Patriots

Patriots build practice squad depth with familiar faces

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Patriots build practice squad depth with familiar faces

FOXBORO -- The Patriots built up their 10-man practice squad on Labor Day Weekend, and they did so with several familiar faces who were with the team throughout training camp. They still have one spot open after releasing defensive tackle Darius Kilgo on Monday, according to ESPN's Mike Reiss.:

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Here's the list . . . 

DJ Foster, RB: After another productive preseason, Foster made a run at a spot on the 53-man active roster. But with the depth the Patriots have at that position -- Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis and James White figure to receive the vast majority of snaps there this season -- Foster is an ideal p-squad candidate to back up the pass-catchers on the roster. 

Ted Karras, OL: New England's top choice to be their backup interior offensive lineman last season, Karras remains with the Patriots to begin 2017 as part of their practice squad. The second-year player out of Illinois has worked at all three interior positions for the Patriots since being selected in the sixth round in 2016. 

James Ferentz, OL: Another reserve on the interior of the offensive line, Ferentz played primarily as a center throughout training camp. The 6-foot-2, 285-pounder played in seven games last season for Denver.

Trevor Bates, LB: The University of Maine product spent last season on the Patriots practice squad and begins this season there once again as depth behind rostered off-the-ball linebackers. Bates was a core special-teamer throughout camp and also spent some time on the edge in the Patriots defense. 

Geneo Grissom, DL: A third-round pick of the Patriots back in 2015, Grissom carries special teams value because of his unique combination of size and athleticism. The Patriots seem relatively thin at defensive end to start the regular season so Grissom's presence in the locker room could prove beneficial down the line. 

Cody Hollister, WR: The receiver and special-teamer out of Arkansas lost important practice time due to injury early in camp but returned to action and flashed some ability while working with former Patriots third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett. His special-teams experience gives him added value for the practice squad.

David Jones, DB: One of the more intriguing undrafted athletes the Patriots signed after the draft, the Richmond product ran a 4.43 40-yard dash and jumped 34 inches in the vertical at his pro day. He missed time due to injury in camp, but the Patriots saw enough they liked to keep him around. 

Damarius Travis, DB: At Minnesota, Travis showed a knack for making plays (83 tackles, two picks, five PBUs). He did just that early on in the preseason finale when he forced a fumble against the Giants and then recovered it himself. Primarily a safety in camp, he'll back up one of the deeper units on the Patriots roster.  

DeMarcus Ayers, WR/KR: According to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, the Patriots signed Ayers to be their 10th man on the practice squad. A seventh-round pick of the Steelers last year, the 5-foot-9, 182-pounder could provide depth as a slot receiver and a returner in the kicking game. 


NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

QUICK SLANTS PODCAST: Belichick ignoring noise? Or trying to change the narrative?

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QUICK SLANTS PODCAST: Belichick ignoring noise? Or trying to change the narrative?

3:00 Why has Bill Belichick been so surprisingly positive of his team’s performance in tight wins?

6:30 Phil Perry breaks down what grades he gave the Patriots on his report card following the win over the Jets

15:00 Reaction to the Austin-Seferian Jenkins overturned touchdown, and what changes need to be made in the NFL replay system. 

23:00 Why was Patriots offensive line much more effective against Jets?

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

25:00 Patriots-Falcons preview, how did Falcons blow a 17 point lead to the Dolphins?

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

FOXBORO - We’re not quite at the point of fire and brimstone coming down from the skies, or 40 years of darkness, or even dogs and cats living together, but this Patriots season isn’t headed down the right path, despite a 4-2 record and the top spot in the AFC East. 

There are several elements that appear missing at this juncture - chief among them a defense that actually has a clue. Please don’t celebrate holding the Jets to 17 points - I’m looking at you, Dont’a Hightower. Josh McCown threw for just 194 yards against the Cleveland freakin’ Browns for goodness sake, but he got you for 354 and two scores?! Even the 2009 Patriots defense is offended by that.

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We’d be foolish to think the Pats can’t get this leaky unit fixed for reasons so obvious I won’t state them in this space so as not to waste my time or yours. We also know - long before Bill Belichick’s 6 1/2-minute explanation on the Monday conference call - that it's not supposed to be perfect right now. Actually, it’ll never be perfect. That’s not how this game works. 

Yet week after week, we see uncommon breakdowns and one defender looking at the next as if to say, “I thought you had him?” or more to the point, “what the hell were you doing?” It started Sunday at MetLife on the third play of the game. Malcolm Butler, playing 10 yards off Robby Anderson, looking as if he’s never played the position before, inexplicably turning his back on Anderson even though the wide receiver makes no real move to the post. That results in just about the easiest completion of McCown’s life, a 23-yarder on third-and-10. 

On the same series, on another third-and-long, the Pats rushed four and dropped seven into coverage. Defensive end Cassius Marsh continued his season-long trend of rushing so far upfield he ended up in Hoboken. With Deatrich Wise ridden outside on the opposite edge, McCown wisely stepped up and found prime real estate with New York City views. He wanted to throw and could have when the Pats fouled up a crossing route from the backside of the play. But with that much room to roam, McCown took off, scooting for a quick 16 yards and another first down.

Fittingly, that drive ended with a Jets touchdown on yet another dumb play, this one courtesy of Mr. Hit or Miss, Elandon Roberts. Channeling his inner Brandon Spikes, the second-year pro blew off his key and responsibility on third-and-goal from the 1, charging hard to the line. This, despite one of the most feeble play-action fakes you’ll see. In fact, I’m not even sure it was a real play-action fake. Anyway, score it as a touchdown to Austin Seferian-Jenkins and an indictment on David Harris, who apparently can’t vault past the erratic Roberts on the depth chart.

Similar to the week prior in Tampa, the Pats found better footing after that. They forced three straight three-and-outs in the second quarter and then helped turn the game when Butler intercepted an ill-advised throw by McCown just prior to the half. They got another turnover to start the third, with Butler coming off the edge on fourth-and-1 and forcing McCown into panic mode. The veteran QB fired an off-target throw to - get this - a wide open receiver who went uncovered on a drag route and Devin McCourty was gifted an interception.

But this group frowns on prosperity. It took a little-seen rule to prevent a Seferian-Jenkins touchdown in the fourth, and on the game’s final drive, the Pats allowed a 32-yard completion on fourth-and-12. Then, on what turned out to be the Jets final play, the Pats let Tavaris Cadet leak out of the backfield and run unchecked 20 yards down the field. Had McCown not soiled himself again, Gang Green would have had a first down and at least one crack at the end zone. Then, who knows what the heck happens?

It was just a season ago that the Patriots led the entire NFL in scoring defense. If you’ll recall, we spent a better part of the year wondering if that defense was championship quality. Turns out they were. Right now, we’re wondering once again if this defense is of that ilk, but through an entirely different prism. It’s on the players and staff to change the current outlook, or those cats and dogs will have to figure out their shared space.