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Archive for August, 2011

NFL Films Release; Belichick Mic’d Up!

NFL Films today made a press release, revealing a 2 part documentary documenting the life of 3 time Superbowl winning Head Coach, Bill Belichick. It documents his roles as a Coach and a family men, as well as showing him in a whole new light as a person.¬†¬†Considering we have little, if absolutely no input, into Bill Belichick’s personal life and thoughts, this is a must see for all Patriots fans.¬†Belichick agreed to be wired up for the entire 2009 regular season becoming the first coach to ever agree to it.

‚ÄúBill Belichick doesn‚Äôt only make history ‚Äď he studies it; he understands his place in it; and he appreciates our desire to capture it,‚ÄĚ said NFL Films President¬†Steve Sabol. ‚ÄúLike Vince Lombardi‚Äôs Packers in 1967, Belichick and the Patriots gave us access to his football life and what we created is a portrait of the coach, the father, the taskmaster ‚Äď and most importantly ‚Äď the man.‚ÄĚ

The two part series will air on Thursday 15th September at 9pm EST (that’s 2am GMT for my British readers), followed by the second part a week later on Thursday 22nd September, but this time at 10pm EST (3am GMT).

The documentary will track the¬†Patriots’ coach from his off season break in Nantucket, through training camp and all the way to the end of the season, which culminated in a Wildcard defeat to the Baltimore Ravens. There were many highlights to this season; most infamously LateGate, when Randy Moss and others were sent home for arriving late, the¬†fiery¬†relationship between Belichick and Adalius Thomas, on top of the memorable 4th & 2 call against the Colts.

This is a never before seen look into Bill Belichick as a father, a coach and just as a regular every day person as well as a look into how the Patriots’ Way works behind closed doors. The 2009 season marked Belichick’s 35th ¬†consecutive year as a coach int he NFL and the Patriots’ 50th Anniversary as a team. Don’t miss it.

NFL Films Trailer

NFL Films Press Release

Like what you read? Check out the rest of my blog ’4th & Long’ for more! If you would like to comment and offer your insight into this article, feel free to leave your thoughts! You can follow me on twitter; @DamoJarrett

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Patriots Replace Katula With Former Jet, James Dearth.

The Patriots just announced the signing of yet another former Jet. The Patriots picked up veteran Long Snapper James Dearth after cutting Matt Katula today. The 35 year old was taken in the sixth round of the 1999 NFL Draft as a TE/LS and served with the Jets from 2001-2009.

He will more than likely be tested this Thursday in the Patriots final Preseason game against the New York Giants.

It currently puts to bed my theories highlighted ¬†here but depending on Dearth’s success, these theories could still be very likely!

Like what you read? Check out the rest of my blog ’4th & Long’ for more! If you would like to comment and offer your insight into this article, feel free to leave your thoughts! You can follow me on twitter; @DamoJarrett

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Quick Reaction; Katula’s Release and Roster Implications

The Patriots have begun making their moves to get down to 80 men by tomorrow’s deadline set out by the league and have cut Long Snapper Matt Katula. What kind of impact does this have on the roster?

Check out ‘Predicting the Patriots‚Äô final 53: Version 2.0′ for reference.

He had misfired once this Preaseason against the Jaguars with a wayward snap on a Point After Attempt. For those of you who follow me on twitter, you may remember I briefly touched on the option that Matt Katula could be cut. This affects two positions in my opinion; Tight End and Safety (and potentially O Line).

We have two players on the roster who¬†have¬†the ability to long snap; LB Rob¬†Ninkovich and TE Lee Smith. For me, Belichick goes with the¬†both of¬†these guys as options for the role. As Ninkovich and Smith will both get reasonable playing time, you can’t expect have just one of them in the team in case of injury. Will Yeatman, whilst getting the majority of first team unit snaps, didn’t show us much on Saturday against Detroit and the battle has been extremely close between the two TEs. I suggested that Lee Smith’s versatility as a long snapper could potentially give the nod to Smith over fellow Rookie Yeatman.

