Patriots

Patriots decide to part ways with WR Kenny Britt

Patriots decide to part ways with WR Kenny Britt

FOXBORO -- The Kenny Britt experiment is over. The Patriots announced on Wednesday night that they'd released the 6-foot-3, 228-pound veteran wideout. 

On the one hand, the move can't be considered a surprise. Britt himself acknowledged that he was behind his teammates thanks to all the reps he's missed this summer due to a hamstring injury. Britt was initially hurt during spring workouts -- after looking strong to that point in OTAs -- and by the time training camp practices were shut down to reporters last week, he still hadn't fully participated in an on-the-field workout. 

Britt was brought aboard in December and caught two passes in the regular season. The Patriots picked up his option for 2018, and it was reported that "big things" were expected of the Rutgers product and former first-round pick. Instead, his time in New England ended with a dud.

Can't make the club from the tub, as the saying goes. 

On the other hand, one thing Britt seemed to have going for him was that the rest of the Patriots receiving corps is in relatively dire straits. Or at least it looks that way. 

Julian Edelman will be suspended for the first month of the season. Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson look like locks for the Week 1 roster, but after that? Plenty of question marks. 

The player who may benefit the most from Britt's release is Eric Decker. Though Decker has had issues with drops since he arrived to the Patriots mid-camp, he's the most experienced receiver on the roster after the top-four (top-three not including Edelman), and his odds of making the roster may have just improved. 

Decker, though, like anyone else, will at some point have to prove his value. The Patriots are deep at positions like corner and along the defensive line. Britt's release could simply make room for an additional player at one of those spots. Or it could go to a core special teamer. Or a young player with promise at a position other than receiver.

The other receivers on the Patriots roster include Riley McCarron, Braxton Berrios, Devin Lucien and Paul Turner. Matthew Slater could potentially give the Patriots a body at wideout, but he's primarily a special teamer. 

With a relative dearth of trustworthy wideouts available, the Patriots may be forced to rely more on their 12 and 21-personnel packages (with two tight ends and two backs, respectively) through September with Edelman out. 

The argument could've been made that despite Britt's lack of practice reps, it was worth holding onto him to give the receiver group some depth going into the regular season (if Britt was healthy). 

But he'd fallen behind, and in the Patriots offense, it can be difficult to make up ground once that happens. Clearly the Patriots felt as though the marriage had run its course.

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Browns better than Patriots in 2020? Former NFL player makes bold claim

Browns better than Patriots in 2020? Former NFL player makes bold claim

The New England Patriots have spent much of the last 20 years at the summit of the NFL -- the most successful franchise of this century. Over that same time, the Cleveland Browns have been one of the league's worst teams, with only a single postseason appearance since 2000.

Could these teams begin to switch places in 2020?

Last season was supposed to be the Browns' return to the spotlight, and the playoffs. Expectations were high for quarterback Baker Mayfield, star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and an up-and-coming defense. Instead, Cleveland got off to a horrible start in 2019, losing six of their first eight games, including a Week 7 loss to the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. 

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Despite all that unfolded in Cleveland last season, many experts are still high on the Browns' chances in 2020. In fact, one of them is even willing to predict the Patriots will be worse than the Browns.

“When you look at those two teams and the difference in the trajectory of what we feel they’ll be, I believe that the Browns will be a better football team than the New England Patriots this year," ESPN NFL analyst Ryan Clark said on the "Get Up" morning show earlier this week. 

"I believe that the Browns young quarterback (Baker Mayfield) will play better than the young quarterback in New England. And when you put all of these things together, that leaves Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots on the outside of the playoff picture and (Browns coach) Kevin Stefanski and the Cleveland Browns in.”

Oddsmakers don't agree with Clark. 

The Browns are underdogs to reach the playoffs with +137 odds at the DraftKings Sportsbook, while the Patriots are expected to make the postseason at -177 odds.

It's also hard to trust the Browns until they show the mental toughness required to play football into January. Bad penalties, suspensions, poor coaching and other avoidable mistakes have plagued the Browns for many years, and last season was no different.

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Another factor working against the Browns is their division. The AFC North is not a joke.

The reigning division champion Baltimore Ravens went 14-2 last year and should again be a top Super Bowl contender. The Pittsburgh Steelers have been a playoff team for much of the last two decades, and they'll be aided by the healthy return of veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who missed most of 2019 due to injury. The Cincinnati Bengals are the worst team in the division, but selecting Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow with the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft has renewed hope in Cincy.

It's not inconceivable for the Browns to be better than the Patriots in 2020. The Patriots will have plenty of challenges, too, most notably adjusting to a new starting quarterback. New England's schedule also is among the toughest in the league, and the defense lost several key players in free agency.

Still, it's hard to bet against a Belichick team, especially when the other team in the conversation is the Browns. The smart money in this debate is with the Patriots.

Patriots' Stephon Gilmore hard at work in new offseason training video

Patriots' Stephon Gilmore hard at work in new offseason training video

NFL teams have not been able to conduct normal offseason workouts, rookie camps and other activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but players are still finding ways to stay in shape and prepare for the 2020 season.

That includes New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who recently worked out with former NFL defensive back Dre Bly, who's currently the cornerbacks coach for the University of North Carolina football team.

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Check out some footage of Gilmore's workout in the tweet below:

Gilmore arguably is the Patriots' best player following quarterback Tom Brady's departure in free agency. In Pro Football Focus' recent ranking of the top 50 players gonig into the 2020 season, Gilmore was the only Patriot to make the list.

The veteran cornerback is coming off back-to-back seasons of first team All-Pro selections, and in February he was named the AP Defensive Player of the Year Award winner for the 2019 campaign.

The Patriots saw a lot of veteran players from their defense leave as free agents this offseason. Luckily for New England, its secondary remains one of the best groups in the league, and Gilmore's presence as the sport's premier shutdown cornerback is the primary reason for that.