Patriots vs Saints Primer: Three Positional Groups to Watch

NEPD Staff Writer CJ Sousa

As we move deeper into the preseason, roster clarity becomes key.  Preseason games can be a mess.  Full of players you’ve never heard of, sloppy play and announcers mispronouncing every third players name.

However through the chaos there are story lines to follow.  Let’s take a look at three position groups you should keep your eye on tonight.

Running Back

LeGarrette Blount, James White and Jonas Gray are three guys I feel confident will be there Week 1.  Brandon Bolden, due to his special teams ability as well as trust from Bill Belichick to protect Tom Brady on third down, is likely a shoe in as well.  With  Blount’s Week 1 suspension, this leaves the door open for one other player.  Enter : Dion Lewis.

Lewis, the Pittsburgh Panthers’ product has been the talk of some conversation all offseason. He’s small, quick, and could resemble a Shane Vereen mold.  He’s battled injuries his entire pro career – as well as this training camp.  Tonight is his first real opportunity to shine in a game environment.

Even better for Lewis, his main competition for that last running back spot, Travaris Cadet, is not expected to play tonight due to injury.  Lewis will have my attention, and should have yours as well.

Wide Receiver

The recent injury to Brian Tyms made the race for the 4-5 WR spot easier for the Patriots to decide.. or did it?  Undrafted rookie Chris Harper has had a solid camp, and appeared to be a favorite of Jimmy Garoppolo in the first preseason game (7 catches, 48 yards).

Harper is throwing his name into the competition with 2013 4th round pick Josh Boyce, savvy veteran Brandon Gibson as well as 2013 2nd round pick Aaron Dobson – who has yet to lock up a roster spot and isn’t expected to play tonight due to injury.

Speaking of injuries, Julian Edelman and Brandon Lafell aren’t expected to suit up vs the Saints either.  I wouldn’t expect many snaps from Danny Amendola, so expect to see a lot of Harper, Boyce, Gibson and possibly even Matthew Slater out wide tonight.


One name stood out to me against Green Bay, and not for the better.   Jonathan Freeny was targeted over and over again by Aaron Rodgers with immense success.  Granted, Freeny likely wouldn’t be in space as much in a regular season game – but nonetheless this is an area the Patriots’ need improvement.

Jerod Mayo has made progress to returning to the field Week 1, and the Patriots know what they have in Jamie Collins and Don’t’a Hightower.  If that trio can remain healthy, the argument will be heard that could be the top linebacker core in the entire NFL.

Behind that trio, it gets murky.  Very murky.

Dane Fletcher will likely open the season on the PUP list.  MLB Eric Martin isn’t likely to suit up tonight as well.  The real opportunity to shine tonight belongs to Darius Fleming, James Morris – as well as some redemption for Jonathan FreenyCameron Gordon and Dekoda Watson are also likely to see vast opportunities.  The Patriots badly need somebody in this group to separate themselves and provide quality depth behind the top three.  People love to talk about the cornerback situation, however this could be the most interesting positional battle to watch tonight.

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30 Responses to “Patriots vs Saints Primer: Three Positional Groups to Watch”

  1. Kevan says:

    Antonio Johnson, jake the all pro bequette, Cameron Gordon released. Roster is down to 84.

  2. Russell says:

    Seattle signed WR Greenberry.

  3. Russell says:

    Patriots could have had WR Jaelan Strong in the 2nd round, and still go Richards in the 3d round.

    • Ryan says:

      I agree. The pick should’ve been Strong, Odighizuwa, or Cann. All three should’ve been long gone. That was the perfect scenario to draft big-time talent at pick 64, and Belicheck went with a safe, boring, relatively low-upside pick. Hard to understand as a Pats fan.

      • Yohy says:

        After Brown fell to the Pats in Round 1, I thought Cann would be the best pick. A highly rated player in a position of need. Instead Bill reaches not once but twice with picks that could have been made later. Time will tell.

        I’m rooting for Grissom to be a Collins type player. Maybe next year he is a very good outside LB. Or like Bruschi a three down inside backer.

        Still would have liked Cann over Mason. Mason too small and raw. Maybe shift to FB and make him a lead blocker he has the speed and athleticism to pull and block well on running plays. Pass protection is the problem. We shall see.

    • Ryan says:

      Also, I read some of your articles. Good stuff. You really know what’s going on in Pats camp.

      You may want to consider putting them through Word or a similar program, though. I saw a few errors that Word would easily pick out for you.

  4. J H TARBORO says:

    To NEPD, and fellow Patriots fans!
    Is anybody else a little pissed off about what we’re seeing this preseason, we have a great system in New England football wise but let’s revisit the 2015 draft, we didn’t draft any RBs or WRs and now we have 36yrs old Reggie Wayne, the fans honestly should be upset. It’s system over talent, why can’t talent coincide with the system?

    • GM-in-Training says:

      We started the preseason with some pretty good options and some pretty good spares for RB and for WR. We expected Gray/Blount/Bolden/Gaffney to be able to cover lead back.

      We had reason to hope that someone from White/Cadet/Lewis would develop as a 3rd-down scat back who could catch and block.

      Similarly, Edelman/LaFell/Amendola are a pretty good starting trio, with hopes that Dobson/Tyms/Gibson could produce a 1 or 2 sound backups.

