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Patriots 4th and Long: Roster Projections 1.0

Hey folks! Before I get started, I would like to express somewhat a new era for my blog here on Patsfans. Some of you may be wondering what happened to the blog over the period in time in which it has been inactive; unfortunately, due to personal reasons, it had to be put aside and make way for more important factors in life.

The aforementioned personal reasons are starting to get back to normal and I aim to put an even higher level of commitment into the blog and in to Patsfans.com as a whole with some new segments which will start with week one of the regular season, when the Patrios open up at home to the Arizona Cardinals; a game which the UKPatriots, one of the more recognised Patriots fan clubs and one which I help run, will be attending.

On the note of the UKPatriots, this is the place to be when it comes to news and information regarding the game. I am very heavily involved as a moderator for the fan club in organising the events which those of you who are making the 6, 560 mile and 12-14 hour round-trip  will be attending. I aim to bring you the best coverage of that event as possible and all the information you need to know regarding events on that weekend.

Anyway, enough with the ramblings on. Here comes my first stab at projecting the final 53 players who will be named on the team sheet come week one of the regular season…read, enjoy, by all means scrutinise and make sure you leave a comment and rating at the bottom.


Quarterback (3)

Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett.

Running Back (4)

Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead, Spencer Larsen (FB).

Wide Receiver (6)

Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney, Donte Stallworth, Julian Edelman, Mathew Slater.

Tight End (2)

Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez.

Offensive Line (9)

Sebastian Vollmer, Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon, Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly, Donald Thomas, Nick McDonald, Ryan Wendell, Dan Koppen.

Total Offensive Players: 24


Cornerback (5)

Ras-I Dowling, Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Sterling Moore, Marquice Cole.

Safety (5)

Patrick Chung, Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson, James Ihedigbo, Nate Ebner.

Linebacker/Defensive End (7)

Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dont’a Hightower, Rob Ninkovich, Bobby Carpenter, Niko Koutouvides, Jeff Tarpinian.

Defensive Line (9)

Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Jonathan Fanene, Brandon Deaderick, Chandler Jones, Jake Bequette, Jermaine Cunningham, Trevor Scott, Ron Brace.

Special Teams

Place Kicker - Stephen Gostkowski

Punter - Zoltan Mesko

Long Snapper - Danny Aiken

Final Notes

  • At Quarterback, Mallett is far from ready to take the reigns therefore we are forced to keep three on the roster once more. Hoyer has little trade value as it is and still serves as the best possible backup should Brady go down injured. Mallett hasn’t got long left to start¬†producing¬†in training and on the field in¬†pre-season¬†before the Patriots start to wonder if they need to look elsewhere for the heir apparent to three-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady.
  • At Running Back, Brandon Bolden has been turning heads but right now I’m not one hundred percent certain Vereen is quite ready to take over Woodhead’s role entirely. Woodhead is receiving the top reps as kick returner which makes it look like he’s here to stay. Previous trends of the Patriots with McDaniels suggests they will take three true running backs with an added Fullback in the mix and we know how he likes to utilise those Fullbacks; he did a¬†tremendous¬†job with Heath Evans. ¬†Bolden could sneak in and make that five in total, or potentially replace someone like Woodhead if he was seen to be expendable. For that to happen however, someone is going to have to prove themselves as a kick returner.
  • At Tight End I have only projected two selections and the most obvious ones. Daniel Fells and Visanthe Shiancoe are both hurt and, unless one of them steps up very quickly and produces in pre-season, it’s unlikely either sill make the roster. Both could be PUP/IR candidates. Worth noting Alex Silvestro has been impressing after his switch from the Defensive End position and could find himself a roster spot here if the Patriots elect to use a third Tight End. Right now it seems unlikely.
  • At Wide Receiver, I have missed out Branch who appears to be losing step by step every year. Edelman stays in because of his Special Teams value as one of the better punt returners in the league however I feel there could be a threat to his position or that of Stallworth’s; Jeremy Ebert is a binky of mine and I’m rooting for him to make the team. He does need to show a little bit more however after a drop in the team’s game against the Saints and a muffed punt in training camp.
  • The Offensive Line has a lot of question marks hanging over it right now with injuries to starters Vollmer and Mankins, along with Matt Light’s retirement as well as last year’s starting Guard Brian Waters’ absence; as he is not here yet we have to assume he is heavily leaning towards retirement. If Waters does return I see Koppen as very expendable with some struggles in camp and don’t count second year player Kyle Hix out if he can perform; his height, frame and athleticism could make him an intriguing prospect for Belichick.
  • The Patriots will probably look to load up on Defensive Backs this year which is why I have projected five Cornerbacks and five Safeties. Dennard has a pulled hamstring and unless he can get back on time is an IR candidate. Cole has shown nice versatility and has covered the slot well when asked so could very well make the team. If they opted for both him and Dennard, then it would make one of the team’s Safeties expendable.
  • At safety I have included Ihedigbo because of his Special Teams value, his knowledge, experience and the fact he was a very vocal member of the secondary last year which we so sorely lack. Ebner has a lot of potential there too and has shown up a little at Safety in camp so I can see the Patriots keeping a spot open for him¬†also.
  • The Linebacker corps suffered a big blow when Dane Fletcher, who tore his ACL in last week’s game, was waived this week. He featured heavily in our plans and his absence now frees up a spot for someone new and I have inserted Tarpinian into his place. He has Special Teams value and will learn from the experience. Carpenter and Koutouvides have been seing regular reps at both Linebacker and Special Teams and project to fit in nicely. Tracey White isn’t able to stay healthy and is ageing therefore doesn’t make the cut.
  • The Defensive Line was a little tough to project in ways. Scott gets in on his performances the last couple of days, despite a¬†lacklustre first pre-season game. Justin Francis shows flashes in camp however I was unimpressed…he sill could sneak in but I struggle to find a role for him and he is certainly a practice squad candidate unless he can find some sort of ‘injury’ for the IR or PUP list. Brace¬†has¬†flashed highly in camp, would feature in well with the team’s goal line packages and looks fitter than he has ever been so he¬†earns¬†one of the final spots.¬†Cunningham¬†by all accounts has shown marked¬†improvements¬†also gets the nod. The rest are all locks without question. ¬†Myron Pryor has seen little love and has been injured therefore is an IR/PUP candidate; he is a young and telented prospect therefore I see him featuring in the Patriots plans somewhere…he could easily find himself making the final cut if he can get healthy and show some production through pre-season.

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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Damien Jarrett’s Mock Draft Picks 17-32 V1

Check out the first 1-16 picks of my mock draft V1 here.

17. Cincinnati Bengals (via Oakland Raiders) (9-7)

Chris Polk, RB, Washington

Cedric Benson’s contract is up and, whilst I think he’ll be re-signed, he was lacking in the average yards per carry area this year. A running back like Polk would be the perfect compliment in the backfield. They could definitely use an interior lineman and if one like Cory Glenn or David DeCastro present themselves here, they could be the answer to help regenerate the Cincinnati rushing attack. Polk really elevated himself during the Senior Bowl and established himself in the return game also, raising his stock to a potential first rounder. He has excellent patience and burst, hits the holes well and could be a nice acquisition at this stage in the draft.

18. San Diego Chargers (8-8)

Devon Still, DT, Penn State

The Chargers have some questions¬†hanging¬†over their usually solid defense. They could do with shoring it up with a couple of their early picks and a DE such as Melvin Ingram or Nick Perry would be the more attractive choice to fans. However, I feel they go with a big, physical DT who can hold up the line of scrimmage and take up those¬†double¬†teams that the Charger sorely need to pave way for their Linebackers in the 3-4. Still is more than capable and¬†has¬†the tools to be a 2-gap DE. He drew a lot of double teams in College and seemed to deal with them adequately. He would free up lanes for the Chargers’¬†Linebackers¬†to make plays.

19. Chicago Bears (8-8)

Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

Roy Williams wasn’t the answer last season and is the wrong side of 30 whilst Earl Bennett doesn’t wow you and Devin Hester will likely never be a true threat at the position. If DeCastro or Glenn fell this far, what with moving OL coach Mike Tice to coordinator, it might be worth taking a shot at a Guard at this spot however, all those that provide value int he first round are gone. Cutler needs a play maker and Floyd gives you that. A physical athlete who,¬†whilst¬†being a little inconsistent with his hands, can go up and snag a ball and be the play maker that Cutler so sorely lacks. His physicality will suit the Bears’ style well who will look to utilise Matt Forte coming off of a career year. Potential off-field issues could turn some teams off of Floyd but I don’t realistically see him falling further than the Bears.

20. Tennessee Titans (9-7)

Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor

Not many see Kendall Wright falling this far so, despite the need for a pass rush which ranked extremely low last season, the Titans can’t turn down a new weapon for future Quarterback Jake Locker. Kendall Wright would compliment Kenny Britt nicely. There is a potential need at both DE/OLB and DB so do not be surprised with a deep WR class to see the Titans shore up their defense with their top pick.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (9-7)

Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin

The Bengals, having already added to their Running Back corps with a nice commodity in Chris Polk who will help them run on the aggressive defenses of the AFC North, add a stud Center with the versatility to play across the Offensive Line to pave the way for him and protect their franchise QB. The Bengals will be happy with where their defense is at but will look for a potential Corner/Safety also so could potentially use this pick here. However, with some of the top interior linemen already off of the board, this pick will be hard to turn down.

