In this episode, we discussed the surprise signing of quarterback¬†Tim Tebow¬†by the¬†Patriots.¬†We also discussed several other subject as we get ready for Training Camp next month. We finished up with our roster projections for the cornerback position. Please do take a listen.
The Patriots have begun their June Mini-Camp, and that means that we are not that far away from Patriots Training Camp which begins at the end of July. ¬†As we inch closer to the beginning of the new season, I’m focused on an area of execution by the defense that needs improvement, and I am hoping two additions to the defensive tackle position will provide a solution to this problem. Can Tommy Kelly and Armond Armstead be the solution to the Patriots interior pass rush?
I have listened and read so much talk about the lack of a defensive pass rush from the Patriots for several seasons now. I am not disagreeing with that statement, but I am going to be more specific to what area of the pass rush is really lacking.
The Patriots I feel are not lacking with the pass rush on the outside as the two players currently on the edges are getting to the quarterback. Defensive End ChandlerJones as a rookie had 6 sacks last season, and also did a pretty decent job with getting pressure on the quarterback in general. On the other side, Defensive End, Rob Ninkovich ended the the regular season last year with 8 sacks, and did a nice job overall as an outside pass rusher.
The issue I see is the inside pass rush which is just not pushing the pocket back enough, and this has been a problem for awhile. Vince Wilfork has been a great interior defensive lineman for the Patriots for several seasons, but he cannot push the pocket alone from the inside, and really needs someone that can be a pass rusher next to him.
For the past three seasons Defensive Tackle Kyle Love did a great job at stopping the run, but really could not create much pressure to the quarterback when their were passing situations. Last season Love had 1.5 sacks, and Wilfork had 3 sacks.
I believe the Patriots acknowledged this interior pass rush issue a few seasons ago when they brought in Albert Haynesworth. Unfortunately, the experiment of lining him up next to Wilfork did not work, but I could tell that the Patriots were trying to take care of the problem by trying to find Wilfork a partner inside that could get after the quarterback.
Back in the 2003 season, the Patriots were missing one piece of the puzzle, and that was nose tackle on defense. They traded right before the season began for Ted Washington, and he was the answer to the problem. At that time the issue was stopping the run, but his presence at that position changed the defense.
Now, I am going to look ahead to a problem I see on the defense, and that is finding a partner for Wilfork on the inside to create a tandem that could be a force with an interior pass rush.
The Patriots recently released two defensive tackles as Love and BrandonDeaderick are no longer with the team. However, two players have been brought in this off-season to play the Defensive Tackle position. Can either be the answer to fix the interior pass rush?
The Patriots first signed Armond Armstead, who played last season in the CFL for the Toronto Argonauts and is 22 years old. He played his college football at USC but went undrafted. However, he put up some impressive numbers in Canada, and was able to get after the quarterback. For his rookie season, he had 43 tackles, and 6 sacks, and was named a CFL All Star.
I understand that the level of play in the CFL is not to the level of the NFL, but he made an impact in Canada, and I feel deserves a chance with the Patriots. I guess only time will tell if he is the answer for the ailing interior pass rush.
The Patriots also signed former Oakland Raiders Defensive Tackle Tommy Kelly who is 32 years old. Last season was not fantastic for him as he only had one sack. However, in 2010, he had 7 sacks and in 2011 he had 7.5 sacks. Overall Kelly has been a very productive player, and is worth bringing in to see if the can be the answer to this problem that the Patriots are having.
The Patriots defense has improved the last couple of seasons, and might be ready to take a dramatic jump. However, fixing the issue of the interior pass rush could be a huge key to take the defense to the next level.
As we look ahead to the 2013 Patriots season, many are concentrating on the potential issues that the Patriots might have on offense. As we go to Training Camp in July, I will be focused on the defense, and specifically the two additions to the Patriots Defensive Tackle position. The ability of ¬†Kelly and ¬†Armstead to make a difference with an interior pass rush could be very important to the progression of ¬†this Patriots defense becoming a strength once again.
In this epsiode, we continued our look at the¬†Patriots¬†off-season as we discussed the latest topics related to the team. We also continued our roster projections, and this show we looked at the safety position.
