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Will Norton


Patriots Biggest Threats In The AFC

Steelers vs Patriots

The Patriots start training camp July 27th and there will be a lot to talk about but for now, let’s focus on the team’s big picture goals.  They are reloaded and looking to win another championship.  First, they gotta make it out of the AFC.  Who in the AFC can be a threat to the Patriots in getting to the Super Bowl? Normally a team with a solid defense with a good pass rush and a good offense that can keep up would have the best chance at beating the Patriots.  I have selected a few AFC teams that I think fit that mold and could be the biggest threat to the Patriots 2017 Season. Raiders The Raiders were one Derek Carr injury away from being legitimate threats to the Patriots in the AFC.  They have another shot this year with a talented offense and a dangerous duo at receiver via Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper.  Adding Marshawn Lynch behind that big offensive line will only help the passing game.  We’ll see how quickly Derek Carr bounces back from his injury and be able to leadRead More

Patriots Players On Defense To Focus On During Training Camp

Stephon Gilmore

Training camp is approaching and it’s starting to feel like football season again for Patriot fans and they’re pumped.  That’s understandable as most fans are excited about their team’s training camp but this season is different. There are contributors top to bottom at receiver and in the backfield, Gronk is back, and all of the new acquisitions this offseason makes for a lot of hype and excitement.  Last week I identified a player at each position group on offense that should be focused on.  Now I will focus on the defense which was amongst the best in the NFL and it will be fun to watch, especially with the new talent acquired. CB:  Stephon Gilmore No. 24 The Patriots made a huge splash in free agency when they acquired Stephon Gilmore on an affluent contract.  Gilmore’s unique combination of physicality and speed is why the Patriots got him and he has meshed well with the system and team admirably so far.  It should be fun to see him competing with the weapons we have on offense. D-Line:  Kony Ealy No. 94 Pass-rushRead More

Patriot Players On Offense To Focus On During Training Camp

Gronkowski Brady

The excitement and expectations are exceedingly high heading into training camp this season for the Patriots but things are quieting down in terms of news. Everyone in Patriot nation is getting ready for what will be a fun training camp with plenty of quality competition at all positions. I have pinpointed the key player at each position group to give more attention to during training camp. Let’s start with the offense first. QB:  Tom Brady No. 12 Tom Brady is entering his 20th professional season and is on a mission to continue playing at a high level as he turns 40 during camp.  It’s always all eyes on number 12 and nothing has changed except for the cast around him.  The number of quality weapons at Brady’s disposal this year makes it intriguing to see how well they can mesh together. O-Line:  Joe Thuney No. 60 Coach Belichick has talked about how much a player can benefit from having a full season under their belt and the jump they can make in year two.  Excited to see the leap Joe Thuney canRead More

Most Important Patriot Players Heading Into 2017

Julian Edelman

I think we all could agree that the Patriots most important player heading into this year would be Tom Brady by far. However, that would be the case for almost every team in the NFL.  Losing your franchise quarterback is essentially a season-ender.  Just look at the Raider’s last season, had a chance to take home-field advantage from the Patriots but a Derek Carr injury derailed that train and they were one and done in the playoffs. While excluding the quarterback position I have picked three players whom I believe are the most important for the Patriots this season.  What makes these players so important is the value they bring to the team along with their profound effect on the success of the team.  And here they are in no particular order. Dont’a Hightower – LB Dont’a Hightower is the signal caller for the defense and was voted co-captain for the first time last season.  Hightower is a prototypical Belichickian linebacker in terms of size, strength, and a high football IQ.  He is excellent against the run and the Patriots defense visiblyRead More

