Quick-hit notes and thoughts around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. This is the time of year when players often have nagging medical issues addressed, and those are situations that we like to note because they alter the offseason to more of a rehab track than a standard workout program. Along those lines, third-year defensive tackle Chris Jones recently underwent surgery for what was described to me as a calf issue. In one respect, any surgery is significant. But this was considered minor in the scope of surgery, and Jones (45.5 percent of the snaps in 2014, 68 percent in 2013) is expected to be ready when it counts. Still, with the free-agent departure of defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, 2014 first-round pick Dominique Easley working to strengthen his knee (no surgery) after landing on injured reserve in December and Sealver Siliga and Jones both undergoing offseason surgery, this is an area we’ll be keeping a close eye on from a health/rehab perspective. With this in mind, it won’t be a surprise if the Patriots look to further fortify their defensive tackle corps.
2. Starting right guard Ryan Wendell falls into a similar category as Jones; I’m told he has also been rehabbing after undergoing surgery this offseason. Again, nothing major, but it was described as a “clean out” type situation (believed to be his shoulder) and ultimately shouldn’t affect his availability for when it counts. But with Wendell working his way back and starting left guard Dan Connolly still a free agent, the team’s personnel at the top of the guard depth chart currently has a similar feel to that of the interior defensive line. A high draft pick on a guard would hardly be a surprise.
3. One person in attendance Thursday at Stanford’s pro day told me Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio was heavily involved in leading some of the drills. NFL.com’s Gil Brandt had a nice recap of some of the prospects Caserio was likely looking at it, while Tony Pauline noted nose tackle David Parry seemed to spend a lot of time with the Patriots. Not a huge surprise there, as the Patriots seem to like players coming out of David Shaw’s program, most recently drafting offensive tackle Cameron Fleming (2014, fourth round) and claiming running back Tyler Gaffney (2014, sixth round, Panthers) on waivers.
4. Can’t think of too many times the Patriots have flat-out given a player a pay increase or pushed money to the present year from a future year without a significant concession in return, as they did last week with defensive end Rob Ninkovich. That reflects the respect Ninkovich, who in 2014 played more snaps than any other defensive lineman in the NFL, has earned from Bill Belichick & Co. It also helps align Ninkovich's earnings with free-agent signee Jabaal Sheard, who plays the same position.
5a. In communicating with one scout who had been assigned to write a report on newly signed Patriots running back Travaris Cadet when Cadet was coming out of Appalachian State, it was relayed that Cadet was a high intangible player who was driven to succeed. That fits the Patriots profile, as does the fact that Cadet was considered a jack of all trades, including on special teams. But the major concern about him, coming out of college, was a lack of speed (4.67 in the 40). At this point, the feeling is it’s a stretch to say Cadet can be as effective as Shane Vereen, in terms of the ability to exploit mismatches, with the scout wondering why the Saints (in need of a Darren Sproles replacement) would have let him go if they felt he could fill that role. Let’s see if the Patriots’ staff can coach Cadet up.
5b. Did you know: Cadet has played 233 career offensive snaps in the NFL and released into a pass route on 202 of them, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information. This reinforces the thinking that he’s almost more receiver than running back.
6. From the "things that probably only interest me" department: Vince Wilfork’s No. 75 jersey is owned by Texans right tackle Derek Newton, who just signed a lucrative, five-year contract in Houston, and I’m curious if Newton will give it up if Wilfork makes a play for it. Newton wore No. 72 at Arkansas State, and perhaps he’d consider a switch back to accommodate his new teammate.
7. One thing that caught my eye when studying new Patriots defensive end/outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard is how his playing time dipped significantly the past two years: After playing 914 and 928 defensive snaps his first two seasons with the Browns, he was at 626 and 645, respectively, the past two. The dip coincided with Cleveland’s signing of big-money free agent Paul Kruger (847 and 861 snaps), and of course, there were three different coaching staffs in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Some stability should help Sheard, and the Patriots’ staff is quite stable.
8. Did you know: There are seven new head coaches, with the Broncos the lone playoff team that changed its coach. This marks the fifth straight year with at least seven head-coaching changes either during the season or in the following offseason.
9. Seeing a report of Reggie Bush’s one-year contract in San Francisco made me think the Patriots must have doubted his fit in their scheme at this point of his career, because that’s the type of deal I would have thought they'd like as a short-term bridge at a key position in their offense (about half of what Shane Vereen received with the Giants). I'm interested to see what Bush does in San Francisco, and also if second-year Patriots running back James White (2014 fourth round, Wisconsin) can rise up and seize that role without an established veteran pushing him.
10. The NFL owners meeting officially begins Monday morning in Phoenix, and here are a few things of note from a Patriots' perspective: The league could announce the team’s opening game Sept. 10, which is also the NFL kickoff (eight possible opponents); compensatory draft picks might be awarded (the Patriots can expect a high pick; they currently have seven overall selections); and rule-change proposals will be a big part of the discussion. At this point, it would be a surprise if the Wells report on underinflated footballs is released for the meeting. Owner Robert Kraft is expected to address reporters Monday, while the traditional AFC breakfast with head coaches, including Bill Belichick, is Tuesday.