We are just about to enter the beginning of June, and Rob¬†Gronkowski is one Patriots player that had dominated the off-season talk.¬†Players deal with injuries all the time, but I have been wondering why this player is getting over the top coverage? I have come to the conclusion that the words “what if” are driving the overreaction to the injuries of Gronkowski.
I feel that Gronkowski could be a Hall of Fame tight end someday. He has the ability to be that player, and only time will tell if he can reach that legendary status.
However, the amount of stories, and talk about Gronkowski has been to the extreme, and it all centers around the words “what if”. These words first showed up after Super Bowl XLVI, and the Patriots lost a Super Bowl, but Gronkowski was dealing with an injured ankle. Some in the media, and fans were wondering what could have been with Gronkowski at one hundred per cent. What if Gronkowski was healthy for that game?
These words showed up again last season after the AFC Championship Game, after the Patriots struggled to score points, and ultimately lost to the Ravens. Gronkowski was out injured with a broken forearm. Could he have been the difference between winning and losing? What if Gronkowski played against the Ravens?
So this off-season, the words “what if” have completely taken over as Gronkowski was dealing with an infection in his arm, and I started to hear commentary like this on social media, and on the radio. What if the infection is still there and he has to have another surgery?
Fans and media were starting to speculate how much of the season he could potentially miss if the worst case scenario was the end result. Well, that never happened with his forearm, and hopefully his arm will be ready to go before the season begins as reportedly the infection is gone.
However, that has not been the end to the injury concerns because reportedly speculation has Gronkowski possibly having back surgery. Yet again those words have shown up in regards to Gronkowski. What if he misses the beginning of the season?
The words “what if” have driven the majority of talk about Gronkowski, and most of it revolves around fear that he will not be able to play at some point this season.¬†Listen, he could miss a huge share of Training Camp, and possibly the beginning of the season. His physical play that fans appreciate could have a downside, and that could be injuries.
Well, on the flip-side of that, I have positive “what if” scenarios for all of the speculation regarding Gronkowski’s injuries. What if we start training camp in July and Gronkowski is out on the field? What if Gronkowski ends the season with 13-15 touchdown passes?
If these positive scenarios happen, won’t all of this injury speculation look pretty silly? That is why I recommend waiting, and seeing what happens when training camp begins. You are not going to get injury updates out of the Patriots so the only way to really know is to be patient, and see how it all plays out before the season begins.
Just remember last summer there was so much talk regarding fear that the Patriots offensive line would not be able to protect quarterback¬†Tom Brady. The speculation was “what if” Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer cannot fully recover from injuries? What if Nate Solder cannot become a solid left tackle? How did that all work out in the end?
For me the majority of the Gronkowski speculation is about getting “the story”, and a negative one can put fear into the fans, and also get you read it or listen to it. How long will the story last if Gronkowski is out on the field for Training Camp?
I have read and heard different speculation on the severity of this back injury for Gronkowski. There are positive and negative views on it, but the bottom line is the truth will be shown by being patient and waiting.
I am excited to talk about the Patriots, but have other topics that interest me. I want to talk about the potential of the defense, and can the secondary step up and improve to the level the defense needs it to be? I am looking forward to see how the offense will look with the new additions to that unit. Those are the stories I am looking to discuss as we get closer to Training Camp.
I am looking to talk about football, and not the fear that the words “what if” can bring. This should be an exciting season of Patriots football coming up, but injuries are a part of the game, and as you have seen with the three Patriots Super Bowl Championship Teams, they had to overcome them, and every team has to.
The Patriots have been pretty successful over the years of overcoming injuries, so when it comes to Gronkowski, I do not worry about it. The Patriots are better with him, but they will do the best they can if he is not available.
When the Patriots have lost games, I have never taken the view “what if” this happened. The Patriots lost two recent Super Bowls because the Giants made a few more plays than the Patriots did when it counted at the end of those Super Bowls.
The Patriots lost the AFC Championship Game to Ravens recently, because the team in Baltimore was better on that Sunday. It is possible that Gronkowski could have made an impact, but I don’t think what would have happened if he played. I think that type of talk is disrespectful to the Ravens who deserved the victory.
