New England Patriots Preseason: Week 3 Stock Report
Three weeks in, Bill Belichick has started to make his evaluations about the New England Patriots players known, releasing Tommy Kelly and some veteran acquisitions—Will Smith and James Anderson—while hanging on to some of their younger counterparts in the front seven.
While their spot on the 53-man roster is anything but secure, certain players' stocks are decidedly on the rise following the release of the aforementioned veterans. Conversely, other experienced players might now be looking over their shoulders.
Here is a full breakdown of eight players whose stock seems to be on the move.
Stock Down: Brandon Browner
Perhaps the looming four-game suspension played a part in the decision, but Bill Belichick's decision to play Brandon Browner only in the second half of the game—he totaled just 14 snaps—against the Carolina Panthers isn't a good sign. Giving up a 31-yard catch to Toney Clemons didn't help, either.
Browner started off hot in training camp, showing off his physical prowess in locking down receivers at the line of scrimmage in practice. Unfortunately, the flag-fest known as the first three weeks of preseason football games has really put a damper on his ability to do that in games.
If the NFL follows through on their penchant for calling holding and illegal contact penalties during the regular season, it remains to be seen whether Browner can survive.
Look for Browner to perhaps get a longer look in the fourth preseason game, where Belichick may rest irreplaceable players like Darrelle Revis.
Stock Up: Steve Beauharnais (LB)
Doing your job isn't always sexy. Prior to his impressive interception against the Carolina Panthers, Steve Beauharnais' quality play this preseason has gone mostly under the radar.
After taking a few lumps against the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles, you could see Beauharnais respond to the speed of the game and start to gain some confidence. He was consistent in his run fits, displayed some ability to pressure the quarterback and showed off his hands and speed on his interception.
Combining his strong outing against Carolina with his special teams ability should result in Beauharnais being the fourth inside linebacker listed on the initial depth chart for New England.
Stock Down: Brandon Bolden
Brandon Bolden has seemed like the odd man out in preseason, garnering only three carries in the first three weeks. When you fail to earn any snaps—let alone carries—during the third preseason game of the year, don't be making any real estate transactions in the next couple of days.
Perhaps Bill Belichick is only seeing what he has in rookies like Jonas Gray—more on him later—and Roy Finch, but it seems like more than that.
Bolden may be able to save himself with his special teams acumen and blocking abilities, but he will need to stave off some hard-charging youngsters and roster logjams at other positions that could eat into the Patriots' ability to keep four running backs.
Stock Up: Jonas Gray (RB)
Brandon Bolden's absolute absence from the field against the Carolina Panthers may ultimately be a feint, but it seems to bode well for two undrafted free-agent running backs—Jonas Gray and Roy Finch—trying to make the team.
Gray especially embodies the abilities that Bolden brings to the table. He is a tough inside runner who has just enough agility to make an occasional tackler miss in the open field.
Where Gray will need to show he can excel is on special teams and in pass blocking. If you can't protect for Tom Brady, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels isn't going to put you on the field. With roster logjams elsewhere, don't expect the New England Patriots to keep a fifth running back—including James Develin—unless they can contribute on special teams.
Gray got attention with his feet, but he'll make this team with his hands and head.
Stock Down: Josh Kline
Versatility loses some cachet if you aren't able to excel at any one position. While second-year player Josh Kline has likely cemented his spot on the 53-man roster, he might not receive the playing time he may have anticipated early in training camp.
Kline, as well as other young offensive linemen, haven't been unable to unseat grisly—are there other types of Patriots linemen?—veterans Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly from their perch atop the depth chart.
Fellow youngsters Bryan Stork, Jordan Devey and Jon Halapio haven't looked up to the task, either, with Stork suffering from injuries and the others failing to capitalize in three preseason games.
At this point, expect Kline to see some time as a fifth tight end—the New England Patriots will likely do the Nate Solder shuffle for the fourth tight end—and as a backup guard.
Stock Up: James Morris and Ja'Gared Davis (LB)
With James Anderson's release opening up a potential spot on the 53-man roster, James Morris and Ja'Gared Davis might be in the right spot to capitalize.
Morris and Davis both passed a test against the Carolina Panthers, seeing extensive playing time and coming away with positive ratings according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Each exhibited solid run fits, got some pressure on Cam Newton and survived in coverage.
They will need to excel on special teams if they want the final linebacker spot on the 53-man roster. Chris White is the incumbent at that position, despite playing only one snap on defense in 2013.
With the triumvirate of Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins and Jerod Mayo monopolizing the majority of the snaps, special teams will be in focus when Belichick makes his final decision. If you want to handicap the battle, pay attention on punts and kicks in the fourth preseason game.
Stock Down: Josh Boyce
Like a kickoff returner watching the ball sail into the end zone for a touchback (again), Josh Boyce seems to be watching his chances fly by this preseason, unable to capitalize on his opportunities.
Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola are making plays. Brandon LaFell is earning targets. Brian Tyms is dominating opposing teams' second- and third-stringers. Kenbrell Thompkins continues to get open.
Meanwhile, Boyce—despite having played more snaps (111) than any other receiver for the New England Patriots—has fewer targets than every receiver except Amendola, who has played only 44 snaps this preseason. Combine that with only one chance to return a kickoff—25 yards—and you don't have much to say for his work so far this year.
He should still stick with the team—Tyms' four-game suspension helps that immensely—but his time remaining to impress his coaching staff is quickly running out.
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