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With Goodell, the Signs Were There Back in 2008 Trouble Was Coming

Written by: Ian Logue
Posted July 30, 2015 at 6:00 am

Coming off of the controversial 2007 season where the Patriots were caught for not adhering to the league’s policy that pertained to the use of video equipment on the sidelines, Roger Goodell went into that offseason fired up when it came to trying “to preserve the competitive integrity of the game.”

It came after the NFL Commissioner, heading into just his third season, was obviously reacting to what had happened with the Patriots.  However, looking closer, there were some things in his plans then that are hurting Tom Brady seven years later.

One of the things that stands out in a report by the Washington Post in from March of 2008 was that one person familiar Goodell’s plans revealed that the Commissioner was trying to put in place a threshold for imposing punishment for a rule violation, and looking closer, it’s something that fits perfectly with what’s transpired over the past few months.

According to the report, that threshold only need to be “closer to a preponderance of the evidence than beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Sound familiar?

“Too often, competitive violations have gone unpunished because conclusive proof of the violation was lacking,” Goodell wrote via the Washington Post. “I believe we should reconsider the standard of proof to be applied in such cases, and make it easier for a competitive violation to be established. And where a violation is shown, I intend to impose more stringent penalties on both the club and the responsible individual(s). I will also be prepared to make greater use of draft choice forfeiture in appropriate cases. I believe this will have the effect of deterring violations and making people more willing to report violations on a timely basis.”

So there you go.  That laid the groundwork for where we are now, with the commissioner trying to prevent any obstacles in establishing guilt while being able to drop the hammer.

Reading that is definitely frustrating, especially in seeing how it foreshadowed what’s gone down since this whole mess began.  In the recent cases we’ve seen in the domestic violence cases with other players, there was concrete evidence that at least established proof of guilt.  In this case, all there seems to be is a hunch and some theories.

Unfortunately, what happened in 2008 helped make it possible for Goodell not to need definitive proof in order to punish a player who has been a solid representative of the league for 15-years, and that’s one of the things Brady’s legal team and the NFLPA will have to try and overcome now that this is seemingly headed to federal court.

VIDEO: Robert Kraft ‘Unequivocally Supports’ Tom Brady

Written by: Ian Logue
Posted July 29, 2015 at 12:43 pm

Patriots owner Robert Kraft came out firing on Wednesday, expressing his disappointment in the NFL’s handling of Brady’s suspension and apologized for his decision in May where he accepted the league’s penalties. Check out the video above.

Brady Finally Speaks Out, “I Did Nothing Wrong”

Written by: Ian Logue
Posted at 9:06 am

Tom Brady finally spoke out against the allegations against him this morning, releasing a strongly worded statement on his Facebook page where he defended himself and the equipment personnel regarding the accusations against them.

Here’s what Brady had to say:

I am very disappointed by the NFL’s decision to uphold the 4 game suspension against me. I did nothing wrong, and no one in the Patriots organization did either.

Despite submitting to hours of testimony over the past 6 months, it is disappointing that the Commissioner upheld my suspension based upon a standard that it was “probable” that I was “generally aware” of misconduct. The fact is that neither I, nor any equipment person, did anything of which we have been accused. He dismissed my hours of testimony and it is disappointing that he found it unreliable.

I also disagree with yesterdays narrative surrounding my cellphone. I replaced my broken Samsung phone with a new iPhone 6 AFTER my attorneys made it clear to the NFL that my actual phone device would not be subjected to investigation under ANY circumstances. As a member of a union, I was under no obligation to set a new precedent going forward, nor was I made aware at any time during Mr. Wells investigation, that failing to subject my cell phone to investigation would result in ANY discipline.

Most importantly, I have never written, texted, emailed to anybody at anytime, anything related to football air pressure before this issue was raised at the AFC Championship game in January. To suggest that I destroyed a phone to avoid giving the NFL information it requested is completely wrong.

