Monday, September 7, 2015, 2:07pm
The Pittsburgh Steelers will be doing some guesswork when they prepare for the New England Patriots offense Thursday night, mostly because there exists zero minutes of tape on Rob Gronkowski and Scott Chandler together.
Gronk didn't play a snap in the preseason. Chandler only played versus Carolina. Adding the 6-foot-7 Chandler alongside Gronk, who is arguably the most dominant player at any position, could transform the Patriots offense. It's possible that the identity of the 2015 Pats is built around the double tight end set.
"We'll see; we haven't seen that yet this year," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "We'll see how, each team will probably have its own game plan to deal with whatever personnel we have out there, different combinations of people that we can have. It's hard to talk about just one or two players (without) the other three guys -- how are they aligned formationally? So I don't know. We'll try to create situations that stress the defense and if they overplay one thing and underplay something else, then hopefully we'll go to that softer point. I mean, that's what we're trying to do anyway. It's kind of a basic philosophy."
Brandon Bolden has previously filled the role of starting running back, but never consistently. He has registered only three career games of 10+ carries.
This past year, Bolden never carried more than five times in a game; in Week 16 against the Jets, when LeGarrette Blount was injured, Bolden carried five times, Jonas Gray carried six times and Shane Vereen carried six times.
We could see a similar distribution between Bolden, James White and Dion Lewis Thursday (although the overall number of attempts might be slightly higher, because the Jets dominated time of possession in that Week 16 game).
Pittsburgh ranked 6th in rush defense and 27th in pass defense a year ago, so the Pats -- also thin at wide receiver with Brandon LaFell on PUP and Reggie Wayne cut -- could feature lots of Rob Gronkowski and Scott Chandler. If Travaris Cadet is available, he could figure into the passing game, too. This may not be a 25-carry game on the ground.
The position that must sort it self out is the pass-catching, change-of-pace back. Whoever it is should have a fairly significant role in the offense. Right now, the first choice has to be Lewis, who displayed terrific change-of-direction and underrated power when given the opportunity in the preseason. Lewis can pass protect and has enough punch to run between the tackles.
The good news is once Blount returns Week 2, if healthy, the story said he should lead the team in attempts, yards and TDs for the season. In terms of pass catching, White has proved slippery in the open field, as well as Lewis. And Cadet hasn't proven anything as a member of the Patriots, which should be an indication of how much the team likes him. They kept him around despite not seeing him at all in the preseason due to a hamstring injury, the story went on to say. After what should be a committee approach Week 1, signs continue to point to Blount as the main back, but there remains three pass-catching options which could cause headaches for fantasy owners.
Tom Brady has beaten the NFL in the Deflategate court case, with U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman nullifying the league's four-game suspension Thursday.
Brady immediately becomes a mid-level QB1 and his ADP is bound to jump a couple of rounds from the 8th/9th round into the 5th/6th range. It's a bump for all of the Patriot skill position players, especially Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. Brady is dealing with a receiving corps (Brandon LaFell, Edelman) suffering from mysterious ailments, so he may not have a full complement of weapons for Week 1 against the Steelers. Still, he should provide solid QB1 numbers in 2015.
In an interview on WEEI's Dennis & Callahan radio show this morning, Gronkowski said that he's ready to go whenever summoned, but he's always taking his marching orders from Belichick.
“It’s always up to the coach’s decision,” Gronkowski said. “I’m ready to play when my number’s called, whenever they want me to go in. I mean, it is preseason, we’ve been practicing hard, we’ve been going against each other. We had great practices with the Saints; it’s been going well.”
The good news is there isn't anything keeping Gronk from playing in preseason games outside of the coaching staff. It's a trend we're starting to see more and more - teams just aren't risking losing players in a game that doesn't count. He's still the top TE available in fantasy drafts.
Garoppolo's most extensive NFL action came against the Buffalo Bills in the regular-season finale last December, a meaningless affair for the Patriots in which the rookie entered for Brady in the second half. He completed 10-of-17 passes for 90 yards and was sacked three times.
Drawing conclusions from the 32 snaps that Garoppolo played that afternoon can be dangerous, because the Patriots sat out two key receivers that Garoppolo will have at his disposal this season (Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman) and held out his two best offensive linemen (tackles Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer).
Yet the Bills, even having been eliminated from the playoffs, treated the game as if it had meaning -- they scratched only injured defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and cornerback Stephon Gilmore -- so the contest serves as a fair indication of how opposing defenses might attack Garoppolo in September.
Garoppolo is roughly the same size as Brady but is more mobile, however the story said the Pats can expect defenses to blitz Garoppolo often. The story also said don't rule out the Pats trying to find more ways to take advantage of Graoppolo's mobility instead of simplifying the playbook. Graoppolo will face two pretty tough defenses in Pittsburgh and Buffalo to start the season before seeing Jacksonville in Week 3 and Dallas in Week 4. Matt Flynn will be the backup.