If Smith makes the roster, he helps the team considerably by allowing the team to cut Katula. Why? He frees up one more roster spot. Safety has been a position of concern overt he last couple of weeks with questions over performances and depth. The Patriots have also cut Veteran Safety James Sanders leaving many confounded as to why they may have done so, and the implications this may have on the position. However, they have also picked Ross Ventrone back up¬†at the position now. Since he was released, his pads never left his locker, which left a lot to believe he would be making a return. Sander’s cutting could lead to the following ¬†all making the team:

  • Brandon Merriweather
  • Patrick Chung
  • Josh Barrett
  • Ross Ventrone
  • James Ihedigbo

There is also potential that it gives us another option at Guard. I have us taking 3 through, with Steve Maneri as a backup Tackle/Guard. However Dan Connolly went down hurt on Saturday and the O Line showed some potential issues. Could we be freeing room up for one more O Line? Rich Ohrnberger would be the natural choice in my projections.

So in summary, Katula’s release makes Lee Smith making the team almost certain in my eyes. This frees up an extra roster¬†spot¬†where we can add safety or O Line depth. These two positions are arguably the ones which have the most¬†concern¬†hanging over them¬†since¬†Saturday’s performance.

Keep your eyes peeled for my next set of Roster projections (version 3.0) to see what direction I believe the Pats wll go in after this move!

All this depends on Bill Belichick not picking up another long snapper of course!

Like what you read? Check out the rest of my blog ’4th & Long’ for more! If you would like to comment and offer your insight into this article, feel free to leave your thoughts! You can follow me on twitter; @DamoJarrett

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Patriots @ Lions; Final Observations

I think it’s safe to say that every fan in Patriots’ Nation was thoroughly disappointed in Saturday night’s performance. No one could blame you. The offensive line failed to protect Brady who couldn’t get into any rhythm, and the defense was a leaky sieve all night long. However, I would be cautious (just like I was with our wins against the Jaguars and the Buccaneers) to set too much store by this. What we saw all night was Belichick mixing¬†personnel¬†on defense (namely the safeties) and testing out what appeared to be a different approach to what we saw against the Buccaneers. The Lions came out as if this was their Superbowl; jawing at the line of scrimmage, pushing and shoving after the whistle and they certainly came out with a much different tempo. They were deserved winners. I will start by touching on the topics I told you all to look out for in my article¬†Preseason Preview: Detroit Lions before touching on a few extra points!

Albert Haynesworth and Shaun Ellis were two players I indicated we should look out for. Neither played nor made the trip. With week 4 being the week players on the roster bubble come out to earn the ¬†few final spots left after the first round of cuts, I wouldn’t expect to see either of these players until Week 1 of the Regular Season. We saw this with Randy Moss in 2007 ; Belichick once said that ‘Coaching is like a game of cards…you take the hand that’s dealt you and play it the best you can’, and he is clearly holding back all his chips when it comes to these two. He’s not showing the league anything. He doesn’t want the league¬†knowing¬†too early how he plans to utilise his two newest additions to the Defensive Line.

Shane Vereen and Ras-I Dowling were the two Rookie players returning who I said to also look out for but neither saw the field. Both have come off of injuries keeping them out of Preseason for a considerable amount of time and¬†Belichick¬†clearly felt it wasn’t worth risking two players who won’t start in this Week 3 dress rehearsal of the regular season. They should get plenty of¬†opportunity¬†come week 4 if they remain healthy.

The starters got a considerable amount of playing time and, as¬†predicted, played into the 3rd Quarter. Unfortunately none of them made very good accounts of themselves. The offensive line was one of the biggest flops of them all, providing no¬†consistent¬†pass protection for Tom Brady. He was pressured on far too many occasions, hit on others and last season’s unanimous MVP could not settle into the rhythm we saw in Week 2 against the Buccaneers. Whilst a lot of¬†people¬†are raising a lot of questions about this line, I wouldn’t be overly worried just yet. They have held their own pretty well over the course of Preseason, dominating both the Jaguars and Buccaneers. I’m not overly concerned after on bad game. As the saying goes, ‘it’s only Preseason’. Starting Right Guard¬†Dan Connolly left the game with an ankle injury and is someone to monitor.

I was most eager to see what Bill¬†Belichick¬†did with the Safety¬†Position in this game. What we saw was a vast mixture of partnerships in the Secondary. Brandon Merriweather and James Sanders opened things up, with Patrick Chung, Sergio brown and James Ihedigbo rotating in and around whilst the coaching staff tested the pairings. This tells me the Patriots are still not quite sure with what works best. I honestly felt the Patriots played a very vanilla defense in Saturday’s game to test these guys out and change things up. The results were very mixed, but bad for the most part. Chung and Merriweather did not pair up together during this game, which you can’t read too much into, however I think it’s down to the¬†fact¬†Bill knows what he is getting with these two already; whether that be good or bad I have no idea. New arrival James Ihedigbo made a¬†reasonable¬†showing, but missed an¬†opportunity¬†for an¬†interception and a tackle for loss on a pass into the flats. ¬†I am reserving judgement on him for the time being, but he contributed on all 4 Special Teams Units which tells me that that will be his main role if he is to make the team. His name didn’t stand out much.

