New England Patriots: Michael Buchanan

Weekly Patriots chat recap

May, 22, 2014
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Every Thursday on ESPNBoston.com there is a New England Patriots chat in the late morning/early afternoon. Today's chat kicked off at 1 p.m. ET, can be recapped here, and included some of the following topics:

1. First-round draft choice Dominique Easley and the increasing value of the penetrating defensive lineman.

2. Quarterback chatter: Jimmy Garoppolo/2014 vs. Ryan Mallett/2011.

3. Should the Patriots have given more consideration to signing undrafted Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla?

4. Rob Ninkovich and if he's been as productive as a 4-3 defensive end as he was as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

5. Following up on 2013 seventh-round draft choice Michael Buchanan as a possible option to add important pass-rushing depth.

6. Patriots running backs, from Stevan Ridley, to Stephen Houston, to James White and the departure of LeGarrette Blount.

Leftover pieces of Patriots mail

March, 27, 2014
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- A few leftover pieces of mail from the weekly New England Patriots mailbag:

Darryl Williams in Baltimore, Md., writes: Hey Mike, what would you predict the Patriots do about safety Adrian Wilson as far as a spot on the roster? I think Wilson would complement our secondary very well.

Reiss: Darryl, my feeling on Wilson has been that I'd be surprised if he's on the club. He looked to be on the roster bubble at the end of 2013 preseason (seemed a bit slow in preseason games) and if not for a season-ending injury, I had him on the outside looking in based on performance. That's why I haven't really factored him into the mix upon his return to health.




John M in Atlanta, Ga., writes: Maybe this isn't the most pressing question, but when will we know what number Darrelle Revis is going to wear? I'm sure he's hoping to pick up No. 24. (I ask because I bought a jersey shortly after he signed with the Pats, but I guess they can't start making them till they get the number situation sorted out.)

Reiss: John, this actually relates to our first question because Adrian Wilson currently owns the No. 24 and paid a "heavy" price to get it (a year's supply of Pampers diapers for cornerback/new dad Kyle Arrington). I think Revis will ultimately get 24, but the team still has Wilson on the roster, perhaps because he's still not 100 percent and a team can't cut an injured player.




Ramin in San Marcos, Texas, writes: Hey Mike, let's just say that we decide not to add another WR to what we already have and then all of them end up staying healthy through camp/preseason next year. Including Matthew Slater we would have to keep seven receivers on the roster unless we cut Kenbrell Thompkins or Josh Boyce. Now I really hope that does not happen so my question to you is, do you think Brandon LaFell is a lock to make the 2014 53-man roster with his $3 million dollar signing bonus, or could you see him being the odd man out (assuming we need the extra roster spot and everyone stays healthy)?

Reiss: Ramin, I'd put LaFell in the 99-percent category for being on the club. I'd be surprised if he wasn't when everything ultimately sorts itself out.




Toni Kemmerle in Brunswick, Maine, writes: After watching Jared Allen sign with the Bears, the Patriots do not seem to be in the running for the services of a high profile free agent defensive end who can rush the passer. Do you think they will try to fill this desperate need through the draft or by signing a number of affordable free agents and seeing what shakes out?

Reiss: Toni, at this point, I'd lean toward the draft as well as internal development with Michael Buchanan. I also think a second-year player like Jamie Collins can be a factor when given the opportunity to rush the passer. That is one of the things I've learned in an offseason study of different teams -- many of them talk about the idea/concept of trying to find the answers from within first. That could be in play here.




Bob K. in Cambridge, Mass., writes: How does the experimental PAT from the 20 during the preseason apply to 2-point conversions?

Reiss: Bob, if the team declares it's going for the 2-point conversion, the ball would be placed on the 2-yard line. If not, it goes to the 20 for the point-after attempt.

Football journey: DE Michael Buchanan

December, 7, 2013
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots have had success finding front-line contributors in the seventh round of the NFL draft in recent years, and rookie defensive end Michael Buchanan could be next in the pipeline.

The 226th overall pick out of the University of Illinois opened the season as the team’s top nickel rusher, a role previously held by the likes of Tully Banta-Cain, Mark Anderson and Andre Carter. While Buchanan isn’t currently playing as much on defense as he did earlier in the season, a result of Carter’s late-October return to the team, he’s still finding other ways to contribute.

