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Patriots Huddle: Thursday’s Media Links 7/17


Michael Hurley of CBS Boston wonders if Ryan Mallett will be on the opening day roster in 2014. (USA TODAY Images)

Here’s a quick rundown of this morning’s links:

BOSTON .COM:

Uncertainty Behind Starters at Linebacker in Patriots 2014 Training Camp Battle РErik Frenz: Frenz  takes a closer look at the linebacker position heading into training camp.

With Release of Patriots Media Guide, Coaching Positions Become Clear – Zuri Berry: Berry notes who replaced defensive coach Pepper Johnson, noticing that Patrick Graham is the one who filled his shoes after Johnson’s departure this offseason.

FORBES:

New England Patriots Tickets Up 31.1% Since Last Season – Jesse Lawrence: Lawrence cites prices from TiqIQ that show the prices for games at Gillette Stadium puts New England as the fifth most expensive in the NFL.

ESPN BOSTON:

Pats promote Ossenfort to scouting director – Mike Reiss: Reiss Reports that the team has filled the void left by the departure of director of college scouting Jon Robinson by promoting his former assistant, Monti Ossenfort.

Resetting the Patriots’ DT personnel – Mike Reiss:¬†Reiss takes another look at the defensive line following Armond Armstead’s retirement on Wednesday.

D-lineman Armond Armstead retires – Mike Reiss: Reiss has his story on Armstead’s retirement, which he writes likely didn’t come as a surprise to the Patriots.

WEEI:

Countdown to camp: Offensive line – Christopher Price: Price continues his series leading up to training camp, and this morning’s edition focuses on the offensive line.

CBS BOSTON:

Patriots Quarterbacks Preview: Tom Brady To Provide Another Year Of Excellence, But Who‚Äôs His Backup? – Michael Hurley: Hurley takes a look at the Patirots’ quarterback situation and wonders whether or not the team will keep three quarterbacks by the time camp comes to an end.

MASSLIVE:

New England Patriots Roster Bubble Watch: The price tag for G Dan Connolly presents a problem – Nick O’Malley: O’Malley writes that the high price tag for Connolly could make him a casualty by the time the season starts.

New England Patriots training camp position previews: Linebackers – Nick O’Malley: O’Malley also has his position preview of the linebackers, and feels this year’s group will be better than the 2013 version.

 

PROVIDENCE JOURNAL:

Donaldson: Defensive depth a concern for the Patriots - Jim Donaldson:¬†Donaldson looks at the team’s depth on defense and feels the team lacks good depth up front behind Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly.

ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONICLE:

Training Camp Preview: Patriots roster taking shape – Mark Farinella: Farinella has his thoughts on the team heading into camp and goes through each position.

BOSTINNO:

Armond Armstead’s Retirement Is Sad, but Underscores the Patriots Defensive Depth – Hayden Bird: Bird has his thoughts on Armstead’s retirement and feels it’s sad for fans who were looking forward to seeing him get his shot here in New England.

NFL.COM:

AFC East Training Camp Preview: 3 things to watch – Gregg Rosenthal – Rosenthal takes a look at the AFC East, and feels defensive tackle remains the position with the most problems.

Patriots DL Armond Armstead Calls It Quits at Just 23


Armond Armstead announced his retirement on Wednesday. (USA TODAY Images)

Coming off of a solid Canadien Football League season, it appeared that a shot at playing in the NFL was within his grasp after Armond Armstead signed with the New England Patriots last year.

Unfortunately, while the opportunity was close enough for him to taste it, his dream was never realized.

The defensive lineman was never able to get onto the active roster, due to the fact¬†his body wouldn’t allow him to. According to most reports, it started after Armstead reportedly underwent a procedure to treat an infection, which saw him end up on the team’s reserve/non-football injury list in 2013.

There were questions coming in for Armstead regarding his health after he also suffered a heart attack in college at USC and has a pending lawsuit in regards to painkillers he was given in college that are believed to have caused it.  However, it appeared that after playing a season in Canada that his body would potentially be able to hold up to similar rigors in the NFL.