To try and reconcile the record and fully cooperate with the investigation after I was disciplined in May, we turned over detailed pages of cell phone records and all of the emails that Mr. Wells requested. We even contacted the phone company to see if there was any possible way we could retrieve any/all of the actual text messages from my old phone. In short, we exhausted every possibility to give the NFL everything we could and offered to go thru the identity for every text and phone call during the relevant time. Regardless, the NFL knows that Mr. Wells already had ALL relevant communications with Patriots personnel that either Mr. Wells saw or that I was questioned about in my appeal hearing. There is no “smoking gun” and this controversy is manufactured to distract from the fact they have zero evidence of wrongdoing.

I authorized the NFLPA to make a settlement offer to the NFL so that we could avoid going to court and put this inconsequential issue behind us as we move forward into this season. The discipline was upheld without any counter offer. I respect the Commissioners authority, but he also has to respect the CBA and my rights as a private citizen. I will not allow my unfair discipline to become a precedent for other NFL players without a fight.

Lastly, I am overwhelmed and humbled by the support of family, friends and our fans who have supported me since the false accusations were made after the AFC Championship game. I look forward to the opportunity to resume playing with my teammates and winning more games for the New England Patriots.

Congratulations Commissioner – You Got Him

Written by: Ian Logue
Posted at 8:13 am

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell finally got his man on Tuesday, opting to let Tom Brady’s suspension stand at four games despite Brady’s appeal last month, hanging guilt on the veteran quarterback for reportedly destroying his cell phone shortly after the investigation into this whole entire ridiculous mess began earlier this year.

In Goodell’s ruling, which spans 20 similarly glorious pages filled with all kinds of fun facts just like the Wells Report (and an astonishing amount of footnotes to try and combat almost every argument made against him during this debacle), the NFL commissioner seemingly ignored the 10 hours of testimony and evidence that was given during last month’s appeal on June 23rd, which he said resulted in a transcript that spanned more than 450 pages long.  Instead he fixated on what he felt was “the most significant new information that emerged in connection with the appeal evidence.”

According to Goodell, Brady instructed his assistant to destroy the cellphone that he had been using since early November 2014, which was “a period that included the AFC Championship Game and the initial weeks of the subsequent investigation.”  The report states, “Mr. Brady knew that Mr. Wells and his team had requested information from that cellphone in connection with their investigation,” and the fact that his cellphone was destroyed wasn’t disclosed until months later during the hearing appears to be the deciding factor.

So at the end of the day, much like how this all started, Goodell and Ted Wells were hung up on the contents of what might have been on the quarterback’s phone. This despite the fact they got everything they wanted in the early part of the investigation from both Patriots employees John Jastremski and James McNally and the fact that none of the messages mentioned in the report ever deliberately talked about breaking league rules.

Brady has remained quiet throughout this entire process, only stating during an appearance at Salem State that he would say something “soon.”  But following the announcement by the NFL on Tuesday, his agent, Don Yee, had some scathing words about how this has been handled.

“The appeal process was a sham, resulting in the Commissioner rubber-stamping his own decision,” said Yee in his statement via ESPN Boston.   “For example, the Wells investigative team was given over 100 days to conduct its investigation. Just days prior to the appeal hearing, we were notified that we would only have four hours to present a defense; therefore, we didn’t have enough time to examine important witnesses. Likewise, it was represented to the public that the Wells team was ‘independent'; however, when we requested documents from Wells, our request was rejected on the basis of privilege. We therefore had no idea as to what Wells found from other witnesses, nor did we know what those other witnesses said.  These are just two examples of how the Commissioner failed to ensure a fair process.”

But the other issue of cooperation and being transparent, which seems to be the basket Goodell is placing all his eggs in as he continues working to bring down the guy he handed the Lombardi Trophy to just a few months ago, is what he’s seemingly deeming to be the biggest problem he had with Brady and gives that as his reason in being able to impose the suspension.  Yee appears to vehemently disagree, pointing out it’s a fact which seems to make little sense as he said they turned over an “unprecedented amount of electronic data”.