“Now I’ve been asked to take on more of a special-teams role and I’m embracing that,” he said. “I want to do whatever I can to help the team win. Even to be out there on the field as a rookie is a blessing.”

[+] EnlargeMichael Buchanan
AP Photo/Michael DwyerA trim in his playing time hasn't discouraged Patriots rookie defensive end Michael Buchanan.
Buchanan, of course, had a key fumble recovery of a Julian Edelman muffed punt in the team’s overtime victory over the Broncos on Nov. 24.

One of the things that stands out with Buchanan is physical traits – at 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds, he is tall and has long arms. That’s been something that has been with him throughout his playing days, which is why he’s always worn No. 99.

“The teams I played on [as a youngster], the higher the number got, those usually went to the biggest players – and I was always tall. So 99 was the only one that fit me,” he said. “After that, it kind of stuck with me.”

Buchanan, who dons No. 99 with the Patriots, shares his “football journey”:

When he first started playing football: “I first tried in the third grade but I was too tall and didn't make weight. My mother didn’t want me to play up with the bigger, older kids. So my first official year playing was fourth grade.”

What got him started: “I was always playing sports and was always around sports when I was younger -- just playing in the streets, playing basketball, football, baseball, everything outside. After a while, my mother thought I should start doing organized sports because she saw I was pretty good at it. That’s how I got my start.”

First positions in football: “I was always a defensive end/outside linebacker. I played some wide receiver, tight end, and got to play running back for a few games.”

Favorite football teams growing up: “Being from Chicago, I was obviously a fan of the Chicago Bears and liked their defense – guys like Brian Urlacher. I was also a fan of the Eagles. I was always a Donovan McNabb fan and he’s from the area also.”

Role models growing up: “My biggest role model was my mother [Lolita Jordan]. She raised three boys, pretty much on her own. The biggest thing I learned from her was just strength and standing up for your family. I’ve seen her go through so much. My little brothers’ father weren’t really in their lives and we had our struggles growing up. She’s my rock. We had some tough times but she would never let it impact us; she wouldn’t show it and I didn’t realize it until I was older. Also, my father [Michael Buchanan Sr.]. One thing he definitely taught me was that somebody might have more talent than you, but hard work can beat talent. That’s something I’ve tried to live my life by, sports wise, always going hard and trying not to take a play off.”

Top football memories of Homewood Flossmoor High School: “One of the top memories was being elected captain of the team my junior year. The reason that was impactful to me was that we had a number of highly recruited seniors. The whole team was pretty much made up of seniors and for me to be a junior and a captain was pretty big. Also, my junior year, we made a run to the playoffs. We got to the game right before state.”

Why attending Illinois was the right choice: “For a number of reasons. First and foremost, it’s my home state. I definitely wanted to stay in state and represent where I’m from. It was good for me to go there because I’m the oldest of four and I wanted to be close to home to be around my little brothers and sisters. Also, because I was obviously a big fan of Coach [Ron] Zook at the time he was there. He told me I would come in and play and by my second year I would be starting. That ended up being true.”

Top football memories at Illinois: “Back-to-back bowl games. That was something Illinois had never done before.”

Expectations entering the NFL draft: “I really didn’t know. I heard a number of different things, but what I knew for sure was that I was given – somehow, somewhere – an opportunity to play in the NFL. That’s all I really cared about.”

Reacting to being selected in the seventh round by the Patriots: “To be in this organization, you’re blessed. From top to bottom, this is one of the greatest organizations in the NFL. I knew I would be given a fair opportunity to show my talents. I was really excited when I got that call.”

What he loves about football: “The intensity of it. If you make that big play, that sack, there is no other feeling like it. I just love being able to play a game when 11 guys are on the field at the same time and working towards a common goal.”

Lessons from the game of football: “You have to be consistent. Week in and week out, play after play after play, you can never get relaxed. You have to approach every single moment you have like a professional.”

Summing up his football journey: “It’s a journey that is yet to be completed. Still a long journey to go.”

Progress report: Rookies chip in

November, 7, 2013
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The New England Patriots have received significant contributions from their rookie class this season. In Bill Belichick's 14 years as head coach, this season ranks near the top of the list, if not at the top, in this area.

Following up Field Yates' progress report on second-year players from this morning, here is a rookie breakdown (alphabetical order):

Allen
Punter Ryan Allen: The undrafted free agent ranks 10th in the NFL with a 46.4 average and 16th in net punting (39.9) as he's proven to be up to the task of replacing veteran Zoltan Mesko. He's also the holder on field goals, and Stephen Gostkowski is 22 of 23 this season. Allen's eight touchbacks are tied for the NFL high, which is an area for improvement.