      Btw, I think our pass-catching TE corps clearly improved with veterans and some rookie developmental prospects. All of this requires some luck on injuries, and tries to have enough quality depth to get through the season.

      • J H TARBORO says:

        To GM-in-training
        After 5 consecutive yrs. on this site, what you’re saying sounds great, look at other teams rosters, including UDFAs, we miss the bus!!! plain and simple. Nick Casario is in charge of player personel and Bill Belichich signs off. Casario needs our help.

    • Russell says:

      I was laughed at on this site for wanting to draft WR Ty Mongomery and now he’s the #3 receiver in Green Bay. I liked him 3d round, where the Patriots could have gotten him. Looks better than Grissom. I also liked a guy still out there, Kevin Vereen Jr. WR 6’3″ 205 out of Northern Iowa, why not take a look??
      Hard to know Gaffney was going to get hurt, but next year Patriots draft a RB, and WR Tevan Smith!!!

      • Russell says:

        Sorry mssed it, Green Bay took Ty Mongomery in the 3d round, ahead of the Patriots who traded one 3d rounder.

  5. Russell says:

    I have started writting New England Patriots articles on Football Nation, Please take a look. Thanks

  6. Kevan says:

    Gibson to IR and tyms waived goin to IR as well if he clears waivers. Darryl Roberts will go to PUP or IR.

  7. J H TARBORO says:

    We still need some younger WRs, i hope we find some good ones by roster cutdowns.

  8. J H TARBORO says:

    We could still bring in other WRs despite having Reggie Wayne, if you look back in hindsight the 15′ draft wasn’t very good, late round CB, no RBs or WRs drafted. a damn shame!

  9. Russell says:

    Patriots sign Reggie Wayne WR to a short term deal. I wish they would sign free agent slot reciever Dane Sanzenbacher.

  10. J H TARBORO says:

    ESPN’s First Take had a discussion about Randy Moss playing again, and the only team he really would play for, N.E. Patriots. Bring Back Moss! Bring Back Moss! Bring Back Moss!

  11. ashley says:

    I agree that Lewis has made the running back situation very interesting. I liked what I saw last night. I am intrigued by Harper at wideout. He had another great game last night and feel he has a shot at making the final 53. I think he has passed Boyce and would take him over Dobson at this point as well. My top 5 receivers at this point are: Edelman, Lafell, Amendola, Gibson and Harper.

  12. Kevan says:

    Big fan of Dion Lewis, he came out of Pitt after L.McCoy did and looked pretty good. Last night he looked like K.Faulks twin ballin that 33, I hope pats can fit him in the 53. Should be interesting roster cut down this year.

  13. Ryan says:

    What’s up with Tyler Gaffney? I thought he was either cut or on injured reserve and espn tells me he ran the ball 9 times and made 4 tackles. I wasn’t able to watch the game, so did anyone see how he looked out there?

    • Russell says:

      Gaffney is on injured reserve with a knee issue. I agree wth your thoughts on Greenberry and Farmer, as long as we are still at 90 players I would take a look, at one or both if available. The tape I’ve watched I like Farmer alittle better.
      Chris Harper has made the roster in my opinion after last nights game, he preformed well! Boyce is gone in my opinion, and I don’t like Dobson unless he could do he P-squad.
      Please check out my articles on Footbal Nation, as I talk about the scouting process coach Belichick uses.

      • Ryan says:

        As I wasn’t watching the game and could only follow online, I couldn’t tell that Gaffney wasn’t on the field. ESPN’s gamecast showed Gaffney in place of Jonas Gray on offense and Daxton Swanson on defense in the box score, and since I’d heard of Gaffney’s move to the IR I was pretty confused. Sounds like ESPN mixed up jersey numbers because Gaffney didn’t run the ball for 22 yards or make 4 tackles.

    • Russell says:

      Seattle signed WR Farmer.

  14. Moss da great says:

    Wishing my Patriots sign back Mr. Randy Dandy Moss. This guy just beat the number 1 Steelers wr in a foot race. Plus he can teach our younger wrs! If Aaron Dobson could stay healthy and learn from a guy like that we could have a masterpiece. Have Chris Harper to shadow Edelman, Gibson and Lafell in that Moss training. We will b okay for our future. Just imagine Gronk, Chandler, Edelman, Lafell and Moss on the field at on time. Brady will have a field day.

  15. Russell says:

    Tho the Bills may grab him, Dallas cut WR Deontay Greenberry today, 6’2″ 210lbs, may be worth a look. Hopeing Harper has a good game tonight, I like him to make the team!
    I’m writting some Patriot articles , for Football Nation if you get a chance check them out!!

    • Ryan says:

      I’m not too interested in a recycled Greenberry, and here’s why: Dallas signed three good UDFA receivers in Antwan Goodley, George Farmer, and Greenberry to battle for the 5th receiver spot on the team. For Greenberry to be cut now, he must’ve been worse than the other two and therefore not very polished, as his measurables are off the charts. Greenberry would be a good addition to the practice squad (where he could simply learn and get up to speed for a year or two) but I don’t think he’s a good choice for the active roster if he’s already lost out in the Dallas receiver battle.

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