PatsPropaganda is a loyalist blog dedicated to the New England Patriots written by Mike Dussault. His work has been featured on FoxSports, Yahoo Sports, and SI and has been a featured guest on podcasts as well as a Pats panelist at Boston Sports Then and Now's Blogapalooza.
Having played, reffed and coached my share of hockey games like The Game 7 That Shall Not Be Named, I can safely say there’s no worse way to lose a hockey game.
The Bruins came out on fire and threw everything they had at Jordan Binnington, and Binnington stopped everything they had. Those kind of games are THE. WORST. It’s so demoralizing when you’re getting grade-A chances and nothing’s going in. Then, to give up not one, but two goals on your only breakdowns of the first period?
The first, a deflection by a Conn Smyth-winning player. The second, a heartbreaking fast-break goal featuring a poor decision by a star player in the closing seconds.
Goals at the end of periods are bad enough. One like that on the grandest stage was even worse. And it was one of your best player’s fault. Ick.
The Bruins had strong special teams all post season but the referees called this game like a Game Seven should be called. Just one penalty that they had no choice on. As a ref myself, this is a playoff game I aspire to.
Bruce Cassidy rode his stars into the ground, and it was their stars (outside the crease) that failed to deliver. Credit to the Blues stars, led Ryan O’Reilly who played tougher, grittier hockey over seven games, especially in the last one with everything on the line.
It’s hard to find any answer other than “we got outplayed at home in a Stanley Cup Game Seven.”
Ultimately, like all the glaring Patriots’ losses, this will only make me love the Bruins that much more. I’m just not sure how much longer this window, with Bergy, Marchy, Krejci and the ultimate warrior that is Zdeno Chara, will be open.
The good to take from this run: That Tuukka is an all-time Bruin. That Bergeron and Chara have only further cemented their place there as well. Torey Krug continues to make a case he belongs up there too.
Don Sweeney pushed every right button this season. Adding Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson worked out perfectly. Johansson was often their only effective offensive player in the finals. Coyle delivered in the middle two series and will return for another season, bringing two-way play and versatility.
Bruce Cassidy came one game short of pushing every right button, and even then it’s not like the Bruins came out flat in Game Seven. They just couldn’t solve Binnington and paid the ultimate price for their few mistakes. Cassidy proved he’s one of the best coaches in the league. His two-plus years in Boston have been outstanding.
Charlie McAvoy emerged as a number one defenseman, while the glaring hole left by Matt Grzlyck in the finals was arguably the turning point. Brandon Carlo and Connor Clifton brought needed toughness.
McAvoy and Carlo are restricted free agents, (along with Danton Heinen. Noel Acciari and Marcus Johansson will be unrestricted free agents) but the young defensive core for Post-Chara is there.
Assuming something is done with David Backes, five of the top six and the most important offensive pieces will return, they’ll just be a year older.
Four of the bottom six, including the Sean Kuraly, Joakim Nordstrom and 7th Player-winning Chris Wagner, are back. All elevated their games in the playoffs and proved they can be auxiliary forwards who bring toughness and some goal-scoring touch.
There will be some holes to fill upfront but the Bruins’ development system continues to churn out surprisingly solid players.
The effective pairing of Tuukka and Jaroslav Halak will also return. Halak should once again be able to play another 40 games, enabling Rask to be fresh for another epic playoff run like he just put together.
So yes, this core is still around for another year, and that’s why they can bounce back once they heel from the two-month war they just endured.
It was a special Bruins season for me, getting an up close look at a team that had the ultimate goal in sight but fell just short. It only makes me that much more excited to see them pick themselves up next season and make another run at it.
In case you missed it yesterday I had the chance to go on Patriots Unfiltered with Fred, Paul, Erik and Megan. Was really cool to talk Pats with some of the experts and I was happy to jump right in to talk about the tight end situation, Nick Caserio and one of my favorite topics, Patriots jerseys, among many other things over the two-hour show.
