A.J. Derby

A.J. Derby

Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains a vaguely imperfect stat — a badly thrown ball from a quarterback can often go against the record of the receiver as opposed to the quarterback — it remains a good indication of the confidence level a passer or coach might have in said pass catcher. In addition, like our look at offensive opportunities in the preseason, it gives you some sort of indication as to the chances younger pass catchers are getting. With all that in mind, here’s a look at the target breakdown after the first three preseason games.

TE AJ Derby: 10 catches on 14 targets
WR Chris Hogan: 9 catches on 11 targets
TE Martellus Bennett: 5 catches on 10 targets
WR Aaron Dobson: 6 catches on 9 targets
RB James White: 4 catches on 7 targets
WR DeAndre Carter: 4 catches on 6 targets
RB Tyler Gaffney: 5 catches on 5 targets
WR Malcolm Mitchell: 4 catches on 5 targets
WR Devin Lucien: 1 catch on 5 targets
RB D.J. Foster: 3 catches on 3 targets
RB LeGarrette Blount: 3 catches on 3 targets
TE Clay Harbor: 2 catches on 3 targets
WR Julian Edelman: 1 catch on 3 targets
WR Chris Harper: 1 catch on 3 targets
TE Steven Scheu: 2 catches on 2 targets
FB Joey Iosefa: 1 catch on 2 targets
FB James Develin: 0 catches on 2 targets
WR Nate Washington: 1 catch on 1 target
RB Brandon Bolden: 1 catch on 1 target
TE Bryce Williams: 1 catch on 1 target
WR Keshawn Martin: 0 catches on 1 target

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

While exactly how the Patriots quarterback reps will be shared Thursday night is unknown, it does look like all three will be making the trip.

All three Patriots quarterbacks reportedly will make trip to New York. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

All three Patriots quarterbacks reportedly will make trip to New York. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

While exactly how the Patriots quarterback reps will be shared Thursday night is unknown, it does look like all three will be making the trip.

According to CSNNE’s Tom E. Curran, Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett will all be making the trip to MetLife Stadium for the fourth preseason game against the Giants.

Typically, if a player travels to a road preseason game, they play.

Brady and Garoppolo both said this week they would like to play in the game. For Brady, it’s his final chance to see game action until Week 5, as his four-game suspension begins this Saturday and for Garoppolo, it’s his last chance to get ready for Week 1 in Arizona. Usually in the fourth and final preseason game, much of the playing time goes to the third string quarterback, which in this case is Brissett.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

Well, we know what Tom Brady is going to do for at least a small part of his suspension.

Well, we know what Tom Brady is going to do for at least a small part of his suspension.

Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh told “The Rich Eisen Show” Wednesday that Brady will be the honorary captain for the Wolverines’ Week 3 game against Colorado, set for Sept. 17 at The Big House in Ann Arbor.

Brady said Tuesday he was still unsure as to what he was going to be doing during his upcoming four-game suspension.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower called in to the Ordway, Merloni & Fauria show on Wednesday to discuss the defense and other team news.

Dont'a Hightower

Dont’a Hightower

Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower called in to the Ordway, Merloni & Fauria show on Wednesday to discuss the defense and other team news. To hear the interview, go to the OM&F audio on demand page.

Hightower recently got some extra defensive help, as the Patriots traded for former LSU linebacker Barkevious Mingo from the Browns. Mingo, listed at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, might not look like an average linebacker, but Hightower said that the former Brown ‘has a great skill set’ that can help the defense in many ways.

A University of Alabama product himself, Hightower said he had heard of Mingo during his college days. The Crimson Tide and the Tigers may be rivals, but Hightower says there is no beef to squash with him and Mingo.

“I think it’s more of a mutual respect,” Hightower said. “Back in college, both defenses had a lot of highly recruited guys. … We both know each other or whatever, but most of that stuff is passed and [we’re] just trying to get him caught up and speed things up so he can get on the field and help us out.”

With 10 defensive starters returning this season, and plenty of new faces expected to make an impact, this Patriots defense has the chance to do something special. Hightower acknowledged that feeling during his interview.

“Everybody has definitely been more hands-on about it,” Hightower said. “Definitely feel like we’re making a lot of great strides in the right direction. We definitely feel like we’ve got something special, and we try to take advantage of that every day, whether it’s in the meeting rooms or on the field.”

Following are more highlights from the interview. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com.patriots.

On the team’s performance in last Friday’s 19-17 preseason win over the Panthers: “We knew what kind of team that Carolina has, I think we went down there and played a good game. Like you said, first time on the road … It was just a great test for all of us to go down there and play the way that we played. We may not have finished the way we wanted to, but definitely all the way around, we all competed.”

On having his locker moved to the former spot of Willie McGinest, Tedy Bruschi and Jerod Mayo: “I didn’t really know the history of it until a couple of weeks ago. I was kind of upset my locker did move that I’ve been in for going on five years, and then they just move my stuff without asking. But it’s definitely a great honor knowing all those guys and what they represent and what they mean, what they meant to the team. I’ll definitely try to fit both those honors as well as I can.”

On if he will play in the Patriots’ final preseason game agaianst the Giants on Thursday: “No clue, man. The best way to go about it is prepare like any other game, so I’ll be ready to go.”

Blog Author: 
Nicholas Frazier

Gene Steratore will work as the referee for Thursday’s preseason finale between the Patriots and Giants at MetLife Stadium, according to Football Zebras.

Steratore has worked as a referee since 2006. His last New England game came on Nov. 23, 2015, and included a botched call on the part of one of his crew members that potentially took some points off the board for the Patriots because of an inadvertent whistle.

