FOXBORO — As was the case last week, the Patriots will be playing a summer preseason game in very fall-like conditions as temperatures are expected to be in the low 70s with partly cloudy skies for the 7:30 p.m.

FOXBORO — As was the case last week, the Patriots will be playing a summer preseason game in very fall-like conditions as temperatures are expected to be in the low 70s with partly cloudy skies for the 7:30 p.m. kickoff against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.

There is no precipitation in the forecast, with a breeze expected out of the east at 10 MPH.

This is the game where Tom Brady, along with the rest of the Patriots starters, are expected to play at least the first half, barring any injury. Brady said this week he is looking forward to the picking up the tempo under all game conditions that are presented.

Linebacker Jerod Mayo, after missing last week for an unspecified reason, practiced this week and could get his first taste of preseason action.

Rob Gronkowski also took a step forward this week, joining in on 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 contact drills but is not expected to play. It would not be surprising to see the tight end skip the entire preseason and attempt to make his debut on opening day in Miami on Sept. 7, as he said this week was his intention.

Gronkowski and Mayo were among several Patriots taking part in pregame sideline-to-sideline sprints at 5 p.m. with trainer Jim Whelan and strength and conditioning coach Moses Cabrera, two and a half hours before kickoff. Also in the group of wind sprinters were Sebastian Vollmer and Dont’a Hightower.

The Vollmer sighting is significant, as he missed all three full practices this week and is likely to sit out the third game.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Chris Price joins the guys to talk about the upcoming game against the Carolina Panthers.

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A few weeks back, before training camps opened, we took a look at fantasy value based on a player’s average draft position. It’s the best way to estimate what a player’s price tag will be on draft day. Today I will update the prices of those players and I’ll add a few new options as well. It seemed like a good idea with so many fantasy drafts taking place this weekend. The players from the original article have their prior ADP in parentheses, and the original analysis in italics, followed by the updated outlook.

As we like to do at Rotobahn, we’ll be counting the values down from late selections to the early ones. A good journalist might call that burying the lead, but most fantasy footballers know the great players as well as the experts do. It’s the deep part of the talent pool where you can gain a big competitive advantage.

Jim Hackett and I will get into some of these players in Friday’s podcast and on the WEEI Fantasy Football Hour, so be sure to tune in. Our third show airs this Sunday at 7:30 a.m on 93.7.

For a look at our take on the top 500 fantasy options for 2014, head on over to Rotobahn, where you will also find scouting reports on over 60 rookies and projections for the upcoming season. Our cheat sheets are free, customizable and updated frequently.

If you’ve missed any of our preseason fantasy football content, you can access it below.

ADP data was obtained at Fantasy Football Calculator.

Andrew Hawkins, WR, Browns — ADP 187 (224)

He’s not being drafted at all in smaller leagues, and you can get him very late in large formats, as his ADP indicates. That’s not bad for a player who could be the Browns’ top receiver in 2014. Frankly, if he stays healthy, I can’t see anybody else on the roster outplaying him. In fairness, that speaks to how underrated Hawkins currently is, but it also speaks to how woefully thin Cleveland is at receiver.

Update: The word is getting out. Hawkins has jumped up significantly, but he’s still a solid value. He’s the one receiver in Cleveland who can get open consistently.

Odell Beckham, Jr., Giants — ADP 184 (163)

Do not wait until 163 to draft this guy. Beckham, for whatever reason, is being ignored in fantasy circles and we think he’s a potential WR3 in 12-team leagues. As we said in his Rotobahn scouting report, Beckham has perhaps the best hands we’ve seen since we scouted Michael Crabtree. He’s also got all the skills you want a receiver to have, including outstanding agility and speed. He should fit right into the Giants offense and could be a fantasy force from Day 1. He’s a steal at his current ADP.

Update: The rookie has been struggling since he injured his hamstring early on in camp. I have no choice but to downgrade Beckham, and I have. Guess what? He’s still a nice upside pick at his old ADP and a potential steal at his new one. Do not let this guy go undrafted in large leagues. He could really pay off once he gets healthy.

