Patriots

Behind Brady, will Patriots stick with Hoyer? Keep Etling?

Behind Brady, will Patriots stick with Hoyer? Keep Etling?

We begin our series of Patriots' post-mini-camp, pre-training camp position-by-position assessments: Current situation, spots available, who’s vying for those spots. Today, quarterback:

THE SITUATION
Tom Brady was the league MVP for the third time, and his play at 40 years old was good enough that the Patriots took a pass on grabbing his successor in the first couple of rounds of this year's draft. Despite taking a beating early in the season, and despite battling through a variety of injuries throughout 2017, Brady led the league in passing yardage and was third when it came to quarterback rating. He was fifth in completion percentage and fifth in yards per attempt. He's said before he'll retire when he sucks. He's a long way off. Backing him up are Brian Hoyer and seventh-round pick Danny Etling, who hails from LSU. 

SPOTS CLAIMED
One, really. Brady is the starter. After that...? The Patriots will obviously carry a backup. And they could carry two, although in recent seasons they've opted to minimize the clutter at this position. In 2016, the Patriots carried Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. It was the first time they'd carried three quarterbacks since 2011, when Hoyer and rookie Ryan Mallett sat behind Brady. They could roll with three again. But seeing as how the league-wide interest in Etling before the draft wasn't exactly overwhelming, perhaps the Patriots will be able to stash him on the practice squad following training camp. Hoyer is the clear favorite to serve as Brady's backup. 

WHO'S DOING WHAT
So is there any chance Etling actually supplants Hoyer as the No. 2? With a good arm and a turnover allergy (two picks in 13 games as a senior for the Tigers), Etling has some interesting qualities to work with. Plus his intangibles seem to be excellent. He's a worker. (He's an Eagle Scout. Seriously.) And he's gone out of his way to get in some extra reps after practice - usually with fellow rookie Braxton Berrios -- in order to squeeze as much as possible from his time on the field. Etling dealt with four different offenses in college (he transferred from Purdue to LSU in 2015), and he's thought to have a strong football IQ. Still, it's going to be Hoyer's job in all likelihood. The 32-year-old's experience in the system and NFL starting experience (37 career starts) make him a valuable asset. Hoyer's also shown a willingness to take a leadership role in practices Brady hasn't participated in. He's been the No. 1 in those sessions and acted like it -- correcting teammates when they run an incorrect route, celebrating with them when they execute. That may help him if he's thrown into an emergency situation as Patriots starter at some point in 2018. 

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Two years after clutch Super Bowl performance, Malcolm Mitchell retires from football

Two years after clutch Super Bowl performance, Malcolm Mitchell retires from football

The last time Malcolm Mitchell left the site of a game that mattered, he did so nonchalantly. He carried a to-go plate in one hand, a half-eaten wing in the other. 

He'd just caught six passes for 70 yards and helped the Patriots win Super Bowl LI. I spoke to him about how two weeks prior, on the fields behind Gillette Stadium, he hadn't been playing like a guy who would come up with some of the most critical plays in the last game of the season. He'd been dealing with some drops. He admitted they were probably the result of over-thinking his Super Bowl prep. 

Mitchell was thankful, remembering how he flipped the switch, that Tom Brady pulled him aside at the time and told him to focus on one play at a time. Mitchell smiled, strolling through the bowels of NRG Stadium in the direction of the team’s Super Bowl party as one of its most promising young players fresh off a championship.

At that point, who knew how many more big-game performances Mitchell would put together over the course of his career?

MORE FROM PHIL PERRY

As it turned out, he wouldn’t play in another game outside of a preseason contest in Houston the following summer. Mitchell announced at an event at the University of Georgia this week, more than two years after that clutch performance against the Falcons, that he was retiring from football. 

He followed up his announcement with an instagram post that read in part, “Everything will work out.”

Mitchell’s knees wouldn’t allow him to continue his career after spending a portion of last offseason with the Patriots. Though he’s been gone for almost a full calendar year, his absence is still felt at One Patriot Place. 

The fourth-round pick in 2016 — who fell that far in part because of injury concerns — was the most productive rookie receiver the Patriots had featured since Deion Branch in 2002. Receiver remains among the most glaring needs on the Patriots roster as they work to build around Julian Edelman. 

Mitchell’s football career was short-lived, but his one year in New England — and in particular that one night beating up on Falcons corners — has given him a platform to serve as a literacy advocate. He’s written children’s books and continues to speak about the importance of reading for kids from all walks of life. 

Mitchell may be done with the game for which he’s known, but his retirement announcement certainly won’t be the last we hear from him. 

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Robert Kraft trying to thread the needle with statement/apology

Robert Kraft trying to thread the needle with statement/apology

The septuagenarian speaketh. Or maketh a statement as the case may be.

Which was a good idea.

The stupidity exhibited by Patriots owner Robert Kraft leading to a month all of us gasbagging about multiple ill-fated visits to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa.

It needed input from the guy who made the decision to go there in the first place. Twice. On consecutive days.

Kraft made it clear in his statement that it wasn’t his choice to dummy up and not own his decisions. He said he wanted to do it a month ago. The lawyers wouldn’t let him.

What’s changed?

A few things.

MORE ON ROBERT KRAFT

First, earlier this week, Florida prosecutors offered a plea deal only a drooling moron would agree to.

“We’ll drop the charges if you tell everyone you’re guilty and you know it, clap your hands…deal?”

Then Kraft let it be known that he wasn’t taking that deal and that he was still maintaining he “hadn’t done anything illegal” (a wise semantic dodge, keeping the word “innocent” out of this mess).

Then, Sheriff Buford T. Pusser 2.0 saber-rattled that video of Robert Kraft’s saber-rattling was inevitably going to get out there and that most folks might not like it.

Then, Kraft’s attorneys returned fire Friday intimating that the full legal fury of a multi-billionaire would visit upon the precinct house if that damn video – part of an investigation they allege was illegal – got out.

And of course, the NFL’s Annual Meeting convenes Sunday in Arizona and the image of Kraft scuttling from elevator to meeting room to limousine without comment for four days while his fellow owners had to answer for him was destined to be some of the worst optics since … well, since whatever’s on that video.

So what to make of the statement? I dunno.

Kraft was trying to threading the needle between apologizing without admitting guilt while saying, “I’ve been meaning to tell you this for a long time but couldn’t…” On that front, it worked.  

Also, without saying the women he interacted with were specifically disrespected by him, he at least acknowledged that transactional sex in general isn’t the highest form of love.

Personally, I loathe that he brought up Myra Kraft in the statement. Regardless how important she was in shaping your morals and respect for women and how deep your love for her continues to be, references to her in a statement regarding? What are we doing?

The last bit expecting to be judged by his words and not his actions and working to regain trust? Good. Fine. ‘Nuf said.

We are a long way from reaching the point of, “Remember when Kraft got pinched at the massage joint …” and having a good nostalgic laugh about it, though.

There’s a court date next Thursday. The ever-present specter of the video being released is dangling. The NFL has to decide how it proceeds with punishment.

There are miles to go before we sleep but at least Kraft’s head can hit the pillow tonight knowing he’s publicly acknowledged … something.

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