Guard Chris Barker: Claimed on waivers from the Dolphins at the final roster cutdown, the undrafted free agent from Nevada dressed for the first three games of the season as veteran backup Will Svitek was working his way back from a knee injury, but hasn't played on offense. This looks like a red-shirt year for him as the Patriots have avoided the risk of another team claiming him on waivers (Dolphins?) should they try to move him to the practice squad.

Linebacker Steve Beauharnais: The seventh-round draft choice from Rutgers has dressed for three games, but hasn't played on defense. This appears to be more of a red-shirt year for him.

Receiver Josh Boyce: The fourth-round draft choice from Texas Christian played in the first five games (1 catch, 24 yards) but has been inactive for the past four as veteran Austin Collie was viewed as a more consistent option. Boyce is one of the fastest receivers on the team, but appears to need a little more time to put it all together.

Defensive end Michael Buchanan: The seventh-round pick from Illinois opened the season as the primary right defensive end in sub packages, but a few struggles with rush-lane integrity (Oct. 6 vs. Bengals and Oct. 20 vs. Jets) led to the signing of veteran Andre Carter, who has since taken over that role. Buchanan contributes on special teams and is now No. 4 on the overall defensive end depth chart, with obvious upside.

Linebacker Jamie Collins: The second-round pick from Southern Mississippi has been a core special teams player and was integrated a bit more defensively after linebacker Jerod Mayo was lost to a season-ending injury Oct. 13. But after flashing a bit Oct. 20 vs. the Jets, he was pushed around in the first half against the Dolphins on Oct. 27 and has played sparingly on defense since. He has all the tools, but appears to need a bit more time.

Dobson
Receiver Aaron Dobson: The second-round pick from Marshall has come on strong in recent weeks, elevating to the top spot on the depth chart as the X outside target. He has 31 receptions for 454 yards with four touchdowns, and at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds gives the Patriots a combination of size and speed that they haven't had at the position since Randy Moss.

Safety Duron Harmon: Considered a reach as a third-round pick, the Rutgers product has been a top backup behind starters Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory, playing in some sub packages. He also filled in on special teams when core player Tavon Wilson was out with a hamstring injury. Teammates have talked about his smarts and his professional approach.

Defensive tackle Chris Jones: Claimed on waivers from the Buccaneers on Sept. 11, he earns our vote for Patriots "rookie of the first half" with five sacks in six games played. At 6-foot-1 and 309 pounds, his quickness has been an asset as an interior rusher, and he's been competitive from a strength/physical standpoint on run plays. Waived by the Texans, who drafted him in the sixth round, he briefly landed in Tampa before the Buccaneers let him go and the Patriots pounced. He has proven to be a steal.

Ryan
Cornerback Logan Ryan: The third-round pick from Rutgers has made some big plays, such as an interception return for a touchdown against the Jets on Oct. 20, as he's been thrust into a top reserve role in recent weeks with Aqib Talib out. At 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, he has mostly been competitive in coverage and shown a willingness to play the run.

Receiver Kenbrell Thompkins: The undrafted free agent from Cincinnati has slid down the depth chart the past two weeks after serving mostly as the primary X option on the outside (23 catches, 334 yards, 4 TDs) through the first seven games. He made the big game-winning catch against the Saints on Oct. 13, but has since been passed on the depth chart by Dobson.

Defensive tackle Joe Vellano: The undrafted free agent from Maryland is one of the surprises of the season. After opening the season as the No. 3 option behind Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, he has been thrust into a starting role as both veterans have been lost to season-ending injuries. At 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds, he might be viewed as undersized by some, but he wins with technique and scrappiness.

How Patriots filled Matthew Slater void

September, 23, 2013
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots were without special-teams captain Matthew Slater in Sunday's 23-3 victory over the Buccaneers. A big part of Slater's value is that he plays on each of the "Big 4" units -- kickoff return, kickoff coverage, punt return, punt coverage -- so when a player like that is injured it often means multiple players are tapped to fill the void.

Here is a look at how the Patriots compensated:

Duron Harmon on punt coverage. The third-round pick from Rutgers was the choice to serve as one of the team's gunners opposite Marquice Cole. Slater's work as a gunner, where he often faces double teams, is considered exemplary.

