New England Patriots

New England Patriots

  • The New England Patriots are moving on from one of their running backs after three seasons. For now.

    As the team officially announced Monday, they’re releasing third-year back J.J. Taylor. This is not the first time Taylor has been released by the Pats, but it’s the first time it took place during the season.

    An undrafted free agent out of Arizona, Taylor first signed with the Patriots after the 2020 NFL Draft. He’s bounced between the 53-man roster and the practice squad, with a number of procedural roster moves in-between. For that reason, it can’t be ruled out that Taylor returns to the practice squad again at some point. Taylor’s release opens a spot on the 53-man roster.

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  • Despite that, Taylor’s playing time has dropped off in 2022, amid a breakout season for Rhamondre Stevenson and continued production from Damien Harris when healthy. After playing six games in 2020 and five in 2021, Taylor was active for only one game in 2022, in Week 9 against the Colts, which Harris missed with a hamstring injury. Taylor carried the ball 10 times and gained … nine yards.

    This move is notable, because Taylor was still the Next Man Up™ with Harris out in Week 9. Now, if the Patriots have to play without Harris or Stevenson, their projected next options are rookies Pierre Strong Jr. and Kevin Harris.

    The latter made his NFL debut in Week 6 against the Browns, while Strong has been active for eight games, but only played 10 offensive snaps and made exactly one touch, a five-yard carry. Strong has, however, seen an uptick in special teams snaps over the last three weeks, playing over 50 percent of those plays in each of the past two games. There’s a chance we see more of the fourth-round pick out of South Dakota State down the stretch on offense, too.

  • In addition to releasing Taylor, the Patriots made a notable special teams signing, bringing back kicker Tristan Vizcaino on the practice squad. An opening remains there, as well. Vizcaino spent 2022 training camp with the Patriots before being released in final roster cut-downs.

    Interestingly enough, he actually played just last week with the Arizona Cardinals, as a one-week fill-in for injured veteran Matt Prater. Even more interesting is that Vizcaino was perfect, 2-for-2 on field goal tries and 3-for-3 on extra points.

    Nick Folk was just 1-for-3 on field goals on Sunday against the New York Jets, after going 9-for-9 in his previous two games. Wind was certainly a factor in Folk’s misses, which happened in the swirling north end zone. But kicker is certainly a situation to monitor, especially as Folk has had to fill in on kickoffs for injured punter Jake Bailey.

  • Aug 19, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots place kicker Tristan Vizcaino (2) kicks a field goal during the second half of a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    Aug 19, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots place kicker Tristan Vizcaino (2) kicks a field goal during the second half of a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

  • Vizcaino looks like Bill Belichick’s preferred choice for his next kicker, if and when he loses Folk. The veteran was not listed on the team’s projected injury report on Monday, though, so his struggles on Sunday don’t appear to be health-related.

    We’ll have you covered on everything Patriots over the next three days, as they get ready to face the Minnesota Vikings on Thanksgiving night, with the football world watching. Click here for complete New England Patriots coverage at 985TheSportsHub.com.

    Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. Check out all of Matt’s content here.

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