“The way he practices, by playing with him for the year that I did, to be so talented but to practice so hard, you don’t see a lot of young guys that have so much talent take the job that seriously because they’re so talented. That’s what I think separates Darrelle. He’s not taking his talent and his abilities for granted. He still wants to go out there and prove that he’s the absolute best week in and week out. He’s not taking that for granted. He wants to be the best for a long time, and I have never seen anyone as competitive as Darrelle Revis, and that’s the honest to God truth. He made me as a veteran pick my game up in practice. … He motivated me at the end of my career.”—The Blitz with Jeff Howe & Karen Guregian | Boston Herald
Which do you think is more important for a defense that is aggressive: sound coverage or great pressure (obviously they work together)
It’s an interesting question because yes, they do work together, but against quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, who get the ball out quick, it’s hard for pass rush to get to them in time, at least from the edges.
So in today’s NFL, where the receivers have great size and all the advantages once they get past the five-yard contact window, you definitely need to have multiple cornerbacks who can be physical and press at the line of scrimmage.
But I also think that interior pass rush is vital as well. The guys on the inside can make a difference against quarterbacks who get the ball out quick. I’ve been beating this drum for a while now and I think the Pats have some promising pieces in place with Chris Jones (in a sub-package rotational role), Armond Armstead, and even Chandler Jones sliding inside.
I still dream of what a guy like Dominique Easley could do as well. He explodes off the ball and would really provide instant chaos in the quarterback’s face.
Those are the elements you need and you need them consistently. Especially in the playoffs against the best quarterbacks.
“What I continue to hear from team officials is that despite the Patriots working out a number of quarterbacks, they truly feel like that Tom Brady only has a few years left. So what the Patriots really want is a major receiving threat for him so they can take that last shot or two at the Super Bowl.”—
I’m not ruling out the Patriots taking a wide receiver in the first couple rounds of this draft, but I find it hard to believe they’ll be trading up to get one, regardless of how badly BB wants a top receiver for Brady. This is, by quite a few accounts, one of the deepest drafts in years, and the Patriots have a number of holes at important spots, both short-term and long-term.
You want to get Brady a shot at a last Super Bowl? How about solidifying the interior of his line, the weak spot in most of the recent playoff exits. There’s no linebacker or defensive end depth either. And there are many questions around the defensive tackle spot as well.
So to say the Pats will mortgage multiple picks to move up to take a receiver, a position they’ve whiffed on far more than they’ve hit on in both the draft and free agency, seems extremely risky.
Maybe they’ve met with a high-ranked WR who they really believe can “get it” but I am skeptical that unless they think he has Moss-like football intelligence that they’ll spend a first round pick on a WR, much less trade up for him.
spikes and talib's testimonies on the pats have me thinking, maybe the patriot way isn't for everybody. there are guys who buy into it and they do great (until pats refuse to pay up for them anyway) but then there are guys whose egos are too big for them to put something else above them. basically what i'm trying to get at is, belichick's not a jerk or something. thats why im curious how revis feels if he sticks after a year. just wondering what goes on behind the scenes in the organization
I definitely agree that playing for the Patriots isn’t for everyone. Tedy Bruschi calls it a “Football Academy” and it’s an environment where every last detail is about winning football games. If you’re not obsessed with being your best and being part of a team, you might not like it there.
For some guys, it’s cathartic to be in an environment like that. Many veterans enjoy being in a place where it is only about football after spending the first chunk of their careers in other franchises.
Belichick was raised at Navy and those are the kind of people and players he was around as a kid and I think that very much influences the kind of organization and players he wants.
A player like Spikes certainly marches to his own beat, and I loved watching him play. I’m not sure there was another defender, outside of maybe Talib, who was as good at one thing as Spikes was at destroying a opposing run game. But falling into line, sacrificing his desire to express himself, those kind of things just weren’t Spikes. Nothing against him, perhaps he’ll blossom even more when he can feel totally free.
But the fact is that when you put a team together of essentially “football nerds” they are very, very hard to beat. They are always well-prepared, don’t get rattled, and it takes a full game to beat them. A legit 60 minutes and nothing less. They’ll beat far more talented teams and they’ll come back on teams that let up once they have a 10-point lead.
We’ve seen it time and time again, with almost entirely different Patriots teams.