22. Cleveland Browns (via Atlanta Falcons) (4-12)

Alshon Jefferey, WR, South Carolina

The Browns have already given their QB Colt McCoy a stud RB to take some of the pressure away from him and now they look to give him a big weapon at WR. Jefferey¬†possesses elite size/build and insane ball skills with great hands and the ability to adjust his body well to the ball. There are some question marks about his route running ability coming out of South Carolina where he wasn’t renowned for¬†running¬†the most complex NFL routes, however he won’t be asked to do too much for McCoy who is still developing. He doesn’t possess elite speed but can use his physicality to gain separation well.

23. Detroit Lions (10-6)

Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

Detroit could use some interior Offensive Line help so if a player presents some value at the Guard position, I expect them to lap it up. However, the Lions had a leaky pass defense and with a stellar Defensive Line in the making they need a corner who can really shut down a team’s¬†key¬†receiver. Gilmore played mostly zone in College so will need to prove his worth in man-on-man. He breaks on the ball very well and has excellent instincts and discipline when in zone coverage. There are strength concerns when matching up¬†against¬†bigger NFL receivers. Smart player who can locate the ball well. He will go a long way to helping a secondary which struggled throughout the 2011 season and is one of the main reasons they were unable to make a solid playoff run. His height is a great advantage down field.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)

Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

The¬†Steelers¬†could look to shore up a number of positions with this pick. They could use some help at Guard and Tackle and even Linebacker however, they choose to add some youth to an aging defense that saw them struggle in last season’s Wildcard defeat to the Broncos. With Chris Hoke facing potential retirement and Casey Hampton, who has held up the center of LeBeau’s 3-4 for the¬†past¬†decade, will undergo ACL surgery this off-season and is also turning 35. Poe presents a great opportunity for them to groom Hampton’s replacement and he¬†possesses¬†surprising speed and movement which could lead to versatility in 4 man sub package fronts.

25. Denver Broncos (8-8)

Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State

The Broncos possess a pair of great edge rushers in Miller and Dumervil but fail to get consistent pressure up the middle. There are some question marks about his ability to stop the run however his explosiveness off of the snap will collapse pockets and create nightmares for opposing Quarterbacks. What he lacks a little in technique he makes up for in strength which will help him shed blocks and play the run. Worthy will help fill a hole which John Fox has been seeking to fill for a while now, help disrupt the pocket and will bring the team a step closer to improving their rushing defense.

26. Houston Texans (10-6)

Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers

The Texans caught a glimpse of what life without Andre Johnson will be like and when he missed 9 games in the 2011 season due to hamstring issues, Jacoby Jones and Kevin Walter were unable to get it done. They could seek a 2-gap Defensive Tackle to help add to their much improved defense of last season however they need to urgently address WR and get some youth there with Andre Johnson the wrong side of 30. Sanu provides a smart and versatile player who is able to play inside and out and is a good, crisp route runner. He has issues with his hands and tends to let the ball get too close to his body at times which results in the odd drop but these are issues that can be coached out of him. The fact he transitioned from a Safety to WR so fast in college is a testament to his athleticism and smarts. His elite size and arm length will cause problems for the best corners in the league. Another prospect I would like if he fell to the Patriots in the right spot.

27. New England Patriots (via New Orleans Saints) (13-3)

Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois

The Patriots saw veteran free agent additions Mark Anderson and Andre Carter both register double digit sack seasons however their pass rush still had its inconsistencies and Andre Carter’s age, combined with surgery on a Quad injury sustained in the 2011 season, will be a large concern. The Patriots have yet to find that explosive,¬†dominant¬†pass rusher and they find it in Mercilus. The Patriots have turned to a hybrid defense and will likely stick with it as the spread becomes more¬†prominent¬†in the NFL. Mercilus could be an ideal 5-technique DE but may not be an every down player just yet. He needs to add some bulk and improve in defending the run. Cannot question the kid’s motor…great work ethic…someone Bill Belichick would appreciate in his locker room. He will have an impact right away.

28. Green Bay Packers (15-1)

Fletcher Cox, DT/DE, Mississippi State

Despite having Clay Mathews on their side, the Packers ranked 27th in sacks this year in the NFL. They are going to need an explosive DE to help set the edge and pave the way for Green Bay’s Linebackers to make¬†more¬†plays on the Quarterback. Cox could stand to add a little more weight¬†and¬†is capable. He adds a versatility which could see him play in sub packages also.¬†¬†He can command double teams with his explosiveness, ideal for a 3-4 end, however needs to work on his pass rush moves as he is not the most gifted in that area. Either way, Cox will go a long way towards helping the packers solve those defensive issues and make life easier on Aaron Rodgers. The Pack could use some help at OLB so look for Nick Perry to be a potential option; an explosive player projected as a 3-4 OLB, but has big question marks for me over whether or not he can transition to LB or play with his hand in the dirt int eh NFL…not as versatile as some. Offensive Line is something to watch for also, but probably¬†won’t present¬†value for them here.

29. Baltimore Ravens (12-4)

Dont’A Hightower, LB, Alabama

Saban’s defense will really leave a mark in this year’s draft class. Not expected to fall this low, the Ravens will not be able to pass this guy up. Failing Hightower being available in this spot, the next best option at Linebacker will be Vontaze Burfict. Burfict¬†has¬†major off-field issues and could be a liability in the NFL therefore he could drop well into the second round. With Ray Lewis ageing, the Ravens are looking for a guy who can be groomed to make an impact. Hightower has a great deal of versatility to play in 34, 43 and 42 fronts with his hand in the dirt and the Ravens, who mix in a lot of hybrid with their base schemes nowadays, will look to this guy to wreak havoc in Ray Lewis’ place. The team could also do with safety helpo to replace the ageing Ed Reed, and Mark Barron may well still be available in this spot also. Offensive Line help may also be considered here.

30. San Francisco 49ers 13-3

Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State

Yet another Tackle goes in the first round. The 49ers Offensive Line struggled at times when protecting Alex Smith in 2011 and I expect them to re-sign the free agent Quarterback who did enough to prove himself as a good enough game manager for the team. They could decide to provide him with a new weapon at WR in this spot also, or maybe even take a physical corner to add to their already stellar defense. Protect Alex Smith, give him more time and the former first overall pick will deliver even better in key situations.

31. New England Patriots (13-3)

Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska

Alfonzo Dennard is a guy I like for the Patriots, but could see him getting snagged up early. This guy does not one thing great, but a lot of things well. He has the size and speed to be¬†physical¬†and keep up with outside receivers and can flourish in zone coverage. He has the potential to rotate to Free Safety with his size and come up and cover a slot receiver or TE. One of the more underrated prospects for me. This guy will help lock down a Patriots secondary which struggled consistently in 2011. Dennard has the ability to be flexible in the team’s new hybrid scheme but I think he has the potential to transition well into a shutdown corner in the NFL. He has the size, aggression and technique combined with speed to keep up with some of the League’s top targets. He brings leadership and energy to a secondary which desperately needs it.

32. New York Giants (9-7)

Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford

Stanford and Alabama have really stolen the show in this first round. The Giants lost both their TEs, Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum to ACL tears in the Super Bowl, leaving 3rd stringer Bear Pascoe as the lone player at the position. With¬†questions¬†over whether either of these players will now be ready come opening kickoff, this becomes a high priority. The hybrid TE out of Stanford, one of Luck’s favourite targets, is their man. An Aaron Hernandez type player, he will bring a great deal of versatility to their offense and will be able to line up out in the slot and create mismatches for the best cover safeties. This pick will only make Manning better as they join ranks with the teams investing high picks in these versatile players.

That concludes mock draft (version 1). You will notice I have left Nick Perry off of the list; that is because I have concerns over his ability to transition into an effective 3-4 OLB in the NFL and question his versatility. He could slide down the board easily with his undersized frame and less-then-elite length. He has little experience as a 3-4 OB and therefore that could be a tough transition into the NFL. I could see him in a Ninkovich type role potentially somewhere.

Mark Barron is also not on¬†my¬†first¬†round draft board but he will land somewhere…the Jets (16), the Patriots (27 & 31), the Ravens (29) and the Giants (32) could all use safety help. Barron is a the best of a poor class and I do think his talents are a little overrated. If you want another safety who struggles to cover in the slot and TEs, then he’s your man. He will be reached for and taken high if teams feel he is their best option.

UPDATE: Mark Barron underwent¬†double¬†hernia surgery recently and¬†will miss the combine. Could hurt his stock…but he may recover in time to fit in a pro day.

Please feel free to leave your comments and own analysis.

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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Damien Jarrett’s Mock Draft Picks 1-16 V1

Now the dust is finally settling on the Patriots’ 21-17 loss to the Giants in Super Bowl 46, it’s time to move on and start forgetting about the 2011 season – which you can bet your bottom dollar that Bill¬†Belichick¬†and the team’s coaching staff will be already doing.

I find huge comfort after such a deflating defeat in scouting out the NFL’s future talent and have spent the last few days going back over my rankings and other team’s draft needs in order to¬†compile¬†my first mock draft.

