Matt LaCosse on big Patriots opportunity: 'I haven't earned anything yet'

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Matt LaCosse on big Patriots opportunity: 'I haven't earned anything yet'

FOXBORO -- The Patriots hadn't even started their warmups when their offense gathered on one of the fields behind Gillette Stadium to run through a two-minute drill. It's something they'll often do as part of their pre-practice routine. It gets their legs going as well as their brains. 

Josh McDaniels called for his 11-personnel grouping — one tight end, one running back — with Tom Brady as the first unit up. The one tight end in the group? Matt LaCosse. 

"I'd be lying to you if I said it wasn't pretty cool," LaCosse said when asked what it was like to catch passes from Brady this week. 

"Obviously one of the greatest, if not the greatest, to ever play this game. But . . . we're all moving toward the same goal and that's pretty cool. That's pretty cool — especially when we get on the same page and gain each other's trust a little better."

That process has been underway through two days of minicamp as LaCosse has stood out among the group of tight ends vying for roles as the team adjusts to life without Rob Gronkowski. LaCosse has seemingly caught every pass sent in his direction, and he's received extensive reps with Brady. Ben Watson is the other tight end who has seen his share of targets from Brady over the course of two days, but Watson's four-game suspension to start the season means there's an open competition for tight end reps come Week 1.

Stephen Anderson and Ryan Izzo also have a shot to chip in at the position, as does undrafted rookie Andrew Beck — though Beck appears to me more of a fullback than a true tight end option at the moment. The Patriots released Austin Seferian-Jenkins earlier this week. 

LaCosse knows he's staring a quality opportunity in the face.

"Obviously it's a good opportunity," he said. "But nothing's been earned yet. We still have a really long way to go. Everybody's competing for the same spot. I haven't earned anything yet. It's one of those things you keep the pedal to the metal. You get what you earn here."

The Patriots targeted LaCosse early in free agency, coming to an agreement on Mar. 14 with a player who caught 24 passes last year in 15 games for the Broncos — both career-highs. The 6-foot-6, 255-pounder entered the league as an undrafted rookie out of Illinois in 2015. He spent time the majority of his first three seasons in the league with the Giants and was signed off of New York's practice squad by Denver in December of 2017. 

"He’s a young player that has some talent," Bill Belichick said Wednesday. "He’s played in the league and we feel like he has some upside. We’ll see how it goes in our system."

There's a long way to go, as Belichick often likes to say, but so far so good for the self-described "multiple guy," willing to play on the line, split out wide, in the backfield, and on special teams. 

"Just all over the field," LaCosse said, "wherever you need me, that's where I'm going to go."

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Patriots have the NFL's toughest schedule next season

Patriots have the NFL's toughest schedule next season

With or without Tom Brady at quarterback, those traditional complaints about the Patriots having an easy schedule will likely die down a bit next season.

Yes, there's still the AFC East for the Pats to feast on, but based on their opponents' records in 2019, New England has the NFL's toughest schedule in 2020. 

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Patriots opponents had a .537 winning percentage in 2019. Dates and times will be released as usual in mid-April, but the opponents have been known for a while and they include the two Super Bowl teams (the champion Kansas City Chiefs on the road and the runner-up San Francisco 49ers at home) and five other games against teams that made the playoffs (the Buffalo Bills home and away, at the Seattle Seahawks, at the Houston Texans and home vs. the Baltimore Ravens).

The Pats are matched up with the AFC West and NFC West for non-division opponents, which throws some coast-to-coast trips in the mix. It also puts New England's AFC East rivals right up there with the toughest schedules, as well, with the Jets second, the Miami Dolphins third and the Bills the fifth-toughest. 

The team with the easiest schedule next season? It's the one that won the most regular-season games (14) last season and earned the AFC's No. 1 seed in the playoffs: the Baltimore Ravens. Their opponents had a combined .437 winning percentage last season. 

Vikings WR Stefon Diggs' Instagram activity sparks Patriots trade speculation

Vikings WR Stefon Diggs' Instagram activity sparks Patriots trade speculation

One of the New England Patriots' primary focuses this offseason will be to add weapons to an offense that lacked its usual explosiveness in the 2019 season.

There are plenty of options on the free agent market that could help the Patriots in that regard, but they also could look to improve their roster via trade. In fact, one particular star wide receiver appears to be placing himself on the trade block.

On Tuesday, Minnesota Vikings star Stefon Diggs removed all Vikings-related content from his Instagram page. That means no Vikings photos or videos, and no mention of the organization in his "bio" section.

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Predictably, that sparked plenty of "Diggs-to-the-Pats" speculation on social media.

And there's much more where that came from.

Making a move to add a top-tier wideout like Diggs not only would give the Patriots' receiving corps a much-needed boost, it also could entice soon-to-be free agent Tom Brady to stay in New England. The 42-year-old quarterback is set to officially hit free agency on March 18.

As for Diggs, he has four years remaining on his contract and the Vikings' asking price would be reasonably high. The 26-year-old caught 63 passes for 1,130 yards and six touchdowns in 2019.

Is there a chance this is nothing and we're all reading way too much into social media? Of course. But it wouldn't be an NFL offseason if we didn't have this kind of drama to talk about.