“The mental makeup of this team has to be on par with where it was last season when the Patriots out-toughed a lot of teams. And, one thing we didn’t appreciate as much in the early years of the 2000s, they need good fortune in huge games. They need to catch a bounce. They need to make the brilliant helmet catch or make the impossible sideline throw instead of dropping the difficult twisting reception that would have sealed a Super Bowl.”—Camp questions: Will the Patriots win No. 4? (via vidriodelmar)
No other position got the makeover that cornerback did for the New England Patriots this offseason. Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner headlines the 2014 free agent class and instantly give the Pats their best secondary since the dynasty years.
But how will the trickle down effect play out for talented young corners like Logan Ryan and Alfonzo Dennard? And where does Kyle Arrington fit in?
Our training camp preview series continues with a look at a reloaded cornerback group.
The Patriots have a perfect personnel mix. Young veterans either entering or in their prime – Chandler Jones, Donta Hightower, Devin McCourty, Rob Ninkovich, Kyle Arrington, Brandon Browner and Mayo. Back-nine veterans with guile and talent – Wilfork and Kelly. Experienced young depth – Seaver Siliga, Chris Jones, Joe Vellano, Logan Ryan, Jamie Collins and Duron Harmon. One of the league’s best defenders in Revis. A head coach who made his legend as a defensive mastermind. There is no logical reason to think the Patriots defense will be the sore spot its been for the past five seasons.
With the tools in place to be a more pressure-oriented defense as opposed to reactive, the Patriots can change their MO and change their stripes from being a team reliant on Tom Brady to save them and one that sets him up to merely get the wins in the barn. That will be the biggest switch of all.
The Patriots lost two linebackers this offseason - Brandon Spikes and Dane Fletcher, and though they didn’t make a splashy addition to replace them this offseason, they still have a promising starting trio remaining. The headline is that defensive signal caller Jerod Mayo returns from a pectoral tear that ended his 2013 season early.
But the depth behind Mayo, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins is still largely an unknown. With a collection of rookie and veteran free agents, the Pats could find themselves with some new faces at the linebacker position making an impact.
Behind them the depth is either coming off injury or largely unproven. In a league where your defense lives or dies by their pass rush, do the Pats have enough horses to control the edges for five-plus months?
“If there is a surprise veteran cut on defense, it will be Tommy Kelly. The veteran defensive tackle is coming off a torn ACL after being limited to five games last season, is 33 years old, and restructured his contract in the offseason. That’s a three-pronged combination that makes us feel like he’s anything but a sure-fire lock to stick. Kelly was excellent in the few games he played last season, stayed in Foxborough throughout the year to rehab, and expressed optimism about his health in spring camps.”—Bold predictions for New England Patriots camp - ESPN Boston
So you get to sit down with BB on a bench and ask him one question, one question only. He will tell you the absolute truth in full detail. No dodging. You going X's and O's, or gossip seeking? What say you? -Luke
Holy hoodie, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t contemplate this question before. Thought usually it’s more in the context of asking him something at a Friday press conference.
If it was just him and me, mano a mano, I think I’d like to really get him to in-depth on is modern defensive strategy. How he chooses his defensive front each week, what he looks to take away, what he looks to attack, who two-gaps, what he’s willing to give up to gain. That kind of stuff because really those are kind of the great unknowns with BB and what makes him special.
If I had to condense it down to the Friday press conference version I’d ask about the rise of importance of a third defensive end or designated pass rusher. He’s commented how the third cornerback, the slot guy, is essentially a starter now, so I’d like to know how he views that extra pass rusher. In the past this isn’t the kind of role player the Pats put a lot of value in, but since Mark Anderson in 2011 it’s kind of grown a bit.
The gossip stuff doesn’t really interest me. The guy’s one of the greatest football minds ever, so I’d want to ask him about football.
There were some major headlines this offseason for the Patriots at the defensive tackle position. The first was Vince Wilfork restructuring his contract after a somewhat acrimonious beginning in February.
Tommy Kelly did the same and, along with the first-round selection of the explosive Dominique Easley in the first round of the draft, the Pats have some promise in the front middle of their front seven.
The Pats still have some questions at the position, but if everyone is healthy it might just be one of the deepest and most talented spots on the roster.
its week 4 of the 2014 season. what happens at the CB position opposite of Revis? I'm not sure at all how Browner affects Dennard? if Browner works out then is Dennard done or is he held on to incase there is an injury? Can Logan Ryan be used like an Arrington upgrade?