Over the course of the off season leading up to the 2012 NFL Draft, I will update my mocks and write about prospects I feel will fit the Patriots’ system in 2012. Now to start things off, do not buy the mediot hype; the Patriots do not run a sole 4-3 or 3-4 defense. They never did this season and they likely never will in the near future. It’s a hybrid, typically a 3-3 personnel, and it is becoming favoured more and more in today’s modern game due to it’s versatility, a versatility I believe will¬†reflect¬†in the players that Belichick¬†chooses¬†to draft this season. In the off season I will be writing about the hybrid and what it does for you but, in short, it allows you to play a number of looks without having to really substitiute your players on the field…it’s an ideal formation to counter the spread offenses which are being used predominantly in High School and College, and that are now filtering through to the NFL. It produced mixed results in the team’s first real year of using it and I think that, with the right acquisitions, we will see this defense come along leaps and bounds.

However, enough talk of that, that’s for another time. Here is my 2012 Mock Darft V1 to start off the New England Patriots’ off season:

1. Indianapolis Colts (2-14)

Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

This is a no brainer pick. The Colts have revamped their Front Office and their coaching staff and, with a new offensive coordinator in Bruce Arians who did a tremendous job with¬†Ben¬†Roethlisberger, they’ll look to give him a new developmental challenge. Considered to be the most NFL ready Quarterback to enter the draft since their very own Peyton Manning, it makes sense to look past their future Hall of Fame QB and move on with a new era. The free cap space will help them rebuild, as there are more areas of need than just this position.

2. St. Louis Rams (2-14)

Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

Sam Bradford has yet to be given a true play maker to help with his development after a strong rookie campaign which saw the traditional sophomore¬†slump¬†undermine it. With the loss of McDaniels and likely Brandon Lloyd to Fee Agency, he will need a down field threat to play with and help free up some of the pressure on Steven Jackson in the ground game. They could also seek some Offensive Line help at Tackle if they wish to keep their franchise healthy; the WR position is deep and they could seek to tackle this area elsewhere in the draft. Look for the Rams to¬†trade¬†out of this spot also…teams courting Robert Griffin III may wish to trade up into a higher position and the team may have an opportunity to cement further picks to rebuild their team with.

3. Minnesota Vikings (3-13)

Matt Kalil, OT, USC

The Vikings saw nice potential in 2011 second round pick Christian Ponder when they put the rookie Quarterback in in place of Donovan McNabb almost midway through the NFL season. However, when pressured (wich turned out to be quite often) he looked like a deer in the headlights, finishing the season with 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He found himself injured also which leads me to believe that Matt Kalil of USC would be the perfect pick to help protect their future franchise QB. The team may also look at a WR at this stage in the draft to give their young prospect some weapons and may also seek to trade out of this spot to teams interested in bringing in a QB for themselves.

4. Cleveland Browns (4-12)

Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

Trent Richardson is a much more complete Running Back then his predecessor out of Alabama, Mark Ingram, who was drafted in the first round of last year’s NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. With questions over whether or not Peyton Hillis will be returning, RB has become a need for a team which really lacks weapons on offense. Don’t be surprised to see a WR drafted in this spot either. Some may link RG3 to this team however I feel that McCoy needs to be given one more season with some weapons at his disposal. If Peyton Hillis does return, then you could see a two back approach implemented here…the same two back approach which can make the Giants running¬†attack¬†so prolific at times.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12)

Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

LSU appears to be a prime source for NFL caliber Corners right now and Claiborne makes the perfect sense for a team who could very well lose Ronde Barber this off season; a free agent who is 36 and has put his best year behind him. Claiborne would really help solidify a secondary and would compliment Aqib Talib over on the other side quite nicely. Another team picking high with a young QB in Freeman, you may see them seek to add to his arsenal of weapons which already boasts promising WR Mike Williams. If Trent Richardson falls to them, you’d be hard pushed to imagine them passing him over, complimenting LeGarrette Blount nicely in a two back¬†approach¬†discussed above (if you¬†haven’t¬†guessed already, I’m a massive fan of it).

6. Washington Redskins (5-11)

Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

Mike Shanahan spent much of the 2011 season juggling the Quarterback position between John Beck and Rex Grossman. With Grossman also due to be an unrestricted free agent, Quarterback is a glaring need for the the American Capital’s team. If they are unable to get the guy they want at QB, you could expect them to take a corner such as Kirkpatrick, or even help shore up their offensive line with someone such as Reiff. I feel they have seen enough at RB to warrant not wasting a high pick on someone like Richardson if he fell. ¬†Tannehill is a guy I like, with an NFL caliber arm and, if both Luck and RG3 are off the board, they could reach for this guy high up.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11)

Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

Yet another team with a young QB in Blaine Gabbert. The second year Quarterback needs a good supporting cast around him and it starts with the Offensive Line. Iowa and Kirk Ferentz are¬†renowned for producing solid NFL caliber players on the line and Reiff would be perfect to protect Gabbert and make him more comfortable in the pocket.¬†¬†Whilst they could certainly do with a DE and play maker on defense, it really wasn’t their biggest issue. Look for the Jags to also entertain the idea of a WR in order to help out their second year QB and take some pressure off of Jones-Drew.

8. Carolina Panthers (6-10)

Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

The Panthers were forced to start two rookie Defensive Tackles during last season to due injuries and you can’t argue¬†against¬†a move to draft in a DE/DT to beef up their line however, the Panthers got themselves caught playing¬†catch-up¬†more often than not and a shut down corner is what they need to help keep the score down and¬†make¬†things easier for¬†second¬†year QB Cam Newton. Kirkpatrick is their man. If the team were to go down the DL route, Quinton Coples would be perfect to rush off of the edge and wreak havoc on that Carolina defense….something they have lacked since Julius Peppers parted ways with¬†them. However, with his elite height and good size and length, Kirkpatrick¬†has¬†the ability to be that shut down corner in man so many teams desire.

9. Miami Dolphins (6-10)

Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

The Dolphins are another team in need of a potential QB, but not so much so that it warrants this high a pick. I expect them to re-sign Chad Henne and keep Matt Moore in the system, who performed pretty well in Henne’s absence. They need to shore up both the tackle and guard position as well as find themselves a DE who can disrupt the oppositions passing attack. They are rumoured to be making the switch from 3-4 to 4-3 therefore need someone who can go opposite to Cameron Wake. Coples’ style suits this perfectly and a strong showing at the Senior Bowl only helped his stock further.

10. Buffalo Bills (6-10)

Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama

This sees the 3rd Alabama player come off of the board. The Bills registered a lowly 29 sacks in the 2011 season and are in dire need of someone who can come in and make an immediate impact. The explosiveness and versatility that Upshaw brings is perfect. He is able to play as an OLB in the 3-4 or play with his hand down in sub packages. The Bills moved away a little from the 3-4 and mixed in a little more 4-3 and sub, however I expect them to revert back with this pick.

11. Kansas City Chiefs (7-9)

Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

With both Barry Richardson and Ryan O’Callaghan, their 1-2 tandem at tackle, both becoming free agents in 2012, OT becomes a glaring need and one which they must address quickly. Jonathan Martin helped protect Andrew Luck’s blind side whilst at Stanford which could be a positive or work against him…great QBs often make their linemen look better. Most scouts project Martin to be best suited on the right size and believe he has the strength and brain to do so. RB is also a glaring need for this team so don’t be amazed to see one picked up, especially if Trent Richardson is still available; Thomas Jones isn’t getting any younger and Jamaal Charles is coming off of major knee surgery…there is a huge question mark over the running game of the Chiefs.

12. Seattle Seahawks (7-9)

Michael Brockers, DT/DE, LSU

The Seahawks have free agent concerns on the Defensive Line (primarily DE) and will look to bolster it high in the draft. Brockers is raw in some areas when it comes to rushing the passer but his elite size, frame and strength will bring him up the draft board and his versatility to play inside and outside of the defensive line will attract teams. The Seahawks are not set at QB, but Tannehill will be a reach this high after his foot injury and, after reasonable success in the regular season, need to make moves which can make them get better right now. A QB could be a target in free agency.

13. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)

David DeCastro, OG, Stanford

With Deuce Lutui being a free agent, David DeCastro could come right in and start at guard and would also be an immediate upgrade over Rex Hadnot. The Cardinals’ rushing attack was a mediocre 24th in the NFL and they¬†will¬†look to potentially resign Chester Taylor and have him and Beanie Wells run behind their brand new Guard. They could also do with a WR to compliment Fitzgerald on the opposite side and Kendall Wright would be the perfect fit.

14. Dallas Cowboys (8-8)

Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama

The secondary of Dallas was a glaring weak spot in the 2011 season and they need a corner who they can trust whilst Rob Ryan gets creative with his blitzes. Jenkins makes up for what he lacks in height with his aggressiveness and quickness and is ideal to prevent those big plays that killed the team so often. They have other needs along the Offensive Line and could be in the market for a guard like DeCastro if he fell to them. DE could also be a potential need to help pave the way for Ware.

15. Philadelphia Eagles (8-8)

Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

The Eagles struggled to stop the run immensely in the 2011 season and Kuechly should land to them on a plate with them licking their lips. Whilst not the most athletic LB to come out into the draft, he is a tackle machine and has more tackles than any college Linebacker in the country…he’s coming out as a Junior I should add. He has won every award you can think of and is touted as one of the most productive and NFL ready Linebackers to come into the draft in a long time. He can come in and have an impact right away. No brainer pick. With question marks hanging over DeSean Jackson, they may be in the¬†market¬†for a WR like Kendall Wright, but their need on defense takes over anything else.