I wrote about the tight end situation a lot this offseason. After losing Gronk and Dwayne Allen, and trading Jacob Hollister, the Pats were in do-over mode at the position. Then, incredibly, they didn’t draft one, preferring just to add Matt Lacosse who is more of a move player, and bringing back Watson who was on the verge of retirement.
Roberts is the right fit because he’s the prototypical blocking tight end. Those aren’t sexy but they’re critical, and the Patriots really didn’t have a proven one on the roster. Watson, at this stage of his career, should be limited in his point of attack duties. Maybe Ryan Izzo can build off a solid training camp last year, he fits the mold, but Roberts gives them someone who has done it at the NFL level.
When he catches the ball, it matters. Has had over 80 percent of his career catches go for first downs and this season saw 35.5 percent of his catches go for touchdowns (16). Big target with gigantic hands. Quick to open and find the ball on stop routes. Plus body control to adjust and clamp down on throws outside his frame. Will continue to probe and adjust for openings against zone coverage. Very capable run blocker. Operates from strong base and utilizes lengths well. Sinks hips to brace up and neutralize defensive ends with leverage and uses hips and shoulder turn to steer out of the play. Has experience blocking from in-line and from wing spot.
He certainly has not lived up to the pass-catching potential yet, but with the Patriots’ razor-thin depth at tight end, he has a great chance to come in and be a significant contributor. He was a red zone threat in college, another area the Pats could use some help with post-Gronk.
At this point, this was a needed move and one that at least attempts to fill a glaring need with a player who checks a lot of boxes on paper.
With the Patriots cancelling the final two OTAs and instead going on a team building paintball trip where Belichick shot Kyle Van Noy in the face, we’re now on to the worst part of the NFL calendar, aka The Void between the end of OTAs and the start of training camp.
Yes, it will be a long six weeks or so, and it’s unlikely there’s any earth shattering news. Though with this team you never know, especially when the depth at tackle and tight end still leaves a bit to be desired. Still, let’s just plan on taking a bit of a break before it’s balls to wall.
With that in mind, here’s a bunch of Posits. Tune into Patriots Unfiltered tomorrow (Thursday) from 12-2 at Patriots.com as I’m excited to be joining the guys in studio to talk Pats.
— At this point I’m just crossing my fingers that it’s all going to work out with Isaiah Wynn at left tackle. The second-year player will certainly give the offense a bit of a different feel from Trent Brown and though I’m excited to see what he can do, I’m also a bit concerned about duplicating the run game from the championship run last season.
— Removing Brown, Gronk and Dwayne Allen from that ground attack is a big deal. The running game was treading water for much of the 2019 regular season due to injuries, but in the playoffs they were lights out behind Sony Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead. James Develin was a big part of it as well. Can they do the same with Wynn, Matt Lacosse and an under the radar guy who is TBD at either tight end or third tackle? This is my biggest question about the 2019 Pats.
— Rookie Yodney Cajuste is an under-the-radar pick who could have a shot at playing time if he can get on the field. He was MIA in minicamp but that third tackle spot is wiiiiide open.
— I love the addition of rookie Damien Harris and last year’s regular season snaps with Cordarrelle Patterson at running back shouldn’t have to be replicated should Michel or Burkhead get dinged again. Honestly, given their injury history I wouldn’t be totally surprised to see Harris lead the team in yardage. He’s just like Michel, a thick, tough runner who makes one cut and lowers his shoulders.
— Turnover is a part of life in the NFL, and though things are thin and uncertain at tackle and tight end, the Patriots did a great job covering their asses at other positions where they lost guys, namely defensive end and wide receiver. Despite Patterson and Chris Hogan departing and the question marks of Josh Gordon and Demaryius Thomas, first-round pick N’Keal Harry appears to be the real deal, at least from what he showed in minicamp.
— I do still think they need a quick-open slot guy who can return punts that can take some pressure off Edelman. Braxton Berrios had a standout catch in one of the minicamp practices, maybe he’s the guy. It would be a big boost for the long term prognosis.