Unfortunately I think there will be at least minor injuries that will make this easier to flush out, but assuming full health it obviously seems like there’s almost too many talented corners to get them all on the field.
Revis is out there obviously, and I think the Kyle Arrington is just about set in stone in the slot. While I think Logan Ryan can play every position in the secondary, I like how Arrington matches up on guys in the slot a little bit better. Just look at what Arrington did against Welker in two games - 8 catches for 69 yards total. That’s usually a sub-par single game for Welker.
So I think what we have to prepare for is for the secondary to be a matchup defense. Maybe you see Browner on the bigger outside receivers one week, the next you see Dennard a bit more on a smaller shiftier guy. Or maybe it’s Ryan. It really could change week to week.
If everyone’s healthy I don’t think we can just pencil in anyone outside of Revis and Arrington. It could be a legitimate rotation that is unpredictable for the opposition. Browner certainly has his strengths, but he also has some weaknesses that could be protected with Dennard and Ryan in certain matchups.
One thing to watch will be how much play Dennard and Ryan get in the slot during camp. You have to have a second slot guy for sure, but Dennard has been exclusively outside in his two years even though he seems to have good size and tenacity to play in the slot.
“Revis’s pride will be fully engaged this season in Foxboro, and that could turn out to be a very good thing indeed for a New England team that knows it must tighten things down defensively if a fourth Super Bowl ring is to ever be secured by quarterback Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, the team’s 15th-year head coach.”—
“We tend to look for big-ticket items to mark offseason improvement. It would be much easier to draw conclusions about the Patriots’ Plan B if they had committed a major asset to acquire a No. 1 receiver or maneuvered to draft an instant-impact tight end. Generally speaking, I think we all know the Patriots don’t operate in such dramatic fashion. There are no easily identifiable signs that tell you they have put together a more balanced offense, and in truth, no team can expect an equal performance without one of its best players on the field. If you look close enough, however, you can see that the Patriots seem to have planted the seeds of nuanced possibility.”—
The offensive line has long been a point of pride for the New England Patriots. But recent years have brought transition, and they will be further put to the test with this offseason’s departure of legendary offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
The Pats were able to reinforce their line in the draft this year, and with the return of Sebastian Vollmer, the Pats should once again be able to give Tom Brady top-notch protection.
“It has been a pleasure being around Armond, as he gave everything he could to play for us,” Belichick said. “Armond worked extremely hard since joining us last February. He’s had a lot of adversity personally that he’s had to deal with – unusual compared to most other players – but he’s always had a great attitude, worked hard and really did everything we asked him to do. While it is unfortunate he will not be able to play football, Armond is an outstanding young man who has a very bright future in whatever path he chooses.”—
Bummer, was really looking forward to see what Armstead brought, especially last year when he was possibly going to be our interior pass rush problems. Now, with Easley in the fold, there was less of a make-or-break feeling around Armstead. Unfortunate that his career has ended like this.
2013 was a year of transition at the Wide Receiver position for the Patriots. They weathered injuries to almost every receiver, save Julian Edelman, who came through as a breakout go-to star of the offense.
Things should be better for the Pats’ aerial assault in 2014, especially if they can stay healthy. With a year of development under their belt, the Pats collection of second-year pass catchers must be counted on to take significant steps forward.
There’s nothing like the gut punch of the random guys who end up on the PUP list to start training camp. The Pats have multiple guys coming off ACL injuries this year - Gronk, Easley, Kelly and Will Smith, along with Vince Wilfork’s Achilles. Those are major injuries and it wouldn’t be out of the question for the Pats to hold them out in the early days of camp.
There’s also the notion of winning the war, not the early season battles. As much as you’d love to see all of these guys out there in Week 1, it’s important to make sure they’re fully ready to go in January.
There’s also a certain advantage to having a couple guys on the PUP list to start the season to open up some extra roster spots. Brandon Browner’s suspension provides a little advantage in that regard as well.
Running back is one of the most intriguing positions on the New England Patriots’ roster this training camp. The headline of the offseason was the loss of breakout player LeGarrette Blount, but the Pats didn’t make a veteran addition to replace Blount, leaving the spotlight on fourth-year veterans Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, both of whom enter contract years.
With a diverse set of rookies also on the roster, this could be one of the most competitive position battles in training camp.
