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.

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Jalen Hurts 'wouldn’t mind' chance to learn from Patriots QB Tom Brady

Jalen Hurts 'wouldn’t mind' chance to learn from Patriots QB Tom Brady

Jalen Hurts is one of the most interesting quarterback prospects entering the 2020 NFL Draft.

He began his career at Alabama but transferred to Oklahoma for his final year of eligibility as Tua Tagovailoa established himself as the Crimson Tide's starting quarterback. 

Mock drafts are all over the place on trying to project where Hurts will land in the draft. Some of them have him going as high as the second round, while others see him as more of a third- or fourth-round selection.

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The Patriots need to figure out their long-term plan at quarterback regardless of what Tom Brady decides in free agency. Hurts is an intriguing option for the Patriots if they want to select a QB, and he was asked about Brady at the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday.

Hurts was one of the best mobile quarterbacks in college football last season. He completed 69.7 percent of his passes for 3,851 yards with 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also ran for 1,298 yards with 20 rushing touchdowns. Hurts absolutely is worth drafting in the first few rounds and would make a solid backup/third-stringer for the Patriots or any other team.

Lamar Jackson's MVP-winning 2019 season could change how people in the NFL view dual-threat quarterbacks, and that might be good news for Hurts with the draft not too far away. Jackson is a better passer than Hurts, but you could make the case the Sooners star is more athletic. In addition to his obvious talent, Hurts also played in a ton of pressure-packed games for Alabama and Oklahoma, so he knows what it's like to play in must-win matchups. 

It'll be interesting to see where Hurts goes in the draft, but given his talent and experience, it wouldn't be shocking to see a team take a chance on him sooner than most would expect.

Perry: Will Patriots opt for mobile QB if Brady leaves?

What Vikings GM's comments tell us about Stefon Diggs-to-Patriots speculation

What Vikings GM's comments tell us about Stefon Diggs-to-Patriots speculation

The NFL Scouting Combine is a great place for head coaches and general managers to squash rumors.

Or attempt to squash them, anyway.

Minnesota Vikings GM Rick Spielman was asked Tuesday about the status of wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who recently deleted all Vikings-related content from his Instagram amid speculation that he's unhappy in Minnesota and may want a trade.

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"He's not only a major part of our offense and a major part of our organization winning games, but he also does a lot of things for this organization off the field as well," Spielman responded, via NFL.com.

"There is no reason ... to anticipate that Stefon Diggs is not going to be a Minnesota Viking."

That settles that, right? New England Patriots fans can give up on the dream of Bill Belichick trading for the talented wideout, right?

Not quite.

Recent history tells us an NFL GM refuting a rumor doesn't preclude it from coming to life. Just ask Giants general manager Dave Gettleman, who was adamant New York wouldn't trade Odell Beckham Jr. ("We didn't sign him to trade him") last January before promptly dealing him to the Cleveland Browns two months later.

You can also ask Spielman himself: The Vikings GM said in 2013 the team had "no intent" to move wideout Percy Harvin, only to flip Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks that March.

The takeaway? Even if the Vikings say Diggs is a part of their future -- the 26-year-old has four years remaining on his five-year, $72 million contract -- a lot can change between now and the beginning of the new league year in March.

If the Vikings-Diggs relationship does sour, there's reason for the Patriots to be interested: New England lacked a top-flight wide receiver outside Julian Edelman last season, and adding an elite offensive weapon perhaps could convince Tom Brady to stay in Foxboro.

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