“Finally, as to the issue of cooperation, we presented the Commissioner with an unprecedented amount of electronic data, all of which is incontrovertible,” said Yee.  “I do not think that any private citizen would have agreed to provide anyone with the amount of information that Tom was willing to reveal to the Commissioner. Tom was completely transparent. All of the electronic information was ignored; we don’t know why. ”

However, it appears there will be a response coming, with Yee saying, “The extent to which Tom opened up his private life to the Commissioner will become clear in the coming days.”

The fact Brady destroyed his cell phone may appear damning on the outside, but Brady admitted that anytime he gets a new phone it’s a common practice for him to request an assistant to destroy the phone and SIM card.  Given what celebrities and public figures can be subjected to, it seems fairly logical.

But if you want to look at it the other way and question the validity of that argument, you can, but given everything that’s already transpired, this was simply a no-win situation.  After all, look at the seemingly harmless information and texts that have already been misconstrued to this point that have put Brady in this situation, and the league already had access to those through Jastremski and McNally’s phones.  They didn’t need Brady’s phone for that.

Yet that’s what seems to have made up Goodell’s mind when he oversaw the appeal and he wasted no time in making sure the NFLPA will have a rough road ahead in overturning the decision in federal court.  According to Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg, the league struck fast after the announcement, filing a preemptive lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan, trying to solidify the outcome of the appeal and effectively slam the door on getting it overturned.

In the ruling Goodell said that his findings “more than satisfy” the “more probable than not” standard needed to suspend the Patriots QB, “especially taking into account the credibility of the witnesses, including Mr. Brady, which I had ample opportunity to evaluate at the hearing.”

So there you go.  He thinks Brady is a liar and for now he’s nailed him, unless the NFLPA can overturn it.

“I find that with respect to the game balls used in the AFC Championship Game and the subsequent investigation, Mr. Brady engaged in conduct detrimental to the integrity of, and public confidence in, the game of professional football,” said Goodell in the ruling.

In Goodell’s mind, he views the discipline imposed as “not excessive or without precedent”, comparing it to New Orleans Saints Joe Vitt’s six-game suspension during BountyGate and saying it helps “reinforce my conclusion” when it comes to Brady’s four-game ban.

Somewhere he’s likely sitting there feeling pretty good about how this all played out.  After all, he didn’t fare well in those recent appeal cases against players involving domestic violence of women and children or guys within the game who were physically trying to injure other players, so he made sure he didn’t make that same mistake this time.

Instead, he was thorough, took over a month to make sure he got everything absolutely perfect, and then showed the world how in charge he is by nailing a guy he thinks might have “been generally aware” of someone potentially letting 1 psi out of a football without any concrete evidence that it actually occurred.

Well done, Commissioner.

So for now, he got his man, while proving even further that it’s “more probable than not” his priorities are too far gone to try and make sense of any of anything he does any more.

And for Brady, it looks like it’s on to federal court.

NFL Upholds Tom Brady Suspension

Written by: Ian Logue
Posted July 28, 2015 at 3:01 pm

The NFL announced that they’re upholding Tom Brady’s suspension, pointing to an apparent “destruction of the cell phone” of Brady as their reasoning behind the decision.

Here’s the press release from the league:

“NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld today the four-game suspension imposed on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady on May 11. Brady’s appeal ‎from that discipline was heard for more than ten hours on June 23.

In the opinion informing Brady that his appeal had been denied, Commissioner Goodell emphasized important new information disclosed by Brady and his representatives in connection with the hearing.

On or shortly before March 6, the day that Tom Brady met with independent investigator Ted Wells and his colleagues, Brady directed that the cell phone he had used for the prior four months be destroyed. He did so even though he was aware that the investigators had requested access to text messages and other electronic information that had been stored on that phone. ‎During the four months that the cell phone was in use, Brady had exchanged nearly 10,000 text messages, none of which can now be retrieved from that device. The destruction of the cell phone was not disclosed until June 18, almost four months after the investigators had first sought electronic information from Brady.

