Patriots

Patriots wideout landscape entering Week 1? It's complicated

Patriots wideout landscape entering Week 1? It's complicated

We’re keeping both eyeballs on the Patriots wide receiver situation this week.

The main focus? How the team gets up-and-ready for the Steelers while trying to figure out which wideouts can take the field and how up-to-speed they will be.

Currently, the wide receiver group is Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Josh Gordon, N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski. Harry, Meyers and Olszewski are rookies.

Harry has been dealing with a leg injury for a month and has barely practiced.

Olszewski is an undrafted converted corner from Bemidji State and – while he could perhaps do a little damage from the slot kinda like a raw Edelman did back in 2009 – he’s not an ideal option to throw to. 

Meyers, also undrafted, was the Patriots most consistent participant in preseason.

Edelman is Edelman even with a sore thumb that, I’m told, was not terribly aggravated last Thursday in the preseason finale.

Dorsett is fine in that he’ll be where he’s supposed to be when he’s supposed to be there and will catch the ball if open.

Gordon is far from being in good enough football shape to go for four quarters.

Looming on the outskirts is Demaryius Thomas. The Patriots released him Saturday but intend to bring him back (although Denver is also reportedly interested in him). The move there may be to put Harry on IR to clear a spot for Thomas.

Harry would be down for six weeks and could play after Week 8. Former Patriots executive Michael Lombardi tweeted an all-caps “YES” when asked Sunday if Harry was an IR candidate.

“The whole receiver situation was challenging all through camp with the limited availability of certain players, I’d say most of the players at that position at one point or another,” Bill Belichick acknowledged on a Sunday morning conference call. “We just have to use the information that we have and do the best we can with it. We’ll have to see how it goes.”

Asked whether Harry’s lagging behind after missing a month, Belichick confirmed that he is with a general statement.

“I feel all players benefit from practicing, otherwise there’d be no point in us doing it,” he said. "So those are opportunities. Every player’s missed time at one point or another for whatever the reasons are. It’s something we deal with all the time. It’s very rare in the National Football League that every player on your team is 100 percent healthy. It’s life in the NFL.”

How soon before Harry’s life improves enough to contribute?

“He’s definitely getting better,” Belichick said. “All of our injured players are getting better. Where exactly they are … some of them didn’t play in the game (Thursday), we didn’t practice Friday, we didn’t practice (Saturday) so we’ll see where we’re at.”

Wideout isn’t the only complicated spot for the Patriots to suss out on offense. At tight end, Ryan Izzo is the only healthy player who’ll be available Week 1 against the Steelers unless Matt Lacosse makes a very speedy recovery from the player who was moving at a trot in pregame warmups last Thursday.

The other tight ends on the roster, Lance Kendricks and Benjamin Watson, will be unavailable because of PED suspensions.

In other words, if you have Tom Brady on your fantasy team, the bench is probably a good spot for him. But if you have James White and Edelman? They are must-starts. They are about the only proven options Brady will have to open 2019.

All undrafted players to make the Patriots initial roster since 2004>>>

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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)