I saw nothing¬†spectacular¬†by either Will Yeatman or Lee Smith in this game. I’m still keeping a close eye on the two, but I would say that Yeatman is still¬†separating¬†himself from Smith at this time. Again, I will stress this has the potential to change, but I saw nothing from Smith so suggest he can offer us anything different. Yeatman saw reps with he first offensive unit on Saturday; a very telling sign!

Brandon Tate has taken yet another step back. The Lions completely eliminated his ability to be a threat in the return game. If the kickers aren’t kicking it through the endzone for touchbacks, they’re high kicking it up to the goal line, and letting their coverage¬†guys¬†pin the kicker in. The value of a kick return specialist is more or less non-existent to me now. Taylor Price got a lot of reps with the first team unit, whereas Tate got none. He has surpassed him, and Tate no longer has any use for us. He will not be making the roster this season.

Run Defense was a rare positive for us. We got off blocks at the line, held our own in the gaps, and prevented any big gains. I expect this to only be reinforced by Ellis and Haynesworth when they make their appearance for us.

Stephan Gostkowski’s leg looks fully healthy. He started the game by booming a kickoff out of the back of the endzone.

These are my main observations from the game against Detroit on Saturday. Let me stress again that it was only Preseason. I remember a certain Week 3 result in last year’s Preseason against the Rams, after which people were calling the Jets the new AFC East champs and calling us no more than a 10 win team. The Pats went 0-4 in 2003 and the Lions 4-0 in 2008; and we all know how those seasons turned out! Individually we just didn’t match up well or¬†compete¬†in this game. I hope this¬†is¬†them getting it out of their system for the Regular season, just like last year!

Like what you read? Check out the rest of my blog ’4th & Long’ for more! If you would like to comment and offer your insight into this article, feel free to leave your thoughts! You can follow me on twitter; @DamoJarrett

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Preseason Preview: Patriots @ Lions

With the third Preseason game looming in less than a day, here’s a little bit of a late preview into tonight’s¬†match up¬†against the Detroit Lions! This week has seen the return of a couple of draft picks from injury and high profile Free Agency pickup Albert Haynesworth, so there’s certainly plenty to look forward to! Here is what I think you should keep a close eye out for!

Albert Haynesworth – Does he play? It’s not unlike Bill¬†Belichick¬†to hide his new-found weapons away from the rest of the NFL until Week 1 (when the Pats play the Dolphins); he did so with Randy Moss. However, he has been at practice consistently this week, and therefore there is a chance he gets some reps tonight. It would be interesting to see what he and Vince Wilfork are capable of up front together!

Shaun Ellis – How do we use him? There has been some widespread debate over where Bill Belichick will use Shaun Ellis. Of course he can opt to rest him for this week but keep an eye out for him on he field, as he has every chance of playing. I originally listed Ellis as a DE but opted to categorise him as a DT this time around in my article¬†Predicting the Patriots‚Äô final 53: Version 2.0. Look for Bill to utilise him as a tackle, but bring him over to end in certain situations such as obvious running downs. That’s how I believe he will be used this season.

Vereen and Dowling – Both Rookies returned this week from injuries that have prevented them from making an appearance so far and could make an appearance tonight. Vereen was the higher pick of the two Running Backs so I’m interested to see what Bill thinks he can bring to the table for us. There were also high expectations for Ras-I Dowling at the Cornerback position so it will be interesting to see where he is used. Will he be able to win the 3rd¬†Cornerback¬†spot from Kyle Arrington? With Leigh Bodden more than likely not participating tonight, he may even share some first team reps with him, so keep an eye out for that!

Playing time Рlook  out for how long Bill decides to keep the bulk of the starters out there. I expressed my view in my article How Long Will We See The Starters in Week Three?! I believe you will see the starters out there for the entire first half, and one (maybe two depending hon how it goes)  drives in the 3rd Quarter before seeing the backups come in. Look to see how they come out of half time; Belichick will want the team to be able to  maintain any momentum they had in the previous half or implement new adjustments!