Brandon Bolden on kickoff return. Slater is usually back deep on the kickoff return, mostly as the fullback on the unit. Second-year running back Bolden, who played for the first time this season after missing the first two games while recovering from a knee injury, took over that role.

Michael Buchanan on kickoff coverage. In an unusual switch, defensive end Buchanan was the new player on the kickoff coverage unit in place of Slater. At 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds, Buchanan has a different body type than the 6-foot, 210-pound Slater and fills a different role. Buchanan had played on the kickoff coverage unit in the season opener along with Slater, but was bumped off in Week 2 when Harmon dressed for the first time this season.

Jake Bequette on punt return. While not a 1-for-1 switch, and while acknowledging that the Patriots can have different units based on whether they are setting up a return or electing to rush more players, second-year player Bequette was a notable addition to the punt return team. Similar to Buchanan, he has a different body type than Slater and fills a different role. This was the first we've seen of Bequette in this role in 2013.

ANALYSIS: This is a good example of how Slater's absence led to four-pronged juggling by the coaching staff. Bill Belichick has spoken in the past about how his experience as a special-teams coach prepared him well for his role as a head coach in terms of managing the overall 53-man roster, and this is a perfect example to illustrate that point. It also highlights how Slater's skills are unique and no one player can fill the void. ... Players who were on all four units Sunday were LB Jamie Collins, LB Dane Fletcher, LB Chris White and S Tavon Wilson, which reflects their special-teams value and why, among other reasons, they are locks for the 46-man game-day roster on a weekly basis. ... Players on three units were CB Marquice Cole, S Nate Ebner and S Duron Harmon. ... The wedge players on the kickoff return were FB James Develin, TE Michael Hoomanawanui and TE Matthew Mulligan.

X's and O's: Three-DE counterpunch

September, 21, 2013
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We’ve talked throughout the week about the sheer size of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive line, led by left tackle Donald Penn and left guard Carl Nicks, each of whom is a mountain of a man.

One of the considerations when facing a hulking offensive line is to dress four defensive tackles, which the New England Patriots did not do last week against the Jets after they had acquired Chris Jones just the day before.

At the same time, even if the Patriots do dress four defensive tackles to provide depth for starters Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, one intriguing changeup the team could turn to on Sunday would be an extended use of their three-defensive-end package, something we've seen during each of the first two games.

With Rob Ninkovich and rookie Michael Buchanan manning the edge, the Patriots have reduced Chandler Jones into a “3 technique” role that aligns him on the outside eye of a guard, rather than at the end of the line of scrimmage where he is normally accustomed to playing.

The results against the Jets were particularly impressive, as Chandler Jones and Buchanan totaled three sacks for the evening just four days after the Patriots were shut out as a team from a sack standpoint against Buffalo.

There isn’t a week where the Patriots rely on just a single front or scheme to generate pressure against an opposing offensive line, but when taking on a powerful group like the one the Bucs present, it’s important to attack their strength with a strength of your own.

It could be that the Patriots turn to their conventional pairing of Wilfork and Kelly on first and second downs in anticipation of a steady dose of Doug Martin. But if the team is able to generate a lead or deploy its sub packages, perhaps the three-defensive-end group will provide the right touch to work through – or around – the powerful Bucs line.

Defense bails out struggling Pats offense

September, 13, 2013
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Patriots Jim Rogash/Getty Images Aqib Talib, right, collected two of the Patriots' four turnovers against the Jets.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The tables have officially turned for the New England Patriots.

The team known for its lethal passing offense, which in a record-breaking season six years ago was accused by some of running up the score, could hardly generate any positive momentum Thursday night. It was about as ugly as we’ve seen since Tom Brady became the team’s starting quarterback in 2001.

So the Patriots needed the defense to save the day, and the unit delivered in a rain-soaked 13-10 victory over the New York Jets. That hasn’t happened too often around these parts.

“We know that this year, whatever situation we’re in, it might have to be the defense that’s going to have to win the game for us,” defensive end Rob Ninkovich said. “We welcome that. A 13-10 win sounds good to me.”

It might not sound good to Patriots fans who crave another Super Bowl championship and are wondering what happened to a once-unstoppable offense led by a once-in-a-lifetime quarterback. That’s the big issue facing the team at the moment, and there’s no overlooking it.