Based on the Wells Report and the evidence presented at the hearing, Commissioner Goodell concluded in his decision that Brady was aware of, and took steps to support‎, the actions of other team employees to deflate game footballs below the levels called for by the NFL’s Official Playing Rules. The commissioner found that Brady’s deliberate destruction of potentially relevant evidence went beyond a mere failure to cooperate in the investigation and supported a finding that he had sought to hide evidence of his own participation in the underlying scheme to alter the footballs. ”

The league has the full decision here.

Brady has maintained his innocence throughout the process and it took a while for the league to make this call, with his appeal having been filed back on June 23rd, over a month before today’s decision.

With camp coming up in just two days, the timing of the decision is curious, but nevertheless, the ball is back in his court.

Patriots Easley Among Eight Players Who Will Start On PUP

Written by: Ian Logue
Posted at 5:00 am

The Patriots appear to be exercising a little caution heading into training camp, and it appears that Dominique Easley will be a player who won’t be a full participant when the team gets back to work this week.

According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, after missing all of the team’s offseason workouts, Easley will start the year on the PUP list for New England.

The Boston Herald reports that there were eight players total who were placed on PUP, with Brandon LaFell, Ryan Wendell, Matthew Slater, Dane Fletcher, Vince Taylor, Chris Jones, and Chris White among players who will Easley to start camp.  Quarterback Matt Flynn is reportedly on the non-football injury list, meaning that whatever ailment he’s dealing with isn’t related to anything pertaining to the club.

Most critics believed Easley was a risky selection when the Patriots took him last year, but the return could be huge for a team that could use another big presence inside.  The former Florida Gator had previously torn both ACLs before New England took him with the 29th overall pick and it ended up being a knee injury that ended his rookie season.  However, the fact they took a chance on him wasn’t a complete surprise given Easley’s potential and the team obviously felt strongly enough to exercise the risk.

After opting to part ways with veteran Vince Wilfork this offseason, it’s obvious the Patriots are trying to start getting younger at the position, especially after following up his pick by selecting Malcom Brown in the first round with the 32nd overall pick this year.

For now it will be a little longer before we get to see him in action.  But under that designation, players who are on the active/PUP list can come off of it at any time.

The surprising news is Dont’a Hightower isn’t among this group, which after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery is encouraging heading into camp.  Hightower had said last month that things were going well and he was ahead of schedule.

“Honestly, I don’t have a target date,” said Hightower at the time. “I’ve seen doc, and everything is going great right now. I’m right on track, if not a little ahead of schedule. It’s something that’s going to take time. I can’t say ‘three weeks’ or whatever. It feels great. I’m doing good. Doc loved everything. He said I’m ahead of schedule, so I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.”

Looks like it worked out, because at this point it seems he’ll be out there later this week.

Goodell Being ‘Pushed’ By Influential Owners to Keep Brady’s Suspension at Four Games

Written by: Ian Logue
Posted July 23, 2015 at 11:33 am

As the madness surrounding DeflateGate continues, it appears there are some other NFL Owners out there that want to keep Patriots quarterback Tom Brady off the field as long as possible in 2015.

According to ProFootballTalk.com there are reportedly a “handful of influential owners” that want NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to hold firm on the original four-game suspension that was handed down and not to reduce it.  The obvious issue is the fact that Brady and his camp want the suspension wiped out completely, which all signs seem to point to an inevitable meeting in federal court between the two sides.

The site also reports that settlement discussions have occurred, but so far no progress has reportedly been made toward a deal at this point.

Peter King of MMQB recently suggested that the NFL should wait until 2016 before making a ruling, allowing them to have an opportunity to measure game balls in adverse weather conditions to see for themselves how the footballs are actually affected, which would give them an opportunity to make a more educated decision.

“I think it takes a leader to stand up and say, ‘We’re going to be measuring the air pressure in football for the first time ever this season, before and during and after games,” wrote King. “And this is too important an issue to not have all the evidence in-house before we make a ruling.”

That would seem to be the logical route if the Goodell really wants to get this one right.  But for now, the battle continues.

2015 Patriots Player Preview Series: WR Aaron Dobson

Written by: Ian Logue
Posted July 22, 2015 at 8:00 am

As we begin the final stretch before training camp, here’s a daily look at some Patriots on the roster where we’ll individually preview them heading into the 2015 season. Today’s edition, Patriots receiver Aaron Dobson.