Justin Hunter, WR, Titans — ADP 118 (159)

Hunter’s ADP has risen about 10 spots over the last month … and he’ll jump a bit more before most of us draft, but he still projects as a value this season. He should be ready to take a step forward in 2014, and with Kenny Britt now gone, Hunter’s snap totals should more than double. We expect him to be a starter or an in-effect starter. He has a chance to post double-digit scores if things go well in Tennessee. Hunter is by far the most explosive athlete the Titans have on offense. He has WR1 upside in long-term leagues and has the upside to be a WR2 this year. He should be off the board somewhere around the 100 mark, in our opinion. He’s a potential steal right now.

Update: This guy is ruining our little secret. He caught a pair of touchdown passes last week and has been making highlight-reel catches with regularity in camp. He’s still a value, but be careful not to reach. I’ve seen Hunter going in the sixth round a few times and you are getting risk and value in equal measure if you invest at that level. Check out some of my other 2014 Breakout Players if you haven’t already done so.

Aaron Dobson, WR, Patriots — ADP 171 (138)

This could change, and you may pay a bit more for him in this part of the country, but Dobson is a pretty solid WR3 option in 12-team leagues if he’s healthy — and the news on his foot has been positive lately. If he’s starting at split end, he’s worth a pick closer to 100 overall, and he’d still have some upside there due to his touchdown potential.

Update: Dobson is the opposite of Hunter. The Patriots have been careful with him and that’s led to no buzz and a declining ADP. I say take advantage of that. Dobson still has an excellent chance to be the main man at split end and he could make a run at double-digit touchdowns with that gig. He’s a potential steal right now.

Marvin Jones, WR, Bengals — ADP 163 (129)

As with Hunter, Jones’ ADP has risen a bit this summer and he’ll move up another round, and perhaps more in the coming weeks, but we still like him at that price tag. He’s a much more complete player than he gets credit for, and he should have no problem holding on to the starter’s spot opposite A.J. Green. He looks like a borderline WR3 to us in 12-team leagues with upside to be more.

Update: Jones broke his foot and is out until roughly Week 5. He’s still a player to target deep in large formats, but he is off the small league radar for now. Mohamed Sanu will hold down the fort opposite Green until Jones returns.

Martellus Bennett, TE, Bears — ADP 131 (141)

This guy’s ADP is a bit mind-boggling to us. He’s a stud talent in a great offense, and he’s going to see single coverage all year long. Bennett is a big part of the passing game whether the Bears are between the 20s or in the red zone. We expect TE1 numbers if he stays healthy. At 141 overall, that’s a great value. Heck, he’s a value at 100.

Update: His ADP has dropped but his value has not. This is the guy to target if you plan on waiting out the run at tight end. He could easily score 10 times.

Kenny Stills, WR, Saints — ADP 130 (122)

Stills played an amazing 61 percent of the Saints’ offensive snaps as a rookie in 2013, and that number is expected to rise in 2014. We’d be shocked if Stills wasn’t a WR3-caliber performer in 12-team leagues, and he has some upside if you draft him at that level. People still are underestimating how good the former Oklahoma Sooner is. If you can draft Stills any time after 100 players have been taken, you are getting a very nice value. We expect his ADP to rise a bit more, and we’ll be keeping tabs on him in camp. Our original scouting report on Stills is worth a look if you are not all that familiar with him.

Update: Stills has missed some time with a quad injury but he projects to be full-go for Week 1. He’s one of the better values out there as far as I am concerned. No way can teams deal with Stills once they deploy the resources required to slow down Jimmy Graham and rookie Brandin Cooks. He’s a WR3 at WR5 prices.

 Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks — ADP 121 (118)

Are you kidding me? I’m blown away by this one. People obviously are concerned about Seattle’s receivers, but Wilson is getting a healthy Percy Harvin back, which more than makes up for the loss of Golden Tate. We also love the Seahawks‘ draft. We are very high on both Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood. Both could pay immediate dividends. There are currently 14 quarterbacks getting taken ahead of Wilson, and while we can make an argument for all of them, we would rather point out that taking Russell Wilson as your QB1 at 118 or thereabouts is highway robbery and a great way to play the QB position this season. We think he’s an utter steal anywhere after Round 8 in 12-team leagues. This is why you wait on QBs, folks.

Update: I have stolen Wilson more times than I can count. Waiting for the likes of Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Jay Cutler is good business in 2014.

Tavon Austin, WR, Rams — 113 (111)

There’s some risk here, which is why a player with Austin’s absurd talent is available this late. This is an example of fantasy GMs overadjusting to a rookie who performed like a rookie. If you can draft Austin anywhere near his ADP as your fourth or fifth receiver, I think it’s well worth the risk. I’d be shocked if he didn’t improve on last year’s numbers.