Just don’t tell that to Patriots defenders who left Gillette Stadium late Thursday night feeling especially good about themselves after producing four turnovers -– the 29th consecutive game in which they’ve forced at least one -- while coming up with a final stop late in the fourth quarter to preserve the result.

“Over the years our offense has bailed us out so many times. It’s good to get a win like this,” said linebacker Jerod Mayo, one of the team’s captains.

“I think we’re building toward something that can be pretty good for us,” added defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, another captain. “It will be good for the defense to take the field and guys have the confidence around us, on the other side of the ball and special teams, knowing that we’re going to close out games. There’s a lot of confidence being built right now.”

It has obviously helped that they’ve gone against rookie quarterbacks EJ Manuel and Geno Smith, who have been generous at crucial points in the first two games. The Patriots haven’t been doing too much out of the norm schematically, playing either a base 4-3 or 4-2-5 nickel, with a big focus in the opening weeks on keeping both athletic signal-callers in the pocket.

After failing to produce a sack in the opener against the Bills, New England rung up four on Thursday night, two by defensive end Chandler Jones and one apiece from rookie Michael Buchanan and Tommy Kelly. Meanwhile, the secondary was at its ball-hawking best, with cornerback Aqib Talib notching two interceptions and forcing a fumble, while cornerback Alfonzo Dennard added a pick.

As it turned out, Smith completed three passes to the Jets in the fourth quarter, and three to the Patriots.

“The defense stepped it up and did what we had to do to win the game. That’s the way it has to be sometimes,” said Ninkovich, the Bill Belichick-declared “Jet Killer” who had six tackles and a forced fumble Thursday.

It just hasn’t been that way in New England very often. And a lingering question is how long the Patriots might be able to sustain if things continue down this path.

As Brady talked about wanting “to do a better job on offense and carry our end,” defenders were happy to pick up the slack.

"We have guys banged up, we have some young guys over there, and we know it's going to take time for them to learn and develop," safety Devin McCourty said. "That's how a team works. There will be nights, maybe next game, where we don't play as well and we'll need them to step up and they'll do that. We just need to keep playing off each other.

“We have all faith in our offense. Right now, it will probably be a huge deal and everyone will want to talk about it,” he continued. “[But] we have no concerns with those guys. We know they’re working hard, we’re all getting better as a team, and it will work out.”

Wilfork echoed those thoughts.

“Tom’s been around the game for a while, so he knows how to handle the situation that he’s in. Those guys work their tails off, so it’s not a lack of effort,” he said. “It’s just getting the confidence and being able to make those plays, and once those guys start developing and getting more experience, I think you’ll start seeing a different ball club.”

Until they get there -- assuming they actually do -- they’ll need the defense to keep them in games. The tables have indeed been turned.
 

Sharing some midday cut-down thoughts

August, 31, 2013
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Sharing non-Tim Tebow-based thoughts on some of the Patriots' roster moves today:

1a. The change at punter, with Zoltan Mesko out and rookie Ryan Allen in, has many layers. Both showed this preseason that they are deserving of punting in the NFL this season and that's why I took the unconventional approach of keeping both on a final 53-man roster projection (the idea being that maybe it would have been easier to slide Allen to the practice squad after a few weeks). Allen's upside is obvious; his leg is a bit stronger than Mesko's. But Mesko's control and directional punting seemed a notch above over the course of training camp and the preseason. However, Allen's three second-half punts on Thursday might have been the clincher, which showed his potential when it comes to control and directional punting.

Mesko
Allen
1b. Economics shouldn't have been the primary reason for the decision to go with Allen over Mesko, but it has to be a consideration. Mesko was due to earn $1.3 million in the final year of his contract. Allen has a three-year contract and is due to earn $405,000 this season.

1c. There is a trickle-down effect when it comes to the field-goal operation, as Mesko has served as the primary holder for kicker Stephen Gostkowski. Allen didn't hold at Louisiana Tech, but he's worked on the skill since joining the Patriots. Allen will likely become the primary holder, although backup quarterback Ryan Mallett could also be a consideration for the role.

1d. In 2005, the Patriots released rookie kicker Robbie Gould after an impressive camp and later regretted it when Adam Vinatieri departed in free agency the following year. I wondered how much that experience might have played a factor in this decision.

