Jerome Baker

AFC East Rumors: Patriots, McMillan, Bills

A calf injury forced Marcus Cannon to miss the Patriots‘ preseason slate and resurfaced in New England’s Week 1 win over Houston. But the Pats’ right tackle starter looks on track to return on Sunday night. Cannon made progress this week, per The Athletic’s Jeff Howe (subscription required), and the Patriots announced he did make the trip to Detroit on Saturday. LaAdrian Waddle started for Cannon against the Jaguars. Cannon was signed to an extension to be the Patriots’ long-term right tackle, but he played in only seven games last season. It looks like he’ll have a chance to establish some consistency beginning in Week 3.

Here’s more out of New England and other AFC East locales:

  • Although Brandon Beane serves as the Bills‘ GM, it’s Sean McDermott who establishes the franchise’s tone “from top to bottom,” Tim Graham of The Athletic writes in an expansive piece about how the Bills’ rebuild is going thus far. The offseason mistakes Beane made in adding Vontae Davis, Jeremy Kerley, Corey Coleman and Russell Bodine may increase McDermott’s voice within the organization, Graham adds.
  • It will be a stretch for Trey Flowers to play this week. Howe notes Bill Belichick hasn’t deployed a player who’s missed an entire week of practice in at least 10 years. The Patriots’ top pass rusher was sidelined all week because of a concussion. Patrick Chung is in the same boat. Of course, the concussion protocol being in place means it’s not up to Belichick whether or not Chung and Flowers can suit up Sunday. Both are listed as doubtful to face the Lions. A Flowers absence could free up a spot for 2017 third-rounder Derek Rivers, who has yet to play in a regular-season game.
  • The Dolphins‘ intentions for Raekwon McMillan — set to be their starting middle linebacker in 2017 prior to a season-nullifying injury — was not to play him in their nickel package, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald notes. However, McMillan is now being used as a three-down player this year. Pro Football Focus has graded McMillan as one of its worst coverage ‘backers through two games, and Salguero adds Jerome Baker was brought in this year via third-round pick to help in coverage. While McMillan remains a part of Miami’s nickel set, Baker is pushing for a role there, per Salguero, as passing-down backs like James White, Giovani Bernard and Tarik Cohen loom on the Fins’ first-half schedule.
  • On the subject of nickel work, the Patriots‘ bringing back Cyrus Jones for a possible nickel role, Howe adds. Although the former Pats second-round pick was re-signed to serve as the punt returner, he worked as a safety and was given a chance to play in the slot during practice this week. Third-year Patriot Jonathan Jones currently serves as New England’s slot man. He’s graded well through two games, per PFF, which slots him as the NFL’s No. 21 corner thus far. Jonathan Jones, though, was in coverage during Dede Westbrook‘s back-breaking touchdown last week.

Dolphins Sign Three Draft Picks

The Dolphins announced the signings of three draft picks on Wednesday. Third-round linebacker Jerome Baker, fourth-round tight end Durham Smythe, and fourth-round running back Kalen Ballage have inked their deals, leaving second-round tight end Mike Gesicki as the last straggler in the team’s eight-man class. 

Baker was Ohio State’s leading tackler last year as he registered 72 stops in total. He also had eight tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks in his final year on campus. As shown on Roster Resource, Baker projects to be one of the team’s first linebackers off of the bench behind starters Kiko AlonsoRaekwon McMillan, and Chase Allen. Some evaluators feel that Baker is too small to play linebacker at the pro level, but Alonso doesn’t seem concerned about the 6’1″, 229-pound prospect.

Nowadays it’s all about, ‘Can you run?’” Alonso said recently (via Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post). “You see what linebacker position is nowadays. It’s getting smaller and smaller.”

Smythe, a Notre Dame product, put himself on the NFL radar with his blocking ability. He figures to do the dirty work while fellow rookie Gesicki figures to play a bigger role in the passing game.

Ballage, a tall running back at 6’3″, averaged 4.4 yards per carry while at Arizona State. He’ll likely serve as the Dolphins’ No. 3 running back this year behind Kenyan Drake and veteran Frank Gore.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.