Update: He’s still there for the taking. While he’s not a high-priority pick at his ADP, he’s got plenty of upside, especially in PPR formats. If he slips a round or two, he’s a potential steal.

Khiry Robinson, RB, Saints — ADP 124 (100)

Robinson could be a huge value when you look at the composition of the Saints backfield going into 2014. With Darren Sproles gone to Philadelphia, we see a shift coming. We think you’ll see more power running and play-action with the usual affinity for the screen game. While we still expect Pierre Thomas to have some PPR value, we see a regression from his 2013 numbers. With both Kenny Stills and rookie Brandin Cooks, the Saints will be able to get back to taking big shots downfield off of the power run game and out of their spread formations. On the ground, we expect the Saints to rely heavily on both Robinson and Mark Ingram, but Ingram’s injury history makes Robinson the more appealing fantasy option. He’s a potential steal at 100 overall. Robinson could evolve into a RB2 option in 12-team leagues as the season progresses, but I anticipate flex value in 12-team leagues early on.

Update: His ADP has dropped due to the impressive preseason performance of Ingram. This is not shocking, as Ingram is a good back in his own right. That said, he’s still got a shaky injury history and you now can steal Robinson in Round 11. If I am looking for a running back at that stage of a draft, I will be very happy to roster Robinson.

Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings — ADP 90 (99)

He can be your starter in any format and most any league size, and you can usually get him in the ninth round. That’s good value for a Norv Turner tight end with talent in abundance. I think we know all the names at this point. The point is that Turner’s tight ends tend to have big years, and we expect a TE1-level campaign from Rudolph unless he gets hurt.

Update: His price tag now is the eighth round, and I am more than willing to pay that price if I need a tight end at that juncture. Rudolph is screaming “breakout” right now.

Eric Decker, WR, Jets — ADP 96 (93)

The disrespect visited on this player is reaching epic proportions. How many touchdowns does a guy need to score to earn some fantasy love? Do people forget that Decker scored eight times while catching passes from Tim Tebow? Decker is not just a product of Peyton Manning. Getting Decker anywhere near his current ADP is theft — pure and simple. He’s going to be the Jets’ most targeted receiver and he’ll have fantasy value by sheer attrition. Take the former Bronco as your WR3 and enjoy the rewards.

Update: The dissing continues. Decker’s been somewhat quiet during preseason as the Jets keep him healthy and desperately search for a player who can play on the other side of the formation. This guy is a lock No. 1 on his own team. It might not be all peaches and cream because the Jets are a work in progress, to be kind, but he is going to see the ball. He’s a very solid WR3 with WR2 potential if the Jets play decent ball. I’ve been snatching him up in the seventh round with regularity.

Colin Kaepernick, QB, 49ers — ADP 99 (89)

Read the tea leaves, folks. The 49ers muddied the waters at most of their skill positions with the additions of Stevie Johnson, Bruce Ellington and Carlos Hyde. While that throws a stick in the spokes of us fantasy GMs, it’s all good for Kaepernick’s value. This year’s model can easily play without Michael Crabtree, Frank Gore or Vernon Davis if need be. They have the depth. CK currently is the 11th QB being taken, and that makes him a stellar value in any league. Right now he is the other QB to wait on in addition to Russell Wilson. We like Jay Cutler, too, and a few others, but with Wilson and Kaepernick, you get youth and healthy track records in addition to great scoring potential.

Update: He’s an even bigger steal than he was before camp. I’m not sure what games people are watching, but I am even higher on Kaepernick now after seeing how deep Frisco is at the skill positions. In the words of Vinz Clortho, “Yes, have some.”

Terrance West, RB, Browns — ADP 94 (86)

This one requires a small leap of faith, but I plan on taking that leap in a few drafts this year if West’s ADP stays roughly where it is. I spent a few minutes with the Towson star at this year’s combine and I was impressed with his businesslike attitude. He was a player with a clear idea of what he needs to do to get where he wants to be. Since I spoke with West, he was drafted by Cleveland, and that means he’ll be running in Kyle Shanahan‘s zone scheme. I like the fit, and with starter Ben Tate‘s injury history, I am looking at West very seriously as a Round 8 investment. You can get a good look at West in his Rotobahn scouting report.