For more on Steratore and his officiating history, check out his page at Pro Football Reference.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Jon Gruden had some advice for Jimmy Garoppolo. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Jon Gruden had some advice for Jimmy Garoppolo. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Perhaps nothing in sports will ever come close to what will happen with the Patriots in Weeks 1-4.

Future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady is suspended for the first four games of the season because of his Deflategate suspension and third-year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will take over, only to have Brady reclaim the starting job in Week 5.

Former coach and current Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden gave some advice to Garoppolo Tuesday on an ESPN conference call promoting Monday Night Football.

“Don’t be Tom Brady, just be Jimmy Garoppolo,” Gruden said. “And knowing Garoppolo after being around him coming out of Eastern Illinois, I think he’s comfortable in his own skin. He’s been well trained. He’s been with Josh McDaniels and Belichick for a while, and he knows this offense. But just be true to yourself. Go out there and put your spin on the offensive scheme. Don’t try to make decisions or try to make the throws that Brady made. Just be honest with what you like, what you don’t like. What you feel good about, what you don’t feel good about, and find a way to win a football game. Take it one snap at a time and just go out and play your best. Trust your preparation. Go showcase it.”

In his first two seasons in the league, Garoppolo has appeared in 11 games and is 20-for-31 with 188 yards and a touchdown.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Jimmy Garoppolo will have a spot on the 53-man roster. Who are the other 52 going to be? (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Jimmy Garoppolo will have a spot on the 53-man roster. Who are the other 52 going to be? (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

When the first episode of “Survivor: Foxboro” concluded on Tuesday afternoon, there were 75 players still remaining. For those who are left — especially those on the roster bubble — the opportunities to show something for the coaching staff are now few and far between. The final preseason game of the year is Thursday night in North Jersey, and final cuts to 53 come shortly after that.

As always, when it comes to these final roster projections, we want to make one thing perfectly clear: There will be plenty of roster shuffling between now and the start of the regular season. In 2013, there were 15 transactions made between the “final cuts” and start of the regular season. And that didn’t even include the practice squad moves. But it’s clear the basic foundational roster elements that will help shape New England this year already are in place. With that in mind, here’s our shot at predicting the group that will line up on opening night against the Cardinals.

OFFENSE — 24
Quarterback (2): Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett (Tom Brady suspended, four games)
Analysis: No changes this time around.

Running back (4): LeGarrette Blount, James White, Brandon Bolden, Tyler Gaffney (Dion Lewis on PUP)
Analysis: Also no changes here from our last projection.

Tight end (4): Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett, AJ Derby, James Develin
Analysis: With the Patriots cutting all sorts of veterans over the last week-plus and Clay Harbor still sticking around despite his limited reps, it’s clear that Derby can’t rest on his laurels, even at this point. (This will be an area worth focusing on Thursday night.) As always, Develin is with the tight ends because that’s his practice group.

Wide receiver (5): Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, Keshawn Martin, Malcolm Mitchell
Analysis: No changes from our previous projection, although there’s the possibility that Aaron Dobson finds a way to make it at the expense of another position. I’m interested to see what happens with Mitchell and the timeline around his return — it’s clear they’re counting on him to return sooner rather than later.

Offensive line (9): Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Josh Kline, Marcus Cannon, LaAdrian Waddle, Shaq Mason, Tre’ Jackson, Ted Karras. (Sebastian Vollmer on IR)
Analysis: Even with the movement this week, it still feels like there’s more to come here between now and opening night, likely in the form of another tackle. And we’re still trying to find a way to wedge guard Jonathan Cooper into the mix; the fact that he was back at practice on Tuesday, even after missing an extended stretch this summer, bodes well for his future.

DEFENSE — 23
Defensive line (9): Malcom Brown, Jabaal Sheard, Alan Branch, Chris Long, Rob Ninkovich, Vincent Valentine, Trey Flowers, Markus Kuhn, Anthony Johnson
Analysis: The departure of Terrance Knighton opens the door for Anthony Johnson.

Linebackers (5): Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Shea McClellin, Barkevious Mingo, Jonathan Freeny
Analysis: We hate to do this because we’re big fans of Rufus Johnson, but the Mingo pickup could mean the end of his time in Foxboro. Maybe they can stash him and his collection of awesome throwback jerseys somewhere? Elandon Roberts has also played well enough for the Patriots to find a spot for him somewhere this year.

Cornerbacks (5): Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Cyrus Jones, Justin Coleman, Darryl Roberts
Analysis: This started out as a slam-dunk, and while the first three on the list remain no-brainers, the rest of the field is probably still up for grabs. Coleman has experience in the system, but Roberts and Cre’von LeBlanc have both had good summers. (Then, there’s Jonathan Jones to consider.) If LeBlanc’s hip issue is a long-term thing, that could open the door for him to be stashed on IR this year, like Roberts last season. But ultimately, this is a wait-and-see scenario, one that will become clearer following Thursday’s preseason finale.

Safeties (4): Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Jordan Richards, Duron Harmon
Analysis: No changes from the last series of projections — these four seem pretty locked in, and the depth here can always be augmented with the likes of special teamers Nate Ebner and Brandon King, both of whom have safety experience.

SPECIAL TEAMS — 6
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Ryan Allen, long snapper Joe Cardona, special teamers Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner, Brandon King

Analysis: This crew is set. They’ll be joined by Kamu Grugier-Hill sooner rather than later — he seems to be ticketed for the practice squad.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price