Patriots Continue to Splurge Signing Former Jets LB David Harris

David Harris

Former Jets linebacker and 10-year NFL veteran David Harris has joined the Patriots and plans to be a key contributor on a championship-caliber defense. Harris is known for his steadfast professionalism, work ethic and dependability throughout his years in New York. He has played all 16 games in all but two of his 10 seasons in the NFL.  The linebacker has superb tackling ability as he had 95 tackles recorded in 2016 which was 5 shy of having 5 straight 100-tackle seasons.  Harris seldom makes false reads and can make key adjustments at the line of scrimmage while running the defense. Head coach Bill Belichick had a lot of good things to say about Harris in 2014 including, “He’s a very instinctive player, which unfortunately we’ve seen that first hand.  He’s done a good job for them.  He’s been very consistent, durable, dependable, productive over a long period of time.” ” He’s been very consistent, durable, dependable, productive over a long period of time.” – HC Bill Belichick All of this makes David Harris a great fit in New England and heRead More

The NFL Doesn’t Have a Patriots Problem, The Steelers Do

New England Patriots vs the Pittsburg Steelers at Gillette Stadium

The last time a player from the Steelers predicted they were going to defeat the Patriots was back in 2007.  It was defensive back Anthony Smith who boldly predicted a victory which ended up backfiring as it really fired up the likes of Tom Brady and Randy Moss who both felt disrespected by it along with the rest of the team.  They let Smith know exactly how they felt. The Steelers ended up losing that game and have had little success since then against the Patriots going 1-5 in games in which Tom Brady is playing.  In those games, according to NFL research, Tom Brady has 19 touchdowns and zero interceptions along with a completion percentage above 70% and a passer rating of 127.5, not to mention he averages 314.8 yards per game. However even with their recent difficulties the Steelers still believe they can beat the Patriots and (obviously) aren’t afraid to say it. In a recent discussion with ESPN, Steelers LB Ryan Shazier added some fuel to the fire when asked about how he feels about a fanRead More

Julian Edelman Signs Contract Extension With Patriots

Julian Edelman

Julian Edelman and the Patriots have agreed to a two-year contract extension through the 2019 season.  The deal includes a $5 million signing bonus and a maximum value of $19.5 million dollars, as reported by ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss. Edelman will now likely end his career with the same team that drafted him after signing this new extension.The elite receiver and dynamic punt-returner began his extraordinary NFL journey with the Patriots after being drafted by the team in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL draft with the 232nd pick. The former Kent State dual-threat quarterback turned receiver has come a long way since then.  Edelman didn’t truly get his chance to shine at receiver until Wes Welker left New England via free agency prior to the 2013 season and ever since then he has earned the respect of his peers across the league as one of the best at his position.  A legend in New England,  Edelman has become the heartbeat of the team and is Tom Brady’s go-to target that the quarterback can rely on in crucial situations. There’s no denying that Edelman can playRead More

Areas The Patriots Should Focus On Improving

Patriots TC

The Patriots look strong through OTAs and it’s hard to find areas of weakness on this loaded roster. With that being said, no team is perfect and there is always room for improvement.  This was highlighted by head coach Bill Belichick who stated to the media, “It’s a new year it’s a new team so, we have a lot of new things and everybody’s starting all over again… I’m starting all over again the coaching staff is starting all over again the players are starting all over again… it’s a new year so we’ve all got a lot of work to do”. While the team will be looking to improve in every facet of the game it’s important to focus on key areas that need improvement the most.  I will focus on certain statistics that stood out to me as areas the Patriots need to focus on improving this season.  These statistics include average yard per rush, recorded sacks, interceptions, and the all-important time of possession. “It’s a new year it’s a new team so, we have a lot of newRead More

Patriots Add Another Weapon at Wide Receiver

Andrew Hawkins

The Patriots used some of their remaining cap space to add yet another wide receiver as they sign Andrew Hawkins to a one-year contract.  Hawkins is mainly used in the slot but has the flexibility to play on the outside and is a dependable route runner with reliable hands.  The receiver has taken carries out of the backfield as well as sweeps and end-arounds. Throw in experience returning kicks on special teams.  His best season was in 2014 when he had over 60 catches and 800 yards receiving.  Hawkins has dropped off in production but is looking to contribute for a contender. Andrew said he was looking to play for a contender and has found just that with the Patriots.  However, making this roster will not be smooth sailing for Hawkins as this receiving group is loaded with talent.  Secure at the top sits Julian Edelman, Tom Brady’s go to target and the heart and soul of the Patriots, speedster Brandin Cooks, and ex-lacrosse star Chris Hogan.  Malcolm Mitchell had a stand-out rookie season and will continue to work andRead More

