Patriots

Tom Brady needs more time with his receivers: 'We're not a finished product'

Tom Brady needs more time with his receivers: 'We're not a finished product'

When the Patriots placed N'Keal Harry on injured reserve on Monday it wasn't because they were so loaded at the receiver position with surefire success stories that they could afford to give their dinged-up No. 1 pick eight weeks to slowly build back to full speed.

If anything, a couple of the moves they made on Labor Day Weekend served as indications that the Patriots were willing to gamble with a couple of their 53-man roster spots just to fill out the back end of their receiver depth chart.

They re-signed Demaryius Thomas — the plan all along after they released him Saturday — who is coming off a torn Achilles he suffered in December. He's a 31-year-old in a new offense, with a new quarterback, who missed almost the entirety of training camp on the physically unable to perform list, who admitted recently that when it comes to his explosiveness, "I can feel it certain days and certain days I can't."

They kept Gunner Olszewski on the active roster Saturday after informing him earlier in the day that he'd been released. The Division 2 corner at Bemidji State was only asked to try out by two NFL teams, and the Patriots have asked him to change positions. Though he's taken to it well, as he has his responsibilities as a return man, he only first started seeing relatively consistent reps with Tom Brady at quarterback when others at the position suffered injuries during joint practices in Tennessee three weeks into training camp.

Undrafted rookie receiver Jakobi Meyers would be the No. 4 receiver on the team in terms of practice experience with Brady. Julian Edelman obviously heads that list, followed by Phillip Dorsett and Josh Gordon. Question marks abound with this group, particularly after Harry was placed on IR.

On WEEI's Greg Hill show Tuesday, Brady was asked for his confidence level in the position at the moment.

"I think we're certainly working at it," Brady said. "The quarterback-receiver relationship is very unique. I've played with a lot of great players, a lot of great receivers. I feel like I know what a good receiver plays like, what their attitude is like. There's a lot of diff styles for receivers. You look at a Randy Moss and you look at a Wes Welker. You look at all these different players that have different size, different speed, different abilities. You try to formulate that group to put the most pressure on the defense.

"Our group has been formulated. Not many of the guys have been out there that long. I have, obviously, a lot of experience with Julian. I have a lot of experience with Phil. I have some experience with Josh, very limited with Demaryius, N'Keal, and Jakobi and Gunner. It's one thing to predict how it's gonna go. It's another to actually go do it."

What complicates things further is that Brady doesn't have a Hall of Fame-caliber tight end on the roster to try to shoulder some of the pass-catching responsibilities in the Patriots offense. Ryan Izzo, a second-year player who spent his rookie season on IR, looks like the starter as veteran free-agent acquisition Matt LaCosse deals with an ankle injury.

The running back group could try to alleviate whatever might ail the Patriots passing game early in the season. James White was second in the NFL among running backs in targets and third in receptions with 87. He'll once again be one of Brady's top targets. Rex Burkhead has been a factor in the passing game when healthy, and both Damien Harris and Sony Michel have flashed some ability as pass-catchers during camp this summer.

They'll need help wherever they can get it in 2019 because the receiving corps, while loaded up with some big names, carries with it little in the way of certainty. At least at the moment. Even Brady is willing to acknowledge that as they head into their first game of the season, they have a ways to go before he's able to anticipate their every move the way he'd like.

"We're gonna try to put as much work as we can in from now until the end of the season for us to be at our best," he said. "We're not a finished product. We won't be for a long time. But we're gonna try to build every single day [on the] opportunity that we have to get better and communicate. That's what we're going to try to do.

"Like everything else, the more you do it, the more you're together, the more you anticipate, the more you can have confidence and trust in one another. That's what we're trying to get to."

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Rob Gronkowski wins 24/7 title at WrestleMania 36

Rob Gronkowski wins 24/7 title at WrestleMania 36

Rob Gronkowski was a big winner during his NFL days, taking home three Super Bowl rings in his nine seasons with the New England Patriots.

And now, his winning ways have carried over to the ring.

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At WrestleMania 36, Rob Gronkowski was crowned the WWE's new 24/7 champion. The rules of the 24/7 belt are that it has to be defended at all times (hence the name, 24/7) and can be taken by anyone at any point, anywhere, so long as a WWE referee is present.

Gronk was able to take the title from his friend and fellow wrestler, Mojo Rawley. You can see the move he performed to land it via the WWE's official Twitter account.

Yeah, that was surely... something. And it sure seems like Gronk is on his way to becoming the WWE's next star given how quickly he has earned a title since signing a contract with the league in mid-March.

Gronk is actually the second player from a major Boston sports team to take home the title in the past year. Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter held the belt very, very briefly at Madison Square Garden after taking it from R Truth. Just minutes after Kanter won it, Truth took back the belt.

Bills WR gives Patriots bulletin-board material after Tom Brady departure

Bills WR gives Patriots bulletin-board material after Tom Brady departure

Is the AFC East officially wide open now that Tom Brady is no longer a member of the New England Patriots? At least one Buffalo Bills player thinks so.

Bills wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie was ecstatic to hear the news of Brady signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That comes as no surprise, as the ex-Pats QB is an absurd 32-3 against Buffalo in his 20-year career and New England has won 11 straight division titles with Brady under center.

During an interview with WROC in Buffalo last week, McKenzie expressed his excitement about Brady leaving while giving the Patriots some bulletin-board material.

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“The Brady situation, I cheered,” McKenzie said. “He’s a great player. Our team is stacked. The last two years we’ve been giving him a run for his money, but now that he’s gone, it’s going to kind of be the Bills’ time to take over.”

McKenzie's confidence isn't unfounded. The Bills made a big splash earlier this offseason by trading for star wide receiver Stefon Diggs, giving Josh Allen another dangerous weapon opposite John Brown. With Brady and several other key contributors leaving in free agency, the Patriots may have their work cut out for them next season.

Bills general manager Brandon Beane sang a much different tune than McKenzie on Thursday, saying it's "funny and comical how people are writing off the Patriots in the AFC East." Still, it's safe to bet McKenzie's words will be remembered in Foxboro when the 2020 campaign kicks off.