1e. Mesko goes down as one of the players who was most fun to cover. He also seemed most genuine and his farewell message to fans was most classy. One of my favorite personal memories of Mesko was how he was brought to tears after receiving the team's community service award in 2012. It meant so much to him and the emotions took over.

2. The biggest surprise has come among the reserves at defensive end, with Justin Francis, Marcus Benard and Jermaine Cunningham all being cut. They projected to the 3-4-5 spots on the depth chart. Health was likely a factor with Francis and Cunningham, as they have been sidelined. There is always the possibility for them to return if not picked up elsewhere, but an initial thought is that 2013 seventh-round pick Michael Buchanan (previous film breakdown) has impressed to the point that the coaching staff felt comfortable letting go of more experienced depth at the position. Buchanan was impressive on Thursday.

3. Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui was scheduled to earn $1.3 million, but he's agreed to reduce the salary this year with the chance to recoup some of the earnings in incentives, which helped him stick on the roster. Hoomanawanui's smarts, professionalism and dependability made an impression on the coaching staff last season. That he was the last tight end standing among the group of himself, Jake Ballard and Daniel Fells is a minor surprise.

4. The release of defensive tackle Marcus Forston was a mild surprise from this viewpoint. This could mean that rookie defensive tackle Joe Vellano is the top backup behind Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly. Vellano caught the eye early in training camp, but still didn't think he'd top Forston at this point.

5. Still waiting to hear the fate of presumed bubble players like Vellano, safety Adrian Wilson, running back Leon Washington, linebacker Jeff Tarpinian, fullback James Develin and linebacker Steve Beauharnais.

DE Justin Francis among Pats cuts

August, 31, 2013
8/31/13
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The Patriots have released defensive end Justin Francis, linebacker Ja'Gared Davis and defensive back Kanorris Davis, according to a league source.

The news on Francis comes as a surprise, as he had developed into a rotational defensive end last season after making the roster as an undrafted free agent out of Rutgers. He was recently limited by an undisclosed injury in training camp. He recorded three sacks during his rookie season.

The Patriots now have starters Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich on top of the depth chart, with rookie Michael Buchanan and 2012 third-round draft choice Jake Bequette behind them.

As for Ja'Gared Davis, an undrafted free agent out of SMU, he was claimed by the Patriots off of waivers earlier this week. He has practice-squad eligibility.

Kanorris Davis, another undrafted free agent, has worked as a reserve safety throughout training camp. He, too, has practice-squad eligibility.

All three players will be subject to the NFL's waiver system.

Source: DE Cunningham to be cut

August, 31, 2013
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The Patriots informed defensive end Jermaine Cunningham that he will be released, a source confirms.

Cunningham has been hurt for most of the preseason and didn't play in a game. The move is considered a minor surprise, and also reflects some of the ups and downs the team has had in the second round of the draft, as Cunningham was a second-round pick in 2010.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski and offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer are two solid second-round picks, but the list of second-rounders that haven't panned out is quite longer, and includes receiver Chad Jackson (2006), cornerback Terrence Wheatley (2008), safety Patrick Chung (2009), defensive tackle Ron Brace (2009), cornerback Darius Butler (2009), Cunningham and cornerback Ras-I Dowling (2011).

The jury is still out on safety Tavon Wilson (2012).

At defensive end, the Patriots currently have Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Justin Francis, Michael Buchanan and Jake Bequette.

Pro Football Talk first reported the news on Cunningham.

Patriots eligible for practice squad

August, 31, 2013
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Later today, the New England Patriots will finalize the first iteration of their 53-man roster. But the player puzzle doesn’t end there, as the team will begin constructing its practice squad, which can be up to eight players, on Sunday.

It would be no surprise for the Patriots to bring aboard players waived by other teams as members of their practice squad, but the unit will also likely include players waived by the team Saturday.

Below is a look at all current Patriots who still have practice-squad eligibility:

P Ryan Allen
DT Armond Armstead (on reserve/PUP)
LB Steve Beauharnais
DE Jake Bequette
WR Josh Boyce
DE Michael Buchanan
LB Jamie Collins
LB Ja'Gared Davis
S Kanorris Davis
WR Aaron Dobson
DT Marcus Forston
DB Justin Green
DT Cory Grissom (on injured reserve)
S Duron Harmon
WR Mark Harrison (on reserve/PUP)
G Josh Kline
C/G Chris McDonald
CB Logan Ryan
WR Quentin Sims
TE Zach Sudfeld
LB Jeff Tarpinian
WR Kenbrell Thompkins
DT Joe Vellano
RB George Winn
OL Markus Zusevics (on injured reserve)

Source: DE Benard informed of Pats release

August, 30, 2013
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The Patriots have informed defensive end Marcus Benard that he has been released, a source confirms.