— Speaking of Edelman, I had the chance to meet him this past week after my Youtuber sister did a partnership with Stop N Shop. Didn’t get to say much to Jules but it was cool to shake his hand. My sis went with the 28-3 tee, but clearly me and Jules were on the same page with some Bruins love.
— At defensive end the Pats have made similar additions across the board, including Michael Bennett and Chase Winovich. Two players who will hopefully replace a lot of what Trey Flowers did. As we saw with the offense last year, new players are going to have to step up in the big moments.
— Not sure I can remember being more excited to see a defense in training camp that this one. They’re just so deep and talented, it’s hard to remember a recent team that had so many intriguing players. Bringing guys like Bennett in, and bringing Jamie Collins back are just slam dunk moves that will transform the defense in a good way.
— If there was a spot where I’d love to see an unexpected player emerge it’s strong safety, where Obi Melifonwu saw a lot of action with Patrick Chung still rehabbing. Chung is so vital and having someone capable behind him would be great insurance.
The Patriots wrapped up their mandatory minicamp on Thursday and now we embark on the six-week football void until training camp opens up.
After winning the Super Bowl for the third time in five years, this Patriots team still has much of their core still intact, but time is not on their side. That puts a spotlight into the critical spots where they are facing turnover — tight end, left tackle and wide receiver.
What have we learned about those glaring holes and everything else 2019 Pats from minicamp? Let’s break it down.
K’Neal Harry Will Have An Impact
Harry had his ups and downs in minicamp, but his size and professional focus are as advertised. This is excellent news considering it’s one of the hardest positions for the Patriots to fill. These chances for Harry to work with Brady, including their off-field time together, are critical. Phillip Dorsett had a notable catch on Thursday but I continue to see him as a replacement-level receiver in the Patriots system. Harry will make an impact on the offense.
Tight End: Lacosse or Bust?
Brady was picking up his old Ben Watson synergy at camp with the rest of the tight end reports flying under the radar. The Pats invested some money in Lacosse making him the de facto starter, but I’m having a hard time seeing him be anything close to the blocker the offense got in Gronk and Dwayne Allen last season. Where’s the power run game that was such a critical piece last year? The September prognosis with Watson out remains cloudy and definitely a spot the Pats might have to move on over the next month.
Left Tackle: Wynn or Bust
Seeing Joe Thuney spend all minicamp at left tackle is far from reassuring, even if Isaiah Wynn had some positive reports on how he was moving. So okay, I’m in it to Wynn it. But that doesn’t address the who might be a third swing tackle and power run game contributor. No matter how popular it is to minimize the importance of the run game these days, I see it as a critical piece to protect Brady. After minicamp this is still a very hot spot to watch where Cole Croston or Yodney Cajuste (MIA all minicamp) could emerge for a critical third tackle role.
Isaiah Wynn did some pass pro drills. Feet look good. #patriots
I never really got why he left and it felt obvious to bring him back on a cheap deal, so to hear that Collins stepped right back in to making athletic plays on defense isn’t that hard to buy. At this point anything that can be done to keep all the Patriots linebackers healthy is a must. So Ja’whaun Bentley and Collins returning to join Hightower, Van Noy and Roberts is a big win for the defense.
Some notes on defense: Jon Jones broke up a long Brady pass to Edelman. Duke Dawson broke up a pass on an out-breaking route to Phil Dorsett. Jamie Collins swatted away a quick throw to the perimeter in 11s.
When Collins left the buzz was that he was “freelancing,” aka the cardinal sin of not doing one’s job. There were also so practice moments here and there where it seemed like Collins was a bit on his own frequency. I guess stuff like that was what got him sent to Cleveland? Now he learned his lesson and sees how terrible it can be? I’m spitballing here, trying to put it all together. If Collins just comes back and looks like a superstar again I’ll be totally befuddled.