Update: Ben Tate is looking like the starter, but Tate’s injury history and the Browns’ intent to be run-heavy lead me to believe in West’s value as a flex option in 12-team leagues. I’m scooping him up at his current ADP. And, if Tate misses time, West has big upside.

Tom Brady, QB, Patriots — ADP 64 (74)

Brady was not far off the QB1 pace in 2013, and that was with just about everything going wrong. If you get 16 games out of Rob Gronkowski, I think Brady can be a top-six quarterback. The Patriots retained his most trusted option from 2013 in Julian Edelman, and I like Aaron Dobson‘s potential on the outside if his foot proves to be 100 percent by the start of training camp. With the departure of LeGarrette Blount, we see fewer games being dominated by the run and more games with Brady being Brady. I see a bounceback year for fantasy purposes and a nice value if you can get him around his ADP.

Update: He’s moved up as new information on Gronkowski’s status has been largely positive. I’m not targeting Brady at this level with all the depth at the position. Your best move is to let one of your local buddies overdraft Tommy Hall of Fame while you wait for value.

Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals — ADP 53 (57)

This one is a head-scratcher for sure. Floyd has already arrived, folks. He was one of our 2013 breakout candidates. He also plays in an improving offense that should provide him more scoring chances than he saw in 2013. I’m getting Floyd consistently in the fifth round in 12-team drafts, and that’s insane value by our math. We think he has WR1 upside this season and a WR3 floor barring injury. Take him anywhere after Round 3 in 12-team leagues as your WR2 and you will have done well.

Update: Floyd is still a great value and still one of my primary targets in Round 4 of drafts or even Round 5 if I get lucky. Draft this man.

Chris Johnson, RB, Jets — ADP 60 (52)

If you draft Johnson at his ADP, you are getting a running back who finished in the top 12 in most scoring systems in 2013 despite playing all four NFC West teams. In 2014 the Jets get the NFC North, which is more favorable, to put things mildly. When I reviewed Johnson’s 2013 film, he was still a very fast back. As a Jet, Johnson will yield some snaps and a good portion of goal-line duties to Chris Ivory, but that’s nothing new to Johnson, who has never made his bones by racking up a lot of short touchdowns. The now-tight-fisted Jets paid him a lot of money, especially when you look at what free agent backs were paid in 2013. They didn’t shell out big bucks for Chris Ivory insurance, folks. Johnson is going to get the ball. He has RB1 potential in 12-team leagues.

Update: The pundits already have held Chris Johnson‘s funeral, but the guy is very much alive. In fact, the Jets are paying him a lot more than any other back on their roster, and new GM John Idzik is tight-fisted with cap space, to put it mildly. Johnson’s in a committee, but he should be the main man and the Jets are looking a lot more creative with Johnson than the Titans were over the last several seasons. Johnson’s a value at his current ADP in all formats. There’s no need to reach for him. He’ll usually fall to you in the late fifth or early sixth.

C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills — ADP 35 (31)

People are understandably concerned after Spiller’s rough 2013, which was marred by a high-ankle sprain. Making matters worse was the Bills’ total mismanagement of that injury. No way would we risk a first-rounder on Spiller after watching the Bills last season, but we are very happy to take him in Round 3 as an RB2 with high-end RB1 upside. It’s a no-brainer from a risk standpoint — the kind of pick that can win you a league. We’re loving Spiller at his current ADP in all formats.

Update: While I love Spiller’s talents, I am beginning to have doubts about Doug Marrone‘s coaching staff and play-calling. They lack imagination, and you need it in Spiller’s case. I am willing to take Spiller at his ADP, but he’s no longer a big value unless the Bills are playing possum. From what I see, Buffalo’s backfield is going be a committee again, and that would take Spiller’s RB1 upside away. Temper expectations a bit.

Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona — ADP 29 (30)

We have Ellington rated nine spots higher and we actually project him to produce RB1 numbers in PPR leagues if he can stay healthy. Ellington has a hammer lock on a big role in an improving offense. His offensive line will be significantly better in 2014 and his snap total conceivably could double in comparison to his rookie campaign. If he’s available at 30 overall, I am definitely looking to draft Ellington. He was one of our underrated rookies in 2013. Check out his original Rotobahn scouting report.