16. New York Jets (8-8)

Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia

The Jets have serious question marks hanging over Offensive Guard and with David DeCastro already off of the board, Cordy Glenn gets taken slightly sooner than anticipated. He has excellent size, long arms and a good anchor which enables him to take on pass blockers extremely well. He surprisingly athletic for his size which can enable him to pull effectively and get into the second level. The Jets run game declined heavily last season however Shonn Greene and Joe McKnight will be adequate enough behind a better offensive line which should also give Sanchez the extra time he needs to be an adequate NFL Quarterback.

I haven’t included any trades in the first half of my mock draft and nor will I in the second. The Rams and Vikings¬†will¬†certainly entertain trade offers from teams searching for a QB however, unless Miami feel a decisive need, I don’t see it. I expect the Browns to stick with McCoy and that will allow the Redskins to pick up Robert Griffin III. Tannehill will fall most likely to the second round after his foot injury, although a team may reach into the late first round if needs must.

Check out the second half of my mock draft, and feel free to comment and debate my choices!

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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Should the Patriots Trade Wes Welker?

I understand that most Patriots fans are going to look at the title of this post and immediately jump straight on me, but hear me out first.

The Patriots are known for their business like approach and have never been afraid to cut ties with someone they feel could have long term negative implications on the cap. Look at former Patriots Lawyer Milloy and Richard Seymour as examples over the years of fan favorites that head coach Bill Belichick has cut or traded without even batting an eyelid during his tenure here. He is constantly thinking three, sometimes four years down the line and it is the reason the Patriots have been able to sustain their success and beat the newly devised, modern NFL system on a consistent basis.

Here is where I sweeten the pot for you…and this is the only situation in which I would ever entertain the thought of letting Wes Welker go…in his place, the¬†team¬†signs Mario Williams. Williams is likely to walk as a free agent and¬†with¬†the Houston Texans unable to afford the cap hit from the Franchise Tag, it’s nearly impossible that they can afford to pay him even a “home town” discount and bring him back in 2012. Williams missed eleven¬†games¬†with a torn pectoral muscle in 2011, which may concern some, yet the team didn’t seem to skip a beat in defense. You could argue they steadily improved further without him as the season wore on; Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin did a fine job rushing the passer and J.J. Watt had a solid rookie campaign at DE. Over his five year career, Williams has racked up 53.0 sacks and 241 tackles.

The offseason should be interesting for Patriots receiver Wes Welker. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

So let’s just say we entertain the thought of moving on from Welker and then bringing a defensive play maker like Williams in. The first question and easily¬†the¬†most important is this: can you replace the production left by Welker leaving? The 2011 All-Pro Wide Receiver caught over 100 balls for the fourth time in his five year¬†career¬†as a New England Patriot for 1,569 yards and nine touchdowns. That’s a lot of production. My answer, however, is yes we can. Someone rightfully pointed out to me on Twitter that the 2009 Baltimore playoff loss showed us what life without Welker could look like. However, this is a different team thanks to the emergence of the tight end position here in New England.

Welker is playing more of a traditional split end for the Patriots right now than he is slot receiver, which isn’t ideal for his 5’9″, 185lb frame. I have often wondered whether this has actually hurt the Patriots against more aggressive defenses, and one of my biggest criticisms of the receiver is his struggles against press coverage. To beat the Patriots right now all you really need to do is clog the middle and bump Welker to¬†throw¬†the timing off of his routes with Brady. Once you’ve done that, if your front three or four is good enough, you can feel comfortable with keeping up with this team’s high powered offense. This is why we have seen the emregence of a real need for a deep threat who can go down the field and not just over the middle.

So who lines up in the slot? Namely Hernandez, Gronkowski and Edelman when called upon. The Patriots do like to use Welker in motion to get him lined up in the slot, but it’s not an every down¬†occurrence. I feel that Hernandez, who caught 79 balls for 910 yards and seven touchdowns, could work well with Edelman who, when called upon, has seemed to fill Welker’s shoes more than adequately. He was arguably our best player against Baltimore in in the 2009 playoffs filling in for the injured Wes Welker. Slot receivers aren’t hard to replace, however, it isn’t easy to find that elite split end who can open up the field for you. They haven’t had much luck in developing that position, which has been shown by the team’s inability to draft an effective down field threat.

The Patriots could tag Welker, however the cap hit would be $9.4 million of the estimated $20¬†million¬†that the Patriots will have free at the start of the year. You could argue he is worth that for one more year, but does the team want to swallow it? The Patriots must put aside $5 million for rookie salaries and sign other key free agents also. They have to ask themselves a similar question as to the above and think about long term cap implications of signing him to a big,¬†lucrative¬†deal. “Is he worth the money? – and – “Can we replace him?” They could sign a front heavy deal of three or four years, however, when talking about the cap you have to consider other factors.

The team has Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, Logan Mankins and Tom Brady all signed up in long term deals and, with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez both due pay days before free agency in 2014, you have to think about signing these two very young prospects as well. Would it be good to have so much money tied up in just your offense?

If the Patriots can indeed fill the void, then believe they must potentially tag Welker and then seek a trade. It’s also a case of “get what you can while you still can”. Right now you could get value picks for a trade involving Welker, but in a couple of years you will¬†struggle¬†to get much more than a fourth rounder…if that. If the team can make up the production then it seems logical to think towards the future even further by adding to the abundance of draft picks they already possess. I will even argue that Welker has been a product of the system (feel free to jump on me now) in which the Patriots have managed to get a lot of receivers to thrive out of. After all, it has had its failures, but what team hasn’t? The team has an elite quarterback who can get these guys the ball and a potential future replacement who needs younger weapons developed for him and soon.

The wide receiver position is already a need in the draft and free agency, so to wait to fill the void could eventually make that need become even greater. I don’t think there has ever been a ¬†better time to try and move on from your ageing, leading receiver. The free agent market is full of receivers who could become perfect fits in the Patriots system and the draft has huge depth in this class also. There are three names that stand out to me: Robert Meachem, Brandon Lloyd, and Reggie Wayne are in the free agent market. Granted Wayne is older than Welker, but he would be a cheaper option and could fit in right away after so many successful -and durable – years in the¬†Indianapolis¬†Colts’ intricate offensive system under Peyton Manning. My favorite by far is Meachem at 27 years old, 6’2″ and 212 lbs. He has the elite height and speed in order to spread the field perfectly for the team at split end. In the draft I would look at either Mohamed Sanu or even Juron Criner who are two less speedy receivers but guys who run precise,¬†crisp¬†routes and¬†possess¬†good hands and football knowledge with good size.

The next issue with bringing in fresh receivers is can you make up for the relationship that Welker shares with Brady? Again, I think the answer is “yes” and that lies in Deion Branch. Branch¬†caught¬†51 passes for 702 yards and five touchdowns in 2011 and has¬†showed¬†since returning that he still has the route running capability and chemistry with Brady that he possessed prior to being traded away in 2006. He would be that veteran who teaches whichever rookie the Patriots might choose to draft. Ultimately, in this situation, I think it would be the end of Chad Ochocinco, Johnson or whatever you want to call him nowadays. Branch would be signed to a veteran’s minimum (with a little bit added on potentially) and if they got a similar production out of him, it would be deemed a big success.

Now let’s talk about Mario Williams. Despite his injury, at 27 years old he should heal up pretty well and be good to go for the long term future. The Patriots really lack a playmaker/disruptive defensive lineman who can take their defense up a notch. Williams has shown he can fit the team’s versatile new hybrid scheme by moving from a 4-3 DE to a 3-4 OLB under Wade Philips’ regime in Houston and he has the size, speed and ability to become the best in the league, if he isn’t there already.

The cons are that he’s going to demand top money for his position. You may convince him to take a little less with the chance of a ring but ultimately you have to expect to be paying him in the range of at¬†least¬†$10 million. It’s pretty impossible to sign both he and Welker, so you’ve got to make do with one and I would¬†argue¬†that while we can fill the void and survive on offense without #83, the defense desperately needs the boost Williams would provide. It would make this team massively better without a doubt and we could see a shift back to the early dynasty days where our defense was feared by everyone.

A big signing like this would still take up a lot of cap room, cap room which the team may not see justifiable for a soon-to-be 31 year old receiver. So again the team needs to ask itself if it can handle the hit, justify the signing financially and still sign other important free agents coming off of your team. I believe you can. Under the new CBA you are allowed to carry over the remaining cap space you had from the previous season with no catch what-so-ever. The only requirement is the owner must state exactly how much and sign for it no later than 14 days prior to the start of the season, meaning that requests must be submitted by 28th February this year. The Patriots have $6.7 million free in which they can carry over to 2012 if they wish to.

The advantage to signing Williams would potentially prevent you from needing to sign a defensive end high which would enable you to hit skill positions such as receover at #27 or #31 in the first round. He solves the need long term and, if he is able to walk freely from Houston, would not require wasting a draft pick and therefore you can address other key needs such as receiver, cornerback or safety.

So to sum up the scenario; tag Welker, trade him away, sign Mario Williams long term and shore up that defensive front for the next three to four years with an additional draft pick. Make up for Welker by resigning Branch and bringing in an experienced free agent with a draft acquisition high and using the Tight Ends as we have done for the past two years.

