Before taking off for their third preseason game in Carolina Friday night, the Patriots took care of some administrative business Thursday.

The team reinstated defensive tackle Alan Branch from an internal suspension for violation of team rules.

Alan Branch

Alan Branch

Before taking off for their third preseason game in Carolina Friday night, the Patriots took care of some administrative business Thursday.

The team reinstated defensive tackle Alan Branch from an internal suspension for violation of team rules.

The NFL transaction wire confirmed the move Thursday afternoon.

News of Branch’s suspension broke several hours before last Thursday’s preseason game against the Bears at Gillette Stadium.

The Patriots have represented a new chance in the career of the 6-foot-6, 350-pound 31-year-old tackle.

On Aug. 24, 2014, one day after being arrested for a DUI, Branch was cut from the Bills. Two months later, Branch had signed a one-year deal with the Patriots. Branch played a big role for the Patriots defensive line, along with Vince Wilfork, as the Patriots went onto win Super Bowl XLIX, where he beat another former team, the Seattle Seahawks.

Branch re-signed with the Patriots on March 15, 2015, agreeing to a two-year deal worth a maximum of $6.6 million.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Barring another run-in with a pair of scissors, Tom Brady will be on the field Friday night when the Patriots take on the Panthers in the third preseason game at Bank of America Stadium.

Tom Brady

Tom Brady

Barring another run-in with a pair of scissors, Tom Brady will be on the field Friday night when the Patriots take on the Panthers in the third preseason game at Bank of America Stadium. Whether he starts or even plays against the Panthers, that is – as Jimmy Garoppolo would say – anyone’s guess.

According to the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe, the Patriots quarterback made the trip with the team on the charter Thursday down to Charlotte.

Brady was slated to start last Thursday against the Bears at Gillette Stadium before a last-minute mishap with a pair of scissors while poking out something from his cleats caused a minor cut and caused Bill Belichick to pull him for Jimmy Garoppolo.

What ensued was several days of speculation on the reason for Brady not staying at Gillette for the game and instead leaving and heading home. There has even been speculation that there is tension between Brady and the head coach behind the scenes.

Chris Price details just how much Brady has played in years past in the third preseason game, widely considered to be the most significant game as starters get final tuneups for the season opener Sept. 11 in Arizona. Of course, Brady won’t be around for the first four games, as Garoppolo fills in for the four-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

With the trade for Barkevious Mingo, here’s a quick look at the Patriots’ draft capital for 2017 at this point on the calendar.

First-round pick.
Second-round pick.
Third-round pick.
Fourth-round pick vacated because of Deflategate.
Fourth-round pick (via Seattle).
Sixth-round pick.
Seventh-round pick (a conditional choice as the result of the Bryan Stork deal).

While their chances are slim, they could also get compensatory picks for lost free agent signings. However, given the way things transpired this past spring, that doesn’t appear likely at this point.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Bryan Stork

Bryan Stork

The Redskins aren’t sure Bryan Stork is interested in playing any more. But if he is, they seem pretty excited about the possibility of him suiting up for Washington.

On Thursday, Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Stork’s plans were for the immediate future were still unclear — there was some talk that the former Patriots center might retire — but if he wants to play, Washington would find a spot for him.

“I know about as much as you guys do, to be honest with you, as far as the retirement issue,” Gruden said. “We’re going to have to wait and see when we get back. We’d like to get him in here and have a look at him and go from there.”

Stork had an eventful Wednesday. Initial reports indicated he was released by the Patriots. Then, the story was he was traded, which was followed up by a report shortly after that suggesting he might retire. Whatever happens, the Redskins sound ready.

“Right now, he would provide us with another center,” Gruden said of the former Florida State standout. “And he can play guard. He’s played both. A little more depth at both positions. But, he’d have to come in and learn the system in a hurry and compete. We have a very good center in Kory Lichtensteiger, we love the progress of Spencer Long, Josh LeRibeus filled in last year, obviously, Austin Reiter has done a good job. So, we feel good about our center position.

