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Patriots’ unheralded OL Joe Thuney has rare versatility – NFL Nation


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. Joe Thuney a 5-position offensive lineman: A run of injuries and retirements on the offensive line has created roster-related stress for the Patriots — starting in spring practices, extending through training camp, and now into Week 2 of the season. Thankfully for them, they have Thuney, who is one of the few linemen in the NFL who can play all five positions at a high level.

Thuney has started every game at left guard since the Patriots selected him in the third round out of NC State in 2016, with a pick that was acquired as part of the team trading defensive end Chandler Jones to the Arizona Cardinals.

But in spring practices and parts of training camp this year, he worked as the top left tackle as Isaiah Wynn was brought back cautiously from a torn Achilles. And last Sunday, he kicked out to right tackle when starter Marcus Cannon left the game because of a shoulder injury.

If the Patriots needed him at center or right guard, he’d easily be a fit there as well — as he was in the 2016 preseason finale (playing center for a touchdown drive) and in his redshirt sophomore year at NC State (playing right guard).

The 6-foot-5, 308-pound Thuney, whose smarts and athleticism contribute to his versatility, has value to the Patriots similar to that of former left guard Logan Mankins (2005-2013). Bill Belichick once noted that Mankins could play all five spots on the line in a starting role. As a backup, Russ Hochstein provided similar value.

This week, I asked Thuney for the first thing that stands out to him at each spot.

  • Tackle: “Playing more in space against shiftier guys.”

  • Guard: “Being firm with great pad level.”

  • Center: “Great communication.”

Asked how much pride he takes in being able to play all five positions, the understated Thuney said it was fun before adding: “I’m an offensive lineman, and I just love playing the game.”

2a. Did you know? Since 2001, the Patriots have won 26 games by 30 points or more. That is 12 more than any other team over that span.

2b. Did you know? Part 2: The Patriots have 114 regular-season wins and 16 postseason wins so far in this decade (2010-present), and with a win against the Dolphins on Sunday, they would tie the Colts (2000-2009) for most regular-season wins in a single decade in NFL history.

3. Trade with the Jets breaks 28-year streak for Patriots: How rare was it that the Patriots traded veteran receiver Demaryius Thomas to the Jets last week? While it was well documented that Belichick had never traded with the Jets before then, colleague Rich Cimini dug up this nugget: The last time the clubs struck a deal was 1991, when New England — under then-head coach Dick MacPherson — acquired tackle Kip Beach from the Jets for future considerations. Beach never played in a game for New England. One has to go back to the American Football League days to find a trade involving the teams before that. The Patriots and Jets made three trades in that era, one involving the great Babe Parilli in 1968.

4. After extension, Jones reflects on life-changing decision: Slot cornerback Jonathan Jones, who signed a three-year contract extension with a base value of $7 million per season last week, had a decision to make after going undrafted in 2016 — Patriots or Cardinals? Those were the two teams that expressed the most interest in him, and one of the reasons he came to New England was seeing how his former Auburn teammate — Brandon King — had made the roster as an undrafted free agent the year before. “It’s about opportunity and that’s all you can ask for,” Jones said this week. “Sometimes you look back on decisions that affect you for a lifetime. Who knows what it would have been the other way — better, worse — but I had this opportunity to come here … it’s a blessing.”

5. Brown and Moss develop connection: Some have compared Antonio Brown‘s arrival in New England to when Randy Moss first came to the team in 2007, and as it turns out, they have struck up a connection. Moss, who is an analyst on ESPN’s NFL Countdown, relayed on The Adam Schefter Podcast that he first reached out to Brown before Brown was traded from Oakland. Moss said they’ve talked and texted since, and he left him with this message: “You have to get there and focus and understand what they’re trying to do on that football field, man, and magic is going to happen.”

6. Edelman’s fashion statement: As we’ve learned with Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr., players aren’t allowed to wear hard objects like a watch during games. But they can wear bracelets, and Super Bowl LIII Most Valuable Player Julian Edelman has done just that — similar to Bruins defender Zdeno Chara during the NHL playoffs. I asked Edelman about it, and he said he received the bracelet from good friend April Soderstrom, who had it custom-made for him with his signature “JE11” logo.

7. Melifonwu wanted to stick around: When the Patriots waived safety Obi Melifonwu early this past week, it was a decision they were forced into to bolster the offensive line, which has been hit by a run of injuries and retirements. The club is fortunate he cleared waivers and returned on the practice squad, where the Pats are paying him a full salary as if he were on the roster ($37,941 per week). I asked Melifonwu if it was a hard decision to come back, and he said New England was the place he wanted to be all along. And chances are it won’t be long before Melifonwu is back on the active roster.

8. Bennett makes early impact: One of the top storylines for the Patriots in the offseason was how they would replace Trey Flowers, who signed with the Lions as a free agent. Enter Michael Bennett, who graded out as the NFL’s third-best best pass-rusher in Week 1, based on ESPN’s pass-rush win rate metric (via Next Gen Stats). Flowers had a PRWR of 12% in Week 1, tied for 59th among qualified pass-rushers and just below the average of 14%.

9. Horned Frogs taking over Patriots locker room: When the Patriots signed veteran offensive lineman Marshall Newhouse on Wednesday, it was an insurance policy with Cannon sidelined because of a shoulder injury. Newhouse and Cannon, of course, were teammates at Texas Christian, with a friendship that extends to 2006. Because Newhouse is well-traveled — the Patriots are his seventh team after stops with the Packers, Bengals, Giants, Raiders, Bills and Panthers — he has been able to call several other TCU alums teammates, a group that includes quarterback Andy Dalton (Bengals), defensive end Jerry Hughes (Bills), safety Colin Jones (Panthers), receiver Jeremy Kerley (Bills) and now Cannon.

10. Fat Fridays a treat for new Patriots players: Patriots players look forward to Fat Fridays and what team sports dietitian Ted Harper brings in for them each week. Prior to the Week 1 win against the Steelers, it was Chick-fil-A. This week, it was a combination of wings from Skipjacks and various items from Five Guys. Safety Terrence Brooks, who is in his first year with the Patriots after playing with the Ravens, Eagles and Jets, said it was a nice surprise to learn of Fat Fridays. “With the Jets we had some soul food days and stuff like that,” Brooks said, before smiling and adding, “Any time you can get Chick-fil-A in the building, that’s dope.”





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Football

Florida QB Franks carted off with leg injury


LEXINGTON, Ky. — Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks was carted off the field with a right leg injury late in the third quarter of the No. 9 Gators’ Southeastern Conference game against Kentucky on Saturday night.

Franks was scrambling before being stopped for no gain by the Wildcats’ Calvin Taylor Jr. on a fourth-and-1 play at the Kentucky 38. Team medical personnel came on the field and soon placed an inflatable cast under Franks’ right leg before the junior was put on a cart and taken off for observation. Franks completed 12 of 17 passes for 174 yards and a 15-yard touchdown before the injury.

Florida players swarmed around Franks on the cart to offer support before he was taken away to applause from a sold-out crowd at Kroger Field. He was replaced by junior Kyle Trask on the next drive.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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