Duke Dawson’s Not Dead Yet
It’s hard finding a spot for second-year second-round-pick Duke Dawson on the roster with the cornerback position absolutely loaded, but he reminded everyone he was playing with the starters last offseason at points. There’s no question the Pats have a bunch of slot options in Dawson, Jonathan Jones and Jason McCourty, but Dawson has the pedigree to push both for a roster spot.
Derek Rivers Sighting
On defense, the Patriots did a good job making up for losses at defensive end and tackle. Mike Pennel might be an upgrade on Malcom Brown, while the combination of Michael Bennett, John Simon and (hopefully) Derek Rivers can offset Trey Flowers’ departure. Rivers getting a look with the starters shows he’s in the mix, and now that he’s fully healthy, he’s one of the key guys on defense.
Derek Rivers had some reps with the starters today. It’s a big offseason for him.
Barely a few months removed from being on Quick Slants, Mayo was calling the defensive plays at minicamp. This is not insignificant and maybe my favorite news of camp outside of Harry being a beast. Brian Flores brought an aggressive attitude to the defense and it’s easy to see guys like Hightower and McCourty having no problem rallying around one of the smartest linebackers in Patriots history. For Mayo to step right into this role would be quite an impressive leap. We’re still a ways off but it might make the most sense given all options and Mayo’s experience receiving NFL playcalls.
“The same stuff [Mayo] carried when he was a player, he’s definitely still got it,” linebacker Dont’a Hightower said. “He’s a hell of a coach. Honestly, I wouldn’t expect anything less. He’s got so much knowledge and so much wisdom that he brings — not just as a football player. He’s definitely done it. He’s seen it. He’s played it. The reputation that he has, he’s an all-pro, so it’s great to have a linebacker coach who has been through so much and can relate to a lot.”
The Patriots opened mandatory minicamp on Tuesday and yes, that means that Tom Brady was in fact in attendance. As credential-less blogger I’m relegating to living vicariously through those who were there to watch it go down.
Here are the tweets that stood out and my thoughts on them.
Obviously, finding a slot-receiving successor to Edelman who can make tough catches in the middle of the field is a huge priority and Berrios didn’t get much of a chance last season. Making competitive catches is a huge part in his development and we’ll have to see how well he can get off press coverage in training camp. In a perfect world Berrios rises to the 4th WR spot and helps prolong Edelman.
Thuney once again being at left tackle is a clear sign of the uncertainty at left tackle for the second season in a row. The days of Matt Light and Nate Solder are gone. I’m really not quite sure who the opening day starter is, less so than last year when it quickly became apparent Trent Brown would be the guy. If Wynn’s at least on the field though, it’s a good sign he might be ok by August. His PUP status will be a big thing to watch.
The Patriots have informed veteran TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins that they are releasing him, per league source.
I wasn’t counting on ASJ to assimilate and now, for the second time this spring, a significant free agent acquisition at a critical area of need has not worked out. Seferian-Jenkins joins Jared Veldheer as potential starters now out of football.
What do the Patriots look like at tight end in September is an even bigger question mark than at left tackle.
I’m already enjoying Chase Winovich. The guy gives max effort every play. It’s like watching Rudy except he’s not tiny
One spot where the Pats needed a boost and got one this offseason was along the edge, replacing Trey Flowers. Between Michael Bennett, John Simon (re-signed), Derek Rivers (two years post-ACL) and now Winovich, they have some interesting pieces to play with. None can do what Flowers did (at least not yet) but together they should be enough to make up his production both against the run and the pass.
WR Maurice Harris was active all afternoon. Nice skill set. Brings great size (6-3) to the slot, high points the ball on throws down the field. He won a few contested catches today.
Harris is another one of my don’t-sleep-on guys (along with Ryan Izzo). Like all the receivers the Patriots seem to have brought in this offseason, he’s got really good size and enough experience in the NFL to see him hitting his prime with the Patriots. With K’Neal Harry seeming almost assured of taking one starting receiver spot, there still another role up for grabs alongside the first-rounder and Edelman.