Almost every team wants to call themselves a team-first operation but very few really are. The Patriots definitely are.
How will Revis respond in that kind of environment? I’m not sure. It might be perfect for him. Or it might be too much. We’ll just have to let the season play out.
How do you think the extra few weeks now before the draft will effect things compared to last year
More time for more mock drafts and misinformation! The pre-draft period was already annoyingly long before they pushed the draft back into May. It’s no accident that suddenly players who have been atop the rankings all year are suddenly getting destroyed by “scouts” and “sources”. A lot of this is done to try and affect draft stock, most often by teams who want that player.
I don’t love the draft like a lot of people out there. I’ll be far more happy once I can jump in and evaluate the players the Pats pick up, rather than trying to pick a few random needles out of the haystack and try to explain why they will be who the Pats select, when really, they’re probably not selecting them.
I’m not a trained scout. I don’t watch college football film all day. The bit I do watch are YouTube cutups that give little context. I do think I know the kind of players the Pats like and I do my best to find those types of players, but I could do without the surrounding hype leading up to the draft and much of the online draftnik community, especially those who think they have it all figured out.
C.J. Mosley. Is he too similar to Jamie Collins to warrant the first round grab if he falls to 29?
I don’t think so, he probably fits more of a Will linebacker prototype, so if he’s redundant to anyone it’s probably Mayo.
My love/hate relationship with Mayo has been well-chronicled here. Despite his elite athleticism, I’ve just always felt he lacks that special something in coverage that the less-athletic Bruschi had. We’re entering year seven with him and there’s no question he’s the brains of the defense, but really how much worse off were they without him for most of last year? Hard to say for sure, but there weren’t many “man, if only we had Mayo” sentiments out there.
So the short answer is that I’ll take any defensive front seven player BB deems worthy in the first round, be it a defensive tackle, end or linebacker. And I don’t think it’s out of the question to take a player who could potentially back-up, and eventually maybe replace, Mayo.
Solid new mock from Frenz, though I have to say I don’t really see it with Louis Nix. Once again, my mantra for drafting now, especially at the top of the draft is that if they’re not making an impact on passing downs (the Pats’ biggest weakness defensively) they’re not helping. Wilfork is a special player at his size. I’m not convinced Nix is anything more than a running down-only impact player. That’s not enough as I see it.
Good read from Oliver Thomas on a player who has become more and more focal as the offseason has gone on. I thought the Pats would go after a high-end defensive end free agent to round out their rotation, and there’s still a very good chance they sign Will Smith (for better or worse), but it would appear Buchanan will have every chance to prove he can make a Year 2 jump as a pass rusher.
Can he be a rotational defensive end on every down? Well this article certainly leads us to believe it could be a long shot. But perhaps coming off the edge situationally, Buchanan could provide some spark.
And now here’s my piece from this morning, breaking down the best and worst case scenarios for the Pats. Little bit of a projection going on here, but one thing is for sure, the Pats have had far more success when they’ve taken a player at the bottom of the first round than when they’ve taken one at the top of the second.
“I think Will Smith could fit any defense,” Belichick said of Smith in 2009 when asked about what he thought about Smith coming out of college. “I can’t imagine there being a defense that he wouldn’t be able to help. He’s certainly a guy that we had a lot of interest in. (He’s) a big guy that can run, rush the passer, pursue well, strong play at the point of attack, athletic, plays on his feet. He’s got a good group of skills. (He) plays hard. He’s been productive. I think he’s been about the player, where he was drafted, and what people thought he would be, including us.”—
Good news on the Gronk front, though we’ve kind of come to expect that with ACL injuries. Gronk was hurt a month before Welker was in 2009 and he still made it back for the start of 2010. Granted he needed a full year to be back to 100% but it seems possible that Gronk could be ready for the opener.
As I said on TA, Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski visited Dr. James Andrews this week. He’s right where he should be. Will start jogging soon.
Who could you see losing their starting job next year if any
Wendell/Connolly - For reasons stated this entire offseason. I hope they draft both a high-round center and guard to push them.
Ridley - Depends on how the draft goes. Technically there is no “starter” at running back, but he could lose the lead running down snaps status to a rookie, especially if he fumbles.
