Former Patriots receiver Brandon LaFell has only been with the Bengals for a couple of months, but he already likes what he sees out of Andy Dalton, saying the Cincy quarterback is capable of reaching Tom Brady’s level of success.

Brandon LaFell and Tom Brady were teammates for two seasons in New England. (Robert Deutsch/USA Today Sports)

Brandon LaFell and Tom Brady were teammates for two seasons in New England. (Robert Deutsch/USA Today Sports)

Former Patriots receiver Brandon LaFell has only been with the Bengals for a couple of months, but he already likes what he sees out of Andy Dalton, saying the Cincy quarterback is capable of reaching Tom Brady’s level of success.

LaFell has only worked with Dalton for a handful of practice sessions this spring, but believes there’s a legitimate comparison to be made between the two signal-callers, saying one day, Dalton could be in the same conversation as Brady.

“If we continue to take the steps we’re making, Andy could be a similar player like that,” LaFell told reporters on Wednesday.

LaFell, who had 107 catches via Brady in his two seasons (14th on the all-time list of receptions from the New England quarterback) said there’s a comparison to be made between the two on and off the field.

“Everybody respects (Dalton) just like everybody respects Brady,” LaFell said. “How Brady demanded the best out of everybody, Andy’s doing the same thing here.

“Both of those guys are smart guys. They always have the offense in the right play. They’re always getting the ball to the right person at the right time. They’re two different offenses, but both of those guys are winners.”

LaFell struggled with health last season before he was cut loose by the Patriots, but he was a key part of the 2014 team, catching 74 passes for 953 yards and seven touchdowns in New England’s most recent Super Bowl season. (In two years with the Patriots, he had 111 catches, 1,468 yards and seven touchdowns.)

“Being around a good quarterback makes everybody else on the field job that much easier,” LaFell said of Dalton and Brady when asked about the importance of good quarterback play. “With them having so much knowledge of the game, knowledge of the offense and playing with a high level of confidence, it kind of slows the game down for everybody else. And for me coming in learning the playbook, he’s helping me out in the huddle, helping me out off the field. It’s making me go out there and know the offense now and just going out there and playing fast and not worrying about anything else because he’s so good.”

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

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

New Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett is making the rounds at ESPN on Wednesday, and he stopped by SportsCenter to talk about what he anticipates his role being with the New England offense, as well as the personality the Patriots can now feature at the tight end position.

“If you want Martin Lawrence or Will Smith, then you come to me. If you want Chris Farley or Mike Myers, you go to Gronk,” he said with a smile.

Bennett also talked about what it was like finding out he had been dealt to New England.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

It sounds like the Patriots and Saints are going to be getting together for some joint practices this summer.

Looks like Sean Payton and Bill Belichick are going to be able to get some quality time in together this summer. (Chuck Cook/USA Today Sports)

Looks like Sean Payton and Bill Belichick are going to be able to get some quality time in together this summer. (Chuck Cook/USA Today Sports)

It sounds like the Patriots and Saints are going to be getting together for some joint practices this summer.

On Tuesday, New Orleans coach Sean Payton dropped a hint that the two teams are going to be taking part in joint practices in the days leading up to their preseason game in Foxboro on Aug. 11.

“Bill (Belichick) and I have talked,” Payton told reporters. “We’ll have the schedule at some point, but we’ll probably have a couple days of practice with them prior to that game.”

Payton’s Saints are scheduled to open the preseason at Gillette Stadium versus the Patriots at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 11.

The two sides have met for joint practices before exhibition games twice since 2012. It would be the second series of joint practices this summer for New England — the Bears and Patriots are also set to meet on the practice field in the days before their Aug. 18 game in Foxboro.

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

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Tom Brady and the Patriots are just about done with spring workouts. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady and the Patriots are just about done with spring workouts. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

With the spring OTAs coming to an end this week and minicamp done, here are 10 questions — in no particular order — we still have about the Patriots as the countdown to late July and training camp begins.

1. How soon can Julian Edelman return to full strength?

If you spend time obsessively monitoring social media, it appears there is some progress when it comes to the health of Edelman. He was healthy, he was in a walking boot (for some sort of procedure on the same foot he injured late last season) and now, it appears he’s out of the boot. It’s not like he needs a ton of reps to get up to speed with Tom Brady, but from this perspective, getting him on the field sooner rather than later would eliminate some of the uncertainty around his situation.

