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Archive for February, 2012

Combine Complete: A Few Observations From The Weekend

Over the past several days, 300 college athletes have come to Indianapolis to take part in the NFL Scouting Combine. All 32 NFL teams were present and looking to improve their rosters for the 2012 season. Here are a few observations I made throughout the process. -

- Andrew Luck has all but purchased a house in Indianapolis so far, but it was the Heisman winner Robert Griffin III who stole the Combine show to this point. The more I see of Griffin, the more I like and the way the Baylor QB carries himself, he makes it hard to dislike him.

Griffin ran a 4.41 40-yard dash and ESPN’s John Clayton said his Combine interview was the most impressive he has ever seen in his 20 plus years covering the event. Griffin seems a lock to go number two overall and St. Louis finds themselves in a great position.

- In almost any other year, USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil would be a top two pick. With Luck and Griffin’s reign over the draft this season, however, Kalil may fall slightly. He was¬†smooth and athletic in each drill and, in my opinion, he is the best left tackle prospect since Joe Thomas; a true blue-chip talent.

- Even though there are several positions in this year’s class that are strong, both the tight-end and safety classes are very weak. Several teams across the league are looking for a Hernandez and Gronkowski type of duo for their offense, but there are only 14 tight-ends participating at the Combine.

The best safety in this year’s class, Alabama’s Mark Barron, may not even be able to workout before April’s draft since he is recovering from a double hernia operation. I’m not in love with any of the prospects at the safety position, but Barron’s injury could be a blessing on disguise for the Patriots. Nick Saban and Bill Belichick’s relationship could offer New England some inside information if they are looking to upgrade the position through the draft.

- I find it incredible how many legitiment prospects are small school defensive backs this year. There are several cornerbacks that have first or second round ability. One who stands out for me is Trumaine Johnson, a cornerback out of Montana. At nearly 6-foot-2 and 204 pounds, Johnson is a physical corner who loves to tackle and has the versatility to play safety. He could definitely be in play for New England in the second round.

- Michael Floyd really helped himself by posting a 4.42 40-yard dash, which seemed to answer all a lot of people’s questions about his speed. Georgia Tech WR Stephen Hill was a true workout warrior in his drills. With the fastest 40-yard dash time for wide outs at 4.30, a vertical jump of 39.5″ and a broad jump of 11’1″, Hill was very impressive.

Baylor receiver Kendall Wright ran slower than many expected, but I still see him being selected to high for the Patriots. If the Browns do trade their 22nd pick for Griffin, however, maybe he slips to 27. Many Patriots fans are taking a nice, long look at receivers this year and this class offers a vast and diverse skill-set.

- Is Memphis defensive lineman Dontari Poe a man? I seriously doubt it after his Combine performance. At just under 6’5 and 346 pounds, Poe is an absolute monster. He is not just a 3-4 nose tackle, Poe is a versatile lineman who could be an absolute beast. The Memphis standout is an athlete too and he ran a 4.98 40-yard dash to back it up.

From a New England perspective, can you image Poe lined up next to Vince Wilfork? Those type of players on a defensive line could give Belichick some great flexibility with the defense.

- The past two years, I have fallen in love with an outside linebacker prospect that I hoped the Patriots would select. This year, I cannot seem to narrow down the list to one or two guys. Courtney Upshaw, Dont’a Hightower, Nick Perry, Andre Branch, Vinny Curry, Melvin Ingram and¬†Mercilus Whitney have stood out at times.

To me, I am still looking for a player to separate from the pack. Again, from a New England perspective, I would like the team to add another linebacker next to Mayo and Spikes.What type of player the team adds, could be dependent on what base defense Belichick and the coaching staff use moving forward.

I will look into this group more in the coming weeks, as well as several other positions. In the mean time, do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me:@PatriotsHaven!

*Update*

Chad¬†Ochocinco was asked by someone on Twitter with the username @thuslsam – ‚Äúhow‚Äôs the restructuring contact going?‚ÄĚ

The receiver responded, ‚ÄúRestructuring is fine, the fun part is finding ways to make it back up during the offseason.‚ÄĚ

It is not uncommon for Ochocinco to respond to fans, but this would seem to confirm that he is restructuring his contract and seems amenable to do so.