The Patriots were one of several teams who looked at him after he came out of USC, but he went undrafted in 2012.  From there he played in Toronto for the Argonauts and helped the team win the Grey Cup, recording six sacks during the season.

That performance lead to an opportunity here in New England but his infection left him sidelined during his rookie season. ¬†Heading into spring camps earlier this year there¬†seemed to be hope that he’d might finally be able to get out and start participating in the workouts. ¬†A¬†report by Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald back in March suggested¬†that Armstead¬†was on pace to be ready to participate, but something was clearly wrong.

OTA’s came and went, as did the mandatory minicamps,¬†with Armstead still absent, leaving most wondering what his future would hold.

On Wednesday, Armstead finally decided it was time to stop chasing his dream after the 23-year old announced his retirement.

Bill Belichick had positive words for him, saying that throughout his ordeal Armstead remained upbeat and worked hard during the process.

“It has been a pleasure being around Armond, as he gave everything he could to play for us,” said Belichick via a statement released by the team.¬† “Armond worked extremely hard since joining us last February. He’s had a lot of adversity personally that he’s had to deal with ‚Äď unusual compared to most other players ‚Äď but he’s always had a great attitude, worked hard and really did everything we asked him to do.

“While it is unfortunate he will not be able to play football, Armond is an outstanding young man who has a very bright future in whatever path he chooses.”

Patriots Pre-Training Camp Player Spotlight: Dont’a Hightower


Dont’a Hightower was taken out of his comfort zone in 2013, but still played well. (USA TODAY Images)

(This is the ninth in a series of individual player spotlights over the next few weeks leading up to training camp. So check back frequently as we go down the roster. ¬†This edition focuses on Patriots¬†LB Dont’a Hightower:)

2013 Summary: 

Like fellow teammate Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower came out of 2012 having had a season where he had some good moments and seemed poised for a solid sophomore season.

Instead, he saw his world turned upside down after teammate Jerod Mayo was lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle in their dramatic week six victory over the Saints.

It changed Hightower’s role on the team, which shows how smart Bill Belichick is in terms of preparing players to adjust to those situations. ¬†Prior to the start of the season,¬†Hightower,¬†like several other players, spent some time wearing the “green dot” designation given to the player in charge of calling out the defense. ¬†That ended up being a key experience for Hightower, who took over that duty after Mayo went down.

From there they picked up and moved on after Mayo ended up on injured reserve and Hightower seemingly got more comfortable as the season went on. It’s obvious that it required a bit of an adjustment, and the downside for Hightower is it¬†limited some of his¬†abilities to make plays. That lead to some whispers about his play by critics who questioned his production without fully understanding his responsibilities.

Down the stretch, for the most part Hightower handled it well and by season’s end looked like a different player as he settled in. ¬†He even finished the season with three passes defensed, which came in week nine against Pittsburgh, week thirteen against the Texans and in week 16 against the Ravens.

Overall, it’s an experience that took Hightower out of his comfort zone, but it’s safe to say that it also likely made him a better player.

Best game of 2013:

Hightower’s best overall performance came against the Colts in the AFC Divisional Playoff round, with the linebacker having a great outing both against the run and in the passing game. ¬†He finished with eight tackles, along with a key interception with just over a minute left in the first half as the Colts were driving and were in Patriots’ territory. ¬†It came thanks to a terrific heads-up play on a throw by Andrew Luck that was thrown behind¬†fullback Stanley Havili. ¬†The ball bounced off his shoulder pad and Hightower, who was in coverage and right there with him, alertly plucked it away, making the interception and ending the scoring threat.

Notable Stat of 2013:

Hightower finished with a team-leading 55 solo tackles in 2013, and combined for 97 tackles overall, eight more than Rob Ninkovich. ¬†During their two postseason games he also lead the way, finishing with 10 solo tackles while combining for 16 and also¬†had¬†one of the team’s four interceptions.