Pass Protection – Tom Brady got roughed up a little in the early stages of last year’s Thanksgiving Game against Detroit. Coaches and fans alike will not want to see a repeat of the cold start we had. Keep a close eye on the offensive line and how well they protect Brady. Dan Connolly and sometimes even Logan Mankins struggled against the Buccaneers, so I will be watching to see if they imrpove on last week’s performance. The Tackle position seems less of an issue at this time.

Safety Position – This is probably the position most clouded right now. Whilst we’re all confident Patrick Chung will be starting, Sergio Brown has been sharing a lot of first team reps with Brandon Merriweather. Josh Barrett returned to¬†practice¬†this week and James Ihedigbo added to the mix, so keep an eye out for how those two play! James Sanders should also make his first appearance this Preseason after coming back from injury. A position which was worryingly thin last week, is now full of depth!

Tight Ends – We’re touching on this a lot but it’s still something that needs to be heavily watched. Lee¬†Smith is more than¬†capable¬†of leap frogging Will Yeatman, who overtook him on the depth chart in most people’s eyes last week. Another solid performance from Yeatman should be enough to earn him that 3rd TE spot on the Roster. It’s unlikely we keep both, but the loser of the battle should get on the practice squad!

So that’s what i feel you need to be looking out for this week. ¬†I hope you all enjoy the game and I will come back with my review of tonight’s¬†match-up soon after with some observations for the points that I have¬†made¬†in this article!

Like what you read? Check out the rest of my blog ’4th & Long’ for more! If you would like to comment and offer your insight into this article, feel free to leave your thoughts! You can follow me on twitter; @DamoJarrett

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Predicting the Patriots’ final 53: Version 2.0

I was going to wait until after this weekend’s game against Detroit until I did my second version of my roster¬†projections, but decided to go for one right now…mainly because I had been scratching my head at ways to get Gerard Warren onto my Roster…someone who I had left out after not being able to find any space!

So here it goes! Feel free to tell me what you think once I’m finished!

To compare, click here to see Version 1.0…..

Offense

Quarterback: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett (3)

No change here what-so-ever. This is how it will be come Week One and should be the order on the depth chart!

Running Back: Benjarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Sammy Morris (5)

No change here either. Sammy Morris comes in with special team value and his ability to play Full Back. ¬†Shane Vereen returned to Practice this week so there’s no need to panic on him and talk about IR as things stand! Danny Woodhead didn’t miss much training at all after his heavy blow on the Punt Unit last week against the Buccaneers.

Wide Receiver: Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Chad Ochocinco, Taylor Price, Julian Edelman, Mathew Slater (6)

I’m still going with six Receivers and I’m still giving the final spot to Mathew Slater. Brandon Tate has trade value that’s for sure and we would rather trade him than cut him, but he has had plenty of time to prove himself and, if you can’t push Deion Branch for that 3rd Receiver spot as our new deep threat, you’ve served you purpose. Taylor Price assumes his role in the offense and maybe even Special teams. Jeremy Ross is someone who I think should clear waivers and make the Practice Squad.

Tight End: Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Will Yeatman (3)

Will Yeatman has leap frogged Lee Smith and stood out above him in every phase. This has potential to change. My recent article¬†Positional Battles: The 3rd TE Spot states that the battle is close between these two! This is a must watch in this weekend’s game against the Lions and keep an eye out for Version 3.0 of my roster Projections to see if my mind changes! Garrett Mills, who was recently picked up, is more of an Aaron Hernandez type TE and can play Full Back; he is a potential Practice Squad candidate.

Offensive Tackle: Matt Light, Sebastian Vollmer, Nate Solder, Steve Maneri (Tackle/Guard) (4)

No changes here. Steve Maneri makes it in as the 4th Tackle based on the fact he is versatile and can play Guard on both sides also. He has shown impressive stints so far during Preseason!

Offensive Guard: Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell (Guard/Center) (3)

This is where I have made one change to make way for another. Rich Ohrnberger comes out. He and Ryan Wendell are both very similar players and,¬†with Steve Maneri’s ability to play Guard, we can remove Ohrnberger to make way for another player¬†elsewhere. Whilst¬†Ryan¬†Wendell has been hurt, he is showing signs of coming back, and if it was between the two, I would have to take him. If Wendell can’t remain healthy through to Week One of the¬†Regular¬†Season, he could hit IR with Ohrnberger taking his place. Ohrnberger could be a Practice squad candidate if he doesn’t make the team and clears Waivers.

Center: Dan Koppen (1)

No change. Ryan Wendell will back him up.