There are plenty of ways to break down just how bad the Jaguars' offense has been the past several seasons, but the best way to illustrate the ineptness is by looking at how the unit has performed in the red zone.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Jaguars scored an NFL-low 13 touchdowns and completed an NFL-worst 39.1 percent of passes on an NFL-low 85 snaps in 32 red zone possessions in 2014. They were still last in TDs and completion percentage if you include the 2013 season, too.
The blame is spread between the quarterbacks, offensive line, backs and receivers, and play calling. Not much the Jaguars have tried the past two seasons has worked consistently and as a result the team has averaged just 15.5 points per game the past two seasons.
Things could be significantly better in 2015, though, thanks to the addition of tight end Julius Thomas. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder was not only one of the league's better tight ends the past two seasons – catching 108 passes, including 24 for touchdowns – he was one of the NFL's most effective players in the red zone.
Thomas had 13 catches in the red zone in 2014, including nine for touchdowns. Only Green Bay receiver Randall Cobb had more (10) and Thomas had the same number as New England's Rob Gronkowski, Miami's Mike Wallace, New Orleans' Jimmy Graham, and San Diego's Antonio Gates, the story said. Obviously potential owners of Thomas need to keep in mind the situation is now a little bit different. The Jags don't have the same weapons Denver had a year ago that also needed to be accounted for in the red zone, and don't forget about Peyton Manning as the QB. Still, Thomas will be looked at as a big red zone option, and if the Jag WRs can step up as threats, that should also help Thomas' chances to continue his success. Thomas is ranked eighth among our TEs and is available in the middle of drafts.
Saturday, June 20, 2015, 10:53am
Fred Davis’s tenure in New England didn’t last long.
Davis, the tight end who signed with the Patriots last month, was released by the team today. The Patriots apparently decided after this week’s minicamp that Davis simply didn’t fit on a tight end depth chart featuring star Rob Gronkowski and veterans Michael Hoomanawanui and Scott Chandler.
"No. 1, with maybe multiple tight end sets, that's gonna just open it up," Seahawks TE Jimmy Graham told the Seattle Times. "These last couple of years for me, playing against guys who aren't concerned about the run at all. They know I will try to do a double move and run this go route. It makes it more difficult. So this will just make my job easier when it comes to the passing game."
Graham's height and downfield ability have made him a feared weapon, but now paired with Russell Wilson, the tight end foresees a new dynamic in his game, which could lead to increased production.
"Russ’s ability to extend a play is unbelievable. Out there in New Orleans, everything was about timing so when you hit that step, that ball is coming ... And now when you hit a step and look back, maybe he saw something and now he’s scrambling so there’s a second opportunity.
"This offense and this team is dangerous on those second opportunities. When he gets out of the pocket and he’s able to work and kind of play street ball, which I’ve always been pretty good at, the offense is extremely explosive.”
Graham finished with 85 catches for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns, but his season was somewhat disappointing, especially down the stretch. He averaged 4.0 catches for 44 yards and 0.2 TD in his final five games, including a weird zero-target goose egg in Week 13 against Pittsburgh. Now he heads to Seattle, where the Seahawks have been looking to upgrade at tight end for a while. Graham's value takes a minor hit as he heads to the run-oriented Seahawks, though he'll continue to be a target hog given the current state of the Seattle receiving corps. His 14.6 PPR fantasy points was second at his position to Rob Gronkowski, and he's likely to be the second tight end off the board in 2015 fantasy drafts.
The Seahawks newest addition on offense was practically unstoppable near the goal line in the team’s first workout open to the media with Graham participating since the trade to acquire him from New Orleans in March.
Graham caught four touchdown passes in 7-on-7 drills and added another in full team drills. Any time Graham got singled up on a defender, Russell Wilson was throwing Graham’s direction and finding success in doing so.
“He’s a superstar, he’s going to be one for a long time, and my goal is to help him continue to grow,” Wilson said. “He looked great today, as you guys saw, and that’s how he looks every day, so it’s a spectacular thing.”
Graham finished with 85 catches for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns, but his season was somewhat disappointing, especially down the stretch. He averaged 4.0 catches for 44 yards and 0.2 TD in his final five games, including a weird zero-target goose egg in Week 13 against Pittsburgh. Now he heads to Seattle, where the Seahawks have been looking to upgrade at tight end for a while. Graham's value takes a minor hit as he heads to the run-oriented Seahawks, though he'll continue to be a target hog given the current state of the Seattle receiving corps. His 14.6 PPR fantasy points was second at his position to Rob Gronkowski, and he's likely to be the second tight end off the board in 2015 fantasy drafts, especially if his shoulder injury is fully behind him.