I think we can replace Wes Welker. The tight ends will fit in fine over the middle and Edelman can fill a role if need be while bringing in a player like Lloyd, Wayne or Meachem will give the team that down the field threat which Welker doesn’t bring to the table as a split end. A further draft pick would solidify the future of the position with a hit in the first round of the draft who would benefit greatly from the experience of someone like Deon Branch. Signing Williams would be an instant upgrade on defense which is easily the team’s major concern right now, whereas I believe they can move on on offense without Welker.

It would be a tough,¬†business-like¬†decision¬†to trade Welker away but not one that would surprise me. The Patriots could opt to re-sign Welker, however I don’t feel it would be practical for a long term lucrative deal to be offered. It would certainly be beneficial to the offense if they were to be able to sign him to a home town discount which isn’t out of the realm of possibility. What you have to look at is not the production of last season, but potential production down the line. Just how many more hits can Welker take and how long can he line up outside as he gets older?

These are all questions that need to be asked and it isn’t as straight forward a business decision as some may think, however easy it may seem with your hearts.

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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It has been reported that after interviewing for the Penn State Head Coaching position, Offensive Coordinator Bill O’Brien has accepted a job offer and will be publically unveiled as their new HC on Saturday. Adam Schefter has¬†confirmed¬†that O’Brien will stay on with the Patriots through the playoffs.

With speculation that former Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels may be on his way out of St. Louis,¬†especially¬†if Jeff Fisher is unveiled as their new head coach, rumours are circulating that McDaniels and the Pats could be in¬†store¬†for a reunion next season. There are 2 or 3 candidates that could be considered worthy of the position already on the Patriots staff and we all know how Bill Belichick loves to promote from within. Brian Ferentz (TE Coach), Chad O’Shea (WR Caoch) and Ivan ¬†Fears (RB Coach) are all people who could be considered for the role come the 2012 season.

I’m going to break down all four, and come to a conclusion of who I think we should go with at the end of this article.

First lets start with Josh McDaniels. He was New England’s offensive coordinator during the infamous 2007 record setting year, and it wasn’t long before he started drawing head coaching consideration. After the 2008 season he accepted the Head Coaching job at Denver, which ended up being a tumultuous tenure after he was eventually fired by the Broncos. In his first season Denver started 6-0, which included an overtime win over New England in week 5. However, they went on to lose four in a row before finishing 8-8 rookie season.

He also made some controversial personnel decisions, which saw him trade away both starting quarterback Jay Cutler, and one year later trading wide receiver Brandon Marshall. He also traded up for Tim Tebow in the first round in 2010, but never finished out that season after a videotaping scandal lead to Denver letting him go. The personnel moves, so far, have seemed to work out, with Denver currently in the postseason for the first time since 2005.

He had a tough year as OC of the Rams, with an injury ridden offense and a QB suffering a¬†slight¬†sophomore¬†slump. Taking all of that into consideration, it’s hard to put too much of that on him. Given the success he had here in New England, a lot of fans would welcome him back. It is also rumoured that Brandon Lloyd would follow him out of the Rams. If this is the case, it would be interesting to see if the Patriots would¬†pursue the veteran wide receiver, especially since they still have a need at the position. That would certainly be an added advantage of having McDaniels return.

With the addition of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots offense has changed quite a bit since Josh McDaniels departed from New England in 2009. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

There are, however, some down sides. The offense has obviously changed since McDaniels left the team. We no longer see the spread formations of the past which saw the Patriots so successful in¬†2007 and nearly claim the NFL’s first ever 19-0 season. With the addition of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots now have the two Tight End packages, which has seen the Pats offense¬†rejuvenated under Bill O’Brien the last two season. It’s also seen Tom Brady become the first every unanimous league MVP in the process.

It would be interesting to see how the current system would change if they did bring him back. Would he work with this new system or want his¬†own in place? There is also talk that it could eventually be tough for the team to keep both Hernandez and Gronkowski…if they don’t, could we see the team revert back to more spread formations? It’s tough to say, but it will obviously lead to some interesting discussion down the road.

Saying that, McDaniels is under contract with St. Louis for another season so, right now, this is merely speculation for those who want it to happen. However, if Jeff Fisher gets offered the new Head coach role there, then it sounds like McDaniels could go and maybe even Lloyd could go with him. There is also the possibility of the Chiefs looking for his services.

As for New England, with O’Brien departing the next man up seems to be Brian Ferentz. For me, he seems to be the most¬†logical¬†choice. He has¬†coached¬†the Patriots two tight ends for the last couple of¬†years after joining the team in ’08 as a scouting assistant. He’s clearly done a good job, especially considering the fact we’ve obviously seen some tremendous production from that position over the past two seasons. If the team intends on moving forward with the offensive strategy they use today, it would make sense for Belichick to hire someone like him. There is a down side; he is only 29 and you can count the number of years he has coaching in the NFL on one hand.

He’s actually an interesting story. He experimented as a player in 2006/2007 but turned to coaching when things didn’t quite work out. It’s been a great move and has become a valuable asset to this staff.

It’s also worth noting that Ferentz comes from good football stock. His father, Kirk Ferentz, is the head coach at the University of Iowa (Hawkeyes) with a record of 89-60 in the Big Ten. The younger Ferentz played under his father at College and we all know how much Belichick loves guys with a football background and Kirk Ferentz worked under Belichick as an¬†assistant coach¬†at Cleveland. It would definitely make sense for him to be our long term future at the position.

There is a way around this however; which could see Belichick officially name Matt Patricia as the Defensive Coordinator, while then taking some pressure off of himself and then mentoring Ferentz in his new role. He could also work Ferentz into his new role without necessarily giving him an official title – which we’ve seen them do in the past.

The next man in contention could also be wide¬†Receiver’s¬†coach Chad O’Shea. O’Shea has been with the Patriots a year less than Ferentz, but has 16 years of coaching under his belt at the age of 39, ten years older than our previous candidate. Like Ferentz, he has experience as an offensive coaching assistant and his superior knowledge and presence in the game may make him a bigger candidate. I have a little less to say about this guy; you can’t argue against his experience putting him as the front runner for the job however.

Finally, we have Ivan Fears who has been with the Patriots since 1999 and lived through the dynasty days of the early¬†millennium (he had been with the team in the early 90′s also). He has coached runningbacks, receivers, and quarterbacks in the NCAA/NFL and when you look at how long he¬†has¬†been with us, one might say he should be considered as the front runner for the job. It’s actually kind of a surprise that he hasn’t been offered the role sooner. At the ripe old age of 57, however, one might ask why he hasn’t¬†progressed¬†from anything more than a positional coach, and I can’t help but wonder if the window of¬†opportunity¬†has closed on him already.

My verdict? This is an incredibly tough one to call, it really is. You could see McDaniels return with the chance of maybe being Belichick’s eventual successor, something ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss suggested a couple of years ago, but a lot has changed since then so I find it hard to see. I think he would be enticed over to Kansas City to reunite with Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel. His experience with those guys would most likely take him there if he does indeed leave the Rams. Fears, for me, is probably too old now and, while O’Shea seems like an experienced candidate, Ferentz has done wonderful things with the two second year Tight Ends during the emergence of both players. Who better to run this system than the man who mentors to the two players that made it what it is?

That makes sense to me personally.¬†Honestly, and I could be wrong, but I do not see Josh McDaniels returning to the team. I see Ferentz being eased in as of next season under the watchful eye of Bill Belichick and eventually given the title just like Bill O’Brien was.

As for O’Brien, I couldn’t be more happy with him. He seems like the¬†ideal¬†candidate for a program that is in dire need of a fresh face to turn things around. He has received a lot of unfair criticism over here for two seasons, which have seen us lose just five games. Needless to say what he did for this Pats offense during two solid years should not be overlooked.

Patriots Nation wishes him all the best, and his departure will definitely give us plenty to talk about once this year comes to an end.

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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Combining the Old with the New…..Again?

I was browsing through twitter and stumbled across a small blog post from the Herald’s own Ian Rapoport. Now we all know what media speculation is like, but I wanted to repeat the sentiment and relay some old memories on you guys to enlighten those who weren’t there for the experience and to give those who were there some happy memories to dwell on!

Ian picked up on something that the recently instated owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Shahid Khan, had said in an interview with Tania Ganguli of the Florida Trade Union;

“I think it would serve Jacksonville well to play a game or two overseas, to get the name Jacksonville out”.

Now you may wonder what on Earth this has to due with the New England Patriots right? Well the Patriots have a game in Jacksonville next season and it’s no secret that¬†the¬†Krafts, the players, the coaches and even the media loved the experience of playing in London against the Buccaneers in the 2009 season. When asked if he would repeat the experience, Quarterback Tom Brady said “I’m all for it”!

As a fan over here in England I wouldn’t expect the Patriots to ever give up a ¬†home game to play over here in England. However, the Krafts are very outspoken about moving the game forward and were also very happy with their ‘Old England’ experience. If the logistics of the trip suited the team, then they would certainly go back.

Recently the NFL announced that the International Series would be expanded through the 2016 season and rumours are rife that a second game will be added every year. There were talks about such expansion this season however the NFL Lockout got in the way of less important things and they stuck with just the one. I would not be surprised to see it become two games next season.