Anyone who watched the highlights of what Aaron Dobson did during his time at Marshall should have been salivating when the Patriots took him in the 2nd round back in 2013.  In fact, when the Patriots held their pre-draft event that year, there was a lot of time spent during the presentation leading up to the roundtable with ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss and former linebacker Tedy Bruschi that focused on a massive highlight reel full of some of the incredible receptions he made during his college career.

Factor in his great hands along with the fact he finally gave the Patriots a bigger receiver at 6’3″, and it appeared New England had found a weapon that would make Tom Brady even more dangerous and their offense more explosive.

So far through two seasons, injuries have been his downfall and have kept him from living up to his potential.  But for the first time in two years Dobson is heading into camp healthy and all indications appear that he’s ready to finally prove that his best years are still ahead.

2014 RECAP:

Dobson suffered a foot injury toward the end of his rookie season in 2013, which ruined what had been a fairly decent start for the former Marshall receiver, and it went downhill from there.  Offseason foot surgery kept Dobson limited for all of the preseason and he was never able to get into gear during 2014.  In fact, a trip out to Green Bay was the last time fans would see him after he lasted just four snaps, pulling up lame near the end of the third quarter following a deep pass play from Brady that saw him suffer a hamstring injury.  The timing of the injury was bad because it was a night where it was a physical game that saw New England’s receivers get beat up.  So to see Dobson leave the field and not be able to tough it out, at the time, soured a fan base that let out a collective groan when the news later came out after he was placed on injured reserve.

DID YOU KNOW?

Dobson’s first career reception was a touchdown in Week 2 of his rookie season at home against the New York Jets, with Dobson catching a 39 pass from Tom Brady just two minutes into the game to put the Patriots up 7-0.  Dobson’s reception, at the time, also extended Brady’s consecutive regular season touchdown streak to 50 straight games.

2015 OUTLOOK:

This offseason Dobson has been working out in Arizona in preparation for the upcoming season, and appears focused and determined to get his NFL career back on track.  When he first came into the league the dynamic of the offense has changed quite a bit, with Edelman emerging as a larger player in the offense, as well as the addition of Brandon LaFell, who proved to be one of the most critical additions as a possession receiver during New England’s championship run in 2014.  Adding in Dobson gives the Patriots additional size and speed on the outside, and with tight ends Rob Gronkowski coming back along with newly acquired Scott Chandler, this is an unbelievable opportunity for Dobson to go out and win some one-on-one battles and have a big season.

At the end of the day, the sky is the limit for Dobson, and after being a spectator during the Patriots’ Championship run, it sounded like during OTAs that he’s looking forward to getting back out there this season.

“I’m just out here trying to have fun,” Dobson said back during OTAs. “Making myself a better receiver, trying to stay on top of my playbook and play hard and play fast.”

Hopefully, if all goes well, this finally will be his year.

AFC East Roundtable – Who Has the More Dangerous Defensive Line/Secondary Combination Heading into 2015?

Written by: admin
Posted July 21, 2015 at 1:00 pm

We recently teamed up with four AFC East independent media sites to discuss which team in the AFC East has the best defensive line. Here’s what Matt Barbato of New York Jet Fuel, Steve Saslow of Bills Daily, Luis Sung of Phin Maniacs and myself had to say about who has the more dangerous defensive line and secondary in the Division heading into 2015.

Matt Barbato (@NewYorkJetFuel): The AFC East is loaded on the defensive line. Leonard Williams fell to the Jets at the sixth pick of the draft, the Dolphins made a major splash by signing Ndamukong Suh, the Bills hired Rex Ryan to run an already excellent unit led by Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus while the Patriots said goodbye to iconic nose tackle Vince Wilfork.

So guys, after an incredibly busy offseason around the division, who do you think possesses the best defensive line in the AFC East?