Scott Chandler isn't a "move" tight end, though. At 6-foot-7, 260 pounds, he's similar to Gronk. He's a massive in-line tight end and a matchup problem for all safeties.
The addition of Chandler could mean more snaps at wide receiver for Gronk. The Pats offense was particularly effective a year ago when both Gronk and Julian Edelman were split together on one side.
Keep an eye on Fred Davis here, too. In the midst of the Deflategate madness, the Pats signed the troubled tight end to a one-year deal. It's a flier, for sure, but Davis is a "move" tight end with plenty of talent and plenty of past off-the-field issues.
Chandler is no slouch. He produced in spots for the Bills and while he doesn't fit the profile of a typical "move" TE, the Pats could elect to use Gronk in that role while leaving Chandler inside.
The NFL took deflate-gate very seriously, hammering the New England Patriots with unheard of punishment in the matter of deflated footballs.
The league announced Monday that quarterback Tom Brady was suspended four games, the team was fined $1 million and will lose its 2016 first-round draft pick and a fourth-round pick in 2017.
If Brady doesn't win his (probable) appeal, his fantasy value will take a huge hit. The Patriots have a Week 4 bye, so he wouldn't be available to owners until Week 6. Jimmy Garoppolo will likely get the start in his place. One potential strategy would be to stream the position until his return, but it depends on how far his ADP falls. With a four game suspension, he won't be ranked in the top 25 in our initial projections. This will be a case of where his season-long ranking won't jibe with what he'll produce on a per game basis upon his return. The loss of Brady for four games will negatively impact the entire New England offense, though they have survived before without him (in 2008 with Matt Cassel). Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell all take a small hit.
Davis was suspended in 2014 following multiple off-the-field incidents. The Patriots have been aggressive at the tight end position this offseason by signing Scott Chandler and now Davis. It appears the team would like to get back to more of those two-TE sets they ran with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. The 29-year-old Davis has receiving chops -- he caught 59 passes for 796 yards and three touchdowns in 12 games in 2011, and had a 48-509-6 season in 2009.
Adam Schefter guesses that Patriots QB Tom Brady will face 'some sort of suspension' for DeflateGateThursday, May 7, 2015, 1:15pm
So what comes next for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots?
That's up for the NFL to determine. The Wells Report didn't find absolute evidence that the Patriots tampered with footballs. It found reason to believe they did.
ESPN's Adam Schefter appeared on WEEI Thursday morning to offer his take.
"If I had to guess, and I want to emphasize this is a guess, my guess is that Tom Brady is going to get some sort of suspension, a short suspension," Schefter said, via WEEI.com. "He's going to appeal it. He's going to have grounds to appeal it. He may even waive the appeal and this whole thing about air pressure in footballs continues to go on and detract from a sport and a defending world champion in a completely unnecessary way."
Jimmy Graham’s two-touchdown performance at the Pro Bowl could ease fears that his shoulder problem would linger and potentially require offseason surgery. Graham also caught a 23-yard pass in his third Pro Bowl.
“It made a big difference, just having some rest,” he said.
When asked whether his performance would rule out surgery, Graham said, “It should, which is really exciting.”
Graham finished with 85 catches for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns, but his season was somewhat disappointing, especially down the stretch. He averaged 4.0 catches for 44 yards and 0.2 TD in his final five games, including a weird zero-target goose egg in Week 13 against Pittsburgh. Still, his 14.6 PPR fantasy points was second at his position to Rob Gronkowski, and he's likely to be the second tight end off the board in 2015 fantasy drafts, especially if his shoulder injury is fully behind him.
The Ravens have only allowed five touchdowns to tight ends in the regular season, and they held Jimmy Graham to 47 yards receiving. Do the Ravens have a chance of slowing down Rob Gronkowski, or do you throw out those numbers because he is on a different level?
Patriots beat writer Mike Reiss: They can definitely slow Gronkowski, but it will come at a cost. One of the most impressive things about Gronkowski’s season to me is how his 82 catches for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns hardly tell the whole story. It’s plays like touchdown catches by Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen against the Broncos on Nov. 2 that highlight his true value because there were three to four defenders swarming around Gronkowski in the end zone, creating those one-on-one opportunities for Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen. That was pretty commonplace this season with Gronkowski, who is a pure combination tight end in the sense that he can also dominate as a blocker when he wants; it's not just catching the ball. So I’d be surprised if the Ravens can slow Gronkowski consistently with just one player like safety Will Hill. But if they want to devote extra resources to it, they can probably dictate the ball going elsewhere, and the Patriots have shown the ability to capitalize when that happens.
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