Ian Rapoport wrote in his blog:

‘My thought? The Patriots are a serious candidate to make Khan‚Äôs wish come true. League spokesman¬†Greg Aiello said the NFL expects to play a game in London next year, but hasn‚Äôt determined one. When will it be announced? ‚ÄúTo be determined,‚ÄĚ he said.

I wouldn‚Äôt be surprised at all if the Patriots and Jaguars played at Wembley Stadium in 2012. And let me add ‚ÄĒ please do this. It was a fantastic trip.’

I agree with him. The experience of having the Patriots come over to England was the best of my life….I would argue better than the trip I made over to Boston back in 2008 to watch the Patriots defeat the Rams at Gillette. For those of you that do not already know, I am a moderator of www.ukpatriots.com, the largest fan base for the Patriots outside of the US. When it was announced in 2009 that the Patriots would be coming over here, I literally ran around the house pumping my fists, shouting ‘get in’ in my heavy southern accent and the smile didn’t come off of my face for weeks!

Soon after the announcement, we were told by the NFL that we could have an unlimited allocation for our fan group provided we got the numbers we needed and the money in by a certain date. We brought close to 200 fans to Wembley that weekend. On top of that, the Buccaneers’ UK fan group got the same treatment, so we organised a flag football game between the two of us. Numerous media attended, British broadcasting crews who represent the NFL over here, NFL Films…the works. I got to shake hands with LeeRoy Selmon (God rest his soul) ¬†prior to his untimely death this year, Shelton Quarles and Mike Alstott formerly of the Buccaneers. John Smith also showed up to the event along with the msacots and cheerleaders of both teams.

To cap it off, the UKPatriots were asked by the PFW in Progress guys to¬†organise¬†the ‘Official Patriots Pre-Game Party’ at the Sports Bar in¬†Piccadilly. In attendance was Pat Patriot, some cheerleaders, Troy Brown, John Smith, Robert Kraft, Gil Santos and Gino Cappelletti to name a few. It was capped off by Jonathan Kraft showing up at the dying stages and sharing a drink with some Patriots fans. The best part about it was simply the fact that we were all Patriots fans in one building and drinking the night away!

I couldn’t have spent the¬†weekend¬†any better. I had showed up in London on the Thursday night prior to the game on Sunday; myself and a¬†group¬†of the members had rented out a large¬†apartment¬†in the heart of London for a long weekend. We had a meal with the majority of the fan club, had a poker night and spent the Friday giving out the tickets to the pre-game party with Fred Kirsch and drinking our way through the day.

It was truly overwhelming for the Patriots in the sense of the support they received here in England but what was truly great for us was seeing so many Americans, some of whom we knew, make the trip. Now I share Ian Rapoport’s sentiments; don’t be at all surprised to see the Patriots wind back up over here and, if they do, you better get you arses…no not asses, arses…over here to ‘Old England’ so we can show you how to have a good time!

Here is Ian Rapoport’s original blog post outlining why he think the Patriots should return to Wembley in 2012….

You can follow Ian Rapoport for updates on the Patriots on twitter; @Rapsheet

Interestingly, a fellow @UKPatriots member attended the Denver game over the weekend and had an¬†opportunity¬†to speak to the Krafts. When he asked Bob Kraft’s son, Jonathan, about a potential¬†matchup¬†between the Patriots and the Jaguars at Wembley he replied, ‘I think it will happen’. Read into it what you will, he could have been talking about the general¬†consensus¬†of the Patriots returning to Wembley against any opponent, but that sounds extremely ominous to me.

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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Stopping Tebow: The Triple Option

First of all, I would like to apologize for not being able to blog and contribute as of recent. Due to personal issues back here over the pond my time I could give to writing had to be drastically cut down. However, you should be hearing more from me from now as the season comes to a close and we look towards the playoffs.

I will also let you into a bit of history on myself. I had the fortune of playing over here in England for five years before my¬†career¬†got cut short by a head injury outside of the sport. I have had experience playing at all levels,¬†including¬†at a top flight team with experience of competing in Europe. My first ever role was a QB in a wishbone option offense, similar to that of Navy’s, and therefore I would like to share my thoughts on how we may look to defend any of it thrown at us on Sunday. I had a similar style of running to Tebow, not being the most athletic but absorbing the hits thrown at me. For those interested, I am now a coach.

I have been somewhat fortunate over here. I don’t have to listen to the constant¬†droning¬†on of Boston, Denver and National media constantly referring to Tim Tebow and ‘Tebow Time’, something which I don’t envy you for having to go through. I have actually refrained from posting on forums as much as I usually do this week as a direct result of the Tebow Mania that is sweeping the sport and even avoided ESPN America and the talk shows I enjoy watching so much such as Pardon The Interruption, Sports Nation and Around The Horn.

Stopping Tim Tebow should be an interesting task on Sunday. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

My take on Tebow is as much the same as may other’s. He’s a below average QB (albeit a¬†tremendous¬†leader of men) who’s mechanics make me cringe beyond belief. However, he has this self belief that you have to kind of admire despite being ripped on an international level. The problem is teams are playing right into his hands and Detroit is the only team I have seen defend him properly for 60 minutes. Teams playing him softly late in games is something I will go back to at the end of this post.

The first thing you have to respect is the option and I will start by saying that the belief of some fans that this is all he runs is completely wrong. As Tebow’s tenure as a starter this season has gone on, you have seen him pass more and more, dropping back a little more often…even if he has been doing a terrible job of it for 3 quarters of the game. However, fail to respect it from the outset and you can kiss goodbye to the win.

The Option is pretty basic; the QB rides the gut of a Fullback and reads the unblocked defensive end to the play side…if the end crashes down, he keeps the ball and goes around him but if he stays outside, the QB gives the ball off to the FB whilst the tackle who has¬†completely ignored the defensive end moves down field to block one of the linebackers out of the play. However if the defensive end does crash down and the QB keeps the ball he has another read; the pitch read. The defensive player who the QB reads off of can be different depending on the type of coverage but, ultimately, if the pitch read attacks the QB he pitches it off to his Running Back who is sustaining a 5 yard ‘pitch relationship’. It’s then in the hands of a Running Back and, if your gap responsibility is just slightly off on defense, you’re going to get torched until you stop it.

To start off, I think the 43 over is the best defense to stop an option style offense. We have seen the Patriots play a 33 stack style of personnel however, what they have been doing with Ninkovich effectively makes it look more like a 42 front even when he is in his two point stance (as¬†opposed¬†to having his hand in the dirt). You could still see the Patriots utilise a 42 style front to defend the option…it has been done with some degree of success…and by bringing up a safety into the box to be the ‘pitch read’ on the weak side.

For those interested, in the 43 overs I have faced and played with the Defensive Ends play a 5-technique (outside of the Tackles) and a 9-technique if there’s a Tight End tight to the line on the strong side. The strong side tackle will line up in a 3-technique¬†(shading the outside shoulder of the Guard) whilst the the weak side Tackle will play a 1-technique, slight shading the center. Gap responsibilities are the C gaps for the DEs (on the¬†strong¬†side the Sam Linebacker takes the C gap), the strong side Tackle will take the B gap whilst the weak side Tackle takes the A gap…the Mike Linebacker is responsible for the A or B gap left open depending on the flow of the play. The Will Linebacker is effectively an extra defender if the play flows to his side and should check for the cutback if the play goes to the opposite side.¬†Ultimately, the Will will ensure that the play doesn’t bounce outside in his direction.

There is a way of shutting down the option believe it or not despite the fact it has so much success. The sole reason being is that there are very few defenses disciplined enough to prevent it and, no matter ho much you drill it into your players, there will always be one ¬†of them out of position. So you break it up; the first thing to worry about is the dive. The Defensive Tackles and Mike Linebacker ¬†are responsible for the A and B gaps…the two tackles must hit the gaps hard and the Linebacker must flow to the play side and hit his equally as hard…providing they stay responsible to their assignments you should have no problems. Spikes would be ideal to have back for such a game however, even if he does make it back, it’s hard to imagine he will be very effective.¬†If you can’t eliminate this then you are going to get pounded up the gut for 3 or 4 yards a play all¬†game¬†and get thoroughly demoralised.

The next step is to stop the¬†Quarterback¬†and this comes down entirely to the Defensive End.¬†In theory the DE (C gap defender) is going to be unblocked however he cannot get caught waiting for the QB or else the ball will be given off tot he dive back and the Offensive Tackle (who has moved on to the next level) will¬†be¬†down field and laying a block on the Linebacker. He needs to squeeze (or hug) down the Line of Scrimmage with the Offensive Tackle and force the QB to think whilst at the same time keeping his shoulders square to the line. He needs to remain disciplined enough in this task in order to force the QB to think without turning his inside shoulder up-field; if he breaks discipline and turns his shoulders, the QB is keeping the ball all the way. The¬†key¬†here is that by keeping the DE’s shoulder square, you’re forcing the QB to think more than he wants to and holding the Offensive Tackle at the line, not allowing him to block down field. The DE needs to be¬†alert¬†to who has the ball and be ready to make a play on the dive back if the QB gives it off or the QB himself if he decides to keep it.

