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Patriots: 3 players Pats were smart to ditch last offseason

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Here are three players who the Patriots were smart to get rid of last offseason.

It goes without saying that the Patriots are no stranger to enduring roster turnover, as there have been numerous occasions throughout the Bill Belichick era where players willingly tested free agency. That, or the de facto general manager simply opted against re-signing players on expiring contracts.

Despite undergoing seismic changes on an annual basis, however, the Patriots’ status as a championship contender has been going strong for two decades. It remains to be seen if their historic dynasty has run its course, but they still appear to be one of the toughest outs in the NFL, coming up just short against the undefeated Seahawks in Week 2 and making the 4-1 Chiefs sweat for 50 minutes without quarterback Cam Newton, who was sidelined with COVID-19.

To think that’s the case in the aftermath of what was arguably the Patriots’ most turbulent offseason in recent memory is mind-boggling, but should we really be surprised? At this point, Belichick is so adept to change that it probably doesn’t even bother him.

In terms of New England’s most notable offseason departures, you have:

  • QB Tom Brady
  • OLB Jamie Collins
  • OL Ted Karras
  • DT Danny Shelton
  • OLB Kyle Van Noy

All five of those players played a prominent role on the 2019 Patriots, but the team impressively isn’t sorely missing their production. In fact, we would go as far as to say that the organization was smart in letting a few of them walk.

Here are three who stick out among the rest.

Patriots

Lions OLB Jamie Collins (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

3. Jamie Collins

The Patriots have made out like bandits choosing not to re-sign Jamie Collins.

Yes, the Patriots’ pass rush could use some reinforcements, but that doesn’t change the fact that the front office was smart to get rid of Collins, who inked a three-year, $30 million contract with Detroit at the start of the offseason. The former Pro Bowler hasn’t quite lived up to that lucrative deal, as he’s tallied just 22 tackles, one sack (!), two quarterback hits and zero forced fumbles in four starts while playing 70% of the defensive snaps.

Following Collins’ departure, the Patriots have elected to deploy Chase Winovich at one of their two outside linebacker positions, and, in a lovely turn of events, the 2019 third-rounder has actually outperformed him while making more than $9 million less.

Through four games, Winovich has compiled 14 tackles, 2.5 sacks, six QB hits and one forced fumble. For added context, the Michigan product is banking just $681,000 this season on his rookie contract. The rest of the Patriots’ front seven might be struggling to pressure opposing quarterbacks, but it has absolutely nothing to do with Collins testing and ultimately leaving in free agency.

Simply put, Belichick deserves praise for letting him do so.

NFL Football

Atlanta Falcons prediction: Can the birds get their first win of the year?

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The Atlanta Falcons are back in action for the first time since firing Dan Quinn.

At 1-4 the Minnesota Vikings aren’t much better than the 0-5 Atlanta Falcons. This has all the makings of a really bad pillow fight among two teams that had Super Bowl hopes coming into 2020.

This will be the fifth time that these two teams have met over the last seven NFL seasons, the Falcons are 0-4 in the previous four meetings. The Falcons last win against the Vikings came in 2011 when Matt Ryan threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns.

Here is how the staff at Blogging Dirty thinks the game turns out.

Jeff Benedict – Site Expert

When these two teams met last season, I was shocked at how bad the Atlanta Falcons had looked. Minnesota jumped out 28-0 and never looked back.

Vikings running back Dalvin Cook evolved into one of the best pass-catching running backs in the league and while he was able to rush for 111 yards, he didn’t embarrass the Falcons like he did other teams across the league.

He will be out Sunday, which is a big advantage for the Falcons.

This Vikings team is much different on the defensive side than they were a year ago and I think the Falcons will be able to take advantage of that.

I think Raheem Morris starts his Falcons coaching career with a win.

Joe Beasley – Contributor

I expect the Falcons to play with some type of fire. If interim head coach Raheem Morris wants a shot at this job or any other head coaching gig, he has to show he can somewhat fix this mess in Atlanta.