Along with Gronk retiring, they traded away the oft-injured Jacob Hollister. Hollister made the team two years in a row and had plenty of spectacular training camp catches but it never panned out on the game field.
I can’t help but lament not hanging on to Dwayne Allen, who signed with Miami. He was never going to be a threat in the passing game really, but he at least gave them a strong NFL-caliber blocker.
Now I’m not sure they can even say that, at least for September. The Patriots are back at tight end ground zero.
Seferian-Jenkins remains a question mark. Usually, guys with his measurables bounce around the league there’s a reason. Perhaps he could be the answer but until I see him on the field it’s tough to expect anything. No question if he can put it together, he’s the most proven NFL talent after Watson.
Matt Lacosse (6’6″ 245) earned a two-year deal with 500K guaranteed after a breakout year with the Broncos. But 24 catches after kicking around the league for a couple years is hardly reason to think Lacosse is going to be a dynamic player in the Patriots offense. He’s got good height and can run routes, but he is what he is.
Stephen Anderson (6’3″, 230 pounds, 36 career catches in two seasons with Texans) is a lighter, off-the-line kind of tight end, an even quicker version of Lacosse. He spent much of last season on the practice squad so he might have a bit of an advantage. The F-TE can be a luxury position to fill and it can be minimized by leaning into three-receiver groupings. At least Lacosse has the height, that’s why he probably keeps Anderson off the roster.
The true dark horses are Ryan Izzo and Andrew Beck, the Patriots’ highest-paid undrafted rookie, as both have a wide open chance to not only make the team, but play a lot out of the gate because they can block.
Beck primarily a blocker at Texas and he’s built more like a fullback but opened eyes with his pro day athleticism. At 6’3″ 260, he’s not the ideal size for NFL Y-TE duties, but he’s big enough. And he can catch a bit too. He’s got an interesting skillset and it will be interesting to see how they use him.
Izzo is 6’5″, 256 and has a similarly snarly blocking disposition. He fit right in last training camp before ending the year on injured reserve with a minor injury. With what was essentially a redshirt season, Izzo should be ready to compete for a job. He has ideal size.
Watson will be back in October, and as we’ve seen, giving an older guy the first month of the season off can work out well by keeping him fresh for the playoffs. He should step into a significant role in the offense, but what happens before that is wide open.
Your regularly scheduled Patriots programming, featuring me white-knuckling it thinking about the tight end situation will return tomorrow. Today, it’s Bruins.
In truth, since moving back to Boston I’ve been more heavily involved in the Bruins (and hockey in general) than the Patriots. I’ve enjoyed producing videos for CLNS last season and Bruins Daily this season. The Bruins give access to blogs that the Patriots don’t and I’ve been lucky to be in the press conferences and locker room soaking it all up. It’s hard not to feel especially close to this team and it’s been a joy to see how well they’re playing.
Bruins embark on a productive and entertaining intrasquad scrimmage - YouTube
Hockey and the Bruins were my true love as a kid, simply because I was far better at hockey than I was at football and the Patriots stunk.
Getting an up-close look at such a good hockey team has been a pleasure, and now to see them crushing it in the finals is a joy.
Most impressive to me about this Bruins team has been that they don’t blink. Last night, down 2-0, it almost seemed like we were going down a predictable storyline… with 10 days off the Bruins just were flat. A loss in Game 1, no big thing, too long a layoff, let’s go get game 2, etc.
But just as we were about to accept that, the Bruins completely took over, led not by the top line that they might’ve been over-reliant on at times earlier in the season, but by the grinders.
Connor Clifton, Charlie McAvoy, and Sean Kuraly scored the key goals, but every other player chipped in some small way. Maybe the Perfection Line wasn’t dominant, but they had their chances and Marchand finished things off with the empty-netter.