This is a mild surprise as Benard had been playing a top backup role, while also coming onto the field in sub situations as an interior rusher.

The five-year veteran had a career-high 7.5 sacks in 2010 with the Browns before injuries derailed him the past two years. After signing with the Patriots on Jan. 24 this year, he flashed some pass-rush explosion in training camp as he seemed to be making the most of his fresh start.

With starting ends Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich entrenched atop the depth chart, Benard had been competing for a reserve role against the likes of Jermaine Cunningham, Justin Francis, Jake Bequette and Michael Buchanan. In recent weeks, Cunningham and Francis were both sidelined with injury, so the 6-foot-2, 260-pound Benard seemed like he might have had some security.

But as we've learned on an annual basis with Bill Belichick, the Patriots often have their fair share of surprises as cutdown day approaches.

Current defensive end depth chart
Jones
Ninkovich
Francis
Cunningham
Buchanan
Bequette

Picked-up pieces from 1st-quarter review

August, 30, 2013
8/30/13
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Picked-up pieces after reviewing the first quarter of the Patriots' 28-20 preseason win over the Giants:

1. It seemed like the Patriots wanted to take a closer look at veteran safety Adrian Wilson and his effectiveness as a blitzer. Wilson blitzed on the first play of the game (the ball was out quickly) and then on the third-and-7 play (incomplete pass) that ended the Giants’ second drive. On the second blitz, Wilson was met by running back Andre Brown and ridden out of the play, as quarterback Eli Manning stepped up to make his throw on the run. Then there was a third blitz from Wilson on the Giants’ opening play of the third drive (off the defensive left side), when Manning completed a 37-yard pass to receiver Louis Murphy as Wilson was again picked up by running back David Wilson. He then blitzed again on the Giants’ touchdown later in the quarter (wasn’t close to disrupting the play). As the Patriots consider whether Wilson has a spot on their 53-man roster, I could envision them looking at these blitzes today and attempting to determine if Wilson can help them in that role.

2. Rookie defensive end Michael Buchanan (6-6, 255) was disruptive off the defensive left side, showing good power and multiple pass-rush moves, as well as how his long arms can affect passing lanes for opposing quarterbacks. In addition, he showed strength and technique to effectively set the edge, which is a necessity for any end (4-3) or outside linebacker (3-4) in the team’s scheme. We got a good look at that on the Giants’ second offensive play when Buchanan locked up with pulling guard Chris Snee, held his ground, and kept Wilson hemmed in as he was stopped for a modest 1-yard gain.

3. A good contrast to that play was seen later in the quarter on Wilson’s 16-yard run on a pitch from Manning around left end. The Patriots’ run force broke down, with right end Jake Bequette taking his first step inside, which was enough to lose containment. With linebacker Dane Fletcher also sealed off by left tackle Will Beatty, and cornerback Marquice Cole cleared out of the area because he was covering receiver Hakeem Nicks, it left a wide swath of real estate for Wilson. Some credit goes to the Giants for a well-blocked run, but it looked like it also could have been executed better from the Patriots’ standpoint. Later in the second quarter, Bequette set a nice edge against tight end Brandon Myers on a run for minus-3 yards.

4. The top seven offensive linemen appear set for the Patriots (Nate Solder, Logan Mankins, Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon, Will Svitek), so I spent some time watching the reserves beyond that to see if anyone stood out. Center Matt Stankiewitch (6-4, 305) would be the choice. The first play might have been his worst -- he was pushed back into quarterback Ryan Mallett by Linval Joseph -- but he seemed to settle in nicely over the remainder of the first quarter against first-unit competition. His athleticism to get to the second level of the defense was seen on receiver Josh Boyce’s 18-yard reverse, when he sealed off linebacker Dan Connor. A nice play like that was later balanced off by failing to hold his block against defensive tackle Mike Patterson as Patterson pressured Mallett early in the second quarter. Like most rookies, Stankiewitch will benefit from some physical development, but he showed a scrappiness that made us take note.