The offense does get Julio Jones back which is good for everyone except a young Vikings secondary. Add that to the fact that Dalvin Cook isn’t playing and you have a perfect storm for the Falcons to get their first win.

Besides, I’m bound to get one of these right.

Justin Churchill – Contributor

Last week the Vikings were close to beating the Seahawks. They have a very good offense but may struggle without Dalvin Cook in the backfield.

Their defense will give up a lot, hopefully allowing Todd Gurley to get back into a groove. However,  I think the Vikings will win this one.

Ross Terrell – Contributor

It’s officially a new era in Atlanta. Maybe just maybe Raheem Morris was gunning for this job the whole time. So he sabotaged Quinn to get his shot as head coach. Or maybe the Falcons downward spiral will continue.

Let’s hope the latter isn’t true and the Atlanta Falcons finally pull themselves off the mat.

Next: Falcons have a chance to get out of sports purgatory

Ethan Johnson – Contributor

The Atlanta Falcons will not win this game. The team may come out inspired and rejuvenated, or heartbroken because their coach is gone.

Either way, it doesn’t really matter because they haven’t beaten the Minnesota Vikings since 2011, and that streak won’t end Sunday.

 

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Buffalo Bills: 4 defensive tackles to consider trading for this season

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Sep 22, 2019; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins (97) jogs off the field following his sack of Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (not pictured) during the first quarter at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

These are four defensive tackles the Buffalo Bills should consider trying to trade for before the trade deadline.

The defensive line for the Buffalo Bills went through a significant change this past offseason. They saw free agents Jordan Phillips and Shaq Lawson leave in free agency but the front office replaced them with Vernon Butler, Quinton Jefferson, and Mario Addison as well as selecting A.J. Epenesa in the second round.

In addition to those offseason moves, the Bills had last year’s starting defensive tackle Star Lotulelei elect to opt-out of the 2020 season due to concerns around the pandemic.

After six games, it is clear that the changes have caused this defense to take a step backward stopping the run and the front office may need to look outside the organization on how to correct this.

The focus for general manager Brandon Beane should be to look for someone similar to Lotulelei in terms of a zero tech defensive tackle that can eat up space and take on multiple defenders. This will help force running backs into fewer lanes but also free up Tremaine Edmunds and the rest of the second and third-level defenders clear running lanes to get to the ball carrier.

These are four defensive tackles that could be available for a trade that makes sense for the Buffalo Bills.

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4 tight ends the Carolina Panthers should target in the 2021 NFL Draft

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Carolina Panthers

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Ian Thomas

Which college prospects are emerging as early draft candidates for the Carolina Panthers at the tight end position?

The Carolina Panthers clearly have a need at the tight end spot which needs to be addressed next spring. They are getting next to no production from either Ian Thomas or Chris Manhertz through six games of the 2020 season and this is a stark contrast to what the team got from prolific veteran Greg Olsen for so many years.

It’s hard to deny that this isn’t what the Carolina Panthers expected coming into the season. They had high hopes for Thomas to step up and fill the void left by the Pro Bowler, who opted for one more shot at a Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks before inevitably taking up a broadcast position next year.

Thomas hasn’t lived up to his billing this season. He has accumulated just six receptions, 39 receiving yards, and one touchdown from 11 targets, which simply isn’t good enough if the former Indiana standout wants to make a real go of things from a starting role.

Although all hope isn’t lost, he is clearly skating on thin ice.

There were fewer expectations on the shoulders of Manhertz. The veteran is seen as more of a blocking tight end and has aided the Panthers in this area. This has been of particular use to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and running back Mike Davis, depending on what play is called by Joe Brady.

If things continue as they are then this might be priority No.1 for the Panthers once the dust has settled on the 2020 season. Whether they bring in a veteran during the free agency period is up for debate, but there are plenty of exciting tight end prospects entering the 2021 NFL Draft that will also warrant consideration during the evaluation process.

Let’s take a look at four players at the position who could come into Carolina and potentially make a big impression.

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