Dobson - I’m really not as sold on Dobson as some people are and his offseason foot surgery hasn’t made me feel any better about him. I could see LaFell taking the starting X spot if Dobson doesn’t take significant steps forward.
Harmon - Not even sure he can really be called the starter at this point, but I’m pencilling him in there, though I could see an open competition with a rookie in camp. Lot of quality “robber” types in this draft.
Arrington - I consider the nickel corner a starter but I think Arrington will be pushed by Logan Ryan. I think it’s more likely Ryan starts at nickel than he does strong safety.
At defensive tackle I certainly hope Wilfork and Kelly don’t get their spots taken from them, because if they do they’ve really gone downhill fast. We’ll leave that alone until we see if they’re out there at OTAs.
Why do you think that when the patriots have one of those games were they are thoroughly out played that they don't get blown out
This is something I’ve brought up a lot over the years. Great example was 2011 when the Pats were thoroughly pounded by the Steelers…and lost by eight points.
This has usually been the case with Belichick’s teams, except maybe 2009 when they got smoked by the Saints on the field and on the scoreboard.
I think it really comes down to them building their team with very competitive guys who don’t give up. I know that’s kind of a cliche, but on the Patriots it’s true and it starts with Brady.
How many games last year did it seem like it was almost assured they would lose and they somehow pulled it out?
It’s just a consistent element of the complexion of this team. If you’re going to beat them you have to play perfectly and you have to put them away. Now teams often do put their best game on the field against the Pats - thing the 2012 Cardinals, 2013 Browns. That comes with the turf when everyone gets amped just to play you.
But it just goes to show that when you have a highly competitive team that is extremely well-coached and ready for any situation, it almost always takes a flawless performance to take them down, even when they’re off their game.
“29. New England Patriots — Minnesota DT Ra’Shede Hageman: Some feel Hageman has fallen out of the first round, but coach Bill Belichick has a long history of taking big defensive linemen in the first round. Hageman’s motor may run hot and cold but at 6-foot-6, 320 pounds, it’s worth a shot for a team with an old front.”—
“Dobson, who led a host of Patriots rookie receivers with 519 yards in 2013, improved greatly before a foot injury put a damper on the end of his season, ultimately leading to surgery in March. The former second-round pick has the quickness to beat press coverage and an ability to make some spectacular catches, despite having relatively small hands. He can make adjustments on the ball and is a good blocker for a receiver. He’s got some special stuff about him. Projection for 2014: 75 catches, 1,100 yards, seven touchdowns.”—
who are you rooting for on offense and defense (besides collins)? i like thompkins and I think he has raw talent and he just needs to get the skills down. plus his background makes for a great story and he just seems like he would give football everything he's got. on defense, I'm rooting for Jones and Siliga in the middle. tighter coverage on the outside should give them a chance to make some more plays.
Not to avoid the question but I’m really rooting for everyone. These guys put in so much work, I am disappointed for anyone that it doesn’t work out for, for whatever the reasons.
The guys I think it’s critical for them to have a big season for the Pats to get to the Super Bowl are Collins, Dobson, Harmon, and really Gronkowski. Those guys have to be key contributors this year and if they’re not, then someone has to rise to the occasion and contribute in their projected role.
Nothing against Thompkins, Boyce, Logan Ryan or anyone else. If those under-the-radar guys can make a leap then it will be great for the team. I’m sure they realize the pressure is on. Nothing is assured to anyone. If they don’t perform, they could be out of a job.
How much do you think how a draft prospect fits into a teams scheme matter when evaluating and drafting
It’s everything. I can’t speak to every other team in the NFL, but the Patriots system for evaluating draft prospects is about specifically telling how the player would fit into the current team, how they compare to the players already on the roster, and whether they’d be a starter, backup or roster bubble type.
It’s hard for everyone, including the NFL teams themselves, to truly know how an athlete will develop as a professional. I think that’s true of any profession. There are certain things you can test and they have their physical dimensions and measurables, but after those things there’s really no way to know.
Now in the case of players like Jamie Collins, who can do a lot of things, there’s probably a little more wait-and-see to the approach. You can’t say definitively what he will do but you know he has all the boxes checked but you need to get him into the program to see what he excels at most.
Good stuff from Rich Hill at PatsPulpit, illustrating the Pats decline in short yardage situations. Like most anyone, including Rich, I’m surprised at Sammy Morris’ numbers in those situations, but as Rich points out, much of this is attributed to the quality of the interior linemen.