Our Training Camp Preview series continues with a look at the running backs.
Welcome to part one of our Patriots Training Camp preview that will feature an in-depth look at each position on the roster and what we’ll be looking for in training camp along with our expectations going into the season.
Another Patriots season is upon us, here we go!
The New England Patriots’ offense underwent changes and injuries in 2013. With multiple weapons in their second seasons with Tom Brady, as well as their two top running backs entering contract years, the Pats’ attack is primed be better in 2014.
Tom Brady has gone through multiple phases of offense during his Patriots career. There was the efficiency years of 2001-2006, the Randy Moss years of 2007-2009, then the high-speed blitzkreig of 2010-2012 with Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Deion Branch and Wes Welker.
Now Brady enters the twilight of his career with two highly-drafted young quarterbacks behind him. Brady should have a few more sure-fire seasons left in him, but what can we expect to see out of Ryan Mallett and Jimmy Garoppolo?
Our training camp preview series kicks off with the quarterbacks.
“Of all teams to call him, it was crazy when he got the call from New England. I was really excited for him,” Watson said. “Excited for him to get the opportunity to play in the NFL. Excited to be able to go to a team like New England that is functioning as well as they do, an organization I have a lot of respect for and will challenge him to become a better player and will really teach him good fundamentals and teach him how to win. I’m just excited for his opportunity. Now he has to go and earn a spot on that roster.”—Benjamin Watson passes torch to younger brother Asa | Sports - Patriots | providencejournal.com | The Providence Journa
What do you think the ceiling and the floor are for Easley entering his rookie season? Do you really think that he could be the final piece of the puzzle to give BB a Super Bowl winning caliber defense?
Well, you’re coming to someone as biased about Easley as one can get so take this answer with a grain of salt, but yes I think Easley could be the final piece of the puzzle.
I’ve been banging the interior rusher drum since 2010, but the Pats kept picking up nose tackles and two-gapping defensive ends. There just wasn’t a value placed on penetrating defensive tackles and when you look at the struggles they’ve had on third down, I see it as a biggest reason why.
What are the two biggest problems for this defense of late? Third down and deep passes. What does that say about a defense? That the pass rush is not getting there. If the QB has time to hit the long passes he’s got too much time in the pocket, because coverage can’t last forever.
As much as I love Vince WIlfork, he was just way overused in 2010-2012 and just could not be a consistent menace on passing downs. And really, that’s not his game to begin with.
The Pats had Mike Wright and Myron Pryor but injuries ended both their Pats careers early. They needed more of those kind of players who could come on for passing downs with fresh legs and get some push up the middle of the pocket.
Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Kyle Love, Brandon Deaderick, Albert Haynesworth, Ron Brace, Gerard Warren…none of them were the answer.
Now, in Easley, you finally have that guy. He might only be a situational player but that is fine and well-worth a first-round pick as I see it. Because he’s going to come on and cause major problems for the offense. He can rush from any spot on the line and his explosiveness is superlative.
Think of him this way… He’s the passing down version of the running down chess piece Vince Wilfork was/is. BB will move him around and he should make an instant impact in the areas where the Pats defense has struggled most over the last four seasons.
And the revamped secondary featuring Revis et al will only help that.
Do you think that maybe for a play or two belichick would take off chandler or nickovich and bring on one of the LBs to rush the QB
I sure hope so, but it’s more about subbing them for a defensive end than one of the linebackers. As I’ve said a lot the offseason, they can’t afford to run Chandler and Nink into the ground like they did last year. They need a third defensive end to rotate and hopefully Will Smith is that guy, along with maybe Michael Buchanan, if he develops, as a designated pass rusher.
But as you say, I think the possibilities of Hightower and/or Collins playing a pass rushing role is intriguing. However I don’t think either would be best utilized putting their hand in the dirt as a wide-9 defensive end and simply rushing the passer.
That makes things too simple for a quarterback, especially with two skilled players who can do a lot more.
Simply, Collins and Hightower will be good as blitzers, not as pass rushers. Disguise is the key…not knowing whether they’re dropping or rushing. That’s when blocking assignments get confused or you get an undersized running back trying to block the 270-pound Hightower. Or an immobile guard trying to slide and pick up the uber-athletic Collins.
"And now ladies and gentlemen, choosing to be introduced as a team, here are the American Football Conference Champions, the New England Patriots." - Pat Summerall, SB XXXVI. It still gives me goosebumps like it did the moment that it happened. I remember thinking at the time, "Oh my God, this Patriots team might actually win the Superbowl."
