Patriots vs Panthers : Player Spotlight

NEPD Staff Writer CJ Sousa

We’re (almost) there.  Meaningful football is right around the corner – I promise.  In terms of meaningful football in the pre-season, tonight will be as good as it gets.  The third pre-season game is normally when starters get extended action into the second half.  Also, coaches will give specific looks to guys in competition running alongside the first team.

Last week we highlighted three position groups to watch against the Saints.  Today – a more specific look into what Patriots have the most to play for tonight.  Here are five Patriots I will be keeping a close eye on.

Dion Lewis

He was given the spotlight last week, and thrived.  Lewis played 28 snaps, being productive with the football (48 yards on 8 touches, 1 touchdown) and proved his worth protecting the quarterback on passing downs.  He has shown a certain burst and quickness that I’m not sure any other running back on the roster currently have.  Why will tonight be extra important for Lewis?  His main competition for the last RB spot (Travaris Cadet) is expected to suit up after being held out last week due to injury.

Scott Chandler

Listen, Chandler is on the team.  However tonight is extremely important for the former Buffalo Bill.  He has yet to have any game action with Tom Brady, so building  chemistry and trust with #12 in live action will be important in the true final dress rehearsal before the regular season.  Chandler poses all sorts of issues for opposing defenses due to his shear size, and could have a major impact in 2015 if he can get on the right page with Brady.  Tonight could be a very important building block.

Bradley Fletcher

Before the Darryl Roberts injury, I didn’t have Fletcher pegged on the 53 man roster.  However the potentially season threating injury to Roberts gives Fletcher has another chance.  Currently, the Patriots only have 5 healthy cornerbacks on the roster.  That would appear – at least on the surface – to be good news for Fletcher.  However an abundance of safety’s makes Fletcher’s final cornerback spot interesting.  He’s been underwhelming in my eyes all pre-season, and faces a potential make or break game tonight as the Patriots can always add an outside free agent after final cuts.

James Morris

The linebacker has received recent praise from Bill Belichick, and looks to lock up a secure position tonight.  He’s probably on the roster already, but Morris should look to solidify a fourth linebacker role.  The front of Sheard, Ninkovich and Jones (combined with the ultra versatile Jamie Collins) will ultimately keep the ‘true’ linebacker snaps down this season as I expect a lot of two linebacker base sets.  However, if something were to happen to Jerod Mayo (again) or Dont’a Hightower (past injury issues), somebody needs to be the next guy up.  It could be Morris on opening day if the Iowa product has a solid showing tonight.

Asante Cleveland & Jimmy Mundine

OK, I’m cheating here a bit.  And it’s not that I have a personal issue with Michael Hoomanawanui the person. I’m sure he’s a great dude.  I just don’t understand how he still has a roster spot in 2015 and even better don’t understand why so many people have penciled him in as a 53 man guy so soon.  He adds next to nothing in the passing game, and his abilities in the blocking game can be found elsewhere.  Asante Cleveland was just acquired via trade.  At 6’5 250lbs he moves well for his size and is a true asset over the middle of the field.  Jimmy Mundine is a personal favorite of mine, an undrafted free agent from Kansas.  A swiss-army knife like player, Mundine is explosive in short spaces and can do great things with the football.  His blocking, understanding of the offense, and consistency are all still a work in progress, but the positives are there to give him a long look.  Admittedly, I’m rooting for one of these two to grab a roster spot tonight.

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19 Responses to “Patriots vs Panthers : Player Spotlight”

  1. J H TARBORO says:

    Green Bay released LB Tavarus Dantzler because of depth, go get this kid New England and put him on your practice squad!!! If you don’t who he is from the pre draft process or don’t remember, go to youtube.

  2. J H TARBORO says:

    We just acquired in trade Oklahoma WR/KR Jalen Saunders, should we get WR Kenbrell Thompkins back? he was cut by the Raiders.

  3. J H TARBORO says:

    If we need a real FB, The 49ers just cut former oklahoma FB Trey Millard, he would be a much better option than Hooman, blocking and catching. Nick Casario, you need to be making some phone calls.

  4. ashley says:

    Swanson had a really good game….I’m not sure if he makes the team though…I was also impressed with Rufus Johnson, he looked really good as well. The d-line is a deep position though.

  5. Russell says:

    This CB Dax Swanson looks like the real deal, in the Carolina game. Fletcher was a mild-OK, and Ryan has looked “iffy” at best. If it was me Swanson, Brown, McClain, Butler, Ryan, Roberts (injured?) make the Roster. Brandon King to P-Squad.
    Check out my articles on Football Nation , Thanks!

  6. Ryan says:

    James Morris certainly earned a spot on the team yesterday, no question. He tackles very well, and while too slow to play outside linebacker he should be a great backup to Mayo in the middle. Dion Lewis probably secured a place too, but with Bolden and Blount playing well yesterday every Patriots back (save Cadet) has flashed potential in the preseason. Running back should be the hardest position to project, as only Blount should be considered a guarantee. I like the skill sets of both Lewis (explosive in space and great pass-catcher) and White (shifty, well-rounded and makes the most of his space) but only one is necessary. I prefer Gray over Bolden, especially for the duration of Blount’s suspension, because of his lead-back potential, but Bolden will bring something to special teams when Blount is starting. Truly a tough choice, through and through.

    In the secondary, Tarell Brown had himself a day and Swanson and McClain made their respective cases. Swanson is a playmaker in the air while McClain is a true scrapper. I’d probably take McClain over Swanson because of his experience, but it’s a tough decision. Fletcher looks like he belongs in a strong safety role because he just isn’t fast enough. He’s an interesting asset against bigger, slower receivers, but anyone with legit speed leaves him in the dust. He seems like a worse Browner, and it might be time for him to go.