2. Was Aaron Dobson’s performance a tease, or something he can build on?

There were a ton of familiar faces on the offensive side of the ball missing from minicamp, but Dobson was the guy who did the best to take advantage of the opportunities he was given. He pretty much caught everything that was thrown in his direction over the course of the three days, but what impressed us the most was his compete level when going against cornerbacks. He consistently won the one-on-one battles, and flashed some moments of real talent. For a guy who has been a non-factor the last two years, the question is now whether or not he can build on that going forward into training camp as he continues to fight an uphill battle for a roster spot at the back end of the receivers’ depth chart.

3. Is Rob Gronkowski right when it comes to Jimmy Garoppolo?

We spend a lot of time talking to people like Gronkowski and Jeff Christiansen who know more than we do about Garoppolo and his development, and they all seem to believe that he’s ready to step in to start the year if Tom Brady is sidelined because of Deflategate. And he certainly looked the part over the course of the spring workouts — while the Patriots’ didn’t necessarily increase his workload, he looked confident and polished in the sessions that were open to the media. But the truth of the matter is that there’s no way of knowing what sort of quarterback Garoppolo will be when asked to take significant snaps. As Christiansen said, the opener on the road against the Cardinals would be a challenge for any signal-caller, but at the same time, three consecutive home games would appear to set up relatively nicely for the Eastern Illinois product. Ultimately, it’s a great unknown. Like Christiansen said, that’s why we buy the tickets, right?

4. Will we get some closure on Deflategate?

We are still waiting for the other shoe to drop when it comes to the en banc hearing, which means — as of this writing — there’s still uncertainly around the quarterback position for the first four games of the regular season. Short answer? The Patriots would love some clarity at quarterback sooner rather than later. For what it’s worth, they didn’t appear to deviate from the norm when it came to quarterback reps over the course of the spring workouts that were attended by the media, as it went Brady, Garoppolo and rookie Jacoby Brissett.

5. Can Cyrus Jones step in and start at nickel corner?

Over the course of the spring workouts — both minicamp and OTAs — it was hard not to notice how comfortable the rookie out of Alabama looked while playing alongside starting defensive backs like Malcolm Butler and Devin McCourty. At this stage of the offseason, when it comes to first-year players, all you’re looking for is that they aren’t consistent error-repeaters. And while it was hard to judge defense because there were no pads on, Jones looked to have no issues when it came to keeping up with the veterans. He’ll certainly bear watching when training camp comes around, but at this point, he appears to be headed in the right direction as a third/nickel corner. In addition, with no Edelman or Danny Amendola on the field, he had plenty of chances to work as a punt returner. While he bobbled a few, he looks like he’s certainly going to be part of the conversation at that position in 2016.

6. How many changes are we going to see when it comes to the defensive front seven?

It’s not like the Patriots are going to operate out of a 3-4 as their base defense this season, but a first glance of that side of the ball reveals that they will have the ability to be a little more multiple than they were last season. The addition of Terrance Knighton — a pure nose tackle — as well as the inclusion of multidimensional linebackers Shea McClellin, Jamie Collins and Rob Ninkovich — gave things a bit of a different over the spring sessions. It’ll be interesting to see how newcomers like Chris Long (who may have a slightly different role than he had in St. Louis) take to the system and how much more responsibility second-year defensive lineman Malcom Brown will have on his plate. But don’t be shocked if there are some new defensive wrinkles up front for the Patriots in 2016.

7. How healthy are Dion Lewis and LeGarrette Blount?

Trying to assess the state of the roster via spring workouts is always a dicey proposition, but it’s even tougher to figure out the state of the Patriots running game because we saw Lewis only once, and didn’t see Blount at all. The injuries to their two lead backs (not to mention the fact that fullback James Develin was on the shelf all year) left the New England running game stalled out by the end of the season. The Lewis and Blount combo can still be a powerful 1-2 punch for the Patriots’ ground game, but we’ll have to wait until July to get a real sense of where they are when it comes to their health. One thing worth noting — newcomer Donald Brown looked good this spring, particularly working as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. We didn’t include him on our initial 53-man roster projection, but if Lewis and/or Blount aren’t ready to go right out of the gate in July, he’s earned the right for more reps.