Effectively, you are trying to convince the QB and OT that you are crashing down, whilst maintaining enough¬†discipline¬†to make a play on the QB if he keeps the ball. ¬†If the QB does keep the ball, this is why it becomes important you haven’t got your inside shoulder turned up field, as you will need to come off of the OT and close the gap down between you and the QB. This is his second read and, as soon as he sees the end coming towards him, he will pitch the ball off to his Running Back.

It’s worth noting that on the strong side of a defensive formation, the Sam Linebacker is usually responsible for the C-Gap. However this doesn’t change much in the sense you can get your DE to squeeze the TE down whilst the Sam is left to handle the QB. If this happens of course, it becomes the responsibility of the safety to come up and make the play on the pitch read (depending on the coverage that is, which I will get to in a second). The same applies on the weak side if the DE gets stuck inside; the Will will assume responsibility for the QB and the safety must come up on the pitch player.

So that brings me to defending the pitch. The defender covering the pitch will be defined by coverage. In a traditional cover two, it is the corners responsibility for the flats and therefore he will be responsible for the RB receiving the pitch. If you’re in a cover 3 it becomes the responsibility of an outside backer (or an overhang if we continue to see more 42 style fronts from the Patriots). As I mentioned in my previous paragraph, failing either the corner being able to get off of his block or the Linebacker getting caught up with the Quarterback, the safety becomes a true safety valve in that instance and must make the play….Chung being out could hurt us a great deal if Ihedigbo can’t handle that responsibility. If the Patriots choose to play Quarters coverage, the safety is always responsible for the pitch man.

The final rule? Get off of your blocks and pursue to the ball carrier. There are a lot of 1-on-1 matchups that are left open when defending the option and if that one player misses his assignment, it can get ugly very quickly.

Now as I pointed out earlier, Denver and Tebow aren’t all about the option. Expect to see some similar tactics applied which we saw against the Eagles. The Patriots will not be aggressive, they will aim to contain Tebow in the pocket. Belichick was being generous in the week when talking about his throwing abilities; if you can keep Tebow in the pocket he’s of no threat. You cannot allow him to run to his left as, in these cases, he can be a deadly passer on the run. If anything you should flush him to the right therefore ¬†expect to see the few blitzes we run come from our defensive right side/Tebow’s left.

Against a team like Denver I would expect to see more zone coverage, with little man. ¬†It’s simpler to defend the option in should the Broncos chose to use it. Man coverage can get you drawn up field…whilst I would expect to see examples of it and some combinations, don’t anticipate a lot.

It’s also important for our defensive backs to remember one thing…there is such a thing as an option pass! It’s easy as a corner or safety who is not responsible for any of the reads to get draw towards the run play however, they must¬†stay¬†within their zones until the ball has been pitched off to the RB or the QB has decided to keep it.

I expect to see a lot of 4-3 this weekend…more so than we have seen for a while this season. In order for this to be successful, and we have heard this word a lot this week in Patriots Nation, they need to remain ‘disciplined’ . An option style offense effectively leaves two¬†unblocked¬†defenders, and it is easy to get over excited. This is becoming¬†somewhat¬†of a cliche within Patriots Nation ¬†but the team must ‘do their jobs’ to perfection.

When it¬†comes¬†to the fourth Quarter, we need to not play into Tebow’s hands which so many teams have done. Detroit played him¬†aggressively for a full 60 minutes. If we are only up a couple of scores in the 4th Quarter, we must not go to a prevent style defense. Giveing him time, especially if you can’t contain him, will be suicidal.

Finally, I would like to say that I am fully aware that this is a team sport and not about Tim Tebow however, if you fail to stop him or the option, the game could get very ugly very quickly. Whether we like it or not he is a huge part of that offense and we are facing one of the better rushing teams in the league against a style of¬†offense¬†we don’t see very often in the NFL, and that can work¬†against¬†you.

A few people have asked me about this topic this week, so I felt it would be a perfect time to re-kick start my blog with an explanation on how I feel we should best defend the option and the style of offense the Broncos tend to run under Tim Tebow. I hope it has enlightened some of you….I have had the fortune of playing in a wishbone offense myself and wanted to share my knowledge of playing it, and knowing how defenses liked to counter it.

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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Taking a Closer Look at the Patriots Injury Report

The Patriots released their final injury report prior to their week 5 matchup with the New York Jets today and there were four listed as doubtful; Julian Edelman (ankle), Jerod Mayo (Knee), Danny Woodhead (ankle) and Sebastian Vollmer (back). All have failed to participate in practice this week, therefore it is unlikely any will see the field on Sunday.

With Edelman injured, it is likely Taylor Price, who fully participated in practice for the first time this week and is off of the injury report, will see his first roles of the 2011 season with the team. Woodhead’s absence leaves an¬†opportunity¬†for Shane Vereen to potentially show what he is capable of as many see him as the 3rd down back of the future.

Mayo’s absence may lead to Gary Guyton taking the green dot (ie: the play calling role for the defense) but it is unclear yet as to how Belichick plans to tackle the loss of the defensive playcaller. Dane Fletcher, who is now¬†listed¬†as probable, may well also see extra snaps as a result of this; he participated fully for the first time this week as well.

Most worryingly is the presence of three members of the secondary listed as Questionable;¬†Leigh Bodden (Groin), Ras-I Dowling (Hip)¬†and Josh Barrett (thumb/hamstring), who were all on the list. The team could survive with two of these backs and I think we could settle for either Bodden or Dowling, who has shown the Patriots he could have been a very valuable pickup if he stays healthy, but we definitely need Barrett on the field. Sergio Brown is arguably the worst player on the defense and is becoming more of a liability than Brandon Merriweather was (I can’t believe I’m saying that). The more snaps Brown gets, the worst position this secondary is in.

Thankfully, Kyle Arrington (who leads the team in interceptions) was not seen on the final injury report which is a small piece of good news for a struggling and battered secondary unit. Another worry was Guyton, who could potentially take over play calling responsibilities on the defense in Mayo’s absence as stated¬†above, and he appears to have gotten over his hamstring issues.

Other full participants, who are now listed as probable, were safety Patrick Chung (thumb) and defensive lineman Shaun Ellis (knee). Chung adds that leadership he brings to the secondary while Ellis adds depth to a defensive line which was drawing some concern over its health also.

Mike Wright may be ready to return, but it’s a dangerous thing to put him back in the line-up if he’s not ready. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

Defensive Linemen Mike Wright (concussion) and Kyle Love (ankle) are both Questionable and saw limited participation in practice. If either one could make it back it would result in much welcomed depth to the unit who are set to go up against a struggling Jets offensive line. Keeping our players fresh and rotating them in is integral to our success in this match-up. Personally I feel Wright will not play; questionable with a concussion is a very dangerous thing to send a player back in early with so I expect him to be rested until he is able to fully participate in practice.

The final two listed as Questionable are the two biggest names; Aaron Hernandez (knee) and Albert Haynesworth (back). If Hernandez could make it back into the lineup it would throw a huge spanner in the works for the Jets and add another much needed weapon to Brady’s arsenal. Haynesworth’s return would be much welcomed against a Jets offensive line which hasn’t generated any run game or protected Sanchez and could be the game where he makes his first mark as a Patriot. Both will be game-time¬†decisions¬†as will the majority of those who are Questionable.

In summary, this is a worryingly long list and the Patriots are incredibly banged up early on in the season. With Dallas still to play before the bye week, I don’t expect to see Belichick rushing players back unnecessarily. The four listed as doubtful will not play. I would expect Wright to be rested for one more week, leaving two more inactive spots to fill. One member of the secondary and a defensive lineman would be a good shout in my opinion.

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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A Look At Stevan Ridley’s Continuing Development

Patriots fans have watched runningback Stevan Ridley continue to get more and more reps with the Patriots offense in recent weeks, and he is certainly justifying his increased role through week 4.

On Sunday against Oakland, Ridley rushed for 97 yards off of 10 carries, one of which was a 33-yard run for a touchdown, and averaged a more than respectable 9.7 yards per carry. In total he has 18 attempts for 148 yards with an average of 8.2 YPC. It’s been a great start, causing plenty of excitement to build around this young prospect.

So far Stevan Ridley is showing signs each week that he deserves to continue to get more reps on the field. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

There is a lot of talk about how much his role will increase as the season goes on, and many argue he could be our feature back by the end of the regular season and going into the playoffs. I commented on this myself in the review during our “Patriots Fourth and Two” podcast (a new Patriots podcast show which can also be found on ITunes) and said that it wouldn’t surprise me to see Ridley start getting a bulk of the carries.

He needs to do a lot to be that guy.  However, lets talk about the pros of Ridley first.

The rookie runningback possesses¬†a style of running that can see him potentially becoming a 3 down back. ¬†He can take the ball ¬†north and south, and run over would-be tacklers in the 1/2 and 3/4 gaps but, most importantly, he¬†possesses¬†a burst of speed which enables him to run off-tackle….a burst I don’t think Benjarvus Green-Ellis has. This burst was something NFL Scouts were not sure Ridley had either, and something else they criticized him on was his ability to catch passes out of the backfield and blitz pick-up. ¬†Instead he seems to have proven these scouts wrong in recent Preseason and Regular Season¬†performances, and has definitely shown me he can be the future at the position.

