Patriots

Patriots training camp battles: Jakobi Meyers versus Braxton Berrios

Patriots training camp battles: Jakobi Meyers versus Braxton Berrios

ALLEN PARK, Michigan -- Now that the Patriots are through more than a week's worth of summer practices, it makes sense to roll through a few of the camp battles taking place between teammates. 

There are several. They're happening along the defensive line and in the linebacking corps. They're happening at high-profile position groups (corner) and less-sexy position groups (punter). 

But today we'll focus in on Patriots receivers and find out who's offering what in a matchup that pits young pass-catchers Jakobi Meyers and Braxton Berrios against one another. 

TALE OF THE TAPE
Meyers: Undrafted rookie out of NC State; 6-foot-2, 200 pounds
Berrios: Second-year out of Miami; 5-foot-9, 190 pounds

STRENGTHS
Meyers: A versatile receiver who played in the slot in college but has been used all over the formation in his first training camp as a pro. Despite being "high cut," he's very crisp in and out of his breaks and creates separation with his routes. Meyers also has the ability to make contested catches, as he's shown regularly through nine practices. He climbed the ladder for a catch in one-on-ones Monday, landing hard on his back, losing his helmet, but securing the catch. He's been a favorite of Tom Brady lately, which continued Monday. A smart player who has quickly risen up the depth chart, Bill Belichick said he "has versatility, understands the offense . . . That's not really an issue. He's a smart kid, and he learns well."

Berrios: More of a traditional Patriots slot receiver in that he's "low cut" and can shift quickly in and out of his breaks. Berrios had a strong spring, from what we could see during practices open to the media, and he may have had his best day of training camp in Michigan on Monday. He caught three of the four targets sent his way, and the one incompletion was on a pass that was a little long and forced him to dive. Berrios caught two passes from Brady in the hurry-up period, which could help the pair build some chemistry. Berrios is an experienced punt-returner on a team that might be looking for a new body in that role in order to save Julian Edelman some hits at this stage of his career.

WEAKNESSES

Meyers: Meyers has been one of the most impressive players during Patriots training camp, regardless of position, so there's not much to nitpick. However, if he's going to be the fourth or fifth receiver on the roster to start the year (along with Edelman, N'Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris), the team will likely want to find a role for him on special teams. They appeared to try to get the ball rolling Monday as far as that goes with Meyers taking reps as a punt returner. They were a little shaky. He muffed one. Another was kicked short and he fielded it despite being a little out of control. As good as he's been, if his progress as a receiver dips and he doesn't have any value in the kicking game, his argument for a roster spot would take a hit. 

Berrios: Berrios and Meyers make for a fascinating comparison because -- even though they can both play in the slot -- they handle the middle of the field in such different ways. While we've seen Meyers elevate over defenders and high-point footballs down the seam, Berrios has to rely on his ability to separate. His catch radius is much smaller, and he's often forced to lay out for passes thrown away from defenders. That ups the level of difficulty for every completion. Should he be able to separate more consistently -- in practices he's seen a lot of time against top slot defender Jonathan Jones -- then that might allow quarterbacks to give Berrios more catchable footballs. One pass to Berrios down the field on Monday glanced off of his fingertips as he dove.

AND THE EDGE GOES TO...

Meyers. He's been so consistent through camp as a receiver that it's hard right now to envision a scenario in which he's left off the roster. There remains the possibility that both could make the club, especially if Berrios separates himself as a returner. But with Maurice Harris impressing, it looks like there would only be room for one to go along with Edelman, Dorsett and Harry. There's a long way to go in camp and there are plenty of questions to be answered. Can Berrios make a difference as a return man? Can Meyers get open in live situations against top-end competition? Would the Patriots like to keep a low-cut slot as opposed to having several taller wideouts like Meyers, Harris and Harry? Is Meyers' skill set a little redundant when you take into account the others on the depth chart? How would Josh Gordon's reinstatement impact the mix at this position? But with what we know right now, Meyers looks like a steal as an undrafted rookie -- as Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy told you he was -- and he would have to be the pick if there could only be one.

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Patriots confirm coaching changes, front office promotions for 2020 season

Patriots confirm coaching changes, front office promotions for 2020 season

The puzzle pieces of the New England Patriots' coaching staff and front office have fallen into place.

The Patriots saw turnover in both departments this offseason, as longtime offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia retired while director of college scouting Monti Ossenfort joined the Houston Texans as their director of player personnel.

The club also welcomed some new faces, including former Los Angeles Rams offensive assistant Jedd Fisch (the team's new quarterbacks coach) and ex-Cleveland Browns executive Eliot Wolf.

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So, how have the coaching staff and front office changed since last season? The Patriots have unveiled their 2020 media guide, which confirmed the new roles of several staffers.