8. Can Dante Scarnecchia revive the offensive line?

Tough to tell at this point, because there were no pads on this spring and most of what we believe will be the starting offensive line (Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer and Tre’ Jackson) weren’t on the field at all when the media was let in to cover the workouts. Like the Lewis/Blount question, this is one we really won’t know about for sure until late July. And even then, the Patriots usually do a ton of shuffling up front in hopes of finding the right combination. Check back with us sometime around Labor Day for the answer to this one.

9. What’s a realistic ceiling, numbers-wise, at the tight end position?

A completely unscientific check of some of the best seasons for any tight end grouping revealed these to be the top 5:

2011 Patriots: Aaron Hernandez (79 catches, 910 yards, 7 TDs) and Rob Gronkowski (90 catches, 1,327 yards, 17 TDs)
169 catches, 2,237 yards, 24 TDs

1984 Chargers: Pete Holohan (56 catches, 734 yards, 1 TD), Kellen Winslow (55 catches, 663 yards, 2 TDs), Eric Sievers (41 catches, 438 yards, 3 TDs), Ron Egloff (11 catches, 92 yards)
150 catches, 1,927 yards, 6 TDs

1983 Chargers: Kellen Winslow (88 catches, 1,172 yards, 8 TDs), Eric Sievers (33 catches, 452 yards, 3 TDs), Pete Holohan (23 catches, 272 yards, 2 TDs).
144 catches, 1,896 yards, 13 TDs

2015 Titans: Delanie Walker (94 catches, 1,088 yards, 6 TDs), Anthony Fasano (26 catches, 289 yards, 2 TDs), Craig Stevens (12 catches, 121 yards, 2 TDs)
132 catches, 1,498 yards, 10 TDs

2004 Chiefs: Tony Gonzalez (102 catches, 1,258 yards, 7 TDs) and Jason Dunn (17 catches, 120 yards, 3 TDs)
119 catches, 1,378 yards, 10 TDs

Based on what we saw this spring, we’re going to put them in this neighborhood, provided both stay healthy for all 16 games. Even with Edelman, Amendola, Lewis and the rest of the offensive skill position players getting their share of targets, it’s reasonable to think that the Patriots could get somewhere in the vicinity of 150 receptions combined from the tight end spot.

10. Who’s going to be the next guy in line for a new contract?

While we in the media got all worked up about potential deals for Butler, Collins and Dont’a Hightower, it appears that the spring has come and gone without a new deal for any of them. From this viewpoint, at least one of them will get a new contract between now and the start of the regular season.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Michael Williams cleared waivers on Monday evening, and will spend the duration of the 2016 season on injured reserve with the Patriots.

The tight end reportedly suffered a torn ACL last Wednesday in minicamp and was waived by the team. The 6-foot-6, 269-pounder was acquired last season by the Patriots, and the former offensive tackle had three catches for 26 yards in 15 games in 2015 with New England.

The move will create some room at the back end of the depth chart, and likely allow Clay Harbor, A.J. Derby or another tight end to secure a roster spot in place of Williams.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

FOXBORO — While there’s some uncertainty around the Patriots quarterback position for the first four games of the season, it sounds like Rob Gronkowski believes New England will be in good hands if it has to turn to Jimmy Garoppolo.

Jimmy Garoppolo has a fan in Rob Gronkowski. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Jimmy Garoppolo has a fan in Rob Gronkowski. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — While there’s some uncertainty around the Patriots quarterback position for the first four games of the season, it sounds like Rob Gronkowski believes New England will be in good hands if it has to turn to Jimmy Garoppolo.

The big tight end talked Monday about the progress Garoppolo has made, and sounds like someone who would believe in the Eastern Illinois product if he has to start the first four games of the year in place of Tom Brady.

“He’s doing great — definitely,” Gronkowski said of Garoppolo. “You can see a huge development over the last two years in the way he handles the offense now. He’s doing a great job going out there, listening to coaches and just working together with the whole team.”

That’s not to say he’s lost faith in Brady. Gronkowski, who arrived in 2010, is the senior member of the Patriots’ skill positional group, and he said the quarterback looks like pretty much the same guy since the tight end was a rookie.

“He looks pretty good. No, he look’s great,” Gronkowski said. “He looks the same every day that I’ve been here. He’s always coming out with a competitive edge, his arm always looks strong. His football knowledge, you don’t have to talk about it, it’s second to none. He looks very sharp.”

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

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Rob Gronkowski was all smiles after Monday's OTA session. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)FOXBORO -- Put the offseason speculation machine into mothballs.