Update: Ellington is holding steady and so is his value. HC Bruce Arians seems very committed to him as the primary running back. He should have increased value in PPR formats.

Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers — ADP 26 (24)

He was a first-round pick in a lot of leagues last year and his season ended early due to a shoulder injury. Martin should be 100 percent for 2014, and we are not as concerned about the competition in his backfield as the general public seems to be. Martin still should be the primary goal-line option and should get the majority of the carries. He could see a diminished role on third downs, but he was never an every-down back in the first place. According to Football Outsiders, Martin played 78 percent of the snaps in his rookie season. I suspect that he’ll play nearly that much in 2014 if he stays healthy. Right now in most drafts you can get him as your RB2 with the last pick of the second round. Not bad at all.

Update: Martin’s ADP has dropped while his value has gone up. Rookie Charles Sims is out for a few months and that should lock Martin in for a large portion of the offensive snaps. He’s a very nice target late in Round 2.

DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys — ADP 13 (15)

We have Murray ranked well inside the first round, so we think you are getting a steal if you can draft him at his current ADP. Murray will get the ball a ton in all phases of the game and he’s now running behind a very solid offensive line. If your league uses PPR scoring, that only increases Murray’s value. He caught a healthy 53 balls in 2013 and that number could actually increase in 2014 with new passing game coordinator Scott Linehan running the show.

Update: Word is getting out, but Murray still is a back to target if you are drafting near the end of Round 1.


Now that I’ve updated the early list, I thought it would only be fair to offer up a few more values. After all, we’ve lost a few in the last month to changing ADP, injury and other factors. Here are seven new names to consider at various points on the draft board.

Latavius Murray, RB, Raiders — ADP 258

The second year back out of UCF is going undrafted in a lot of leagues, but he should definitely be rostered in 12-team formats with typical bench size. Rotobahn was high on Murray when he was drafted by Oakland in 2013. Check out his original scouting report.

Mohamed Sanu, WR, Bengals — ADP 215

His ADP is rising and it will continue to do so. I’ve seen Sanu going in the 170s in a some drafts I’ve been in. He’ll start for the injured Marvin Jones for at least the first three games. So, he’s only a short-term fix, but if you are loaded with young receivers, he can be an outstanding way to bridge the gap for a few weeks. Horses for courses.

Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs — ADP 160

Kelce is one of the best sources of upside at the tight end position if you are looking late in a draft. He should be aired with a more stable option if possible, but Kelce has the potential to a season-long solution if he can block well enough to stay on the field. His big play ability is already there. Let’s face it, the Chiefs are desperate for weapons in the passing game. They can’t afford to waste this kid.

Marqise Lee, WR, Jaguars — ADP 155

He could end up being Jacksonville’s No. 1 option in the passing game, and that would give him solid WR3 status. I am all over Lee at his current ADP. If you’ve never seen him play, check out his Rotobahn scouting report.

Jordan Matthews, WR, Eagles — ADP 136

If you play in a savvy league, he won’t last this long. While I am not a big fan of drafting rookie receivers in redraft formats, Matthews is a player who can give you WR3 production at WR5 prices. It may not happen right out of the gate, but he has the potential to be the Eagles’ top target by year’s end. Check out Matthews’ scouting report if you don’t know his game well.

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers — ADP 97

The first-rounder out of Florida State is going to be the No. 1 receiver in Carolina this season. At least the Panthers will make every effort to establish him as such. When you look at Benjamin’s physicality and Cam Newton‘s ability to keep plays alive and make any throw known to man, you have to like the rookie’s upside at 97 overall. He’s worth the risk. Take a look at Benjamin’s scouting report if you are unfamiliar with his game.

Trent Richardson, RB, Colts — ADP 61

I can understand the trepidation to go all-in on a player who struggled so much in 2013, but taking a back with a starting job in the fifth round is not going all-in. He’s the goal-line back and lead back on a team that will move the ball and score points. He may not have RB1 upside running behind the Colts’ offensive line, but if he can just finish in the top 20, he’s a good value at his ADP.

Blog Author: 
Peter Davidson

Here are seven things we’re looking for when the Patriots host the Panthers Friday night in Foxboro in the third preseason game for both teams:

How much Tom Brady plays.