I remember thinking “I really don’t need another blowout Super Bowl loss”.
Ok, I'm tired of the argument that NE is only in the AFC championship every year because the AFC is soft. Here's the deal: BB and TFB dominate the league because they're the best. This in turn causes firing and releasing of personnel in the other division's teams at a yearly rate. Rex is the only coach that has stuck around longer than a few years, and he had to go to AFC championships in order to stick around. The AFC East is crap because of the patriots utter dominance. What say you?
Yeah you nailed it. This has been popping up more and more lately. And it’s not like the Patriots have just run right over the rest of the AFC East every season. If you’ve actually watched the games you know how close they have been. How many times did the Pats pull a win out over Buffalo by the skin of their teeth? With just a couple exceptions, every game with Rex’s Jets has been close. Miami has had their chances, and wins (Wildcat) as well.
But none of them could do it consistently, which would require beating New England twice in a season. Each one can and has put together a game (usually at home) where everything goes right and they beat New England. But twice? Including in Foxboro? Nope.
Look at how much the other divisions have changed in recent years. Remember when the NFC West was the laughing stock of the league? I certainly do in 2008 when the Pats swept them with Matt Cassel.
Might the Titans or Jaguars or even Texans have gotten more freedom and chances to develop if they weren’t getting blasted by Peyton Manning every season in Indy? Good teams with good quarterbacks lay waste to the teams they play most, leaving those opponents in an almost constant state of rebuilding. That certainly snowballs on them as well.
That’s why I think the Jets are the closest to having the right idea. Let Rex stay. He gives Brady and Belichick problems. Teams need that continuity, but even Rex might be on his final chance.
This argument always leads to saying the Pats can’t beat the good teams in the playoffs. In 2009, you got me. The Pats got blown off the field in the first quarter, but every other playoff loss came down to the end for the most part. It’s not easy to beat the best teams and Super Bowl 42 and 46 really could’ve gone either way if the Pats defense had made one more play.
So the simple truth? The Patriots are a good football team and have been ever since 2001. They are extremely hard to play and to beat them you have to play a full game and never give them any kind of hope. You also need to not turn the ball over more than once.
It’s funny that people will really try to make the comment that it’s acceptable and almost expected that the three other AFC East teams haven’t been able to put together even a good team in the past 12 seasons. Personally I’d be insulted if I were a Jets fan. I think Rex had his faults as a coach, but in terms of his defensive prowess, there are few better.
As if that is more plausible than the Patriots, with the same head coach and quarterback, could possibly just be that good. Maybe it’s just Spygate. Sigh…
Andre Johnson? He desperately wants out of Houston. Is there any chance he lands in New England? How good would that make the offense? Tell me about the rabbits, Mike...
It’s the deadest part of the offseason so I’ll play along. Let’s just forget that it’s unlikely the Pats could even fit Andre on the roster given their current cap space, it would take Houston either eating a large portion of it or Andre agreeing to restructure, which of course isn’t impossible, but I’d think there are other places that make more sense.
What would you give up? I’d let any wide receiver not named Edelman be part of it, but Amendola is unlikely due to his decent salary and Dobson’s been hurt so I’m not sure Houston is interested.
What about a cornerback? Logan Ryan? Dennard (who’s also been hurt). Or maybe a tackle? Vollmer? Maybe even Vereen?
Bill O’Brien knows most of the Pats roster so I think those are the guys that might be intriguing. But if it came to picks I think the deal would flame out because the Pats wouldn’t want to give up more than MAYBE a second. And that’s a big maybe.
But if they could work it out, I’d say the Johnson-Edelman-Gronkowski offense would be on par with the 2007 offense. You can threaten every area of a defense. Throw in Thompkins/Boyce, maybe even Gallon in the slot and they’d have very favorable matchups.
I’m not holding my breath but it would certainly be fun to watch.
“Talib might be gone, but he hasn’t forgotten what becoming a Patriot did for him.
“It meant a lot, man,” Talib said. “I learned a lot. I learned a lot just about being a professional. Learned from Bill [Belichick], seeing how Bill ran his building. It was a wonderful experience for me.””—
No hard feelings, Aqib. Though I’m certainly happier to have Revis. If he can finish an AFC Championship game we just might make it back to the big one.