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 set to compete in virtual beer pong tournament

Rob Gronkowski set to compete in virtual beer pong tournament

Who knew virtual beer pong was a thing? 

Former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski apparently is set to compete in a virtual beer pong tournament hosted by Post Malone to raise money for coronavirus relief efforts, according to TMZ Sports. The tournament will be live-streamed on the @ballinacup Instagram over eight days and the winners will receive a trophy and wrestling belts. 

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Gronkowski will be partnered with his girlfriend Camille Kostek, and they aren't the only familiar faces in the tournament. Former Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola and former Boston Bruins forward Tyler Seguin also will compete in the competition. 

The first round kicks off on Friday with Gronkowski and Kostek taking on Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson and USWNT star Mallory Pugh. Amendola will take on Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce on Saturday and Seguin will take on New York Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman on Monday, April 6. 

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It's no surprise Gronkowski signed up to compete in this tournament -- he loves to party, after all. 

This definitely is something out of the ordinary, but it should be pretty comical to watch Gronkowski, Amendola and Seguin compete to see who the king of beer pong is. 

Patriots have dominated this category since turn of the century

Patriots have dominated this category since turn of the century

The New England Patriots have been an unstoppable force over the course of the past two decades. The team has won six Super Bowls, 17 division titles, and hasn't logged a losing season this century.

One of the reasons for their success? They have been insanely good in one-possession games.

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According to Boston Sports Info (@BostonSportsInf), the Patriots have the best winning percentage in one-score games since the turn of the century. They are one of just two teams that have won greater than 60 percent of those contests. Here's a look at the numbers:

While several teams have more wins than the Patriots in these contests, it's still remarkable that the team has won two-thirds of their one-score games in the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era. It takes great decision-making on the parts of players and coaches to maintain such a strong record.

With Brady no longer on the Patriots, It looks like we're going to figure out just how much he has mattered to the Patriots' ability to win close games. Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer are the two quarterback options on the roster after Cody Kessler was released on Thursday, so Belichick will have his work cut out for him with either option.

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Meanwhile, Brady's impact on the Buccaneers may be notable depending on how much they improve in this area. The Bucs have the third-worst winning percentage of the century in one-possession games, coming in at 40.2 percent. They have the second-most losses overall with 98.

Last season, the Bucs were 3-6 in nine one-score games with Jameis Winston at the helm. If Brady can help to improve upon that record by making fewer late-game mistakes than the turnover-prone Winston did, then the Bucs may have a chance to make some noise in the NFC.

Either way, we'll soon see how Brady's presence impacts the Bucs and if the Patriots can continue their winning ways in close contests.