Total: 25/53

Defense

Defensive End: Andre Carter,  Jermaine Cunningham, Eric Moore, Mark Anderson (4)

Slight change; Shaun Ellis moves out of my Defensive End Category and over in the Defensive Tackles group! His purpose in our new Defensive scheme is subject to debate, but until we see clad-iron proof, I think he plays primarily Tackle, and moving over to End in obvious rushing downs. Apart from that, no change. Ellis will be able to add depth to the position if Cunningham doesn’t return. Markell Carter to the¬†Practice¬†Squad.

Defensive Tackle: Vince Wilfork, Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis, Kyle Love, Myron Pryor, Gerard Warren (6)

As described previously, Shaun Ellis moves into this group. Albert Haynesworth returned back to practice this week. Ron Brace is a PUP/IR candidate I believe. Another change is the addition of Gerard Warren. Last year’s sack leader was resigned by the Patriots and I don’t see him not making the cut. Mike Wright goes to IR.

Linebacker: Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Gary Guyton, Dan Fletcher, Rob Ninkovich, Tracy White (6)

No change here either. The only real battle is the one going on for my 6th spot. Tracy White makes it in for now; had Jeff Tarpinian stayed healthy I would have him making the roster over White. Now I see him on IR or the Practice squad unless he makes a remarkable comeback in week 4. Ricky Brown and Niko Koutouvides are providing some added competition and are potential Practice Squad candidates also.

Cornerback: Devin McCourty, Leigh Bodden, Kyle Arrington, Darius Butler, Ras-I Dowling (5)

No change here. Ras-I Dowling is back at practice this week and will hopefully remain healthy. Jonathan Wilhite is the victim .

Safety: Brandon Merriweather, Patrick Chung, James Sanders, Sergio Brown (4)

Again, no change. James Ihedigbo is now in the mix of course, and could push someone like James Sanders. Something to watch is Sanders getting more and more repetitions with the Special Team Units which leads me to believe someone like Ihedigbo may be able to push him for a job on this team. Keep an eye out for that this weekend!

Total: 25/53

Specialists

Place Kicker: Stephen Gostkowski

Punter: Zoltan Mesko

Long Snapper: Matt Katula

No change or explanation needed! Someone spoke to me about the possibility of Chris Koepplin making the Practice Squad as security. He has certainly looked good on kickoffs but I’m not 100% sold on him getting on there. Stephen Gostkowski is¬†gradually¬†getting more and more of the workload back on kickoffs, and should be healthy for us all year. I wouldn’t rule it out, but reliable kickers can be found in the Free Agent market, as we proved last year with Shayne Graham.

Total 3/53

Summary

The difference between Version 1.0 and Version 2.0 is that I have removed the Offensive Guard, Rich Ohrnberger for the Defensive Tackle, Gerard Warren.

I have also moved Shaun Ellis from Defensive End to Defensive Tackle. There has been a lot of debate about what his role will be and, whilst I think he will move out to DE in obvious short yardage running situations, he will primarily be a Tackle. But watch for Belichick to move him around!

This splits the player count evenly between Offense and Defense at 25 a piece, with 3 roster spaces going to the Specialists.

Like what you read? Check out the rest of my blog ’4th & Long’ for more! If you would like to comment and offer your insight into this article, feel free to leave your thoughts! You can follow me on twitter; @DamoJarrett

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How Long Will We See The Starters in Week Three?

There has been a lot of debate over the past week of just how long we should see Tom Brady and Co. out there for Week 3 of the Preseason against Detroit. Here’s my take on what we should expect to see tomorrow night.

The Lions are considered to have one of the top Defensive Lines in Football, and they added to it in this year’s draft with the acquisition of Auburn legend and Lombardi Trophy winner, Nick Fairley. Due to a foot injury, he won’t be participating this weekend however, they still have Corey Williams and Ndamukong Suh; two proven talents at the Defensive Tackle position. Suh is as infamous for his cheap shots every now and then as he is his spectacular play making ability. He ‘choke slammed’ Jake Delhomme last Preseason, and threw a helmet-less Andy Dalton to the ground this time around. No doubt he has many Patriots fans worried after their Franchise Quarterback Tom Brady, who signed a 4 year $72 million contract extension at the beginning of last season. The Patriots started off cold against Detroit in last season’s Thanksgiving Day match-up which saw Brady getting hit far too much for most people’s comfort!

