And with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Matt Dolloff on site for all of camp thus far, Sports Hub Underground co-host Ty Anderson (*immediately bursts out of the corner of your laptop screaming “that’s me!”*), who would rather do anything other than drive to Foxborough every morning in the summer, picked his brain about some of the happenings down on the practice turf.
Namely who is and isn’t factoring into the Patriots’ roster plans through two weeks of work.
And for ol’ Dollywood, there’s certainly a few surprises and situations a-brewin’ with the Patriots.
Jul 29, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver DeVante Parker (1) walks onto the field during training camp at Gillette Stadium. (Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports)
On the offensive side of the ball, ex-Dolphins wideout DeVante Parker is off to about as good a start as one could hope for following his trade from Miami to New England. The chemistry with Mac Jones has been there, and it only seems to getting better with more reps.
Which is a need, with an ol’ freckle-face named Ty noting that the Patriots “need to find Jones his Edelman [like with Tom Brady], his Ja’Marr Chase [with Joe Burrow].”
“Parker seems like the Chase [for Jones],” Dolloff said. “Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers are still the inside slot guys. So I think they’re good there. I like Kendrick Bourne. He hasn’t made a ton of noise in camp, but I think he’s a lock to make the roster at this point.”
Jul 30, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Nelson Agholor (15) walks to the practice field at the Patriots training camp at Gillette Stadium. (Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports)
“I think Nelson Agholor is probably the one that’ll probably get pushed out, if anyone,” Dolloff said.
Signed to a two-year, $22 million contract in 2021 following a year with the Raiders, Agholor put up 37 catches for 473 yards and four scores in 15 games with the Patriots last year.
“I think they could trade [Agholor],” Dolloff said. “They could trade him. Like the Packers, the Falcons… there’s teams in the NFC who could use a receiver. Aaron Rodgers would like that move. [Green Bay] is trying to make it work with a piece of bubblegum. A beer can with a whistle glued to it.
“[Rodgers] won the MVP last year, and now this is going to be the 2019 Brady year for Rodgers. He’s gonna be all miserable — well, he’s miserable all the time — but he’s gonna be particularly miserable this year if he doesn’t get some pass-catchers.”
And though the 29-year-old Agholor is on the hook for $9.8 million this season, it’s a more movable contract now following an explosion of big-money wideout deals this past offseason.
“Think about it. This is where you sort of give [the Patriots] credit for all the spending that they did a year early. Nelson Agholor for $9.8 million? Think about how many receivers now are making $24, 25 million. [$9.8 million] is middle of the road, less than middle of the road money for a receiver.
“And [Agholor] does have some speed and could be a big play guy for the right quarterback. I think he’d be a good fit for the Packers, honestly.”
Jul 30, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Ty Montgomery (14) walks to the practice field at the Patriots training camp at Gillette Stadium. (Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports)
And ironically enough, it’s an ex-Packer who is making things interesting for the Patriots early in camp.
“It looks like the door is blowing open for Ty Montgomery,” Dolloff offered. “He’s gotten looks as a returner. They’re using him as a running back and a receiver. He’s taking handoffs and he’s splitting out wide a little bit. He’s always been versatile, but he’s always screamed Patriot.
“I think at this point he’s going to make the team.”
Montgomery, who spent the previous two seasons with the Saints, rushed for 44 yards on 15 carries and hauled in 16 of his 26 targets in the passing game for 95 total receiving yards in 14 games with New Orleans in 2021.
May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots running back James White (28) works on a footwork drill at the team’s OTA at Gillette Stadium. (Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports)
Montgomery’s push could also come as a result of some bummer updates at the running back position via the uncertain status of both James White and J.J. Taylor.
“Well, [with] James White, Jeff Howe reported Wednesday that there’s no timetable for James White’s return, which is not good. Not a good sign,” Dolloff relayed. “He could start on PUP, which I believe means you gotta miss the first six games, so that means James White is gonna be out for over a [calendar] year.”