If history holds, Brady will play roughly 35-40 snaps over the course of Friday night’s game. Here’s a look at his workload in the third preseason game over the seven years:

2013: 16-for-24 for 185 yards and one pick in 45 snaps.
2012: 13-for-20 for 127 yards with 1 TD, one INT, 2 sacks in 45 snaps.
2011: 12-for-22 for 145 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT in 37 snaps. (In this one, Brady was knocked around pretty good in this game against a physical Lions front — he was sacked twice, fumbled once and was hit seven times.)
2010: 18-for-22 for 273 yards with 3 TDs in 30 snaps.
2009: 12-for-19 for 150 yards with 2 TDs, one sack in 29 snaps,
2008: DNP.
2007: 17-for-22 for 167 yards with 2 TDs (no snap information available).

Ideally, that would get him through the entirety of the first half and the first offensive series of the second half — it’s important for Brady and the starting offense to do as much as possible to simulate the regular-season experience. That includes finishing off the first half, taking the traditional break at halftime, and then returning to the field for the first series of the second half.

How much Stevan Ridley plays and if he holds on to the ball.

Ridley was in the spotlight again last week after losing the handle in the preseason win over the Eagles. Fair or not, his issues with ball security will continue to dog him until he proves he can hold on to the football for an extended stretch. Against Philly — even though it was a flukish looking fumble — it probably wasn’t entirely coincidental that he didn’t play any more after he put the ball on the ground, ending with 13 snaps. If he can put together a fumble-free outing against the Panthers, it’s an initial step in the right direction.

How the defense adjusts to the new points of emphasis.

We’ve seen a ton of flags over the course of the preseason as every gets used to the new points of emphasis. (According to ESPN Stats & Information, as of Thursday night, there were 116 defensive holding calls through Week 3 of the preseason. In the same stretch last year, there were 27.) While some cornerbacks have fundamentally shrugged their shoulders at the situation, it seems like there will be some sort of happy medium between now and the start of the regular season, as head of officiating Dean Blandino told NFL Network Thursday night, “When the regular season rolls around, everybody will be on the same page. I think you’ll see the foul totals go down.” Whether that means the officials will dial things back or the players will be fully up to speed on what they can and can’t do, no one knows. But the education for both the Patriots and Panthers will continue on Friday in Foxboro.

Who doesn’t play.

At this point, despite the fact that he was in pads and going through what appeared to be limited contact on Monday, it seems like a bit of reach to have Rob Gronkowski play at this point of the summer. (That would mean that recently re-signed rookie Justin Jones, as well as Steve Maneri and tight end/fullback James Develin would presumably get a good look at tight end.) The same is true for receiver Aaron Dobson, who is still working his way back from offseason foot surgery and is clearly not yet at 100 percent — it seems to be a stretch to have him on the field at this point. In addition, even though rookie defensive tackle Dominique Easley was at practice with his teammates in full pads on Monday, it seems a little early to try and throw him into the pool when it comes to playing time. (More of a chance for Joe Vellano, who exhaled again after Marcus Forston was cut loose on Thursday. Between the Forston release and the injury issues to Sealver Siliga and Chris Jones, Vellano has moved up the depth chart at defensive tackle without doing much of anything at all.) One question mark at this point is linebacker Jerod Mayo, who returned to practice this week after missing the three joint practices against the Eagles — he was predictably noncommittal when asked if he was going to be good to go this week, but if he doesn’t play, it will give another chance for youngsters like Steve Beauharnais to show what he can do when placed in the middle. And right tackle Sebastian Vollmer wasn’t spotted at practice all week, so it would be a shocker if he was out there with his teammates Friday.

How the guys on the bubble perform.

There are several players who have been around a year or two who need a good performance against the Panthers. With the first round of cuts around the corner (as of Thursday night, the Patriots have 87 players on their roster, but have to get to 75 by Tuesday afternoon), they need to get as much good stuff on film as possible, and are being pushed by either fellow vets or rookies for playing time.

The offensive line.