Ian Logue (@PatsFans): The Jets were already pretty tough last season, ranking fourth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (93.1) and also fourth in the league in sacks per pass attempt (8.44%). They drafted DL Leonard Williams sixth overall and still seem to have a pretty solid group. Former Patriots coach Pepper Johnson was promoted to defensive line coach, and any fans in New England who remember how good he was should realize he’ll have that group ready to go. Add in Darrelle Revis – who was a clear difference-maker in New England and he really did make guys around him better – and it’s quietly a defense to worry about. They’re the best defense in my mind.

Buffalo’s defense hasn’t been the problem there for awhile, they just can’t put together an offense to score any points. The Bills were fourth in the league in total yards-per-game allowed in 2014, and third in the NFL in passing yards per game given up. The most surprising number is the sacks-per-pass-attempt, which was 9.66% (1st) and the Bills actually were tops in the NFL in 3rd down pct (33.18). Factor in the arrival of Rex Ryan and this is a unit that is going to be a problem, and if the Bills can figure out a way to score points, they have a defensive line and secondary that should be able to keep them in football games and make them competitive.

The Dolphins added Ndamukong Suh this offseason, who joins an already pretty disruptive group. Suh’s addition is going to be interesting to watch because guys with egos typically don’t thrive in Miami, but there’s no questioning how talented he is and when added to a defense that already has guys like Cameron Wake, they’ll be tough. As for their secondary, Miami was sixth in the NFL in passing yards per game in 2015 so it’s not like they’re a bad group. But the Bills edge them out because of how good Rex Ryan is as a coach at getting his guys ready to play, and Philbin hasn’t seemed to bring that same fire to his own defense.

Obviously losing Revis is huge and they also lost defensive back Brandon Browner, who was a physical player and did a good job in his one season. Vince Wilfork departed to Houston as the team starts transitioning to a younger group, and they’re definitely going to start the year with some relatively new faces. They drafted first round pick Malcom Brown and have last year’s first-round pick Dominique Easley relatively healthy after coming off of an ACL injury.

On the outside, Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich are both good at getting after the quarterback and in the secondary the Patriots have just Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan returning at cornerback from 2014, with plenty of question marks from there. Safety Devin McCourty is one of the top safeties in the league, and Patrick Chung also played well in his return to the Patriots last season.

New England’s #4 ranking in this list is primarily because they’re probably going to need some time early on for this new group to come together, and history has shown they probably won’t be good to start the year and may struggle in the early going. However, what will matter is how they’re playing in December and January, and that will be one of the biggest keys during the Patriots 2015 title defense.


DE Rob Ninkovich will likely, once again, be a big key to the Patriots success in 2015.

Luis Sung (@PhinManiacs): Well, I could be biased toward my team and say that the Dolphins have the best defensive line in the NFL. Signing Ndamukong Suh, drafting Jordan Phillips, hanging on to Earl Mitchell, still having Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon who are set to excel with Suh attacking the middle. All of these things point to the Dolphins having an elite defensive line.

But the issue with the Dolphins is not their front seven, it’s actually their depth, specifically at defensive end. While Wake and Vernon are the clear-cut starters, the players after that start to become somewhat of a question mark. Derrick Shelby is clearly talented and can play on either side of the line, but the next man up after that is currently Terrence Fede, who – while talented – is extremely raw and will require quite a bit of development before he can be counted on.

My choice for top defensive line in the AFC East has to go to Buffalo. With the return of starters Marcell Darius and Kyle Williams – who were both Pro Bowl DTs last season – and the return of DEs Jerry Hughes and star pass-rusher Mario Williams, Buffalo is clearly a team to be reckoned with. For their part, Hughes and Williams have combined for more sacks in the league than any other duo, including Wake and Vernon.

On top of all that, Rex Ryan is now the head coach for the Buffalo Bills, and as everyone is well aware of, defense is his passion. With the powerhouses on Buffalo’s D-Line, Rex is likely going to turn the already deadly Bills defense into something far worse to face off against…I’m open to suggestions as to exactly what kind of a picture comes to mind with that statement.

Steve Saslow (@BillsDaily): I hate to be a homer but I have to go with the Buffalo Bills as the best defensive line in a division that has very strong defensive lines on the three teams without Tom Brady at quarterback.