Injured in New England’s Week 3 loss to the Saints last year, White is working his way back from a “hip subluxation,” which sounds as bad as it was for the eight-year veteran.
“Bad, bad hip injury and hips are just bad news,” Dolloff said. “I don’t think James White has much time left in his NFL career, unfortunately. Talk about a great Patriot. Patriot Hall of Famer, in my opinion.”
In the case of Taylor, the 5-foot-6, 185-pound frame is representing a potential issue when it comes to making the roster of this obviously crowded backfield.
“I like him, but I think he’s just too undersized,” Dolloff said. “They want you to be able to pass protect, and I think that’s gonna hold him back.”
An undrafted talent out of Arizona, Taylor has spent the last two seasons with the Patriots, and has totaled 147 yards and two touchdowns on 42 carries over 11 career games.
Jul 30, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Devin Asiasi (86) heads to the practice field at the Patriots training camp at Gillette Stadium. (Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports)
Another player whose Patriot tenure could be coming to a close: Devin Asiasi.
A third-round pick (No. 91 overall) of the Patriots in 2020, Asiasi currently finds himself behind Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith on the New England depth chart, which is not a great spot given the complexion of the Patriot roster.
“I don’t know if they’re going to carry a third tight end,” Dolloff said. “He’s made a couple plays. He’s looked OK, and Bill [Belichick] said good things about him the other day, but he could just be pumping up his trade stock. Maybe they could spin him off in a trade, but it might just be a draft pick swap type of deal.”
“I think it’s going to be more two tight end sets with just Henry and Smith, which is bizarre that they didn’t do much of that last year. But I don’t know if Devin Asiasi makes the team this year.”
Asiasi, who drew into just one game last year, has two catches for 39 yards and a touchdown in his NFL career, all of which came in the team’s Week 17 win over the Jets in 2020.
Jul 29, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Nelson Agholor (15) and defensive back Terrance Mitchell (39) run a drill during training camp at Gillette Stadium. (Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports)
At corner, one player is looking like a potential solid find for the Patriots has been Terrance Mitchell.
“[Mitchell] is another guy I’ve liked so far,” Dolloff said. “He’s been basically a journeyman. He’s never going to wow you with his size or his speed or anything like that, but he’s a smart player and he takes the coaching. He certainly seems like a Patriot, right? He takes his coaching, he’s gonna get his details down, and I think they’re going to put him in good matchups.
“I think Mitchell is going to be the second outside corner [opposite Jalen Mills].”
FOXBORO, MA – OCTOBER 22: of the New England Patriots during the quarter of a game against the Atlanta Falcons at Gillette Stadium on October 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
With Mills and Mitchell looking like the Patriots’ No. 1 and 2 outside corners, and with a surplus of slot corners named “Jones,” what does it all mean for Malcolm Butler and his New England reunion?
“Right now I have [Butler] — at best — third on the depth chart as far as outside corners,” Dolloff said. “I don’t know if Malcolm Butler makes the team. He hasn’t had a great camp. He had a good day the other day where he broke up a pass, but it was after he gave up a touchdown to DeVante Parker.
“He just looks like he lost a step. It’s not surprising because he took a whole year off and he’s 32 now. I mean I like him, but we’re so far removed from what he was in 2014 through 2016. [It’s] natural regression. I liked the signing when they made it because there was so much uncertainty at cornerback, but then they drafted two cornerbacks.”
Butler’s status isn’t helped by the league’s noticeably shift towards burner after burner at wideout.
“I like Marcus Jones a lot. He’s a slot guy and he’s gonna be a backup to Jonathan Jones in the slot, but I think you’re going to see plays where they have both of them on the field because there’s all these teams with these speedy receivers,” Dolloff said. “[You have] guys like Tyreek Hill lining up in the slot. So you’re going to have two slot corners on the field at times, I think.
“And I’d peg Malcolm Butler as a surprise cut at this point.”