This has led some fans to debate just how much playing time Tom Brady and the rest of the Patriots’ starters should get. A lot argue as little as possible. However, I think you’re going to be surprised at just how much playing time they do get. Rather than two or three drives, I think we’re talking two to three quarters. Yes you did hear me correctly…quarters!

Bill Belichick is renowned for saying that injuries can happen at any stage, of any game. Be it the first snap of Preseason, half way through or even the last snap of the Regular Season. Woodhead’s minor injury last week was the result of him being on the Punt Return Unit deep into the game against the Buccaneers. Welker sustained an injury in the first quarter of a meaningless Week 17 game in 2009. I think it’s safe to say that Belichick has no qualms going¬†against¬†what others think he should do, and playing his players when he feels he should.

Not only that, this is as close to the Regular Season as Preseason gets. Week 3 is¬†traditionally¬†a ‘dress rehearsal’ of a Regular Season game.¬†Belichick¬†uses it to get his returning players¬†re-acclimated¬†and his first year players used to the atmosphere of the build up to a¬†competitive¬†fixture. He will want his starters to show him they can¬†maintain¬†a full half of Football but, not only that, he will want them to show him that they can come out after half time and implement his adjustments and keep the momentum going! Therefore, don’t be surprised to see the starters out there for a full half and then maybe one drive after the interval!

Rest assured however that after that, they will be back safely on the sidelines! Week 4 will see them have very limited, if any, playing time. Week 4 being the game in which our fringe players come in to show Belichick that they should make our final 53!

Like what you read? Check out the rest of my blog ’4th & Long’ for more! If you would like to comment and offer your insight into this article, feel free to leave your thoughts! You can follow me on twitter; @DamoJarrett

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Garrett Mills and what he brings to the Pats….

With Lee Smith and Will Yeatman battling it out for the third Tight End (TE) position, when Patriots brought in Garrett Mills it left people wondering what he offered to the team. Originally drafted by the Patriots in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft, he wasn’t expected to be your ‘traditional’ TE. He was also listed as a Full Back (FB), the 4th TE on the roster, and expected to play multiple roles (unlike David Thomas, the TE also taken by the Patriots that year in the round prior to Mills). However, Mills was ¬†placed on IR mid-way through the season. He was cut at the beginning of the 2007 season and claimed off of Waivers by the Vikings, despite Belichick’s intention to place him on the Practice Squad.

Mills stands at 6’1″ and weighs in at 235 lbs. He doesn’t fit the ‘traditional’ hybrid TE mold. Gronkowski, who you would consider the perfect¬†example¬†of a¬†hybrid¬†TE, is 6’6″ tall and 265 lbs; a considerable difference! There is another type of TE. The type who can move around, be a little more versatile; play on the Line of Scrimmage, motion out into the slot and even block as a FB on goal line and short yardage plays! However, we already have one of those! Aaron Hernandez, the second TE on our depth chart, is also 6’1″ and slightly heavier at 245 lbs! We are also¬†loaded¬†at Receiver, lessening the need for a TE who can motion out into the slots.

So how about Full Back? He can play there. If we were to go with Mills as the 4th TE and FB on the team, it would almost certainly spell the end for Sammy Morris, who is assuming that role currently this preseason. There is every chance Belichick could go with Mills and free up a spot for him by cutting one Running Back (RB). However I feel we need the veteran presence on in the RB corps and Morris is filled with experience at the position whilst a big contributor already on Special Teams.

So what do we do with him? I think we do what Bill Belichick wanted to do back in 2007; get him on the practice squad. He offers depth at TE and FB (insurance for Morris somewhat) as a versatile player and can play Special Teams. We all know just how much Bill loves these versatile players. He offers us another option should we have any problems at either of those positions.

Garrett Mills will make the team, but in the¬†Practice¬†Squad, not the final 53. Don’t be surprised to see him at some stage of the 2011 season if he is required through injuries.

Like what you read? Check out the rest of my blog ’4th & Long’ for more! If you would like to comment and offer your insight into this article, feel free to leave your thoughts! You can follow me on twitter; @DamoJarrett

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Positional Battles: The 3rd Tight End

Personally, when I started writing about different positional battles¬†occurring¬†on the Patriots’ roster, I didn’t think that I would be talking about the Tight End (TE) position. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are both locks and, after NFL Scouts sung his praises as the best blocking TE in the draft and Alge Crumpler’s¬†release, I fully expected Lee Smith to be our guy!

Enter Will Yeatman.