________________________________

The Patriots may want Ochocinco to return next season, but it could cost him. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

The New England Patriots and Chad Ochocinco experiment did not go as planned in the 2011 NFL season. In fact, that may be quite the understatement. The veteran receiver had only 15 receptions, 276 yards and one touchdown in his first season as a Patriot.

Although will the charismatic wideout have to pay to stay in New England? According to a report by Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal, Ochocinco has been asked to restructure his contract.

My initial reaction is if New England wants to restructure Ochocinco’s deal, maybe they want him to return next season. Many fans and analysts, myself included, doubted he would return for a second year with the Pats.

Either way, this is a move that has to be done from a Patriots perspective. Ochocinco’s lack of production was disappointing and his contract needed to be reworked; a move Ochocinco might be hesitant to make. If he doesn‚Äôt, however, his days in New England could be numbered.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me:@PatriotsHaven!

Defense in Focus: Decisions Must Be Made

Even though the New England Patriots were in the Super Bowl, the team still has holes to fill and will look to upgrade the roster during the off-season. Along with the other 31 NFL clubs, the Patriots’ front office will be looking to improve the team for the 2012 season. Here are few questions and decisions New England will need to answer in the coming weeks.

The Patriots must first decide who they are on defense. Are they a 3-4 defense? Are they a 4-3? Are they the hybrid kind of defense they showed towards the end of the year?  The answer to these questions will dictate what kind of player the coaching staff should focus on in the front seven during the off-season; whether that player is a defensive and or an outside linebacker.

So this team really must look inward to what their base defense is going to be for next season before they can look out to the free agent pool and the incoming class of rookies hoping to join a NFL roster in April.


Finding Devin McCourty’s permanent position could change how the Patriots upgrade the defense this off-season. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

Next, I believe this team needs to establish a defensive coordinator to start the season. Whether that is giving the job full time to Matt Patricia, or bringing someone from the outside in to work with the defense. I believe it is important to establish a face with the unit so that all of the players know who is in charge.

For all these years, it’s been Bill was running the show, even though there has technically been a defensive play caller. Now I am not saying that Belichick should not have a considerable amount of input, because believe me, he will. I just think it would benefit the team, more specifically the defense, to know who is in charge of that side of the ball.

The Patriots then need to decide what direction they want to go with some of the older players they signed last summer. Whether or not they want to keep the younger guys who were placed on injured reserve or were inactive for most of the year and give them the chance to develop, or attack free agency.

Belichick and the New England coaching staff have certainly proven over the past couple of years that they can find success with guys who are established veterans in the league. The answer is probably somewhere in between the two, but the team still must make a decision.

I believe the front seven needs more attention than the secondary, even though the Patriots were ranked second to last in the entire NFL against the pass, but the defensive backfield will still need some attention during the off-season. Devin McCourty is a player who could really change what this team decides to do moving forward. Figuring out what McCourty’s best role is, will ultimately dictate what direction this team needs to go based on his permanent position.

If McCourty is a cornerback, then this team needs another safety to pair with Patrick Chung. If he is a safety, then this team probably, once again, needs to look at a cornerback in the upcoming draft. Either way, this unit needs stability for next season, something the defense clearly lacked for the majority of 2011.

Overall, I believe this off-season needs to be about establishing an identity for this New England defense. There are a lot of the young players with a tremendous amount of ability, but there is no doubt this unit needs more help. Whether this team needs to bring in more talent on the coaching staff or on the football field, through free agency or the draft, they need to make some pressing decisions very soon.

There were a lot of moving parts on the defense last year and it seemed each week, the team had a different defensive alignment or there were new players at different positions. Establishing who the key defensive contributors are will be key for the Patriots next season. If Belichick and the coaching staff can accomplish this, there is no telling what this team can achieve in the future.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me:@PatriotsHaven!