    In other news, Jordan Richards showed progress, and so did the pass rush. Richards made five tackles as a box safety and the Pats repeatedly pressured the quarterback. If those two trends continue, this defense could really come together. In my opinion, Dobson should be on the team, but only due to injuries. His potential is too tantalizing for me to give up on, and I think that in two years he’ll be a good starter. That said, his rapport with Brady is terrible and it got worse after Charles Tillman eviscerated him on that deep pass. Garoppolo seems to love throwing to him, though, so he could really make an impact in the first few games, especially if LaFell sits out.

    • Jack says:

      Good comments. I personally go with Swenson – he made a terrific play to get his head turned and deflect a pass on a go route Friday. That play alone sold me on him, because I love corners who have the speed to run with guys AND ESPECIALLY get their head turned. I’m not sold on McClain, although I like him as a scrapper, but I can envision him getting picked due to height. Or, another possibility is to keep McClain and cut Fletcher. I’m not a Fletcher guy, and I didn’t see what others (e.g. Mike Reiss) thought he saw Friday night. I do like his length, though I don’t get why they just didn’t keep Browner.

      I’m not a fan of Blount particularly, and I see Jonas Gray as the better of the two. I love Chris Harper, he will be a tough cut if they stick with Dobson. But, to be honest, he made the catch that was called an interception, that was a bad call by the ref. The fault for the pick lays more with Brady for throwing behind him – he was open. Also, remember, Brady connected with him for a long TD as a rookie (Dobson that is), where Dobson didn’t look back at Brady for the ball, he turned back to lack at where he thought the ball was going to be – and there it was. So the chemistry was starting manifest itself at that point. That said, I fear that Dobson is the perpetually injured type of guy, and I don’t see Harper in that vein. I would go with Harper as the more reliable option.

      • Ryan says:

        Seems like we agree on a lot of things!

        In my opinion, Robert McClain seems like the best slot corner on the team, as Logan Ryan hasn’t impressed me in the same way and Malcolm Butler looks like he’ll be starting on the outside. Assuming we keep 5 cornerbacks and Malcolm Butler, Tarell Brown and Logan Ryan are all locks, the final decision should be very tough because all three cornerbacks in contention bring something different to the table. McClain is good in the slot, Fletcher can match up with bigger receivers and Swanson is a playmaker with his best years ahead of him.

        As for Dobson vs. Harper, I actually think that they both deserve a spot on the team. I say we carry Edelman, LaFell, Amendola, Dobson and Harper, excluding Reggie Wayne entirely. Simply put, Wayne was brought in at the wrong time. If the Pats were interested earlier, then there is no excuse for keeping Jonathan Krause on the roster in place of Wayne. Wayne said himself that he feels like a rookie learning the play book, and he did not look ready to compete on Friday. Of course, he will improve and become good injury insurance over the second half of the season, but right now I can’t see him being a useful part of the Pats O. With three other vets who know the scheme already guaranteed roster spots, Wayne doesn’t feel like a necessity.

  7. Matt says:

    Real shame what happened to Develin it didn’t help that they were playing on a crappy field either. It’s only the preseason and it looks that bad. Something should be done about it.

  8. Margaret says:

    These side blogs are hysterical. Did you know that Hooman has surpassed & outlasted over 12 other TEs in his tenure with the Patriots? Not to mention he is the workhorse for Gronk to stay healthy? Do you even watch every game? Credit belongs where credit is due. The offensive scheme is challenging for most football players to memorize. Plus he has been the lead blocker for numerous Ridley, Blount, and Gray redzone TDs. Why pick up a rookie with a solid vet as an option?

    • Kevan says:

      With Develin getting injured I think Hooman is gonna make the team now, and very well could have anyway. From everything I’ve seen and read by multiple sources he was having a rough camp though and with Gronk and Chandler plus a pleather of Tackles to use in that blocking TE role it wasn’t crazy to think he could be expendable. It’s no disrespect to Hooman, and yes I watch every game.

      • carlo strada says:

        Though i m not buying Hooman, Develyn s injury gives him some hope, that s on paper.
        However, lets see how new Williams guy (OT/TE) does.

        • GM-In-Training says:

          Hooman’s 3-cone time was about 7.67 seconds and his 40 time 4.77. Michael Williams’ 3-cone time 30 pounds lighter was 8.15 and his 40 time was 5.3. They are not interchangeable. Jimmay Mundine or Shaq Mason seem closer to the role of blocking in space…not that either of them has shown they can play that role yet as a FB.

  9. Kevan says:

    I’m with you on Swanson and walker, and yea Williams has a thrown a wrench in my plans haha.

  10. Kevan says:

    Perfect timing I just made my own list. I have dion Lewis, cadet, Mundine, David Andrews, Alan branch/ Casey walker, Rufus Johnson if he plays, and Daxton Swanson. I agree about Hooman and I think Cleveland comes in the same mold as a gronk/Chandler in size terms. Mundine could be a move TE, Charles clay 2.0, pro day was really impressive.

    • Russell says:

      CB Daxton Swanson looks better to me than B.Fletcher. I also like Walker over Branch. I like Mundine but think Michael Williams may be better for the roster able to play TE and OT.

      • carlo strada says:

        Between him and branch, do you think Walker is a better space eater? or its just because the age difference?

        • Russell says:

          Walker has been in the Patriots system , before Baltimore grabbed him off the P-squad. I like Walker because he shows alittle more quickness along the line, and his age may have some to do with it. Walkers is alittle larger also at 335lbs. If I had to choose I’d go Walker.
          Also this CB Swanson looks like the real deal, I like him better than Ryan or Fletcher.

        • Kevan says:

          I remember Swanson showing up last years camp and then Butler kind of stole his shine so to say. Too bad Roberts got hurt, I thought he could of made some noise.

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