The words “what if” for me can symbolize an excuse for not achieving a goal.¬†The Patriots have an opportunity in the end the Brady Era to win more rings, but if they do not, the words “what if” mean nothing to me. If they do not win those rings, it will be because they just weren’t good enough to earn them.
As we look forward to the 2013 Patriots season, I can’t help but look back to a year that was special in the history of the franchise, and one that can be used as a road-map for the rest of the career of an aging quarterback. The 2003 Patriots should be the blueprint for the end of the Tom Brady era.
Many fans and media members point to the 2004 Patriots as the best ever, but I still disagree, as the 2003 team offered more than just the best talent to win a Super Bowl. This team won games in so many different ways, and won them on both sides of the ball. The 2003 Patriots were a complete team of balance. ¬†So what can the 2013 Patriots and beyond learn from the 2003 team?
Well, there are so many things they can use, and I will start on offense which in 2003 was not all about Brady. The running game was average, but completely balanced with Antowain Smith gaining 642 yards, and Kevin Faulk having 638 yards in the regular season. The Patriots have two backs now that can emulate that production or surpass it with Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley.
In the passing game, the Patriots in 2003 did not have a wide receiver with huge numbers, but again the unit as a whole was balanced. The leader in receptions that season was¬†Deion Branch with 57 catches, followed by TroyBrown with 40 receptions, and David Givens with 34 catches.
The Patriots this season have uncertainty at the wide receiver position, but Danny Amendola had 63 receptions last season which he easily could get again with Brady throwing him the ball. It is also not crazy to think that the tight ends could have similar numbers to off-set potentially a rookie or two at the other wide receiver positions, and other wide-outs having lower production.
It is all about balance, and the Patriots passing and running game could have that symmetry that will take serious pressure off of the quarterback. As Brady gets older, offensive balance should benefit the Patriots quarterback in moving the team down the field.
On defense, in 2003 the Patriots against the run were fourth in the league, and had Ted Washington at nose tackle who really plugged the hole that the Patriots were having the season prior against the run. The addition of TommyKelly along with Vince Wilfork should make it very difficult for teams to run on the Patriots this season.
The pass defense is where the Patriots made the difference in 2003, and this is where the Patriots really need to improve in the coming seasons. The Patriots were average in 2003, being 15th in the NFL in pass defense, but this unit had play-makers that shutdown, and limited passing games when needed. Ty Law was a shut-down corner, and the Patriots defense was able to be more aggressive knowing that he was a cover corner.
Going into this season, the Patriots have cornerback Aqib Talib, and he has already shown that he might not be Law, but he can cover, and help the defense be more aggressive. When Talib went out in the 2012 AFC Championship Game, the Patriots defense suffered tremendously. He has already showed his value to the 2012 Patriots.
A player who really defined the 2003 defense was safety Rodney Harrison. He set the tone in the secondary, and was really the leader of that unit. Safety Adrian Wilson has come to the Patriots, and he could offer similar leadership, and toughness that the secondary desperately needs. He might not have the speed he once had, but his intangibles as a veteran player could be the missing ingredient for the secondary.
For the 2013 Patriots to really use the 2003 Patriots blueprint moving forward, there are four traits that could make all the difference in the world.
First, the 2003 Patriots were able to have their players on both sides of the ball step up to make game-changing plays. On Defense, in 2003 Tedy Bruschi, made a key interception that he took in for a touchdown against Miami.
Willie McGinest made the key stop on the one yard line, against the Colts in the regular season that sealed the victory. It is time to see Jerod Mayo and Chandler Jones become true play-makers on defense.
On offense, in 2003, who can forget Brown catching the touchdown pass from Brady in overtime in Miami? How about Givens catching the winning touchdown pass against the Broncos on the road on Monday Night Football? I was at that game, and that touchdown showed me the Patriots were ready to do something special.
Who will be the play-makers on offense this season and moving forward ? You have two tight ends that can play that role, along with new receivers who need to step up probably early.
The second trait of the 2003 Patriots would be back-ups filling in when injuries occur during the season. Linebacker¬†Mike Vrabel went down for some games in 2003 with an injury, and Matt Chatham stepped up admirably, and got the job done.