Will Yeatman entered the team as somewhat of a nobody. He spent the first half college years at Notre Dame, playing both Lacrosse and Football in his Freshman year. He didn’t record a single reception that year. His second season, he solely played Football, starting his first three games at TE. However, after a drunken confrontation with police in which he not only resisted arrest but misinformed them, he was suspended for the rest of the season. He transferred to Maryland where he played Lacrosse his first year, and Football in his senior year; he played 11 games that season, recording 3 Special Team tackles and catching 13 balls for 134 yards.

I know what you’re thinking; not another Bill Belichick project right? It seems logical to opt for fellow Rookie Lee Smith. However, his record isn’t¬†exactly¬†squeaky clean either! Originally committing to the¬†University¬†of Tennessee, he was dismissed by his Head Coach after being charged with DUI and was forced to share the load at Marshall University with Cody Slate, now a Kansas City Chief. In his senior year however, he set career highs in receptions,¬†yards¬†and touchdowns before being invited to the Senior Bowl and being named to the Conference USA All-Academic team. Slater stole most of the limelight on the team though and was projected to be one of the best TE prospects in the draft until he tore his ACL.

Still, logically you would assume Lee Smith is the far better option, so lets¬†look¬†at their numbers! Yeatman is 6′ 5″ and 268 lbs whilst Smith comes in at 6’6″ and 269. Both weigh in heavier than Gronkowski and would be¬†primary¬†used in Crumpler’s role during the 2010 season and Lee¬†Smith¬†came in as the favorite. Now however, Will Yeatman is finding himself¬†with¬†he majority of the reps with the first team unit and appears to be performing better on the field of play. Very little¬†separates¬†them!

So who do you go with?

Right now my bet is on Yeatman; considering how his College career went, I’m surprised he’s even¬†competitive! He is competing however and he is slightly taller, heavier and is performing vastly better than Smith when it comes to implementing his craft on the gridiron. However, as you can see from their college records and intangibles, very little¬†separates¬†either of the two. So don’t be surprised that, with either player stepping out of line or putting on a poor performance, if the two trade spots yet again!

Final prediction from me? I would go Gronkowski, Hernandez and Yeatman. He may seem the most troublesome, but we all know that Bill has¬†turned¬†many a player on to the straight and narrow and personally, you go¬†with¬†the hot hand. Right now that’s him. However, keep an eye out for my ‘Predicting the Patriot’s Final 53 – Version 2.0′ to see if my position changes after Week 3 against Detroit!

Like what you read? Check out the rest of my blog ’4th & Long’ for more! If you would like to comment and offer your insight into this article, feel free to leave your thoughts! You can follow me on twitter; @DamoJarrett

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Predicting the Patriots’ Final 53 – Version 1.0

I’ve been putting it off for a couple of weeks now, and finally I feel it’s about time that I gave you all my final 53 man roster for the 2011 season! I’m going to do it in Mike Reiss’ style, updating my final 53 after the next 2 preseason games,¬†culminating in a final¬†prediction¬†on the eve of final cuts day!¬† So here it goes….

Offense

QB

Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett (3)

After going with just the two last season, we definitely go with 3 this season. Hoyer will continue to be Brady’s backup for the year as I don’t feel Mallett is ready yet to assume that role. Hoyer could potentially have¬†trade¬†value with performances throughout his time here, but it would not be in our best interests to let him go….yet.

RB

Benjarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Sammy Morris (5)

There has been some debate over whether or not the Pats take 4 or 5 Running Backs. We need a Full Back and Morris can play that role, as well as act as a veteran presence for the two Rookies. Faulk will begin the year on PUP, and will be used if needed after week 6, but I personally think you will see him retire unless we have any real dire need at the position. Working out Portis was no coincidence. Vereen is hurt, and hasn’t been seen since very early on…if he can’t get fit and the injury is more serious than first perceived, you could see Vereen on IR and another player taking his spot.

WR

Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Chad Ochocinco, Taylor Price, Julian Edelman, Mathew Slater (6)

Wide Receiver has been another intriguing position for the Patriots, and one that has sparked much debate. Welker, Branch and Ochocinco are all locks. Edelman is safe being Welker’s main backup and a key return man. It comes down to Tate, Price and Slater. Slater makes it in as a key special teams contributor, and it’s a toss up between Tate and Price. I will go for Price, who had a solid first preseason game and has been getting reps at punt and kickoff return….with Tate’s returns hindered by the new kickoff rule and time running out on him, he goes to IR or gets traded.

