New England Patriots Digest: AFC Dark Horses, Pats who got away

Jan 22, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) runs onto the field prior to the Patriots' game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2017 AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 22, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) runs onto the field prior to the Patriots' game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2017 AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

In the second installment of New England Patriots Digest, we talk about which dark horse teams could contend in the AFC and two former Pats succeeding with their new squads.

The New England Patriots have embarked on their summer vacation. Although the team’s mantra is “No Days Off”, they’re free to do all the relaxing they want until training camp starts next month.

Check back here each week for Friday’s Patriots Digest, the weekly source for everything Patriots.

5 Rings, 5 Things

Five things you need to know.

  • The Patriots added former Jets linebacker David Harris on Wednesday. Musket Fire’s Matty Simo shares his take on the signing.
  • Pro Football Focus projects New England to have the NFL’s best record in 2017. Musket Fire’s Nick Ziegler has the scoop.
  • TMZ Sports reported that Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski tallied a $100K bar tab last weekend. Since then, Gronk has denied the claim made against him.
  • Following Raiders’ quarterback Derek Carr’s contract extension, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio wonders, “What would Tom Brady get, if he pushed for top dollar?
  • Pats’ quarterback Tom Brady is spending his summer break traveling Asia with Under Armour. Check out Brady’s Instagram for photos from his trip.

Dark Horses of the AFC

Which AFC teams are secretly contenders?

Baltimore Ravens – For Patriots fans, the Baltimore Ravens are one of the last teams they want to face in the playoffs. While their last three matchups have gone in favor of New England, they’ve split their four postseason contests 2-2. In Week 14 of last season, Tom Brady threw for 406 yards, 3 touchdowns, and one interception, topping the Ravens 30-23. Since then, Baltimore’s added safety Tony Jefferson, cornerback Brandon Carr, and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, along with 2017 draft picks Marlon Humphrey, Tyus Bowser, and Tim Williams. Don’t be surprised if the Ravens take the AFC North in 2017 — or even the AFC.

Tennessee Titans – If it weren’t for an injury to Marcus Mariota in Week 15 of last season, the Tennessee Titans may have won the AFC South. Mariota posted 26 touchdowns on the year while running back DeMarco Murray racked up his third 1000-yard season since 2013. Over the offseason, Tennessee sharpened their defense with the addition of former Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan and first-round pick Adoree’ Jackson. As it stands, The AFC South looks wide open, now’s the Titans time to make a run at the postseason.

Kansas City Chiefs – Although Oakland’s roster is best suited to win the AFC West, the Kansas City Chiefs haven’t diminished since their elimination from last year’s playoffs. Tyreek Hill will enter his second season with the team, reducing the blow from Jeremy Maclin’s departure, while Bennie Logan fills Dontari Poe’s role. Additionally, Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce will aim to continue improving his 1,125 yards and four touchdowns in 2016. This September, New England will open the regular season versus the Chiefs.

More from Musket Fire

The Ones Who Got Away

These two former Patriots have fared well with their new teams.

OG Josh Kline, Tennessee Titans

The Patriots signed former Kent State offensive linemen Josh Kline as an undrafted free agent following the 2013 draft. As a rookie, he spent time on both New England’s 53-man roster and practice squad. Kline played in 33 games for New England from 2013 to 2015, switching between left and right guard. He was waived by the Patriots ahead of 2016 season and claimed by Tennessee.

Kline played in 14 games for the Titans last season, starting in all of them. Pro Football Focus gave him a 2016 grade of 80.0, 14th out of 42 offensive guards:

CB Cre’von LeBlanc, Chicago Bears

After going undrafted in 2016, Cre’von LeBlanc joined New England as a rookie free agent. Most will remember the former Florida Atlantic cornerback for his impressive one-handed interception in the preseason versus the New Orleans Saints. Throughout the summer, LeBlanc competed for a spot on the Patriots’ roster but ultimately didn’t make the cut.

The Bears claimed LeBlanc off of waivers prior to the start of last season. He played in 13 games for Chicago in 2016, collecting 44 tackles, 10 pass breakups, two interceptions, and one touchdown.

Next: Are expectations too high in New England?

Player of the Day: OL Andrew Jelks, #76

There are only 76 days until the Patriots begin their regular season.

New England added rookie offensive linemen Andrew Jelks as an undrafted free agent last month.

According to his player profile on

"[Jelks] played in 24 games with 21 starts at Vanderbilt over five seasons. Missed his final two seasons in 2015 and 2016 due to injuries.Named to Coaches’ SEC All-Freshman squad in 2013 after becoming the full time starter along the offensive line early in his redshirt freshman campaign."

Jelks missed Days 1, 2, and 3 of Patriots minicamp, per NESN’s Zack Cox.

Check back next week for another installment of Patriots Digest.