The decline must be directly linked to the transition from Mankins-Koppen-Neal to our current Mankins-Wendell-Connolly. This is obviously a point I’ve hit on a lot this offseason - the need to upgrade the interior OL for the long term. I think they need to spend at least one high-round pick at G or C.
From what you have seen and scouted, to your opinion is this one of the deeper drafts as the pundits have been saying
I’d agree with that, at least as far as the Patriots needs are concerned. There are some good defensive tackles and interior OL that fit the Pats needs and enough depth that they’ll be available into the second and third rounds.
Also see some interesting safety prospects as well that could be good Patriot fits.
I don’t love the running backs or cornerbacks in this class and feel like the defensive ends and linebackers are somewhat hit or miss. There’s some intriguing guys in certain pockets but not strong top-to-bottom.
Overall I think the Pats should be able to really round out their depth, especially at some of the positions where they need it most. Still most curious to see what they do at defensive end because that’s a need and not an area where the prospects that are available stand out to me.
“When I started covering the team in the middle of Hernandez’s rookie season, I was blown away by his talent and wondered why he lasted until the fourth round of the 2010 draft. It couldn’t have just been about the reported marijuana use while he was at Florida. So I called around the league and heard about the concerns some teams had about his associates from his hometown, and that there were possible gang ties. I tried to get something concrete on it, but I couldn’t get any traction with the story (Instagram photos would have been nice). There were no facts, just strong rumors. So I never wrote anything, and then the unthinkable happened. To this day I think about ways I could have dug harder and published a story that, at least, might have woken Hernandez up (and woken us all up to Hernandez) before he allegedly broke bad.”—
“"The safety position used to be a run support position," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. "Now it’s not near as much of that… The in the box safeties really are not in the box anymore. They are becoming dinosaurs." The traditional designations of strong safety and free safety are a thing of the past, like a printed road map. Safeties have to be able to do all in most schemes. There are a few defenses, like the one in Seattle, that still do it the old way. But the Seahawks, with Earl Thomas at free and Kam Chancellor at strong, are the exception rather than the rule.”—
2014 PatsPropaganda Patriots Top 50 NFL Draft Board
For the past three years, I’ve put together a Patriots-only big board, ranking 50 prospects that I like most for the Pats, roughly in the order that I like them. Needs are taken into account and I try to spread them out across all levels to try and hit as many as possible. Think of this like a big lottery ticket.
My scores in past seasons: 2011 - four out of nine picks, 2012 - two of seven picks, and 2013 - two out of seven picks (plus Chris Jones though he wasn’t drafted by the Pats). Can I break .500 this year??
Input is welcome, but my only rule is to keep it to 50 guys, so for every guy I add, someone’s gotta come off. Many of you know these prospects far better than I do, so make your case in the comments for additions and subtractions.
“We got the best corner in the league coming in,” he said. “That’s always a good thing for a defensive end like myself, just give me a little bit more time [with tight coverage] and I’ll be happy to use that.”—
Why isn't strong safety a real position of need for the draft in comparison to our D-line? I don't see any clear starter for us at that position. Is that position deep in this year's draft?
I think to some degree the traditional strong safety is a dying position. Everyone wants to have that “enforcer” on their defense, but how many enforcers can run with today’s tight ends, slot receivers and running backs?
Those traditional strong safety guys are getting relegated to subpackage linebacker spots in many defenses, including the Patriots’. I expect to see Jamie Collins in this kind of role this year, because big safeties are no longer enough. You need uber-athletic linebackers.
It takes a special player to be able to do everything, but ultimately if you’re a safety you need to be able to be a safety, i.e. run and cover on the back end and show good range and tackling skills. Coming downhill and filling against the run is still important, but it can’t be their only tool in their toolbox.
So while I do think strong safety is a need, I think it’s more in a depth role in rounding out what the safety group brings to the party. It goes back to my overall philosophy that if a player isn’t helping the pass defense he’s not helping enough.
A box safety would look good in warmups and presnap, but offenses would attack him if he can’t cover.
This is a critical article if you want more insight into the Patriots pass rush. The Pats are ranked 25th overall in blitz percentage, obviously meaning that they really don’t blitz very much at all compared to the rest of the NFL.