Upcoming NFL Dates

On Monday morning, the NFL released upcoming dates for the league year. Here are some key dates for the 2012 season. -

Feb. 20 — First day for clubs to designate franchise or transition players.
Feb. 22-28 — NFL Combine.
March 1 — Clubs no longer required to grant permission to another club to discuss position of head coach with an assistant coach.
March 5 — Deadline to designate franchise or transition tag players (prior to 4 p.m. ET).
March 13 — Free agency begins at 4 p.m. ET, marking start of 2012 league year (trading begins).
March 26-28 — NFL annual meeting (Palm Beach, Fla) — compensatory draft picks awarded etc.
April 2 — Clubs that hired a new head coach at end of ’11 regular season may begin offseason programs.
April 16 — Clubs with a returning head coach may begin offseason workout programs.
April 20 — Deadline for signing of offer sheets by restricted free agents.
April 26-28 — NFL Draft.
May 16 — This is the first day players eligible for the 2012 draft are allowed to participate in minicamps or team meetings. Within 15 days of the draft, teams are able to hold a three-day minicamp. If players have not finished their final examinations at their respective schools, they are not permitted to participate in any club activities until after the final day of of school.
May 21-23 — NFL Spring Meeting.

Notes:

- The Patriots are now less than a week away from when they are able to slap wide receiver Wes Welker with the franchise tag. Should be an interesting couple of days around the league and will give people a better idea on the free agent pool this off-season.

- The NFL Combine will be a great chance for everyone to get a good look at the nation’s top college athletes. Be sure to keep your eye out, we will have some great content during the pre-draft process.

- Still about a month away from free agency, but there should be a pretty deep talent pool this year. It is not often an NFL team can add true playmakers to their club. I will have some thoughts on who I believe the Patriots should target shortly, but for a few thoughts on New England’s own free agents, click here.

- April 26 – 28 will be the NFL Draft. This is always one of my favorite times of the NFL off-season and I am very curious who the Patriots will target this year.

- Just last year the NFL lockout was looming, a stressful time for the league and the fans. It will definitely be refreshing to not only focus on the team’s off-season activities, but also not have to worry if we will be able to watch league action on Sunday’s next year.

-       Like what you have read on the site? Stay in touch with me on Twitter @PatriotsHaven!Whether you want Patriots updates in an instant or just talk about the team, be sure to look me up!

Analyzing the Patriots Upcoming Free Agents

Now that the NFL regular season has ended, this is a great time to evaluate the Patriots current roster. New England has made re-signing their own veterans a priority over the last few years and I feel they should do the same this season. The following is a list of the Patriots free agents heading into the off ‚Äď season. Here are my thoughts on each player’s stance with the team moving forward:

DE Mark Anderson – Anderson was a tremendous addition to the Patriots defense. He totaled 12.5 sacks throughout the year, including his 2.5 in the post-season, and really seemed to develop as an overall player. Anderson will be 29 at the start of next season and while I would expect the Patriots to keep him, you have to wonder if another team may be willing to throw more money at him after this year.


How the Patriots handle wide receiver Wes Welker’s contract situation could shape the team’s entire off-season. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

WR Deion Branch – Fans and analysts alike seem to be torn on Branch. Yes, he and Tom Brady share a great chemistry, but the 33-year-old receiver looked nearly five or six years older by season end. I would expect him to be back, but if the team drafts some young wide outs early, he could be on the way out.

DE Andre Carter – Andre Carter was the best off-season acquisition last season. After the 34-year-old and tore his quad muscle last in the season, it is hard to imagine he’ll return to the league. If he does, however, I believe the Patriots will be interested.

OL Dan Connolly – After Dan Koppen broke his ankle in mid September, Dan Connolly filled in admirably for the entire season. His versatility is extremely valuable and I would expect him to return next season.

DE Shaun Ellis – The former New York Jets defensive lineman did not have the impact many expect. He was invisible for the majority of the season and I do not see Ellis returning next year.

RB Kevin Faulk – As sad as this is to say,¬†I think Kevin Faulk’s career has come to an end. He has been an incredible player over the past several years, but I just think the running back doesn’t have it in him to put another season forward. Look for him to retire probably around training camp.

RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis – Even though Green-Ellis did not have the production this season that he had the year previous, the tailback had a solid year. I really cannot envision a scenario where the Patriots and Green-Ellis do not reach an agreement. Look for him to be a part of the New England committee next year.

LB Gary Guyton – I cannot remember a player in recent history that has fallen out of contention with the coaching staff quite like Gary Guyton. After beginning the season as a player who at minimum contributes on passing downs, the linebacker became a frequent name listed as an active on game day and at this point; I would be surprised to see him return.

