pick last year as a junior. Caught 77 balls for nearly 1,000 yards last year. He was a high school QB who has nicely transitioned to WR for the Gamecocks. As it turns out, with 17 more catches he’ll surplant Sterling Sharpe as the most productive pass catcher in South Carolina history. Pretty impressive. More of a fast, quick route runner than a strong receiver, he knows how to get open with his feet. He will take the hit though and catch the ball all over the field. Right now projects as a mid-round choice, but could move up. Needs to get stronger.

South Carolina LB Jasper Brinkley (#52)

Was considered one of college football’s best linebackers last year when he got hurt after 4 games. Suffered a serious right knee injury and South Carolina’s defense fell apart without him. They were giving up an average of 14 points per game before losing Brinkley, 28 afterwards. Was thought by many to be a first round NFL draft choice prior to the injury. A massive 275 run stuffing linebacker, he ran better than you’d think before the injury. If he recovers and has a good season, he’ll be back to a possible first day draft pick in next year’s NFL draft. With his size and leadership ability, the Patriots will likely be watching his progress. Brother Casper Brinkley is a rookie with the Carolina Panthers. Here is Jasper making some plays in a youtube video.

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A Quick Reaction

logoby Scott Benson
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The Pats cut three players and re-assigned two others today and here’s a quick reaction on the roster moves:

Stephen Neal Will Miss the First Six Weeks

I’ve been wondering if Neal would go to PUP for the first month and a half. He hasn’t been anywhere near practice with his shoulder injury. At least he’ll be back this year. It’s left now to Billy Yates and John Welbourn to hold it together through the first 37% of the season. Neither has been impressive in the Pats’ three pre-season losses. Maybe it will be Russ Hochstein, on second thought.  Can Mike Flynn play guard? It would be good for his job prospects if he could.

Ryan O’Callaghan Will Miss Season

It’s no Neal by order of magnitude, but I still think this hurts the Pats anyway. O’Callaghan has some ability, and two years under Dante Scarnecchia. Quick, name the Pats’ backup tackles after Wesley Britt. Oliver Ross (who hasn’t been spotted since July; another guy who may land on PUP) and Jimmy Martin. No denying the Pats are entering the season with a depleted offensive line, even with Matt Light back and practicing.

Webster, Eckel, Wendell See Coach, Bring Playbook

I am surprised but not surprised about Jason Webster. On one hand, I fully embranced the idea that the veteran Webster could make a contribution, but once he couldn’t get on the field, it was inevitable that he’d be well behind the rest of the field when he returned. The two rookies – Wheatley and Wilhite – were also clear factors here. Eckel always gave his best but there was no way he was making the roster. Wendell probably had a lesser chance than Eckel.

The big cutdown happens on Saturday, and we’ll see what they come up with for key spots like the secondary, linebackers, o-line, receivers and backs. Your input is, as always, welcomed in our comments section.

Many Unhappy Returns

logoby Tyler Carter
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In his post-game press conference, Bill Belichick was asked about the importance of the final score in preseason games:

“Well, I think certainly the score is relevant and that you played a game that way.  There is a lot of things we need to work on, on a play-by-play basis and teach and correct and coach on and improve on.  That is really the big part of it.  We have been on both ends of these kinds of games.  It is not a game on the standings.  It is a reflection on what happened on that particular night but there is still a lot of things that we can learn from on all those plays tonight and that is what we will try to do.”

Taking what Belichick said at face value, its clear that the organization views these exhibition contests as a sort of shakedown cruise.  The ‘things we need to work on’ clause moreso applies to players with a steep learning curve such as Matt Cassel Gutierrez, Shawn Crable and Matt Slater rather than Tom Brady, Mike Vrabel and Trey Hobbs, respectively.

And what are some of the things that need work?  For the second straight week, Coach Belichick identified the difference in the game (this week’s The Turning Point):

“…obviously giving up 14 points on returns in the first half put us pretty deep in the hole…”

Patriot fans are well aware of the importance of Special Teams (ST), including kickoff/punt coverage and returning.  Examples that hit close to home include Desmond Howard’s Super Bowl XXXI MVP performance (terrific archive footage BTW) and Troy Brown’s 2001 heroics (especially in the AFC Championship, which inspired Kordell Stewart to openly audition for a facial tissue endorsement).

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Riddle Me This

logoby Chris Warner
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Like a riddle that might have made you laugh in elementary school, this isn’t funny anymore.

During preseason games of years past, watching Matt Cassel had some entertainment value, like checking out a freshman trying to talk his way into a senior party (Look at him work so hard! What a precocious lad!). Now, though, it’s three years later and the kid still finds himself on the outside looking in. That’s not so entertaining.

Including Friday night’s 27-17 snoozer vs. the Eagles, the Pats’ three losses of the preseason have shown one consistent element of Cassel’s play: his inability to lead the team to touchdowns. He had a passing performance that you could find next to the definition of “mediocre” (8 of 14, 60 yards). Using the short passing game is great, but dinking and dunking without first downs is like a sprinter stopping at each hurdle: he just doesn’t get anywhere. When Cassel’s on the field, no touchdowns get scored (well, except by Tampa Bay safety Sabby Piscitelli. Let’s just move on).

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The Sunday Links

logoby Scott Benson
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The Patriots have begun a busy last week of pre-season action, with a final practice game with the World Champion Giants sandwiched by two roster cutdowns. For the most part, though, the Sunday papers are still considering the fallout of the Pats third-straight exhibition loss on Friday night. Let’s head out to the doorstep and grab our copies.

In the Globe, Michael Vega says Matt Gutierrez managed to score some points amidst the Friday Night Frights. For me, his presence in the pocket stood out, as did his decision-making and touch. It was also nice to see a Patriot do a little jumping around during the team’s August funk. After all, this is supposed to be entertainment too. No question in my mind who I’d rather see backing up Tom Brady this season – by this time next week, we should know where Bill Belichick stands on the issue.

Vega also says we should expect to see more of the backups on Thursday night.

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Patental Advisory Stinker

by Scott Benson
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The Pats’ helmets should have carried some sort of warning sticker before they took that field for last night’s pre-season game with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Something like “Warning: We Don’t Give A Shit”.

It would be foolish for a conference champion to treat pre-season like an extension of the regular campaign.  It would be foolish to show all your game plan cards in games that don’t even count. It would be foolish to play valuable starters who are nursing training camp bumps and bruises, and foolish not to find out what your rookies and street free agents are made of, while the margin of error is greatest.

It would also be foolish to take too much for granted.

For the first time in my life, I began to consider seriously all those cartoonish “consumer fraud” complaints that the media has lodged over the years. In a way. It’s one thing for someone to go to a pre-season game expecting to see Tom Brady play a full four quarters. That’s pretty stupid, if you ask me. Is this your first time at the fair?

But that said, the fans that do pay regular season cash for the right to watch a practice game ought to at least be able to count on seeing players that are, at minimum, trying.

If they don’t give a shit, why should we?

Oh, that’s right, I remember. Restaurants and retail.

Chris Warner will be back on Monday with the gory details.