Patriots

Stephon Gilmore: New Patriots WR Demaryius Thomas 'tough to cover, tough to bring down'

Stephon Gilmore: New Patriots WR Demaryius Thomas 'tough to cover, tough to bring down'

The New England Patriots are still a work in progress at wide receiver, but the signing of free-agent Demaryius Thomas earlier this week did provide some much-needed depth at the position.

Patriots offseason workouts are underway at Gillette Stadium, where several players are putting in long hours to prepare for the 2019 NFL season. One of those players is cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who was asked Thursday about the Patriots' newest wide receiver addition.

“(Thomas is) a great player,” Gilmore told reporters in Foxboro. “He’s made a lot of great plays in this league, and he’s tough to cover, tough to bring down. Couple things that stand out with him.

"(He’s) strong, explosive. Hopefully, he can help us win games.”

Thomas has enjoyed a very productive NFL career, but a torn Achilles suffered late in December has put his future in doubt. Given the severity of an Achilles injury, it wouldn't be surprising if he's unable to play for the Patriots when they kick off their Super Bowl title defense against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 8. He's not even a guarantee to make the team. Remember what happened to Reggie Wayne during his short stint in New England?

When healthy, however, Thomas is more than capable of providing solid production. He tallied five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons from 2012 through 2016. His excellent size at 6-foot-3 and 229 pounds makes him a good redzone target, too. He was able to rack up 59 receptions for 677 yards and five touchdowns between the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans last season -- not bad for a 31-year-old veteran. 

No one knows if suspended wideout Josh Gordon will play at all for the Patriots next season. Chris Hogan and Cordarrelle Patterson left in NFL free agency, and tight end Rob Gronkowski retired. The Patriots need to fill the void from these departures. Thomas, if healthy, has a chance to play a role in that.

Watch Rob Gronkowski dent new Lombardi Trophy>>>

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Former Patriots DE Chris Long announces retirement

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USA Today Sports Images

Former Patriots DE Chris Long announces retirement

Former Patriots defensive end and Super Bowl 51 champion Chris Long announced his retirement on Twitter Saturday night. 

The 11-year veteran had been mulling over the decision for the last four months after his season with the Eagles ended in the NFC's Divisional round against the Saints. 

Long will exit the NFL with two Super Bowl championships, both coming in consecutive years with the Patriots and then the Eagles. In 2016 with the Patriots, Long totaled four sacks, 35 tackles, seven tackles for loss and 10 quarterback hits. He will finish his career with 70 sacks, 85 tackles for loss and 150 quarterback hits.

Another legacy Long leaves will be his philanthropy. He donated an entire seasons worth of game checks to charity in 2017, and then donated a quarter of his salary in 2018 to help local children. Long was named the Walter Payton Man of the Year in February

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This stat should make Patriots fans excited for year two of JC Jackson

This stat should make Patriots fans excited for year two of JC Jackson

As an undrafted free agent coming into the 2018 season, cornerback J.C. Jackson made the most out of his opportunity by earning himself a starting spot on the Patriots' Super Bowl championship defense. 

Jackson will face higher expectations as he heads into his second season in the pros, but the Patriots and their fans should have plenty of reason to be optimistic about the young corner. 

According to Pro Football Focus, Jackson ranked as the top corner in the NFL during the 2018 season in Passer Rating allowed (42.0), which was nearly 18 points higher than second place Avonte Maddox of the Philadelphia Eagles. 

Jackson allowed just 22 for 262 yards and zero touchdowns on 42 targets last season. He was also seventh in forced incompletion rate and 12th in the NFL with an 82.4 coverage grade, according to PFF's rankings. 

Jackson is with elite company at the top spot of PFF's Passer Rating allowed, beating out Miami's Xavien Howard, Denver's Chris Harris Jr., and Chicago's Kyle Fuller. The Dolphins just recently made Howard the highest-paid corner in the league. 

But Jackson wasn't the only Patriot to crack the top-10. Stephon Gilmore finished 10th in this category with a 71.8 passer rating allowed. Gilmore experienced the best season of his career in 2018, making First Team All-Pro and making the game-clinching interception in Super Bowl 53. 

A lot of people like to talk about what the Patriots lose each offseason, but after letting Malcolm Butler walk in free agency to the Titans, Bill Belichick seems to have found an ample replacement in Jackson. 

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