NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (15-4)
New faces: WR Cordarelle Patterson C.J. Mosley Jersey , RB Jeremy Hill, RB Sony Michel, QB Danny Etling, DE Adrian Clayborn, OT Trent Brown, CB Jason McCourty, DT Danny Shelton.
Key losses: Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, WR Danny Amendola, WR Brandin Cooks, CB Malcolm Butler, CB Johnson Bademosi, RB Dion Lewis, OT Nate Solder Armani Watts Jersey , OT Cam Fleming.
Strengths: Tom Brady and Bill Belichick return as one of most successful quarterback-coach tandems in NFL history, and easily best of Super Bowl era. Brady is coming off MVP season in which he threw for 32 touchdowns vs. eight interceptions and led league with 4,577 yards passing. He'll have Rob Gronkowski back for as long as oft-injured tight end can remain healthy.
Weaknesses: WR Julian Edelman (98 receptions in 2016, injured in '17) will miss first four games serving suspension after testing positive for performance-enhancing substance. Without him, team is thin at wideout, with Chris Hogan (34 catches last year), Phillip Dorsett (12) and newcomer Cordarelle Patterson (31 with Oakland). Malcolm Mitchell, Jordan Matthews, Kenny Britt and Eric Decker were all brought in but didn't work out.
Fantasy Players To Watch: Brady has shown no sign of drop-off, even at 41, but loss of offensive weapons like Amendola and Cooks and 25 percent of season from Edelman could hurt value. Don't let Edelman fall too far down draft boards just because of four-game suspension; Hogan could also be in for increased targets as de facto No. 1 wideout. Although Michel is first-round draft pick with potential, his numbers might suffer because of Belichick's tendency to use running backs by committee.
Vegas Says: Super Bowl 6-1. Over/under wins 11.5.
Expectations: There is rarely any regular-season suspense with Patriots, who have won 10 games or more for 15 straight years Laurent Duvernay-Tardif Jersey , winning division in all but one of them, when Brady was injured in 2008 (and they still went 11-5). Some intrigue surrounds Brady and Belichick, who have sparred over reigning MVP's fitness guru (who also worked with suspended Edelman), and backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo, who was abruptly traded to San Francisco last year at bargain price of second-round pick. New defensive play caller Brian Flores will also be adjustment. To return to Super Bowl for ninth time, they will have to all figure out way to work together.
Shane Ray is aiming to keep both his weight and his spirits up as he heads into a fourth surgery on his troublesome left wrist.
”I ain’t been getting down about it. I just need to get it fixed so I can play and be 100” percent, Ray said Tuesday after watching his team’s first minicamp practice.
Ray said he’s optimistic he won’t lose as much weight or strength as he did last year, when he dropped 17 pounds and essentially played one-handed for half the season before opting for a third operation in December so that he could get a jumpstart on his offseason rehab.
Ray dropped to 225 pounds last season, when he posted just 15 tackles and a single sack a year after collecting 48 tackles and eight sacks.
”I’ve already gotten myself up to 247, 250” pounds, Ray said. ”I’m planning on being back in the weight room within two to three weeks. So, it’s not like I’m going to be sidelined as long as I was last year.”
Ray is also switching doctors for Thursday’s operation in Houston. He hopes to return to practice by mid-August and play in the season opener against Seattle on Sept. 9.
Ray broke his left wrist at the start of training camp last year when he got tangled up with offensive lineman Menelik Watson. After surgery to repair both bones and ligaments, he missed the first six games and the final two.
With a jumpstart on his rehab Kyle Van Noy Jersey , ”I thought I was out in the clear” by the start of the offseason program two months ago, Ray said. ”But I’d wake up every day and I’m like, `Man, my wrist is still hurting.”’
The soreness didn’t subside and swelling appeared, so he sought medical advice last week when doctors discovered an unhealed, fractured bone and recommended yet another operation.
”It’s frustrating but all I can do is try to keep a positive mind,” Ray said. ”I’m more anxious to just get it done and over with so I can start my healing process and get back out here with my team.”
The setback is bad timing for Ray, whose fifth-year option the Broncos declined to exercise last month, denying him a $9.23 million guaranteed salary in 2019. That would have surpassed the four-year, $9.18 million rookie contract he signed in 2015 after winning SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors at Missouri.
Moreover, the Broncos selected North Carolina State pass rusher Bradley Chubb with the fifth pick in this year’s draft. Chubb lined up opposite Von Miller as both a down lineman in a 4-3 scheme and stand-up rusher in the 3-4 Tuesday.
Being sidelined for two to three months heading into a contract year isn’t ideal, but ”I can’t let that stress me out,” Ray said.
”Of course Marcus Allen Jersey , everybody knows this is my contract year, but most importantly, I can’t go ensure my next contract if I’m not healthy. I don’t want to go out there like I did last year and try to force something and put bad film out there and let that be the judge of who I am as a player. Because a lot of that happened,” Ray said.
”With the injury, I should have sat down. I went out and played. It wasn’t good as it should have been obviously because of the injury. And I feel like a lot of people tried to use that against me. So, this time I’m going to be smart. I’m going to do the best thing for me, which is to make sure I’m 100 percent healthy. And then once I’m 100 percent healthy, I’ll be able to be out here and be the player that my coaches and my teammates know I am.”
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