When the Pats do blitz, they were fairly effective, ranking 13th in the NFL for pass rush productivity when sending more than four guys. But again, it didn’t happen very often.
Finally comes the real measure, and that is measuring the ability to get pressure with just their front four. In this the Pats were ranked 23rd.
I think in Bill Belichick’s world this is the most telling stat. When the Pats had a dominant defense this ranking would’ve been much higher because they had the ability to get pressure with just four guys, which would be their front three in the 3-4 and whichever LB they felt like sending on that play.
If you’re a conservative defensive team and you don’t blitz a lot, getting pressure with just four is critical to your defense. It might be the single most important element. This is why, for all the excitement the signings of Revis and Browner bring, it’s all about the front seven as I see it if this defense is going to be truly elite.
Also, here’s MMQB’s last pressure points ranking which similarly has the Pats in the early-20s for pass rush. Just not good enough. If Wilfork/Kelly can re-enter the rotation they will definitely help, but how limited will they be. Hopefully Armstead helps too.
Do you see Brandon Browner being matched up with "move" tight ends given his length and size?
That’s a very good question, but I would say probably not. I think we’ll see Browner and Revis either staying on sides or following specific receivers. And I don’t think it’s a lock that Revis just takes the opposing X every game. Browner could be a better matchup in certain situations given his size.
Browner is not going to be at his best in the slot against a move tight end where he can’t use the sideline to his advantage and has to basically cover the entire field. Size-wise it might make sense, but agility-wise it doesn’t.
I believe the Jamie Collins will be the primary guy against the move tight ends with some Duron Harmon (or whomever at SS) filling in at times. Collins has the size and athleticism you take those tight ends on.
How in today's salary cap era do you think teams can pay their players but still stay under the cap, how often do you think teams have to make that decision that we want him back but we can't pay him that much money. Also how would you handle paying your teams best players while still staying under the salary cap
It’s difficult by design and given the Patriots’ unprecedented and unmatched level of success in the salary cap, they’re a pretty good model to look at.
The headline would probably be letting a player go a year too early rather than a year too late. That’s always the sweet spot of overpaying someone who is on the verge of decline.
There are plenty of examples, like McGinest, Vrabel, Seymour, Welker - and in most cases those players haven’t had sustained success after leaving New England (we’ll see how Welker does this year, but his concussion history seemed to be catching up to him in 2013).
The other way the Pats have beat the system is allowing open competition for lower round and no-round draft picks. They always seem to have undrafted rookies make the team and often make big impacts. This is even more shocking given their continued ability to win with these players no one wanted.
They also maximize the value of draft picks as a way to mitigate risk. No teams really know what they’re doing in the draft. The only reasonable strategy is to get as many picks as you can. You’re going to miss on a lot of them, but the more picks you make, the more chances you have of finding a Julian Edelman or Alfonzo Dennard in the 7th round.
This was even more true before the rookie salary cap when a miss on a high first-rounder could be crippling.
The last element is getting guys to take market value deals and often re-structuring their contracts when needed. This is easier to sell when you can offer a chance to win a Super Bowl like the Pats can.
in your latest article, you said they should add in a hard hitting strong safety. can't patrick chung be that guy??? i remember him tackling real hard in the 2011 run.
I never had a problem with Chung’s hard hits, if anything he was flying around with too much reckless abandon. The problem is that his playing style and body type added up to a lot of injuries.
If injuries mount, and Chung is healthy and makes the team, I could see him playing the Cover 1 Robber role that Gregory played last year. When he wasn’t forced into coverage, and he spent significant time playing the slot corner role in his earlier stint, he was exposed.
He also didn’t have great range to be a back end safety. But coming downhill against the run or to tackle the receivers he’d be okay.
However, I think Chung’s either special teams or bust this year unless there are major injury issues in camp in the secondary.
Which positions would you be surprised that the patriots drafted
I wouldn’t really be surprised at any particular position, just how high they took specific positions. If they took a cornerback or offensive tackle in the first two-three rounds I’d be surprised. Outside that, and kicker/punter, anything is on the table.
As I’ve written before, I follow this team as closely as anyone and they shock me multiple times every offseason. I fully expect to be shocked at least once or twice before the season starts. Really, that’s what makes it so enjoyable (on top of the winning of course).