BOSTON (CBS) — What a busy weekend for Boston sports. The Patriots practiced with pads on for the first time over the weekend, while the Red Sox took three of four from the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. As Wednesday’s MLB Trade deadline gets closer, so does the NFL preseason.
Here’s a few observations from the last few days:
– I find the preseason fascinating, unlike many of my colleagues and some fans. From a Pats perspective, it’s a chance to decipher which players can come from nowhere and have an impact. Bill Belichick has kept at least one undrafted free agent every year since 2004. Malcolm Butler, David Andrews, Adam Butler, Jon Jones, Ryan Allen, Brandon Butler and J.C. Jackson are all prime examples. Early on in camp, receiver Jakobi Meyers has been impressive. The 6-2, 200 pound NC State wideout has been consistent and he catches anything throw his way.
– It’s been a different start to camp for Tom Brady as he was given the day off on Day 2. He then struggled on Day 3 and seemed frustrated. At one point after not connecting with first round pick N’Keal Harry, Brady walked over next to Josh McDaniels, got down on one knee, took his helmet off and slammed it down to the ground in obvious frustration. However, on Sunday Brady was sharp and enthusiastic. After connecting on plays with tight end Stephen Anderson, receivers Phillip Dorsett, Braxton Berrios and Maurice Harris, Brady showed his pleasure with them by fist-bumping, head-butting, or yelling at each of them. He did it with Harris on several occasions. He also did side work with the tight end group while special teams work was going on. You have to believe joint practices with Detroit and Tennessee will be huge for Brady getting on the same page with his new set of pass-catchers.
– Defensive lineman Michael Bennett practiced for the first time on Sunday after missing the first three sessions due to personal reasons. Bennett thanked Bill Belichick for allowing him to do so, telling the media he appreciated the coach understanding him as a human being.
By the way, Bennett flew direct from Hawaii, got off the plane and went right to Foxboro. The 6-foot-4, 275-pound lineman has that massive look to him when you see him in person for the first time. I also love the fact that what motivates him is not just winning, but also his love for being on a team. To me, that sounds simple, but you’d be surprised at how many players discount that facet of the game. Ask Hall of Famers Rodney Harrison, Ty Law, and others how much they miss being around and part of a team. It’s usually the one big thing that they miss the most when done playing.
– The running back corps is deep, as we all know, but Damien Harris looks like he could be the perfect addition. His bruising style of running will complement Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, and fullback James Develin quite well. The 5-foot-11, 213-pound Alabama product found the end zone once on a goal-line situation on Sunday and appears to have that look of a guy who can run and catch the ball.
– The Patriots are so deep in the secondary that a late preseason trade isn’t out of the realm of possibility, depending upon what Belichick sees as a need in other areas.
– I can’t wait to hear Rodney Harrison and John Hannah’s (on behalf of the late Leon Gray) speeches Monday afternoon at Patriot Place plaza as they enter the Patriots Hall of Fame.
– As for the Sox, I love what ESPN’s Buster Olney put out over the weekend. If Dave Dombrowski can acquire Edwin Diaz from the Mets, it would change the whole bullpen. Diaz would be your Craig Kimbrel as the anchor and it would allow Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman and company to be your critical arms in innings 6-8. Diaz would enter an environment where, yes, there is pressure, but there are so many players around him that have “been there, done that” so he would fit right in.
– The 2019 season hasn’t been anywhere close to the magical run of last year, but the Sox still have a chance to be dangerous come the fall. They’re 5-2 so far in this crucial 14 game stretch with the Yankees and Rays. Their starting pitching has improved a lot, which will help the bullpen and continue to allow the offense to relax and do its thing.
– Even though the offense has been epic, it’s really all about the pitching and how good it has to be over the final two months in order for the Sox to have any chance to repeat. Betts, Devers, J.D., Bogaerts, Benintendi, Vazquez are all giving Boston a relentless offense that should hold up well and give them a chance most nights. However, the pitching has to be good — not great and not average. Good.
Why? Well, because of this stat: The Sox are 51-13 when the offense scores five or more runs. They are 8-35 when they score four runs or fewer. So, if the pitching can get to the point where it’s consistently good on a near-nightly basis, everything should fall into place for this team.