Here's a rundown of the notable changes:

- Troy Brown officially is on staff as a running backs and kick returners coach. The former Patriots wide receiver will work with head running backs coach Ivan Fears and special teams assistant Joe Houston.

- Director of pro scouting Dave Ziegler has been promoted to assistant director of player personnel, reporting to director of player personnel Nick Caserio. He'll essentially fill Ossenfort's former role.

- Tyler Hughes, who reportedly joined the team in June, is listed as an "offensive assistant." Hughes most recently was the head coach at Bountiful (Utah) High School.

- Vinnie Sunseri joins the Patriots as a defensive assistant after spending the 2019 season as a graduate assistant for Nick Saban at Alabama. Sunseri had a brief stint in New England as a player during 2016 training camp.

- Wolf's official title is "scouting consultant." He served as Cleveland's assistant general manager in 2018 and 2019 after 14 seasons with the Green Bay Packers.

The Patriots go through personnel changes every year, but 2020 presents a unique challenge: Not only has COVID-19 prevented staff members from meeting in-person, but the club has lost a lengthy list of core veterans to free agency (Tom Brady, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, etc.) and opt-outs (Dont'a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Marcus Cannon, etc.) this offseason.

Head coach Bill Belichick isn't one to make excuses, though, so expect his staff to be hard at work this week as the Patriots begin on-field training camp work at Gillette Stadium.

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NFL opt-outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL opt-outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL training camps officially began Tuesday, but there were some notable absences.

Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif became the first NFL player to opt out of the 2020 season last Friday, citing health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since then, multiple players have followed suit, continuing a trend across all major North American professional sports of players declining to participate in their seasons as COVID-19 persists in the United States.

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The Patriots especially have felt the impact of this trend: Six New England players -- including star linebacker Dont'a Hightower -- already have opted out, the most of any NFL team.

Below is a running list of the players who have opted out of the 2020 NFL season, according to reports or team/player confirmations. The list is sorted alphabetically after the Patriots, with the date of the players' opt-outs in parentheses.

New England Patriots

RB Brandon Bolden (July 28)
OT Marcus Cannon (July 28)
S Patrick Chung (July 28)
LB Dont'a Hightower (July 28)
WR Marqise Lee (August 1)
OG Najee Toran (July 27)
FB Danny Vitale (July 27)
TE Matt LaCosse (August 2)

Arizona Cardinals

OT Marcus Gilbert (August 4)

Baltimore Ravens

OT Andre Smith (July 28)
WR/KR De'Anthony Thomas (July 27)

Buffalo Bills

CB E.J. Gaines (August 2)
DT Star Lotulelei (July 28)

Carolina Panthers

LB Jordan Mack (July 28)
LB Christian Miller (August 3)

Chicago Bears

DT Eddie Goldman (July 28)
S Jordan Lucas (August 3)

Cincinnati Bengals

OT Isaiah Prince (July 31)
DT Josh Tupou (July 31)

Cleveland Browns

DT Andrew Billings (August 4)
OL Drake Dorbeck (July 29)
OL Drew Forbes (July 29)

Dallas Cowboys

CB Maurice Canady (July 27)
WR Stephen Guidry (July 28)
FB Jamize Olawale (Aug. 2)

Denver Broncos

OT JaWuan James (Aug. 3)
DT Kyle Peko (July 28)

Detroit Lions

DT John Atkins (July 29)
WR Geronimo Allison (Aug. 2)

Green Bay Packers

WR Devin Funchess (July 28)

Houston Texans

DT Eddie Vanderdoes (July 28)

Jacksonville Jaguars

EDGE Larentee McCray (August 1)
DL Al Woods (July 31)

Kansas City Chiefs

OG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (July 24)
RB Damien Williams (July 29)

Las Vegas Raiders

CB D.J. Killings (August 3)
DE Jeremiah Valoaga (August 3)

Los Angeles Rams

OT Chandler Brewer (July 31)

Miami Dolphins

WR Allen Hurns (August 4)

Minnesota Vikings

NT Michael Pierce (July 28)

New Orleans Saints

TE Jason Vander Laan (July 28)
TE Cole Wick (July 28)

New York Giants

WR Da'Mari Scott (August 2)
LT Nate Solder (July 29)

New York Jets

OL Leo Koloamatangi (July 28)
LB CJ Mosley (August 1)

Philadelphia Eagles

WR Marquise Goodwin (July 28)

Seattle Seahawks

OG Chance Warmack (July 27)

Tennessee Titans

OL Anthony McKinney (July 28)

Washington Football Team

DT Caleb Brantley (July 27)
LB Josh Harvey-Clemons (August 3)

Free Agents

G Larry Warford (July 28)