The Bills are returning with the same four defensive linemen for a third straight year. Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, and Marcell Dareus are all coming off pro bowl years. Jerry Hughes is the only member of the starting unit that did not make the Pro Bowl last year and he had double digit sacks. Mario and Hughes lead the NFL as defensive ends in sacks over the past two seasons.

Add to that the addition of Rex Ryan who will use the blitz to get the most out of the linemen and keep them from getting double-teamed too often. Keep in mind that at times Super Mario or Hughes may not have their hand on the ground and may line up at outside linebacker but they are all defensive linemen.

The backups are mostly returning solid role players as well with Corbin Bryant, Stefan Charles, and Jairus Wynn all returning. They also signed Alex Carrington as a free agent. He excelled two years ago in Buffalo.

Some will say the switch from Jim Schwartz’s 4-3 to Ryan’s 3-4 will hurt them but they essentially ran the same defense two years ago when Ryan’s protégé Mike Pettine was the defensive coordinator.

MB: You can argue the Dolphins, Bills or Jets have the best defensive lines in football.
The Dolphins have arguably the best defensive tackle in the league in Suh, while Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon make a strong pass rushing tandem on the outside. The Jets have an already tremendous 3-4 defensive end in Muhammad Wilkerson along with a player many are comparing to Wilkerson, Richard Seymour and even Reggie White in Leonard Williams. The Bills have four outstanding defensive linemen, but one of them may have to play a stand-up outside rusher role in Rex Ryan’s 3-4 scheme.

The Patriots don’t exactly stack up in the defensive trenches with the latter three teams mentioned, but got a great value pick in defensive tackle Malcom Brown at the end of the first round. At 6-foot-2, 319 pounds, the Patriots have their replacement for the iconic Wilfork, who is now a Houston Texan. If Dominique Easley can show some flash in his second season, the Patriots could have a budding unit along the line of scrimmage. New England was ninth in the NFL against the run, which speaks to the ability of the unit. For now, they don’t come close to the other teams in the AFC East.

I took a look at last year’s sack totals to see how much production came from the defensive line. The Bills led the NFL with 54 sacks last season with 39.5 of them came from their starters. The Jets finished sixth in the league with 45 sacks, but only 13.5 of them came from starting defensive linemen. Miami recorded 39 sacks, with 20 of those coming from starters.

Buffalo’s defensive line is clearly the most explosive when it comes to pass rushing and that shouldn’t change under Rex Ryan. His 3-4 defense thrives on confusing blitz schemes and the firepower along the defensive line will only make the Bills defense that much more volatile. The linebackers may steal a few more sacks due to Ryan’s aggressive play calling, but the line will be tremendous again. I’m curious to see if Ryan moves Mario Williams or Jerry Hughes to a stand-up edge rusher position, or uses a rotation among the four starters from last year.

The Jets’ sack numbers reflect Ryan’s scheme. Wilkerson had a down season by his standards, but is more of a run stopper rather than an elite pass rusher. Richardson brings the explosiveness, but is suspended for the first four games of the season. Damon Harrison is a plug at nose guard and is a two-down run stopper. New head coach Todd Bowles may dial down the blitzing a bit, but his defense shouldn’t be much different from Ryan’s. Leonard Williams will be the key player to watch as he steps in to replace Richardson for the first quarter of the season.

Miami’s defensive line was a big reason it finished 24th against the run last year. The addition of Suh will instantly improve that. While Suh plugs up the middle, Wake and Vernon will be a handful along the edge for opposing offensive tackles. When those two are buzzing like they were at the end of 2014, the entire defense improves dramatically. If Miami gets anything from Jordan Phillips or Dion Jordan, it could be a very deep unit.

The best defensive line in the division is Buffalo’s. The Bills have outstanding rushers along the outside in Mario Williams and Hughes, along with great run-stopping tackles in Williams and Dareus. They will all thrive in Ryan’s system and will supersede potentially shoddy quarterback play.