This season and moving forward, what happens say if linebacker Brandon Spikes goes down with an injury? It could be up to someone like Dane Fletcher to pick up the slack. The 2003 Patriots were able to overcome injuries with their depth, and the 2013 Patriots and beyond need to do the same. It is about every player on the 53 man roster stepping up when their number is called.
The third trait of the 2003 Patriots that this year’s team and beyond could learn from was the ability to overcome adversity. Before the 2003 Patriots season began, the team released Lawyer Milloy, and this one move could have derailed the entire season before it even got going.
It hurt the Patriots in the first game as they lost 31-0 to the Bills with Milloy playing against his former team. However, after that loss the Patriots adjusted, and started to get on a roll. They ended the season 14-2, so I guess you can say they overcame this adversity.
The fourth trait and could be the most important for the 2003 Patriots was winning games in different ways. That season, the Patriots could beat you on offense and defense. In the beginning of the season, the Pats beat the Titans 38-30 in a shootout. Three games later they beat the Browns 9-3 in a defensive struggle. They won games in overtime, and they also got victories at the very end of game like the wins against the Colts and Broncos on the road.
This trait really shows the balance of the 2003 Patriots, and the need for the 2013 defense and beyond to catch up to the offense to be its equal. The offense for several seasons has had the burden of winning the game, as the defense was average at best. It is time for the defense to win some games on their own, and become that true equal partner.
I truly believe so much can be learned from the 2003 Patriots that can be used for the end of the Brady era. It is about a 53 man roster with everyone contributing, and both offense and defense playing equal parts in their success.
The end of the Brady era should be about the quarterback being a piece of the pie instead of the whole thing. The 2013 Patriots and beyond cannot all be on Brady’s shoulders. It is time to use the 2003 Patriots as the blueprint for potentially more rings to the end of the Brady era.
In this episode, we looked back at the Patriots Draft and also discuss the trades the team made during the Draft.
We were also joined at the top of the show by Chris Price, who is the Patriots beat writer for WEEI.com, and he gave us a half hour interview. We asked him several questions about the Patriots Draft. Please take a listen.
In this episode we focused on the upcoming NFL Draft for the¬†Patriots.¬†We gave you what we think are the three positions of need for the¬†Pats, and possible players that could be drafted by the team. Please take a listen.
There is no question that the Patriots had a difficult time in several NFL drafts after the Super Bowl Championship seasons. However, they have rebounded very well from their slump in the draft, and the future looks pretty bright with young talent being added to the veteran players already on the roster. The reason for the optimism has to be that the Patriots have struck gold in the last three NFL drafts.
Before I talk about those three drafts, I want to take a look at the two drafts prior. In 2008, there were several misses in the draft, but you did get a starting middle linebacker in the first round with Jerod Mayo, and a special teams pro bowler in the fifth round with Matthew Slater.
In 2009, the Patriots had high hopes for this draft, as they ended with three picks in the second round. Now, defensive tackle Ron Brace was a disappointment as a pick in the second round, and he is a definite miss. However, also in the second, you had safety Patrick Chung, who never lived up to my prediction that he would be the next Rodney Harrison,¬†but you did get four years of play out of him so I would not consider him a bust.
The positives in this draft were right tackle Sebastian Vollmer taken in the second round, and wide receiver Julian Edelman was taken in the seventh round. Vollmer has become a top offensive tackle in the league, and Edelman has been inconsistent, but at times as shown flashes of brilliance. The jury is still out on Edelman, but he is still on the roster.
I just wanted to point out that even though many so called experts feel that the 2008 and 2009 drafts were disasters, the Patriots still have four players on the roster that are contributing, and a few that are key pieces to the roster. Next time you think of those two drafts, just remember the players I have mentioned that are still with the team.
Now, I am going to take a look at the last three drafts for the Patriots, and when I lay this out, you are going to see just how well the roster has been injected with young talent. I have a feeling after reading what comes next, many of you will agree with my thoughts on the last three Patriots drafts.