The Patriots rolled out a series of different combinations along the offensive line over the first two preseason games, and while you have to figure that things are relatively secure at the tackle spots (even though Vollmer has been banged up lately and won’t play Friday, when healthy, he’s the starting right tackle, while Nate Solder starts opposite him at left tackle) and left guard (Logan Mankins), there are still questions about what the Patriots want to do at the right guard and center positions. Dan Connolly has taken snaps at both spots, and figures to be in the mix for one of the jobs. Meanwhile, Jordan Devey has worked as a backup guard, as well as a starting right guard when Connolly moves to center. And veteran incumbent center Ryan Wendell has been yanked in and out of the lineup over the course of the summer. (We haven’t even touched on injured rookie center Bryan Stork, who has missed most of the last week-plus because of an unspecified health issue.) Expect Marcus Cannon to get the bulk of the snaps at right tackle in place of Vollmer, and the rest of the starters to go deep in this one. But with the understanding that the third game is traditionally the domain of the starters for the first two-plus quarters and because protection of Brady remains paramount, this will be one positional grouping we’ll be keeping a very close eye on in the early going.

The rookies — specifically Malcolm Butler, Jimmy Garoppolo, James White and Roy Finch.

Because so many veterans will be involved in the early stages of the game Friday night, this contest figures to be the closest thing to real regular-season reps for rookies as they are going to get before Week 1 against the Dolphins. In many ways, it will be a final exam for many of the rookies who have distinguished themselves over the course of the summer as potential impact players. Butler figures to get another good, long look — he took a team-high 49 snaps last week against the Eagles, according to Pro Football Focus — and could really cement his spot on the roster with another good outing Friday against the Panthers. (Although it remains to be seen how much he would have played if Alfonzo Dennard was healthy, there’s also the fact that you want to get as long a look as possible at an unknown like Butler.) Garoppolo should be relegated to second half duty, although it will be interesting to see when he plays, as Ryan Mallett was at practice all week. White has been underwhelming at times in game action, but has been mostly sharp in practice and both Bill Belichick and Brady speak highly of the fourth-rounder out of Wisconsin. And Finch had 71 yards from scrimmage last week against Philly, and averaged 7.9 yards per offensive touch. (He also averaged 26 yards on his two chances as a kick returner.) He should get a chance to build on that Friday against Carolina.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

FOXBORO — Perhaps the most important part of preparing for the third preseason game is the shift in the mental focus.

Shane Vereen, a running back and multi-talented and multi-faceted part of the Patriots offense, should feel pretty confident and sure of his place on the 53-man roster when final cuts are made on Aug. 30.

But it’s the nerves and mental preparation of this week that help him get fired up and focused with the regular season opener just three weeks from Sunday.

“Absolutely, I’d say say so,” Vereen said when asked if getting into a regular season week type of routine this week helps. “But at the end of the day you still have to work on what you have to work on and that’s what we’re trying to get out of this week.”

Of course, the main reason outsiders view this week as so important is that it’s traditionally the week starters play the first half and in some cases, come out to start the third quarter to simulate a regular season NFL game.

“I think people might say just because the starters play more so than they have in the past two games but at the same time, you have to look at each opportunity, each rep, as an opportunity, as a chance to get better and prepare yourself for Sept. 7,” Vereen added.

Vereen will once again be called upon to fill many different roles in the Patriots’ offense, including one of the most reliable third-down options Tom Brady has, along with Julian Edelman. Vereen says he has seen Brady up close and personal enough to know that there are some things that don’t change, like Brady’s game focus and his expectation of precision in execution.

“I can’t say I’ve learned a whole lot because this is my fourth year now,” Vereen said. “I’ve seen him lead us now for three seasons. He does exactly what he’s done every other year. He’s led us well, he’s led the offense well and we look forward to seeing that from him for the rest of the year.”

While he is not the bell cow in the running game that Stevan Ridley or Brandon Bolden represent, Vereen says he would still like to get his running legs under him, something that can be somewhat of a challenge in training camp and practices where contact is not always as frequent or forceful.

“It’s hit or miss, depending on the week, depending on the factors but it’s repetitions, and the fact that we can go out every day and get the rep in the run game is going to help us a lot down the line.”

The Carolina Panthers and their physical defensive front seven figure to provide plenty of physical challenges in the first half to help Vereen and the Patriots offensive line get their game legs in the regular season dress rehearsal.

“I think it’s good,” Vereen said. “We can kind of get back to the basics, things that we really need to work on but it’s going to be another tough test and l’m looking forward to that as well.

“They’ve only had two games as well so it’s early for them, too. They’re a good bunch. They were really good last year defensively and I expect the same this year.”

Vereen was asked if he’s learned anything different this training camp from his first three.