The first period Blues looked like a Cup finalist should. They’re a close mirror to the Bruins. They might be a bit behind the B’s on offense, but exceed them in size and depth on defense. The goalies are mostly a wash, both playing lights out and making difficult saves. These will all be one-goal games.
The Bruins flipped a switch in Game 4 against the Blue Jackets and have not lost since. They were inconsistent against Toronto, clearly the most offensively talented team they’ve faced this post-season. It took them a bit to adjust transitioning to the heavier Blue Jackets.
Once they found their “heavy” game the matchups all fell their way. Gone were the offensive Lightning, Capitals and Sharks. In were the Blue Jackets, Hurricanes and now Blues.
In third period after third period, the Bruins have put the hammer down, winning eight-straight and counting. Four lines, six D and Tuukka playing out of his mind.
Don Sweeney made all the right moves this season, as Marcus Johansson and Charlie Coyle have both made significant playoff impacts. Having Coyle under contract for another year makes him even more of a steal.
I don’t see any reason this Bruins team isn’t going to stop now. Why should we? They’re playing their kind of hockey that’s won them a ton of games the last two years and should ride it all the way to another Cup.
An annual fixture on the blog, for some reason I missed last year’s rookie eyeball test so we’ve got to bounce back this year and there’s plenty of guys to critique with an entirely superficial judgment of them solely on their helmet/facemask choices.
We used to be able to also include number selection but that’s on the backburner once again this year as Bill Belichick has repeated what he did last year — giving rookies numbers in the 50s based on their draft order.
Let’s run it down in order of pick/50’s number, click on the player’s name link to see a pic of them.
Elite Linebacker Look Forever
50 – N’Keal Harry – A+ – He doesn’t even have a number yet but as long as he doesn’t end up with 17, Harry looks like the real deal. My favorite part, the throwback mouthguard. The first-rounder was making plays all over the place in Thursday’s OTA and that, combined with his look, is a good sign that Harry might just be a superstar.
51 – JoeJuan Williams – A – Williams seems like the rare player that is just such a prototypical football body that anything will probably look good on him. A bigger guy, Williams is long, lean and cut, the perfect cornerback specimen. He doesn’t need the Ty Law facemask to make him look like he’s good, his body and movement do that. The clear shield is a nice little touch. When Williams and Harry get their real numbers no one will be more excited than your faithful blogger.
The Golden Age of Cornerback Looks
52 – Chase Winovich – D –I really want to love Winovich and despite his temp 52 making him look like Clay Matthews Jr. Jr. this facemask/helmet combo has got to go. This pic of him next to the second coming of Jamie Collines (literally) says it all. Collins, despite rocking 8, looks pretty badass even if I do prefer his old unsafer helmet choice. Winovich looks JV right now and I’m really disappointed for completely non-football playing reasons. I’m sure he’ll figure it out, but if you can’t even look good wearing a good number it shows how far he has to go.
53 – Damien Harris – A- – Numbers have huge weight with running backs but Harris is off to a good start although the helmet/facemask combo is pretty standard now. Unfortunately/fortunately safety has really eaten into football helmet style. Harris is one of the guys I’m most excited about, I think he and Michel could really make a powerful 1-2 combo. But more exciting will be finding out what number he gets.
58 – Jarrett Stidham – INC -This has become kind of the generic quarterback look with the new helmet. Gone are the days of tons of choices for quarterbacks. Honestly you won’t even be able to tell Stidham and Danny Etling, who also wore 58 last year, apart. Numbers are huge for QBs but gone are the days of quarterbacks getting to choose the now-banned Brady helmet. Now even Brady will have to use this one (though he got rid of the second top bar before going back to old reliable for the last time in 2018).
60 – Jake Bailey – B – It’s hard for me to get really excited about a punter look unless someone tried to bring back the Tony Franklin single bar with one shoe off. That would be bold and way dangerous. Given some other terrible directions Bailey could’ve gone we’ll ring him up with a solid B, with a good number pick possible to elevate that to a B+, which is pretty much the highest a punter look can go.