5. There is a risk-reward that comes with every blitz, and the risk was evidenced on the Giants’ first touchdown. On third-and-2 from the Patriots 3-yard line, the defense sent seven rushers. That created a man-to-man situation with receivers and defensive backs, with rookie cornerback Logan Ryan matched up against Nicks. The rush didn’t get there and Manning had time to lock in on Nicks to complete a relatively easy touchdown. If you’re going to send seven, that’s a case where the rush has to get there quickly to help out the defensive backs. Didn’t happen in that case.

Leftovers from Patriots' preseason finale

August, 30, 2013
8/30/13
5:00
AM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Some leftovers from Thursday night's preseason finale for the Patriots:

23 players dress but don't play: On a night when the second- and third-unit players received the playing time, the following 23 players dressed for the game but didn't play, which is a reflection that their place on the roster is safe: WR Julian Edelman, QB Tom Brady, WR Matthew Slater, RB Stevan Ridley, CB Kyle Arrington, S Steve Gregory, RB LeGarrette Blount, CB Aqib Talib, S Devin McCourty, RB Shane Vereen, CB Alfonzo Dennard, RB Brandon Bolden, DE Rob Ninkovich, LB Jerod Mayo, LB Brandon Spikes, C Ryan Wendell, G Logan Mankins, DT Vince Wilfork, OT Sebastian Vollmer, LT Nate Solder, WR Danny Amendola, DT Tommy Kelly, DE Chandler Jones.

Mallett says he'll be ready. No. 2 quarterback Ryan Mallett was the lone player to hold a news conference after the game, and he assessed his preseason. "I felt good. I felt in command of the offense," he said. "Made a few plays, missed a few that I should have made, but that just comes with playing more. ... If I get called on, I'll be ready."

[+] EnlargeJosh Boyce
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaPatriots rookie Josh Boyce hauled in this 40-yard TD catch in the second quarter Thursday.
Boyce's best night of preseason. Rookie receiver Josh Boyce had easily his best performance of the preseason, with a 40-yard touchdown catch and also two rushes for 21 yards. He adds an element of speed to the Patriots and has the versatility to line up outside or in the slot. The touchdown came after a stop-and-go move, Mallett delivering a beautiful pass down the left sideline. "Josh ran a great route," Mallett said. "I wasn't even looking to his side at first. The coverage took me over there and he went and made a great play. I had all day to throw the ball, so you couldn't ask for [more]. It couldn't have been drawn up better than that."

Buchanan also with a breakthrough. Playing from wire to wire, rookie defensive end Michael Buchanan (seventh round, Illinois) was a disruptive presence with 2.5 sacks, four tackles, one pass defended and a forced fumble. At 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds, with long arms, Buchanan was hard to miss on the edge. "I'd definitely say that was the most comfortable I've felt," Buchanan said, before assessing his overall progression since the start of training camp. "I made a lot of improvements. I think I have a good grasp on this defense and some of what my role on this team may be, but I still have a long way to go."

Belichick shuts things down. Perhaps because the first topic brought up to Bill Belichick after the game was the recent Rolling Stone article on Aaron Hernandez -- about which he deflected multiple queries -- the New England coach seemed a bit punchy in his post-game news conference. Asked if reporters should read into the presence of specific players on the field late in the game, he replied, "I look at how they play. Look at it however you want, I don't care. Look at it upside down or backwards if you want. I'm just trying to look at how they play."

Ups & downs for Patriots

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
10:55
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- At an initial glance, here's a look at players whose performance stood out in the New England Patriots' preseason finale against the New York Giants, and others at the opposite end of the spectrum:

UP

Josh Boyce: Rookie receiver shows his speed on 40-yard touchdown catch on a nice throw from quarterback Ryan Mallett, as the Patriots also work him into the running game a bit.

Michael Buchanan: Rookie defensive end shows up with a few nice rushes and reaches up to bat down a pass.

Zoltan Mesko/Ryan Allen: Both punters are on top of their games, which highlights what has been a good competition throughout training camp.

DOWN

Aaron Dobson: Rookie receiver doesn't seem to fight hard enough for an underthrown Mallett pass in the end zone that is intercepted and then overturned on replay when it is determined Prince Amukamara didn't stay in bounds.

Josh Kline/interior O-line: Some spotty protection for Tim Tebow in the third quarter.

Leon Washington: Fumbles punt that is recovered by the Giants in the third quarter. Although a 43-yard return in the second quarter is solid.

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