“He just became available, started in the Super Bowl, played a lot of downs for New England, so we want to take a look at him.”

Gruden brushed aside talk of any sort of Stork’s reported anger issues.
“I like angry offensive linemen, honestly,” Gruden said. “That’s the way they should be. I don’t know of anything a negative reputation. I just know he’s just played a lot of football.”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

The Patriots have gone to a familiar place to increase their defensive depth on the edge.

Continuing a long-standing relationship with the Browns, the Patriots acquired former first-round pick Barkeviovs Mingo from Cleveland, a source confirms to WEEI.com.

The Patriots have gone to a familiar place to increase their defensive depth on the edge.

Continuing a long-standing relationship with the Browns, the Patriots acquired former first-round pick Barkeviovs Mingo from Cleveland. Details of the deal are still being finalized.

Mingo, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound linebacker, is a former first-round pick, selected sixth overall out of LSU in the 2013 draft by Cleveland. At LSU, he was considered one of the best edge defenders to enter the NFL in his class. Mingo had a pre-draft visit in Foxboro before then-Browns general manager and Bill Belichick confidant Mike Lombardi drafted him.

Like Dion Lewis, Mingo had bad luck in Cleveland staying healthy. In the second preseason game against the Lions in 2013, Mingo suffered a bruised lung and was hospitalized. Overall in 2013, Mingo played 15 games with 42 tackles, five sacks, and four passes defended. The next season, Mingo racked up 42 tackles and two sacks in 15 games. Last year, Mingo began the season as a starting outside linebacker but was relegated to back-up work after Week 2.

With Mingo falling down the depth chart in Cleveland, the Browns, in May, decided not to pick up the fifth year on Mingo’s contract as a first-round pick.

Still only 25, Mingo is clearly the kind of raw talent Belichick seeks out at low-risk. He also comes from two programs (LSU, Browns) that he has intimate knowledge of how a player is developed.

Mingo played for coach Les Miles at LSU. As a redshirt freshman in 2010, he started one of 13 games, recording 35 tackles and 3.5 sacks As a sophomore in 2011, Mingo was a second all-SEC selection after recording 47 tackles and eight sacks. As a junior in 2012, he played in all 13 games with 10 starts, and earned second team All-SEC honors after recording 38 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss, and 4.5 quarterback sacks. He also led the Tigers with 12 quarterback hurries. He was one of 10 LSU Tigers to declare early for the NFL draft in 2013.

The Patriots hit it big with Jabaal Sheard last year and put so much stock in the defensive end pass rush specialist that they felt confident in trading away Chandler Jones to the Cardinals in the offseason.

Then Rob Ninkovich went down with a torn triceps muscle in his left arm and Sheard reportedly suffered a sprained MCL at the start of the preseason. Both players have been spotted around the team and are not expected to miss long periods of time. But the addition of Mingo does offer some depth that Belichick values. Mingo joins Chris Long, Shea McClellin and a group of first-and-second year edge rushers.

The Browns also played a key role in helping the Patriots offense last season, as they let go of running back Dion Lewis, who was also cut by the Colts, before being picked up by New England. Lewis was the most productive player from the line of scrimmage before tearing his left ACL last Nov. 8 against the Redskins.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Does Aaron Dobson deserve a spot on the Patriots' final 53-man roster? (Kevin Hoffman/USA Today Sports)

Does Aaron Dobson deserve a spot on the Patriots’ final 53-man roster? (Kevin Hoffman/USA Today Sports)

The third preseason game is typically as close to a regular season game as there is, so Friday night’s Patriots-Panthers game should be the most intense in the preseason and also a good test to go against a team that just reached the Super Bowl.

NFL rosters get cut down to 75 players next Tuesday before the final 53-man rosters need to be set by Sept 3. With that in mind, reps in the final two preseason games are extremely important for some players vying for final roster spots.