The 2010 Patriots draft currently has seven players that are on the roster. In the first round, the Patriots drafted Devin McCourty at cornerback. His first season was sensational with the Patriots, but then he had a sophomore slump followed by a move last season to free safety. I think McCourty is the center-fielder for the future, and should improve the more he plays at the safety position.
In the second round, the Patriots drafted tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has turned out to be one of the best in the league at his position. If he can stay healthy, he might be one of the greatest tight ends of all time.
Also in the second round, the Pats drafted defensive end Jermaine Cunningham who had a very good rookie season, but since then has had more negatives than positives. This is his fourth season and it is make or break time for him. The positive is he is still on the roster, so the Pats must feel he can still contribute.
Brandon Spikes was also a pick in the second round, and is a middle linebacker. Spikes gives a real physical presence in the middle of the defense, and still has serious upside. He is a player I expect to make an impact again this season.
In the fourth round, the Patriots got a steal with tight end Aaron Hernandez. His versatility allows him to line up in several positions, and again when healthy he is a top tight end in the game.
In the fifth round, the Patriots got their punter with Zoltan Mesko. The last player to discuss in this draft is defensive tackle Brandon Deaderick who was drafted in the seventh round. ¬†Just please look at the overall talent just from the 2010 NFL Draft alone.
In 2011, the Patriots got their left tackle in first round pick¬†Nate Solder, and he will be protecting Tom Brady in the future at that position. The first pick in the second round was cornerback Ras-I Dowling, and when he has played, he has shown the ability to play the position. The problem has been health, and the jury is out on him as well.
Also in the second round, the Patriots drafted running back Shane Vereen, and in his first season he did not show us much, but last season he showed the burst the Patriots have been looking for at that position. I feel his future is very bright, and looking forward to see what he can offer this season.
In the third round, the Pats drafted running back Stevan Ridley, who has shown to the ability to be an every down back in the NFL. I think like Vereen the future is bright for this running back.
Also in the third round, the Patriots drafted quarterback Ryan Mallett. He is the back-up quarterback, and honestly I am not a fan of this player. I don’t see him as the player to take over for Brady some day.
Offensive tackle Marcus Cannon was taken in the fifth round, and even though he had a tough pre-season last year, he was able to contribute as a back-up lineman. The Patriots also drafted cornerback Malcolm Williams in the seventh round, and he was on the practice squad.
The 2011 draft added serious talent to the offense, but also gave you a punter as well. I think this draft continues to show the improvement the Patriots have made in the last three NFL drafts.
Now, I am going to take a look at the 2012 draft which was about upgrading the defense with young talent, and I feel the Patriots have¬†done just that. The Patriots moved up twice to take two potential impact players on defense. Their first pick was defensive end Chandler Jones, and in his first season, he has already shown his ability to get after the quarterback. Their second pick was linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who has just scratched the surface on his ability. I think you will see a huge jump from him this season.
In the second round, the Patriots drafted a controversial pick when they took safety Tavon Wilson. However, for a rookie he had his mistakes, but contributed on defense, and if he can improve, the secondary could continue to transition from a weakness to a possible strength.
In the third round, the Patriots drafted defensive end Jake Bequette, who was a healthy scratch most games, but he is a young player at a position of need, so I will give him a chance to see if he can develop in his second season with the team. The jury is very much out on Mr. Bequette.
In the sixth round, the Pats drafted defensive back Nate Ebner, who contributed in the secondary, and is still learning the game. Again, the Patriots had a drafted player that played a role last season. In the seventh round, the Patriots drafted wide receiver Jeremy Ebert, who ended up on the Patriots practice squad, after spending time with Eagles on their practice squad.
Earlier in the seventh round, the Patriots drafted cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who became a serious steal in the draft. He became a starting cornerback for the Pats, and seriously has a bright future in the secondary.
The draft is seriously the best way to long term build your roster, while adding free agents is the way to supplement your roster. The Patriots have taken dramatic steps to getting younger, and much more talented on both sides of the ball.
They have have added seven players, each of the last three seasons, for a total of twenty one players to the roster or the practice squad. This is a quarterback driven league, and the Pats quarterback is in the last stages of his career, which could last between four to five more seasons. However, the young talent that has been added to the roster, will help the transition away from being all about Brady, and back to being about the team.