Patriots Position Battles to Watch During OTAs

OTAs begin next week for the Patriots and with training camp starting in July it is an opportune time to discuss some key position battles that will be fun to watch this summer. Lead-Running Back:  James White v. Mike Gillislee v. Rex Burkhead Either of these backs can win the starting job in the Patriots backfield.  James White, the SuperBowl 51 hero, recently signed a contract extension and is in a great position to be the lead back this season as we head into OTAs.  This is because of his knowledge of the offense combined with his ability to run the ball hard and run routes like a receiver while catching the ball with ease.   Newly acquired backs Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead will look to prove their ability to learn the offense, carry the load and be all-around backs that the Patriots love to utilize in different ways.  As of now, Gillislee looks to be the front-runner to win the starting job as the lead back and would be used primarily on first, second downs and short yardage situations.  HeRead More

Patriot Players on Hot Seat Heading Into Training Camp

Bill Bilichick

The expectations are as high as ever for the Patriots.  They have a fully reloaded roster that looks primed to repeat, on paper.  While that is good news it may be bad news for some players who may have a hard time finding a spot on the roster.  Training camp will be key for these players to perform at a high level during practices and workouts to prove their value to the team. Certain players we can assume will be locks to make the team and keep their spots on the depth chart (Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski) but let us examine specific players that are on the hot seat heading into training camp.  We will start on offense. Offense: Brandon Bolden, RB:  I believe Brandon Bolden will be a Patriot in 2017 but I also put him on the hot seat.  After a down season last year Bolden will look to bounce back and remain a contributor on both special teams and offense when needed.  While still a contributor on special teams last year he struggled offensively. It will be difficultRead More

Patriots Add Mix of Veterans and Rookies During 2017 Draft

Bill Belichick

It is business as usual in New England this offseason.  Bill Belichick’s chant “no days off” echoed throughout the region and even after celebrating a fifth Superbowl victory it was known there was still more work needed to be done.  The Patriots kept busy during the draft process and added an array of players.  They were able to use their draft picks to trade for proven NFL talent and draft players they valued. Let us focus on how they used each draft pick to acquire talent.  Starting with their first round pick. 1st Round Pick – Brandin Cooks, WR:  The Patriots landed the star wideout by trading their 32nd overall first round pick to the Saints.  Just 23 years old, Brandin Cooks brings youth and proven talent to the offense but most importantly he brings blazing speed and quickness.  Tom Brady has not had a deep threat receiver like this since Randy Moss and will look to get on the same page with Cooks quickly.  An already potent passing offense just got more dynamic and should result in elevated production out of Cooks thisRead More

Adrian Peterson a Dream, Mike Gillislee Real Deal for Patriots

Adrian Peterson

It was all a dream it seems.  There were reports around the sports world of mutual interest between Adrian Peterson and the New England Patriots. The thought of Tom Brady and Adrian Peterson being on the same team scared many and was something the Patriots had to seriously consider.  At the same time, Peterson stated he wanted to play for a contender. However, the reality quickly sank in for the Patriots and the asking price from Peterson was more than they were willing to pay. He impressed during workouts, especially for a 32-year-old running back with a recent string of knee injuries.  Durability was still a concern though and with the lack of production in recent years, it provided more risk than reward in this situation.  They moved on to other options. After having had success stealing talent from division rivals in the past the Patriots decided to do that again targeting restricted free-agent, Mike Gillislee.  Gillislee, 26, in his fourth year in the NFL rushed for 8 touchdowns and averaged a league leading 5.7 yards per rush while sharing snaps with  LeSean McCoy in Buffalo.Read More