Patriots

McClellin practices with Patriots for first time since training camp

patriots_shea_mcclellin_121216.jpg

McClellin practices with Patriots for first time since training camp

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick said it was "a possibility" on Tuesday. On Wednesday, it was a reality. 

Patriots linebacker Shea McClellin was back on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium for the first time since suffering an undisclosed injury that landed him on injured reserve before the season. 

MORE PATRIOTS

Belichick mentioned in a conference call this week that if McClellin was ready to practice, then practicing was an option. "If he's not ready," Belichick said at the time, "then it's not an option."

Obviously, it was an option, and the Patriots brought McClellin back as soon as possible based on the league's rules for players on injured reserve. For those who have been placed on IR, they must sit out six weeks before returning to practice. They must sit out eight weeks before playing in a game. Because the Patriots have a Week 9 bye, then McClellin's first opportunity to be in uniform would be Week 10. 

For the first time since players could be designated to return off of IR in 2012, teams are now allowed to bring back two players. 

Patriots receiver Malcolm Mitchell has also been on IR since the day of the season-opener, though he has not been spotted in the Patriots locker room recently. ESPN's Mike Reiss reported over the weekend that Mitchell (knee) isn't close to a return. 

Patriots defensive lineman Vincent Valentine (knee) is on IR as well and could be a candidate to return, but he was placed on the list two days prior to New England's Week 3 game with Houston so his timeline is different from McClellin's and Mitchell's. 

McClellin played in 17 games last season, including playoffs, and he finished the season with the second-most snaps of any Patriots linebacker behind Dont'a Hightower. McClellin has the ability to be a versatile piece for Belichick's defense, with experience both off the line and on the edge, and he has been a core special-teamer.

QUICK SLANTS THE PODCAST: Should Patriots draft Lamar Jackson at pick #32?

quickslantspodcast.png
File Photo

QUICK SLANTS THE PODCAST: Should Patriots draft Lamar Jackson at pick #32?

(3:00) Phil Perry and Tom E. Curran discuss what their priorities are for Patriots offseason moves. Is bringing back Nate Solder the first move that needs to happen?

(7:00) Does the linebacker position need to be addressed this offseason?

(10:00) Phil Perry explains why he thinks the Patriots absolutely must get a QB this offseason.

(16:00) Dane Brugler from NFLDraftScout.com joins the podcast to break down the QBs in this draft..and the upside and downside of each player.

(21:00) Are Josh Allen or Lamar Jackson QBs that are worthy of being drafted in the first round?

(25:30) Are there any other QBs going after the 1st round that could fit the Patriots needs?

(28:00) What linebackers could the Patriots target in the draft, and in what round?

(34:00) Should the Patriots look to draft a left tackle?

Young, talented safeties available for Patriots entering 2018

Young, talented safeties available for Patriots entering 2018

Before free agency kicks off, and before we dissect the top college prospects entering this year's draft, we're taking a look at the Patriots on a position-by-position basis to provide you with an offseason primer of sorts. We'll be analyzing how the Patriots performed in 2017 at the position in question, who's under contract, how badly the team needs to add talent at that spot, and how exactly Bill Belichick might go about adding that talent. Today, we put the safety position in focus keeping in mind that this is one position that’s morphing as quickly as any in the NFL.

OTHER ENTRIES IN THE SERIES

HOW THEY PERFORMED


Fine. OK. Pretty good sometimes. But certainly nothing that can be confused with dynamic. In a league stocked with playmaking safeties. They are in the right place and – aside from Jordan Richards - are sure tacklers. They communicate well. They get the concepts of the defense and do their bit on special teams. But the safety group combined for six picks and four of those came from Duron Harmon. Patrick Chung was murder on tight ends in coverage but the third-down performances in some of the team’s biggest games was abysmal. The Steelers and Eagles were both 10 for 16 on third down and the Jags were 4 for 6 in the first half of the AFCCG. Devin McCourty played with an injured shoulder down the stretch that has since been surgically repaired but he just didn’t have a lot of impact plays in 2017. Richards, after three seasons in the league, has a handful of nice tackles as a box safety. Other than that, he’s got a very long way to go in a very short amount of time to approach the level of play expected from a second-round pick. 

WHO IS UNDER CONTRACT FOR 2018?
Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards, Devin McCourty, David Jones, Damarius Travis

WHO ISN'T?
Nate Ebner

HOW DIRE IS THE NEED?


Not dire at all. But looming. McCourty is signed through 2019 and has a $13.4M cap hit next season when he’ll be 31. Chung is 30 and entering the last year of his deal. Harmon is signed through 2020 and is just 27. Unless the team thinks Richards is the heir apparent to Chung – which would be alarming – they need to get back in the draft pool to find someone at what I believe is one of the NFL’s most important positions. The team puts so much on both Chung and McCourty that it will take years for a new player to gain the depth of knowledge and nuance at the spot. And then there’s the versatility and kicking game expectations they deal with. Whether its in the draft or in free agency, spending needs to be done. But for this year, the need is a 5.

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN FREE AGENCY


This is a position stocked with talented young players. Here are some of them: Green Bay’s Morgan Burnett, the Rams’ LaMarcus Joyner, Kenny Vaccaro from the Saints, San Fran’s Eric Reid and Tre Boston from the Chargers. Vaccaro’s coming off an injury. Burnett and Joyner are both going to be high-cost options. Reid is already anticipating some teams steering clear of him because of his outspoken support for Colin Kaepernick.  Further down the free agent chain are players like Boston who was outstanding in 2017. Reid, Vaccaro and Boston are players the Patriots could target. Boston is the youngest and healthiest of the group and already theorizes that he will probably move on from the Chargers.

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN THE DRAFT?


Alabama has a pair of safeties who’ll be coveted, the first being Minkah Fitzpatrick who is a top-10 prospect. The other is Ronnie Harrison. Stuck in between those two as a top-20 prospect is Derwin James from Florida State. The reason I could see the Patriots taking a safety in the first two rounds is because the right one can address myriad needs – coverage at the linebacker level, run-support and playmaking. Stanford’s Justin Reid (6-1, 204 pounds) and Va. Tech’s Terrell Edmunds (6-2, 220) are bookends to the type of safety builds the Patriots could use. 

HOW CAN THE PATRIOTS CAN ADDRESS IT?


Make a run at Tre Boston. If the price is too high, settle on Edmunds or Reid.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE