Patriots

Bill Belichick: Patriots feel Demaryius Thomas able to make 'solid contribution'

Bill Belichick: Patriots feel Demaryius Thomas able to make 'solid contribution'

Demaryius Thomas is back with the New England Patriots after being released over the weekend, and head coach Bill Belichick is hopeful the veteran wide receiver will make a meaningful impact this season.

The 31-year-old is coming off an Achilles tear suffered as a member of the Houston Texans in December. He was cleared to practice a few weeks ago and made his preseason debut last Thursday against the New York Giants. Thomas tallied seven receptions for 87 yards and two touchdowns with rookie backup Jarrett Stidham at quarterback in the preseason finale.

Belichick likes the improvement Thomas has made so far, and he revealed Tuesday on WEEI radio show "Ordway, Merloni and Fauria" that the Patriots feel like the talented wideout will make a real contribution in 2019.

Health will be a concern with Thomas given the serious nature of Achilles injuries, but before last season he had been among the most durable wide receivers in the league. He didn't miss a game between 2011 and 2017 before missing one matchup last season.

Thomas, if healthy, gives the Patriots another big, physical wideout at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds. He and Josh Gordon could form a difficult tandem for opposing defenses to slow down if they are able to consistently stay on the field. The additions of Thomas, Gordon and undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers to a receiving corps that already included Phillip Dorsett and reigning Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman could make this position a real strength for New England.

The Patriots haven't had the best luck bringing in veteran wide receivers late in their careers -- Reggie Wayne and Chad Johnson come to mind. Thomas, however, has shown signs that he could be a solid pickup for a New England offense that lost some key pieces over the offseason.

Belichick details "challenging" WR gameplan>>> 

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Stephon Gilmore's list of toughest WRs to cover has a notable omission

Stephon Gilmore's list of toughest WRs to cover has a notable omission

Game recognizes game -- to a certain extent.

New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore recently was asked on The Ringer's "The Bakari Sellers Podcast" to name the five NFL wide receivers he believes are the hardest to play against.

Gilmore's answer, as transcribed by USA TODAY:

"[Antonio Brown], you got Tyreek Hill just because of his speed, you got Odell Beckham (who's) pretty tough. … Julio Jones, I would say he’s in my top five too, probably one or two, but I haven’t played against him. … Michael Thomas … he’s a monster."

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It's hard to quibble with that list of elite wideouts. But guess who didn't make Gilmore's top-five list? First-team All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins, whom NFL.com ranked as the league's No. 1 receiver last season.

In case you forgot, Gilmore and Hopkins have a history, stemming from their Twitter beef following the Houston Texans' win over New England last December.

Might that beef have been on Gilmore's mind when he named a guy who played one game last season (Brown), a guy who finished 26th in the NFL in receiving yards (Beckham) and a guy he hasn't even played against (Jones) instead of Hopkins?

It's possible -- although Gilmore limited Hopkins to five catches for 64 yards in that Dec. 2019 contest, so perhaps the Patriots cornerback simply has less trouble with Hopkins than he does with these other talented receivers.

If Hopkins feels slighted by Gilmore's snub, he can let the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year know this season: Hopkins' Arizona Cardinals visit the Patriots on Nov. 29.

NFL Rumors: Did Jets inspire Patriots to franchise-tag Joe Thuney?

NFL Rumors: Did Jets inspire Patriots to franchise-tag Joe Thuney?

Why are the New England Patriots paying an offensive guard nearly $15 million in 2020?

Some believe the answer involves their division rival.

Joe Thuney and the Patriots didn't agree to a long-term contract extension before Wednesday's 4 p.m. ET deadline, meaning he'll play the 2020 season on New England's $14.78 million franchise tag.

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After Wednesday's deadline passed, NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal shared this interesting tidbit about why the Patriots may have tagged Thuney in the first place:

There is some belief that the Jets' reported interest in Thuney helped inspire Bill Belichick to keep him off the market.

For context: Reports surfaced on March 16 that the AFC East rival New York Jets were expected to pursue Thuney in unrestricted free agency, which began March 18.

Later on March 16, the Patriots announced they had placed the franchise tag on Thuney, ensuring he'd stay in New England in 2020 rather than hit free agency.

That timing could be a coincidence -- or perhaps Belichick didn't want to see another player go to a division opponent after center Ted Karras and linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts signed with the Miami Dolphins earlier in the offseason. (Belichick also has a history with New York, where he famously resigned as "HC of the NYJ" before coming to New England in 2000.)

As our Phil Perry explained Wednesday, the Patriots have plenty of rational reasons to keep Thuney beyond spiting their rival. New England also has the option of trading the 27-year-old, who earned second-team All-Pro honors in 2019 and is the team's second-highest-paid player.

But don't count out the Jets factor.