QB Brian Hoyer (RFA) РHoyer has been a solid back up for the Patriots and some have said he may draw interest from other NFL teams this off-season. In my mind, the wildcard is Ryan Mallett in what the team intends to do with him.  If no team decides to throw a lot of money towards Hoyer, I would fully expect him to be back in training camp.

S James Ihedigbo – Ihedigbo was a signing that went under the radar for many fans and analysts, but proved to be a valuable commodity for the Patriots. Even though he was not always perfect, he brought a strong physicality, solid tackling ability and leadership to a shaky secondary. I would expect him to be back.

DB Nate Jones – The Patriots brought Nate Jones in during the middle of the season and while he played early in his stint with New England, his defensive snaps slowly decreased. I would not expect Nate Jones back next season.

C Dan Koppen – After breaking his ankle at the beginning of the season, the veteran center was placed on injured-reserve, ending his year. I would fully expect Koppen back if he does not plan on retiring, but New England should start looking at replacements.

LB Niko Koutouvides – Koutouvides provided some depth and saw the field in a limited capacity for the majority of the season, bouncing on and off the team’s practice squad. While I would expect him to be a training camp body, I doubt he starts next season on the 53-man roster.

S Bret Lockett (RFA) – Bret Lockett may be in tremendous shape, but the safety cannot seem to shake the injury bug that has plagued him. I would expect to see Lockett back in training camp, in no way do I see him making the roster at this point.

DL Kyle Love (RFA) – With two seasons under his belt, Kyle Love has really developed nicely throughout his young career. At several points in the season he stood out in a positive way. I believe Love not only returns, but also continues to see quality minutes on the field in 2012.

CB Antwaun Molden – Molden was signed after leaving the Texans and immediately thrown into the mix in the defensive backfield. His playing time was sporadic and so was his level of play. Similar to Nate Jones, it’s hard to guess where a veteran defensive back in the NFL might land, but there is a possibility Molden returns for training camp.

WR/S Matthew Slater – For years I have wondered why matthew Slater is on the Patriots’ roster, but this season, he proved his worth. He will never be the safety or deep threat New England uses him as on occasion, but Slater is a true special teams weapon and I would expect the Pro Bowler to return next season.

DL Gerard Warren – Warren was not nearly as productive as he was last season, but the 11-year veteran did play some quality snaps. Warren seems to have really embraced the “Patriots way” and seems comfortable in New England. Retirement could be a possibility, but I think if the 33-year-old will play next season, it will be in New England.

WR Wes Welker – There is no question this will be the talk of the off-season. I do believe Welker will return to the Patriots, ¬†but at what cost? The franchise tag seems like a legitimate possibility. Ideally, New England can sign the wide out to a two-year deal, but I assume the “slot machine” will want a three or even four-year contract.

LB Tracy White РIn early September of last season the Eagles traded White to the Patriots for an undisclosed late round pick in the 2012 NFL draft. White played in 15 games, playing a key role on special teams and also contributing defensively. I expect White to return with the team next season and be big part of the on special teams unit.

-       Like what you have read on the site? Stay in touch with me on Twitter @PatriotsHaven! Whether you want Patriots updates in an instant or just talk about the team, be sure to look me up!

Report: Gronkowski Undergoes Surgery On Ankle


According to Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal, Rob Gronkowski had a successful arthroscopic surgery on his ankle Friday morning. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

Rob Gronkowski’s ankle was heavily in focus prior to the Super Bowl and limited him severely during the game. As it turns out, the high-ankle sprain was damaged enough to require surgery.

According to Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal, the Patriots Pro Bowl tight-end had a successful arthroscopic surgery on his ankle Friday morning. His expected recovery time will be around 10 weeks.

The arthroscopic procedure was done at Mass. General by team Dr. George Theodore, who has worked on Dustin Pedroia, Tom Brady, and Curt Schilling.

I was a little surprised to hear of Gronkowski’s surgery, but based on his performance at Indianapolis, it appeared the injury was worse than I initially thought. I have no worries moving forward and I am sure Gronkowski will have time to recover before his off-season workouts begin.

I’ll be sure to post more details when they are made available. Do¬†you have a Twitter account?¬†Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Gisele Gets Caught at the Wrong Moment, Harsh Words for Patriots Receivers

After a tough loss on Sunday evening at Lucas Oil Stadium, Tom Brady’s wife Gisele¬†Bundchen, was caught Bond saying some harsh words to her inner circle.

