Patriots

Gimme s'more: New additions to keep an eye on

Gimme s'more: New additions to keep an eye on

Second in our series looking ahead to the opening of Patriots training camp July 26.

Patriots reporters had access to a handful of the team's spring workouts, but for fans, training camp represents the first opportunity to see the latest iteration of their team in person. And given the number of roster alterations made this offseason, there will be plenty for them to take in. 

Let's start with the first-round rookies. Isaiah Wynn and where he ends up on the offensive line will be worth a look. How Sony Michel's speed and pass-catching ability factors into the Patriots offense will be fascinating as well. 

Fellow first-year players Duke Dawson (will he compete as the "star" in the slot for Bill Belichick), Braxton Berrios (might there be an opening for him with Julian Edelman suspended), Ja'Whaun Bentley (could he help patrol the middle of the defense), JC Jackson and Keion Crossen (athletic corners who impressed in the spring) will garner interest as well. 

Then there are the veteran additions. Danny Shelton's arrival could prompt the Patriots and Brian Flores to lean on more 3-4 looks. Adrian Clayborn may provide the defense with a pass-rushing boost, particularly on third downs off the right side. Jeremy Hill looks like he'll compete with Mike Gillislee for "big back" duties. Cordarrelle Patterson might be able to take advantage of the new kickoff rules to make an impact as a return man. 

The newcomer who may generate the most interest? Jordan Matthews. His experience in the slot could make him a featured piece in the Patriots offense with Edelman out at the start of the season. 

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Rob Gronkowski's brother Chris thinks he's 'super frustrated' over Patriots' lack of talent

Rob Gronkowski's brother Chris thinks he's 'super frustrated' over Patriots' lack of talent

This was everyday, run-of-the-mill stuff. Someone got on the phone with a sports radio station in Boston and complained about the Patriots days after their most recent loss.

What was unusual was that the caller's last name was Gronkowski.

The brother of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, Chris, spoke with WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show on Tuesday morning, bemoaning the fact that Patriots receivers couldn't get open, which has allowed opposing defenses to focus all of their attention on Rob.

"When you're giving up two of your best defenders -- safeties or a corner and a safety -- to cover a tight end, guys on the outside should be able to win," Chris Gronkowski said. "It's just super frustrating to watch. They've got to figure something out."

Chris, who played three years in the NFL as a fullback for the Cowboys, Colts and Broncos, said he hasn't spoken to Rob about whether or not he's frustrated, but he believes he is.

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"I haven't talked to him personally about it," Chris said, "but I can just tell by his emotions, his facial features, that he's super frustrated with it. You can see at the end of the game how they ended the game double-covering him, pressing him off the line. He just wants to get the ball in his hands and make plays. But you just can't do it when nobody else is getting open. You can't have single coverage [on Rob Gronkowski] if no one else can beat single coverage."

Rob was asked if he needs more help following Sunday's loss to the Lions. For three weeks, defenses have double-teamed him in critical situations -- third down and red zone, for example -- and at times he's been doubled with a safety floating over the top. 

"It is what it is," Gronkowski said. "Whatever it is. I have to figure it out myself. I have to figure out how to get open no matter what coverage it is. It's going to take a little but I feel like I gotta adjust and up my game."

Clearly Gronkowski's brother feels as though there are others who need to up their games as well. Once Julian Edelman returns to the lineup in Week 5, that will make a world of difference, Chris Gronkowski said.

    "I think once Edelman comes back you're going to see a whole different game out there. He's a man-beater. He's gonna get open if you put man on him. Once Edelman's back, I think the whole game changes."

    Chris Gronkowski also touched on his brother's offseason and his training methods. He said he felt as though his brother was never going to retire because he's still at the height of his profession. Coming back to the game was in some ways a matter of receiving an okay from the club to train the way he wants.

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    "More freedom is kind of what it came down to," Chris said. "And just some respect to do what he needs to get done. He knows his body best. He's going to his eighth, ninth season and he knows what he needs to get done."

    Asked about the report over the weekend that suggested his brother was nearly dealt to the Lions, Chris said he felt Rob never would've been traded because he never wanted to play with anyone else. Once he knew he'd receive an incentive-laden boost to not be paid like a "mediocre tight end," as Chris put it, that was what he was looking for. 

    "He wanted to be paid what he deserved and he wanted to be paid [like] one of the top tight ends for once . . . He wanted to stay in New England no matter what," Chris said. "That's what ended up happening. He just wanted to be comfortable with what he was playing for."

    It goes without saying that for any family member of a Patriots player to go on the air and discuss those topics is a break from the norm. But abnormal is normal for the Gronkowskis in many ways. Rob Gronkowski has been more open about contract talks than other players. He's been more open about injuries than other players. 

    That one of his brothers is now opening up about other topics over the airwaves isn't all that surprising, but it is atypical -- even for the Gronkowski family.

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    Ex-Pats Podcast: Ninkovich gives keys to potential Patriots turnaround

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    NBC Sports Boston illustration

    Ex-Pats Podcast: Ninkovich gives keys to potential Patriots turnaround

    1:00 -- Rob Ninkovich voices his biggest concerns after seeing the Patriots lose the Lions.

    6:00 -- What can the coaching staff do to turn things around for the Patriots?

    8:30 -- Is there just a talent deficiency on Patriots?

    12:00 -- Which player can motivate the Patriots to get better?

    13:00 -- What defensive changes would Nink make to switch things up?

    16:00 -- What does Bill Belichick say to his team after such a rough start?

    18:30 -- Rob Ninkovich reacts to Gronk confirming he threatened to retire if he was traded.

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