Despite all the pros, there are still a lot of cons to his style of running. He runs very upright, likes to spin out of and turn his back on would-be tacklers and doesn’t always wrap both arms around the football when running outside. These are recipes for disaster, including injury and turnovers. Green-Ellis hasn’t fumbled in his NFL career, nor his College career, and some teammates from his high school days argue he never fumbled then either. This reflects in his style of running inside and outside of the tackles and Ridley needs to learn a lot more from “The Law Firm” until he is ready to take the reigns.

So what does this mean for the Green-Ellis himself? I often wonder why the Patriots only offered him his tender and not a long term deal, albeit it was a second round tender. In today’s NFL, feature backs who carry the load often have very short careers, which is why teams like the New¬†York¬†Giants adopt a ‘two back’ approach with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. Jacobs is your downhill running back who bares the brunt of the carries down the middle, while Bradshaw is your cut-back runner who offers an air of¬†unpredictability¬†and can do both, thus getting more of the opportunities. Jacobs takes some of the load off of Bradshaw so to speak.

Therefore I could see Green-Ellis taking this role up perfectly. While Ridley is actually a little heavier than Green-Ellis, I would argue he is as good, if not better, inside of the tackle and these backs aren’t always easy to find; the type that don’t take one step back, but go full speed forward, putting their bodies on the line. ¬†Having both Green-Ellis with Ridley would increase the rookies ‘life expectancy’ in the NFL and prolong his career, while also giving us a two back approach that makes the Giants so successful in that area of the game. Vereen and Woodhead would obviously be the other two running backs looking forward.

I’m guessing Ridley will see an increased role throughout the season, and may well be that feature back if he improves on the factors I feel he needs to improve on; as do others I might add (the guys on PFW In Progress recently commented on it also). However, I feel it is integral to Ridley’s career to re-sign Green-Ellis and maintain that two back approach which I feel will aid the Patriots’ running game a great deal. There is every chance Ridley could see the bulk of carries by the end of the season depending on his progress, which coaches believe he is making on a day to day basis.

Let us hope so, because so far after what we’ve seen so far through four games, Ridley is proving to be an absolute steal in the 3rd round of the NFL Draft.

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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Ochocinco’s Impact and the Evolution of the Patriots Offense

Chad Ochocinco’s in a new offense that’s evolved quite a bit since New England traded Randy Moss last season. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

I think it’s fair to say that Chad Ochocinco has dominated the Patriot headlines as of recent and it’s an issue that is getting debated league wide since Tedy Bruschi’s comments after the team’s season opener against Miami. In that game Ochocinco recorded just one catch for 14 yards, in a game where Brady threw for over 500-yards.

He improved on that this past Sunday when he registered two catches for 45 yards, one of which was an impressive grab under tight coverage. However some still criticise, so I wanted to clarify exactly what I thought about why he is here, and what impact he will be having.

Let’s face it; the Patriots are “a spread the ball offense” which likes to manage the clock and sustain long drives, while slowly eating away at defenses and the clock. The evidence is for all to see. Tom Brady has hit nine different targets over two games and seven against San Diego. We all know what Chad Ochocinco achieved in the days of Chad Johnson. He was one of the most feared receivers in the league, but to expect him to come here and have the same or even just similar impact as Randy Moss? Too much to expect. Even a 1,000 yard season is pushing it a bit.

I’m going to start by saying this; I didn’t think we even needed a new wide receiver. I believe people overreacted to a playoff loss in a 14-2 season and that the main reason behind this was the still evolving team. We were still being defined as a team in¬†transition,¬†and most people forgot this little detail after seeing our record. We had a very young defense and team in general which just was’t ready for post season football. ¬†Back to my point anyway…

As 2007 wound on the blowouts and complete dominance became less frequent and, as the years went on the offense whilst still effective, became more and more predictable. Belichick realised that teams had built the blueprint for stopping the Brady/Moss era Patriots and went on to plan for a new era; the era of the Tight End. He drafted Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and gradually phased Moss out of the offense. Moss then kicked up a¬†stink and we all know what happened next. Belichick’s realisation of the need for change and a new style of offense defines the genius that he is.

This new offense was the death of the WR position in New¬†England. Okay, maybe death is too strong as, after all, Welker and Branch are very effective targets for Brady. However, this new style didn’t evolve around Welker or Branch, but the new tight ends instead. Tight ends like Gronkowski and Hernandez are a nightmare for defenses because they create huge mismatches, especially in a base defense which results in undersized and slow linebackers being forced to cover someone like Hernandez…even safeties struggle to match up against the sheer height of someone like Gronkowski. When these players are on the field in these situations, they become primary targets over the more evenly matched up receivers¬†positioned¬†opposite corners.

Not only that, but the sheer skill of these players make them targets on every play. When we had Watson, it was a common assumption that Brady just didn’t trust him. If he could avoid hitting him, he would. Brady trusts this group of tight ends and he trusts players like Woodhead to line up at receiver and catch passes out of the backfield. This new trust has contributed to the spreading of the ball a lot more as the Patriots don’t need to just rely on their receiving corps, and some players just aren’t going to get as many touches as they used to.

That brings me to the sheer number of weapons we have whom Tom Brady trusts. Let’s list them; Welker, Branch, Woodhead, Gronkowski, Hernandez…and that isn’t even bringing into mention Price who has developed nicely this off season. Did people really think Chad was going to come here and rise above the whole team with 1, 000 yards? Surely not.

Now look at how often we¬†use¬†the tight ends. We spent 60 of 71 plays¬†against¬†San Diego in a one or two tight end package. When you count a runningback is generally wanted in the mix,¬†it limits the number of receivers you have on the field and it was hard to believe¬†Ochocinco¬†was going to beat out Welker and Branch. He was brought in not to ‘add a down the field threat’ but to simply add another dimension. He is someone you have to respect when he is on the field and is a proven talent. When you consider the next real speedy threat is Price, you can see where I’m coming from when you consider a team like the Jets won’t respect that threat as much as a seasoned veteran.

If Ochocinco is catching two, three and maybe even four balls a game for a reasonable chunk of yardage, I am happy. The simple fact is, the Patriots don’t really need a¬†Moss¬†type player because that isn’t the style of offense we run¬†anymore. The offense is revolving around the two tight ends and the receivers will benefit a little from it¬†in turn.¬†However, when both Gronkowski and Hernandez are out there, I would very¬†much¬†doubt¬†any of the receivers are primary reads…or at least not the majority of the time.

I’m going to talk about balance now as well. The Moss era Patriots were a pass heavy team and with Lawrence Maroney posed minimal threat on the ground. They made a¬†consolidated¬†effort to balance the run and again it was the tight ends which enabled them to do this. Bringing three tight end sets allowed the Patriots to have an air of unpredictability in their offense, and having 3 accomplished blockers enable the Patriots to run whenever – even just one of them was on the field. Teams can often judge when a team wants to run by its tendencies with personnel packages. However, with the Patriots it is increasingly hard to work out as the tight ends have such a wide range of skill sets they enable to the team to utilise them in many ways.

They also¬†signaled¬†their intention to run the ball more with the drafting of two new running backs in the 2011 NFL Draft. The additions of the young Shane Vereen and Stephan Ridley was needed to add youth to the position, but it symbolised just how serious they were about strengthening the position and running the ball. More¬†balance¬†in return means less touches for a vast group of receivers and tight ends. Sometimes the Patriots will choose to pass more than they run, but you can already see a considerable change in how they deal¬†with¬†their offensive play calling. An example is the Patriots and their commitment to run the ball on first down, something they didn’t particularly trust their backs to do prior to 2010. Green-Ellis’ first 1,000 yard season for New England hasn’t happened since 2003 – and it was no coincidence.

All these factors limit the impact that Ochocinco needs to have on the Patriots. He wasn’t brought in here to be the deep threat that racked up 1, 000 yards and double digit touchdowns…or in fact either of those. He was brought in as an experienced veteran at the position who could share snaps with the likes of Taylor Price at the third receiver position and give teams like the Jets more to think about. Belichick didn’t expect him to come here and light it up. Ochocinco will be used not how much his practices dictates, but how much Belichick feels he needs to use him.

That brings me to Hernandez’s injury. Unless Belichick expects Rob’s brother Dan to fill his place, and I can’t¬†imagine¬†that,¬†Ochocinco¬†could be asked to do considerably more in the coming weeks up until Hernandez returns. If Price returns, you could see four wide receiver sets a bit more than we have done in the past since usually the fourth receiver has been a tight end in this new offense.

So in conclusion, let’s all get off of Chad Ochocinco’s back. My expectations were low because when you look at all the factors built into this offense, it just wasn’t set up for him to meet those high¬†expectations set by some media and a lot of fans. Moss was deliberately being phased out for this reason, and he knew it. The high expectations set have led to fans getting on his back along with members of the media (aka Tedy Bruschi) jumping on his back¬†publicly¬†also and this. In turn, it has led to a denting of confidence. It isn’t called for, and everyone needs to, put it bluntly, sit down and shut up and let him get on with his job.

My opinion is if Chad can pull in around 500 yards (give or take) and around five touchdowns, he will have fulfilled his purpose here more…yes more…than adequately. Gone are the days we needed to rely on one receiver for our success…success which never led us to a Superbowl title. All these factors I have discussed highlight the reasons why Ochocinco doesn’t need to live up to the hype created by over-excited fans and media outlets.

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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