Patriots

Gilmore ready to move on from injury talk, possibly contribute Sunday

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Gilmore ready to move on from injury talk, possibly contribute Sunday

FOXBORO -- If you were looking for answers from Stephon Gilmore about his late scratch prior to the game at MetLife versus the Jets with a concussion, the sixth-year pro wasn’t about to go into too much detail.

“You just never know,” he said when asked about not being on the injury report prior to that Saturday, less than 24 hours from kickoff.  “Just listen to the doctors and go from there.”

Gilmore has practiced on a limited basis over the last couple of weeks prior to the bye but wouldn’t say whether or not he had cleared concussion protocol.

“I don’t want to talk about injuries the whole time,” he said. “They told us not to talk about injuries. I feel good. We’ll go from there.”

In Gilmore’s absence, the Patriots defense has found a higher level. Coincidence? Probably, but also not something that can be ignored. Johnson Bademosi, normally a special teams maven, stepped in that afternoon against New York and has been sound ever since. Communciation has improved.Those big plays that were a recurring nightmare over the first month of the season have - for the most part - vanished.

“He did good,” said Gilmore when asked to assess Bademosi’s performance. “He made some plays. All the guys did good. Malcolm [Butler] Jon Jones. [Devin] McCourty’s good. They did good. All  of them guys played good roles.”

It was pointed out to me by an NFL scout that without Gilmore in the lineup it was no surprise “Malcolm was Malcolm” again. Butler has long embraced the role of lead dog, and Gilmore’s signing - and all that went into it - seemed to have a negative impact on the team’s best corner in each of the last two seasons. Now Butler’s play has improved while Gilmore has had to take a step back and try to process information and improve even though he has had very little physical involvement.

“I’m still locked in,” he said. Stayed studying, went over the game plan like I was still playing. It was good to see how the guys played and go from there.”

Communication has been a big buzzword for the defense starting way back in week one and remains at the forefront. Chemistry is also critical, and Gilmore seems to have gained an appreciation for what his teammates have been doing while he was sidelined.

“It’s big,” he noted. “Guys love to play the game, love to do whatever it takes to prepare to win. These guys, day in and day out, work hard, the coaches have a great game plan and it’s on us to execute.”

Should Gilmore be cleared and active Sunday in Denver, eyes will be on him and that secondary to see how they operate as their big money offseason acquisition works his way back into the mix. For the Patriots to be the best version of themselves, it seems certain Gilmore needs to be at his best, but as the last few weeks have shown us, sometimes it takes more than talent to have success.

Gronk question now makes tight end a position of need

Gronk question now makes tight end a position of need

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're looking at a position where the Patriots have arguably the best player that’s ever manned it in his presumed prime. But tight end is suddenly a tenuous spot for New England.

OTHER ENTRIES IN THE SERIES

HOW THEY PERFORMED


This became – contrary to the Patriots hopes – a one-man position. Rob Gronkowski had 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns in 13 games. The rest of the tight ends – Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister and Martellus Bennett – combined for 20 catches and six of those came from Bennett who played just two games before heading to injured reserve. Gronk was – and is – the best tight end in the game and one of its most dominating offensive weapons. After losing Julian Edelman in the preseason, the Patriots offense became tremendously Gronk-reliant. They got away with it. But they clearly wanted more from Dwayne Allen than what they got or they wouldn’t have gone after Bennett when he became available.

WHO IS UNDER CONTRACT FOR 2018?
Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Martellus Bennett, Will Tye, Jacob Hollister

WHO IS NOT?
All tight ends on the roster are under contract.

HOW DIRE IS THE NEED?


Publicity grab or legitimate consideration? What exactly to make of Gronk’s reported dalliance with the WWE and his idle desire to be an action movie star (also reported)? Both have the earmarks of brand-building genius. It’s a page torn from the business plans of Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Floyd Mayweather, Sugar Ray Leonard or Conor McGregor – ruminating on retirement and expressing interest in other public pursuits exponentially ratchets up public interest in both the main gig and the potential side gig. Gronk himself might not be that savvy and calculating to mildly hold the Patriots fortunes hostage but Gronk Inc. certainly is. Then again, maybe he legitimately is weighing it. The “will he or won’t he” conversation will sustain buzz and has to in some way impact the Patriots’ offseason plans. The presumption has to be that Gronk returns but this is anything but a layup. Which means the need is a Level-8

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN FREE AGENCY?


There is a nice crop of tight ends hitting the market. Virtually all of them come with the same nagging health issues that Gronk has (had). Jimmy Graham is the biggest name in the group. His tepid blocking skills may make him unattractive to the Patriots, but never let it be said the Pats don’t like to take a flier on a once-electric player who’s on the backside. At 31, Graham’s coming off a 10-touchdown season, though his yards per catch went down to 9.1. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see New England pursue. The Eagles' second tight end, Trey Burton, is 26 and stuck behind Zach Ertz. An undrafted rookie, the kid who threw the touchdown pass to Nick Foles in the Super Bowl is targeted sparingly in Philly but is a smooth player. He also plays special teams (boing!). Austin Sefarian-Jenkins finally got his stuff together with the Jets in 2017 and he’s only 25. He’s no dummy, he’s only acted like one in the past and it seems like he’s got a handle on it now. He’d need face-to-face vetting but he’s got upside. Then there’s Tyler Eifert. Still just 27, Eifert’s played in 10 games the past two seasons and had season-ending back surgery in the fall (it was performed by the same doctor who treated Gronk). He’s played 39 games in five seasons. Terrific talent. Always broken.

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN THE DRAFT?


I like this Dallas Goedert kid from South Dakota State. Also, Dalton Schultz from Stanford gets checkmarks as a blocker and competent receiver. Neither of them are first-round prospects at this point. Hayden Hurst from South Carolina and Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews are regarded as the top prospects. Hurst is a very good pass-catcher with a huge catch radius. He’s a 24-year-old former Pittsburgh Pirates draftee. Andrews is smooth as a receiver but not seen as a potent blocker. Same with Mike Gesicki from Penn State who’s the best athlete along with Hurst but doesn’t impress with his blocking.

HOW CAN THE PATRIOTS ADDRESS IT?


Assuming Gronk is returning, the Patriots can go at it a number of ways. There’s not a “can’t miss” prospect out there, so drafting Hurst or Gesicki in the first couple of rounds means they’ll have to live with the shortcomings or hope they can improve them. Given other needs, they may not want to spend on “maybes” near the top of the draft. Too many drafts have been like that, especially with second-rounders. It seems unlikely they’ll be really interested in counting on either Allen or Bennett to provide anything in 2018. If they take a run at the Eagles’ Burton and pay him a crapload, Gronk will lose his mind. Screw it. They should take Hurst. We will change our minds several times between now and April but that’s where we are now.

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Julian Edelman posts video of resistance-band training

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Julian Edelman posts video of resistance-band training

Julian Edelman is grinding.

The New England Patriots receiver, who is recovering from an ACL repair surgery that ended his 2017 season, shared a quick video from his workout on Tuesday. Edelman is shown running with a resistance band and a trainer in-tow.

Edelman has posted a few tidbits on social media to show encouraging signs during his recovery since he got surgery in October after suffering an ACL tear in a preseason game. He was spotted around the locker room a few times during the final weeks of the 2017 season.

"Rehab is a [expletive]. It sucks," Edelman said in November on Barstool Sports' "Pardon My Take podcast." "You go in and you’re feeling decent and then you warm up, you beat it up and then you get stiff again. I mean it’s just a process and you go in six days a week and you’re going into work it, work on everything — your flexion, your extension."