“I’m learning I have a long way to go,” he said. “Just now getting going, kind of feeling the waters, feeling more comfortable now and looking forward to the next game.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — As far as Tom Brady is concerned, go ahead and bring the heat, even in the preseason.

And certainly, with the Carolina Panthers coming to town Friday, the opponent certainly has the wherewithal to execute a blitz or two.

But usually, in the preseason, defensive coordinators like to hold off on showing too much on film when it comes to exotic or advanced defensive approaches. And offensive coordinators, similarly, do the same.

However, usual and customary are not two words commonly used to describe Rex Ryan. The Jets coach watched last Saturday as his defense was torched by Andy Dalton for 144 yards on 8-for-8 passing and a touchdown. His response? Start blitzing the Bengals second and third stringers along the offensive line.

Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander took some offense.

But if the Panthers want to do the same from the start against Tom Brady, the Patriots quarterback says he’d have no problem with it, since there is no “wrong” defense to play, even in the third preseason game.

“They can blitz, they can do whatever they want to do,” Brady said. “Every defense is right. Like every call, there is risk and reward to everything. If they’€™re going to blitz, then you’€™ve got to figure out a way to beat the blitz. If you don’€™t fix the blitz, they’€™re just going to keep running them. It’€™s the same thing on offense.”

Then Brady got to the heart of the matter and revealed what competition is all about, even in games that don’t count.

“If you see a weakness, you’€™re just going to keep going to it, and that’€™s what separates pro-caliber players from guys who aren’€™t. There are guys who can fix problems and know that this is what a team is trying to do, and then you figure out how to solve the problem, and then they’€™ve got to work on something else. But if you know there are weaknesses, that’€™s what you go after. That’€™s what pro football is all about.

“We’€™ve got two games left, and they’€™re both very important for our season, for our preparation leading up to the opener. Coach told us we’€™re going to get a lot of work, and what that means I don’€™t know. I don’€™t think anyone ever knows with him. But we’€™ll be prepared and ready to go for 60 minutes, and hopefully it’€™s a good 60 minutes. We’€™ve had a couple doozies in the third preseason game lately, and it’€™d be nice to have a good one.”

Brady also took some time to talk about the other Ohio team, which named its starting quarterback this week, old friend and teammate Brian Hoyer, Brady’s back-up between 2009 and 2011. Hoyer was chosen as the Browns starting QB over Johnny Manziel this week by Cleveland coach Mike Pettine.

“I love Brian. He’€™s just such a great guy, person and friend. We’€™ve always kept in touch,” Brady said. “I’€™m proud of him. He’€™s fought through some tough circumstances over the years, being released here, going to Arizona, getting a little bit of an opportunity there, and then really taking advantage of his opportunity in Cleveland. It’€™s great for him, and he’€™s a great player, so I’€™m very happy for him.”

Blog Author: 

The Patriots released defensive lineman Marcus Forston and tight end D.J. Williams on Thursday. Here’s a portion of the statement issued by the team on the moves:

The Patriots released defensive lineman Marcus Forston and tight end D.J. Williams on Thursday. Here’s a portion of the statement issued by the team on the moves:

Forston, 24, was originally signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent on May 10, 2012, out of Miami. The 6-foot-3, 305-pounder made the 53-man roster of training camp as a rookie but was released early in the season and brought back to the practice squad, where he spent the majority of the season. He eventually re-joined the 53-man roster prior to the AFC Championship Game but was inactive for the contest. He spent the majority of the 2013 season on the practice squad but had two stints on the 53-man roster, appearing in three games and registering three total tackles. Forston has played in four NFL games and has registered three total tackles.

Williams, 25, appeared in two regular-season games during two separate stints with the Patriots late last season. He first signed with the Patriots on Nov. 27, 2013, and then was re-signed on Dec. 9, 2014 after being released. The 6-foot-2, 245-pounder originally entered the NFL as a fifth-round draft pick (101st overall) by Green Bay out of Arkansas in 2011. Williams was waived by Green Bay on Aug. 31, 2013, and claimed off waivers and awarded to Jacksonville on Sept. 1, 2013. He was released by the Jaguars on Nov. 4, 2013. Williams has played in 35 NFL games with three starts and has nine receptions for 70 yards.

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Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
With the Pats game on Friday night, MFB does a version of Patriots Friday a day early with Jerod Mayo. He talks about the Carolina Panthers.