Here are five positional battles to keep an eye on both Friday night and in the final preseason game next Thursday against the Giants.

1. Wide receiver

The position got a little more clear this week with the team cutting Nate Washington. It now leaves Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Keshawn Martin, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Aaron Dobson, DeAndre Carter, Chris Harper and Devin Lucien left. It doesn’t appear likely Amendola will be ready to start Week 1 and PUP to start the season remains in play. Typically, the Patriots keep five wide receivers including Matthew Slater, so it would appear Edelman, Martin and Hogan are locks to open the year on the 53-man roster, leaving Dobson, Mitchell and Harper battling for the fourth receiver spot on the roster (fifth being Slater). It is possible the team could keep six wide outs, including Slater, and then try and sneak the odd man out of Dobson, Mitchell, Harper on to the practice squad. Dobson and Harper have been given extensive playing time over the first two games and neither have done anything to separate themselves.

2. Cornerback

The battle is for the fifth cornerback spot as it would seem Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan and Cyrus Jones are definitely locks and likely Justin Coleman as well. Competing for the fifth cornerback spot are Cre’von LeBlanc, Jonathan Jones and Darryl Roberts. LeBlanc and Jones have both stood out so far in the preseason and seem to have the edge over Roberts. On the flip side, Coleman has struggled in the preseason, especially last Thursday against the Bears, which is something to take note of. There’s a chance given the number of versatile safeties, the team could only carry four cornerbacks to be able to carry an extra player at another position. Friday night is big for Coleman, LeBlanc, Jones and Roberts to prove they can compete and deserve a spot on the final 53.

3. Running back

After releasing Donald Brown on Tuesday, the team now has Dion Lewis, James Develin, LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden, Tyler Gaffney, James White, Joey Iosefa and D.J. Foster left competing for spots. Lewis is almost certain to start the season on PUP as Blount, White and Bolden appear to be locks with Gaffney and Foster perhaps battling for the final running back spot. Foster hasn’t played yet in the preseason, so if he does Friday night, it will be huge for him to show what he can do against NFL talent. Develin is also a lock and from this view point, Iosefa is a practice squad candidate. There’s also a good chance the team adds a player from outside the organization either via trade or a player who gets released as this is a position that seems to need an upgrade.

4. Defensive line

The defensive line didn’t seem like much of a competitive position going into the preseason, but it’s turned into one. Rob Ninkovich’s status is up in the air for Week 1 with a triceps injury and Jabaal Sheard is working his way back from a reported sprained MCL, which may mean a spot or two could be made available. Alan Branch has been suspended from the team and hasn’t been around all week, which leaves Chris Long, Terrance Knighton, Malcom Brown, Vincent Valentine, Trey Flowers, Geneo Grissom, Markus Kuhn, Joe Vellano, Frank Kearse, Anthony Johnson and Woodrow Hamilton battling for spots. It was interesting to see Knighton playing in the fourth quarter last Thursday night, as well as Johnson getting first-team reps. Valentine, a rookie, has been impressive as well. It’s unclear with the injuries just how many defensive linemen will be kept, but Friday night is big for players like Grissom, Kuhn, Johnson and Knighton.

5. Tight end

This is a battle for the third tight and it’s come down to A.J. Derby and Clay Harbor. Through the spring and into the first two preseason games, Derby has been one of the most impressive players on the entire roster. After being placed on season-ending injured reserve last summer, the second-year player has made the most of his opportunities so far this summer. Harbor, who the Patriots signed this past offseason, missed a few practices at the beginning of camp, which set him back. As it stands now, Derby seems to have the edge on the final spot on the 53-man roster.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Does Aaron Dobson deserve a spot on the Patriots' final 53-man roster? (Kevin Hoffman/USA Today Sports)

Does Aaron Dobson deserve a spot on the Patriots’ final 53-man roster? (Kevin Hoffman/USA Today Sports)

The third preseason game is typically as close to a regular season game as there is, so Friday night’s Patriots-Panthers game should be the most intense in the preseason and also a good test to go against a team that just reached the Super Bowl.

