Patriots

CAMP BATTLE: Christian Sam vs. The Bubble

CAMP BATTLE: Christian Sam vs. The Bubble

Phil did his first roster projection of training camp over the weekend. ('Preciate ya, Phil!). When I got to the linebackers, I noticed Christian Sam wasn't on the final 53. Now, I trust my guy but I gotta be his extra set of eyes, too, his safety net.

So I texted, "No Christian Sam, right?"

The phrasing showed I didn't doubt him, just confirming. Important.

Phil said I got it right. No Christian Sam.

There were a few other eye-openers on the outside looking in with this projection (and it's a "projection" from now on, not a "prediction for the end of camp" . . .  stuff changes) among them, Brandon Bolden, Vincent Valentine, Geneo Grissom, Cole Crosston, Ryan Lewis, Eric Decker and Eddie Pleasant.

Personally, I think Phil should do a slide of the "Last Seven Out" but he probably thinks I should do my own slide show if I have such great ideas.

Anyway, back to Sam. The kid is a fifth-round linebacker from Arizona State who's landed with a team that needs linebackers. He's 6-foot-2, 240 pounds and, while he's not a freak in terms of timed speed (4.75 40-yard dash) he did come billed as a possible three-down linebacker with coverage skills. The Patriots need that. Badly. They don't do well covering at the linebacker level unless it's Patrick Chung on a tight end.

But despite that purported skill, Sam being close to the bubble shows just how competitive the linebacker position is going to be.

Which brings us now to the reason for this post -- highlighting the camp battle between Sam and The Bubble. As Phil sees it, Nicholas Grigsby, Marquis Flowers and Brandon King are core special teamers who have an inside track because of that. Rookie Ja'Whaun Bentley, who had an impressive night in the middle of the defense in the preseason opener, is also in a good spot. Dont'a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy are locks. Elandon Roberts less so, but still on. If he's going to remain a Patriot, Sam is going to have to boot one of those core special teamers or Roberts. Or, if he gets cut, maybe he'll go unclaimed and be signed back to the practice squad. We'll be watching Sam closely this week to see if he's able to make some progress against the Eagles in game two of the preseason.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

 

Bill Belichick about to make Patriots pay for lackluster play in two consecutive losses

Bill Belichick about to make Patriots pay for lackluster play in two consecutive losses

This will not stand. 

Bill Belichick isn’t going to watch good players playing badly on Sunday night and shrug.

He’s not going to hear about Rob Gronkowski answering a question about offseason machinations after a convincing loss on the road and not react, no matter how honestly and timely (thanks to a Sunday morning report from ESPN) the answer may have been.

He’s not going to respond to Chris Gronkowski’s morning tell-all on WEEI’s Kirk & Callahan by putting his hands up and saying, “Family . . . what can ya do?”

You know how Belichick has said in the past that you’d rather be early than late personnel-wise? Same thing goes with grabbing a team by the scruff of its neck when it’s performing like these Patriots are and making completely preventable mistakes. Or giving us media jackals content.

Sunday night, we saw Shaq Mason get destroyed on a third-and-one by Ricky Jean-Francois, resulting in a one-yard loss and the Patriots third straight three-and-out. Mason didn’t seem to know the snap count.

We saw tight end Dwayne Allen get rolled by a defensive back on a third-and-one that ended up losing two.

We saw Duron Harmon let Marvin Jones traipse through the secondary uncovered for a touchdown.

We saw Dont’a Hightower get cleared out of holes with stunning ease.

We didn’t see any real resistance from Malcom Brown on the defensive line.

The Patriots have played two non-competitive performances on the road and have an upcoming game against a 3-0 team. Belichick knows the Dolphins aren’t going to look at the tape of those games and say, “Ohhhh, they’re just a play away on offense and the outcome would be so different . . . ” Miami will look at the tape and see a team ripe for the picking on both sides.

For a long time, Bill Belichick has been doing what he’s doing better than anyone who’s ever done it.

The “why” of the Patriots struggles doesn’t really matter right now.

Sony Michel’s running the ball so much because Dion Lewis left, Jeremy Hill got hurt and Mike Gillislee got cut? So?

Tom Brady’s throwing punts because Danny Amendola left, Brandin Cooks got traded and Julian Edelman got suspended? So?

The defense is slow because no linebacker speed was imported or drafted? So?

Gronk’s still miffed and his family is even miffeder? Get over it.

Gronk got fined in 2017 for carrying Brandin Cooks off the field after a touchdown. So which is more incendiary to the head coach, a piggy-back ride or Chris Gronkowski seemingly speaking for his brother and lacerating the offensive talent? Even though there wasn’t a false word in what Chris said, I would imagine Belichick won’t care about that either.

I don’t know if we’ll see the fallout in the form of reduced playing time or benchings. But on the field and off, based on years of prior observation, it feels like the stuff is threatening to hit the fan.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE


 

Will Josh Gordon quick learn Patriots system? Josh McDaniels says yes, Tom Brady not so sure

cp-patriots-josh-gordon-092518x.jpg
USA Today Sports Photo

Will Josh Gordon quick learn Patriots system? Josh McDaniels says yes, Tom Brady not so sure

One week after it was announced that the Patriots acquired Josh Gordon in a trade, Tom Brady is still not ready to pin his hopes on the new guy. 

Brady spoke to Jim Gray during Westwood One's Monday Night Football broadcast less than 24 hours after falling to the Lions -- a game where the Patriots could've used some receiver help.

"I'm not gonna make any projections or expectations," Brady said when asked about Gordon. "I just met him a week ago. He's working to learn. He's working to [learn] how we do things. Whenever he's back healthy and out there, that's when we get to work and see what we're all capable of when we're out there. It's just a work in progress. We're working through a lot of things."

Gordon was limited in practices last week with a hamstring injury. He was ruled inactive before Sunday night's game in Detroit, watching from the sidelines as Brady was able to complete just 14 of 26 passes for 133 yards, one touchdown and one interception. 

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said in a conference call on Monday that he wasn't concerned about Gordon's ability to figure out what exactly the Patriots are doing offensively, even though he's new to the building. 

"I’m not worried at all about Josh’s ability to pick up our system," McDaniels explained. "He’s already demonstrated an ability to do that. I think he’ll be fine, and the guys we have are doing the same thing. They’re working hard each week, and we have enough variance in our system to tweak it based on the opponent that we play and that’s our job."

If Gordon can get involved, it might help relax some of the double-teams that have faced Rob Gronkowski through three weeks of the regular season and bogged down the Patriots passing game.