So that’s three votes for Buffalo and one for New York. It’s clear the AFC East will give opponents plenty of problems along the line of scrimmage. For more coverage of these four teams, be sure to follow Jet Fuel, Pats Fans, Phin Maniacs and Bills Daily on Twitter.

2015 Patriots Player Preview Series: RB LeGarrette Blount

Written by: Ian Logue
Posted at 12:00 pm

As we begin the final stretch before training camp, here’s a daily look at some Patriots on the roster where we’ll individually preview them heading into the 2015 season.  In this edition, Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount.

It’s funny how sometimes things work out, and LeGarrette Blount has a million reasons to smile after the way last season ultimately unfolded for the veteran running back.

His midseason return to New England ended up being one of the key reasons the Patriots managed to win it all in Arizona earlier this year, even becoming a threat on special teams and in the kick-return game. He now returns in 2015 with what should be another opportunity for him to become a repeat champion given the talent that they’ll still be fielding on that side of the football.

2014 RECAP:

Blount’s story in 2014 is one that you can’t help but shake your head at, especially considering how his career had seemingly come to an end in Foxboro.  After a loss in the AFC Championship Game in Denver in January that year, the Patriots’ run was over and Blount left for Pittsburgh and signed a two-year deal on March 28, 2014.

That left New England to put their trust in Stevan Ridley, who was in a contract season with plenty to prove.  Ridley actually ran fairly well through the first five weeks of the season before going down with a torn ACL and MCL in week six against the Bills, leaving the Patriots in tough shape at the running back position.

With Ridley lost for the year, Jonas Gray got the lion’s share of the carries through the next few weeks, including a 37 carry, 201-yard performance in Indianapolis that seemed to be a breakout game for him.  But ironically one day later, it would be another event that would ultimately change the course of things for Gray for the rest of the season.

In a Monday night game between Pittsburgh and Tennessee, on November 17, 2014, Blount left the field early during the Steelers win over the Titans after he seemed to be frustrated by his lack of playing time with fellow running back Le’Veon Bell. That evening Bell racked up 204 yards on 33 carries along with a touchdown, while Blount didn’t register a carry.  That lead to a contentious situation in Pittsburgh, who subsequently released him.

It ended up being good news for New England, who was able to get him back after the veteran ended up clearing waivers, which opened the door for a reunion in Foxboro.

After Gray overslept and showed up late to the stadium following his performance against the Colts, Blount got more of the playing time from that point on and finished the season with 60 carries for 281 yards and three touchdowns, but it was the postseason where came up big yet again.  He tortured the Colts for the second straight year, carrying 30 times for 148 yards along with three touchdowns in the AFC Championship Game during New England’s 45-7 destruction of Indianapolis.  He then followed it up with a productive 14 carry 40 yard performance that gave the Seahawks enough of a threat to open up New England’s passing game.

Very few players fall out of favor with their team only to go on to win a Super Bowl ring, but that’s exactly how things worked out for Blount.  Now he’ll return in 2015 looking to see if he can’t add a second ring to his collection.

DID YOU KNOW?

Blount has ingrained himself in the record books here in New England during his short stint thanks to his performance against the Colts in the AFC Championship, which gave him seven career postseason touchdowns, giving him the franchise record.

Blount’s three postseason touchdown total was also the most in the NFL in the playoffs this year, ahead of the Colts’ Dan Herron (2), Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch (2), Dallas’ DeMarco Murray (2).

2015 OUTLOOK:

Heading into this season Blount will be a spectator in Week 1, with the veteran currently suspended without pay for the season opener following a suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.  But as it stands right now, he should be in contention to resume his role as the lead running back, with Jonas Gray among several players who will be looking to back him up when training camp opens.

It should be an interesting camp and if Blount remains healthy he’s a bulldozer that makes the Patriots offense extremely dangerous.  Tom Brady has been in need of a bruising back and someone to keep opposing defenses honest since the days of when Antowain Smith and Corey Dillon carried the ball during their first three championships.

They may have lost Blount the first time, but after getting him back it’s clear that he’s a good fit here in New England.  Hopefully that success continues in 2015.

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