NFL rosters get cut down to 75 players next Tuesday before the final 53-man rosters need to be set by Sept 3. With that in mind, reps in the final two preseason games are extremely important for some players vying for final roster spots.

Here are five positional battles to keep an eye on both Friday night and in the final preseason game next Thursday against the Giants.

1. Wide receiver

The position got a little more clear this week with the team cutting Nate Washington. It now leaves Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Keshawn Martin, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Aaron Dobson, DeAndre Carter, Chris Harper and Devin Lucien left. It doesn’t appear likely Amendola will be ready to start Week 1 and PUP to start the season remains in play. Typically, the Patriots keep five wide receivers including Matthew Slater, so it would appear Edelman, Martin and Hogan are locks to open the year on the 53-man roster, leaving Dobson, Mitchell and Harper battling for the fourth receiver spot on the roster (fifth being Slater). It is possible the team could keep six wide outs, including Slater, and then try and sneak the odd man out of Dobson, Mitchell, Harper on to the practice squad. Dobson and Harper have been given extensive playing time over the first two games and neither have done anything to separate themselves.

2. Cornerback

The battle is for the fifth cornerback spot as it would seem Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan and Cyrus Jones are definitely locks and likely Justin Coleman as well. Competing for the fifth cornerback spot are Cre’von LeBlanc, Jonathan Jones and Darryl Roberts. LeBlanc and Jones have both stood out so far in the preseason and seem to have the edge over Roberts. On the flip side, Coleman has struggled in the preseason, especially last Thursday against the Bears, which is something to take note of. There’s a chance given the number of versatile safeties, the team could only carry four cornerbacks to be able to carry an extra player at another position. Friday night is big for Coleman, LeBlanc, Jones and Roberts to prove they can compete and deserve a spot on the final 53.

3. Running back

After releasing Donald Brown on Tuesday, the team now has Dion Lewis, James Develin, LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden, Tyler Gaffney, James White, Joey Iosefa and D.J. Foster left competing for spots. Lewis is almost certain to start the season on PUP as Blount, White and Bolden appear to be locks with Gaffney and Foster perhaps battling for the final running back spot. Foster hasn’t played yet in the preseason, so if he does Friday night, it will be huge for him to show what he can do against NFL talent. Develin is also a lock and from this view point, Iosefa is a practice squad candidate. There’s also a good chance the team adds a player from outside the organization either via trade or a player who gets released as this is a position that seems to need an upgrade.

4. Defensive line

The defensive line didn’t seem like much of a competitive position going into the preseason, but it’s turned into one. Rob Ninkovich’s status is up in the air for Week 1 with a triceps injury and Jabaal Sheard is working his way back from a reported sprained MCL, which may mean a spot or two could be made available. Alan Branch has been suspended from the team and hasn’t been around all week, which leaves Chris Long, Terrance Knighton, Malcom Brown, Vincent Valentine, Trey Flowers, Geneo Grissom, Markus Kuhn, Joe Vellano, Frank Kearse, Anthony Johnson and Woodrow Hamilton battling for spots. It was interesting to see Knighton playing in the fourth quarter last Thursday night, as well as Johnson getting first-team reps. Valentine, a rookie, has been impressive as well. It’s unclear with the injuries just how many defensive linemen will be kept, but Friday night is big for players like Grissom, Kuhn, Johnson and Knighton.

5. Tight end

This is a battle for the third tight and it’s come down to A.J. Derby and Clay Harbor. Through the spring and into the first two preseason games, Derby has been one of the most impressive players on the entire roster. After being placed on season-ending injured reserve last summer, the second-year player has made the most of his opportunities so far this summer. Harbor, who the Patriots signed this past offseason, missed a few practices at the beginning of camp, which set him back. As it stands now, Derby seems to have the edge on the final spot on the 53-man roster.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable