Patriots

What's the path for Patriots tight end Michael Roberts to make an impact?

What's the path for Patriots tight end Michael Roberts to make an impact?

It's going to be hard for anyone in the Patriots tight end room to feel comfortable any time soon. At the moment, the team is simply devoid of players with the kind of talent that would warrant their names being scribbled on the 53-man roster in ink.

That means there will be tinkering, and we know Bill Belichick isn't averse to tinkering year-round. He continued to shape-shift his tight end group on Thursday by trading for Lions tight end Michael Roberts, sending Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn a conditional seventh-rounder for 2020 in return. 

Does acquiring Roberts give the Patriots a clearer plan in terms of how they'll replace Rob Gronkowski? Nope. But it does provide the group with more depth as well as more competition for training camp next month. 

Gauging the overall effectiveness of the tight end position during Patriots minicamp was a bit of a fool's errand. Pads weren't involved. Blocking, other than a few periods focused on run-game assignments, was essentially an afterthought. 

It was Matt LaCosse, who caught a career-high 24 passes last season, who took snaps with Tom Brady and other projected starters late in the week of mandatory spring practices. Ben Watson looked comfortable in the passing game, but the 38-year-old will be suspended for the first four games of the regular season. Ryan Izzo was quiet as a receiver and heard it from coaches after apparently bungling a snap during a goal-line run-game period. Stephen Anderson was smooth but appears to be more receiver than true tight end, checking in at 230 pounds -- two more pounds than rookie receiver N'Keal Harry weighed at this year's combine. Undrafted rookie Andrew Beck worked out with the fullbacks, and while he could have a valuable role in backing up James Develin, he doesn't look like he'll factor into the tight end mix. 

So where does Roberts fit in? Why go after him? Of all the buzz we've heard about how the Patriots might go about replacing Gronkowski, Brady may have had the best explanation immediately after the team's final minicamp practice. 

"That’s got to be a position of strength even if it’s not one player but multiple players doing different roles," Brady said. "There were times in my career before that where we had similar approaches. No one’s going to make any excuses for our offense. We’re going to do everything we can to be the best we can be, score every time we touch the ball, and the tight end position’s a big part of our offense. Those guys are going to have to do a great job for us."

There is no tight end on the Patriots roster who can take the field in every situation and, as Gronkowski did, assert himself as among the best in the league at whatever it is he's called to do on a given snap. But as they try to piece it together with "multiple players doing different roles," we can try to make more sense of the Roberts acquisition beyond calling it depth.

It appears as though Roberts will be an option as a true "Y" tight end in the Patriots offense. At 6-foot-5, 265 pounds, he becomes the heaviest tight end on the roster, and could be a fit as a true in-line player. In his two years with the Lions, according to Pro Football Focus, of his 379 total snaps, 243 (64 percent) came as a blocker. 

Though Roberts reeled in 45 catches, including 16 touchdowns, for 533 yards as a senior at Toledo in 2016, his frame, his length (33-inch arms) and his hand size (11.5-inch hands) make him ideally suited to take on blocking duties. He had 13 catches for 146 yards in his two seasons in Detroit. 

What does this mean for the rest of the position group in New England? It could put a player like Izzo on notice. When he was drafted, the seventh-rounder out of Florida State was described as an "on-the-line-of-scrimmage player, very tough" by director of player personnel Nick Caserio. If his role for the Patriots is going to be tied to his ability to create space in the running game, perhaps Roberts will push him in camp with one of the two winning out as the top options to fill the blocking role previously filled by Dwayne Allen.

It's hard to say with much certainty what Roberts will do for the Patriots until he's able to practice with his new team, but even if he's a blocking specialist, that would carry plenty of value for the Patriots as they piece together a tight end room that will have to feature — at least early on — some specialist types now that their do-it-all option is retired.

Check out Phil Perry's post-minicamp 53-man roster projection>>>>

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Five Patriots plays among Top 30 on NFL 100 list

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Five Patriots plays among Top 30 on NFL 100 list

Last week, the NFL released all but the Top 30 of its 100 greatest plays as part of its 100th-anniversary celebration. Seven plays involving the Patriots cracked that list.

This week, it was a countdown of plays 30 to 1 and the Pats found themselves well-represented again. 

The list was selected by a panel of 50 voters (the same panel that votes for the NFL Awards and the All-Pro team), including our own Tom E. Curran, who listed his Top 20 plays earlier this summer, here. Voters were given a ballot of 100 plays and asked to rank 50.

The rest of the countdowns on NFL Network continue next week with Greatest Games (Sept. 27 & Oct. 4), Characters (Oct. 11 & Oct. 18), Game-Changers (Oct. 25 & Nov. 1) and Teams (Nov. 8 & Nov. 15).

The No. 1 play was Franco Harris' "Immaculate Reception" touchdown in the Pittsburgh Steelers' December 1972 playoff victory over the Oakland Raiders.

 

 

Report: Antonio Brown's latest incident 'enraged' Robert Kraft

Report: Antonio Brown's latest incident 'enraged' Robert Kraft

The Patriots gave Antonio Brown a shot at redemption when they signed him earlier this month, then another when they kept the wide receiver amid allegations of sexual assault.

But on Friday, enough was enough. When intimidating text messages sent by Brown to one of his accusers leaked to the public, that was the final straw.

Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft came to the conclusion cutting ties with Brown was in the best interest of the team. According to Jeff Howe of The Athletic, the decision stemmed from Kraft being "enraged" upon hearing about Brown's latest incident.

Howe writes:

Kraft, who was on a business trip, became enraged Friday when he heard the details of Brown’s most recently reported incident of text messaging harassment of a former female acquaintance. Kraft and Belichick spoke and decided together to officially release Brown just 11 days after the Patriots signed the controversial star receiver, according to sources.

Shortly before the release was announced, Belichick walked off the podium in the middle of his press conference following a flurry of questions related to Brown. He did note, however, “There are some things that we’re looking into.”

Brown's tenure in New England lasted only 11 days and one game -- last Sunday's 43-0 win over the Dolphins. Now, he's again a free agent faced with hoping another team will be willing to give him yet another chance.

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