TE

Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Will Yeatman (3)

We go with the three Tight Ends. The first two are obvious locks, but the third spot is an interesting battle going on between Rookies Lee Smith and Will Yeatman. I had assumed it was Lee Smith’s to lose, but it appears Yeatman has overtaken him in¬†both¬†the passing and blocking game. They could swap spots yet again, with plenty of time left in preseason, so watch this space. Whichever one doesn’t make the roster will most likely be placed on the Practice Squad.

Offensive Line

Tackles: Vollmer, Light, Solder, Maneri (4)

Guards – Mankins, Connolly, Ohrnberger, Wendell (4)

Center – Koppen *Not Wendell will be the backup Center also* (1)

Maneri makes the roster as a backup tackle, with the abilities to play guard on both sides also. Belichick loves these versatile players. Wendell is in at Guard and as the backup Center to Dan Koppen. Providing these guys stay healthy, I fully expect this to be your offensive line for the 2011 season.

Total Offensive Players : 26/53

Defense

DE

Carter, Ellis, Anderson, Moore, Cunningham (5)

Carter and Ellis I have very high hopes for this year, especially after seeing Carter play against the Buccaneers. Anderson and Moore will play in sub packages and I expect Cunningham to have a productive year at DE; that’s IF he can prove to a starter in a 4-3 scheme. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bill utilises him as an OLB in certain packages also although from what I saw last year, he may be¬†better¬†with his hand in the dirt!

DT

Wilfork, Haynesworth, Love, Pryor (4)

I originally thought about taking 5 Defensive Tackles through but back tracked in order to make room for a Linebacker to contribute towards Special Teams. Wright has been hurt throughout camp. I have him going on IR, leaving us with 4 Tackles. Ellis is more than capable of shifting inside a little in a 4-3 scheme.

LB

Mayo, Spikes, Ninkovich, Guyton, Fletcher, White (6)

We go with six Linebackers. Fletcher is playing like a beast and providing he recovers from what appears to be a minor injury, he is a lock! White makes the roster for the moment as my sixth man. He will be a depth guy at the position and a heavy contributor on Special Teams. However, there is a fierce battle going on between him and Koutouvides. For me, Koutouvides is a better all round Linebacker and, give him one more solid performance in preseason, and he overtakes White. Ricky Brown has been added into the fray too and could win a spot from the two of them late on in preseason.

CB

McCourty, Bodden, Arrington, Butler, Dowling (5)

McCourty, Bodden and¬†Arrington¬†are locks; especially after¬†Arrington’s¬†adequate showing¬†being¬†forced into a starting role as an Undrafted Free Agent last season. Dowling hasn’t been seen¬†since¬†the first couple of days at camp, a Rookie who has fallen victim to the lockout, but I feel he will be on the Roster and healthy as a backup Corner. The real battle is between Butler and Wilhite for the final spot. Butler makes it. I don’t like either of the two and neither have lived up to the what we expected them to be. Butler just offers a little more at Corner…and that is what we need. He will obviously need to be able to contribute on Special Teams, as will Dowling.

Safeties

Merriweather, Chung (Strong Safety), Brown, Sanders (4)

I know what a lot will say…Merriweather? He makes the team in his contract year. The Pats have been looking at safeties, but to add depth. Whilst Merriweather is another draft disappointment in some areas, I think Bill wants him to see his contract year out, and see if that ignites him! Chung is a lock to play strong side, and Brown and Sanders are more than adequate enough to back up the two.

Total defensive players: 24/53

Specialists

Gostkowski (PK), Mesko (P), Katula (LS) (3)

Obvious choices. Gostkowski looks absolutely fine coming off of his leg injury; the Pats are using rookie kicker Chris Koepplin in a lot of kickoff situations and have Gostkowski on a kick count however, that is a regular precautionary measure for kickers coming off of such an injury. Mesko is having a great preseason so far and looks like he has made the steps required to be one of the best punters in the league after a record breaking Rookie year. Katula makes it as long snapper despite a bodged snap in the Jaguars preseason opener on a PAT. The two have only just started working together as Katula replaced Ingram the same day Gostkowski went on season ending IR, so it takes time! Gostkowski has sung his praises since the incident.

Total Specialists: 3/53

Total count: 53/53

Keep your eyes peeled for Version 2.0 after week 3 of the preseason!

If you would like to comment or offer your insight into this article, feel free to leave your thoughts! You can follow me on twitter; @DamoJarrett




 

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