As she was waiting by an elevator to go meet her husband, gossip website theinsider.com, captured the supermodel venting at the wrong time,¬†“My husband can not (expletive) throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time,” Bundchen said. “I can’t believe they dropped the ball so many times.”

Bundchen definitely put herself and Brady in an interesting position with those harsh comments. These are the sort of remarks that can bring serious conflict between teammates, especially when they are shared from a players family member.

Bundchen should know not to say these kind of statements while in public, as she is entitled to her own opinion, and also know everyone is a reporter these days with social media playing a huge role.

In her defense, however, she was being heckled by New York fans while also seeing the person she loves dearly losing in a game that she knew meant so much to him. There is no question she was in an emotionally raw state of mind.

She also did it not say this to any Giants fans or professional reporters, she was just speaking her mind to her close friends and someone happened to be within an earshot with their phone in hand.

There is no question that a comment like the one Bundchen made, could come between teammates. I know Welker and Brady are close though, so the two should be able to correct the situation.

“Wes is a phenomenal player and a teammate,” Brady said. “I love that guy.”

New Englanders and Patriots fans across the country seem to be taking part in the blame game on Monday afternoon, as Patriots Nation deals with another Super Bowl defeat.

Welker, who did drop a difficult pass that would have potentially iced the game late in the fourth quarter, nearly broke down in a post game press conference.

“That’s a play I make a thousand times,” Welker said. “I just didn’t make it.”

Welker was extremely emotional after the game and continually fought back tears according to several media outlets who attended his post game conference.

While many will question if Welker played his last game in New England, as his contract is now expired, the NFL’s leading receiver over the past five years has only a single thought on his mind.

“It’s a play I never drop. Most critical situation, and I let the team down.”

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Message for Patriots Fans

After a loss like one Patriots Nation suffered on Sunday evening, there are not a lot of words to say that would make one feel better.

As I talked to family members, friends and interact with many of you on Twitter, I know the majority of Patriots fans are really struggling over this loss.

Yes, it is a tough pill to swallow, but the Patriots had a tremendous season. Even though they came into the year as favorites to contend for the Super Bowl championship, there were times throughout the year that many said  they could not even win a playoff game.

I’m not trying to make excuses, justify, or rationalize the loss; but it’s time for Patriots Nation to hold their head up high.

Avoid finger-pointing, there is enough blame to go around and there are 53 men and a whole coaching staff responsible for this loss. Some plays may be bigger than others, but the New England Patriots lost as a team and now is not the time to be playing the blame game.

Over the next several months, fans and analysts alike will be dissecting this team in every way imaginable. Yes, there were changes that need to be made regardless of the outcome of yesterday’s contest. So this team should look different going into training camp.

There will be plenty of time to talk draft, off-season transactions and any other way this team can improve going into next season.

Some of you may ask how to approach going about today, as well as the rest of the week. For me, the only thing left to do is to get back to work and continue to support the team that I cheer for wholeheartedly.

So keep your head up Patriots Nation, I know it’s a tough loss. Just remember the team still had a very good year, Myra is still proud and we’ll be back.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Giants and Patriots Inactives

The New England Patriots and New York Giants have listed their inactives for Super Bowl XLVI. -


Patriots Running Back Kevin Faulk is inactive for Super Bowl XLVI. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

New England Patriots:

LB Gary Guyton
OL Nick McDonald
OL Donald Thomas
DL Ron Brace
RB Kevin Faulk
RB Shane Vereen
QB Ryan Mallett

New York Giants:

Ramses Barden
Da’Rel Scott
Mark Herzlich
Jim Cordle
Justin Trattou
Jimmy Kennedy
James Brewer

Score Prediction: Patriots – 27, Giants – 20.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Score Prediction: Giants at Patriots

The New England Patriots and New York Giants showdown in the highly anticipated Super Bowl match up Sunday. After a two week waiting period, these two teams will finally decide who will be crowned champions.

This match up has been under a microscope from every angle. To me, the game comes down to the Giants’ defensive line versus the Patriots’ offensive line. New York seems to be very cocky, ¬†but I believe the Pats are ready to finish their season in the absolute best way; as Super Bowl champions.

My prediction for the game is Patriots 27, Giants 20.

I will post my thoughts on the game Monday morning. Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven during the game for live updates and analysis!


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