What to Watch For in 2014: 

With Mayo healthy, Hightower should be able to move back over and hopefully be able to use his speed a little more in 2014 now that he’ll have the freedom to get back to what he’s good at, which is using his speed and instincts. ¬†He’s deceptively fast, and with his size, 6’3″ 270lbs, it’s surprising¬†how quick and athletic he is. ¬†It’s worth noting that he was seen during OTA’s playing up on the line of scrimmage, including occasionally rushing from the edge. ¬†How he’s used and whatever additional responsibilities he’s given should be an interesting thing to watch during camp.

The linebacker position is a strength for this team heading into the preseason and Hightower is one of the biggest reasons why. ¬†He’s already proven that the decision by the Patriots to move up and grab him in the first round in 2012 so far has been the right one, and 2014 should hopefully be a good season for him.

Patriots Huddle: Tuesday’s News, Notes & Links


Bill Belichick and Aaron Hernandez communicated quite a bit prior to his arrest last year. (USA TODAY Images)

Another quiet morning on this Tuesday, but here are some Patriots related news and notes for this morning:

33 PAGES OF TEXTS BETWEEN HERNANDEZ AND BELICHICK OBTAINED:

Very little has been mentioned in this space regarding Aaron Hernandez since his arrest and subsequent release last year and that’s primarily because there was no further relevance to him from a football or Patriots standpoint. ¬†However, the recent report that 33 pages of texts have been obtained regarding texts between Bill Belichick and the former tight end was something that was somewhat of a surprise.

Outside the walls of Gillette Stadium¬†not many people know much about the relationship between the coach and his players, but this latest report by the Hartford Courant shows that off the field, he’s actively involved in the lives of his players.

According to the report, the evidence in the Lloyd case includes 33 pages of text messages between Belichick and Hernandez, from February 2013 to May 2013.  The report also states that for several weeks during that time, Hernandez was staying in Hermosa Beach, California., for offseason training and injury rehabilitation. The court filings do not include the content of the text messages.

It’s hard to say what was in those messages, but it¬†also creates some credence to the Rolling Stone article which¬†indicated that over that span Belichick had advised Hernandez to “lay low” due to concerns that the gangsters Hernandez¬†had befriended “were actually trying to kill him.” ¬†According to that¬†article, those conversations took place between February and May after Hernandez reportedly started confiding in Belichick¬†about his situation.

While Belichick may not have known all the details, it appears he tried to help Hernandez.  Unfortunately, it seems he was too far gone and now will remain a disappointing story in Patriots history in a case that likely will only become more disturbing before it finally comes to a close.

BELICHICK HONORED IN NANTUCKET:

According to the Boston Globe Belichick and actress Sharon Stone were on Nantucket over the weekend being honored by The Nantucket Dreamland Foundation at its annual gala. They were both interviewed about their careers and what led them to pursue their professions.

This was the second year of the annual event, with last year’s honoring Michael Douglas and Robert De Niro.

The event benefited the Nantucket Dreamland Foundation, and tickets for the event started at $500 each.  They also held an online auction of unique experiences and items from the Indy 500 to Paris Fashion Shows to the 50-yd line tickets for the Patriots.

Belichick was also part of a Q&A, and director Melissa McCarthy said he was very “warm and open” during the event.

‚ÄúBill was warm and open with the audience. His very genuine character came through as he spoke to the audience about his influences, his challenges and, very humbly, about his successes as a coach,‚ÄĚ Dreamland Foundation executive director Melissa McCarthy told the Boston Herald.

TICKETS GO ON SALE THIS MORNING:

The Patriots will release a limited number of single game tickets this morning, which will be available beginning at 10am through Ticketmaster¬†or by calling 800-745-3000. Tickets can’t be purchased in person at Gillette Stadium. Call 508-384-9191 for seating that is wheelchair-accessible. ¬† Also be aware that Visa is the only method of purchase for NFL tickets.

The team currently has a streak of 216-games in a row having sold-out, a streak that began back in 1994 and includes preseason, regular-season, and playoff games.

ADDITIONAL LINKS:

ESPN Boston has a bit from a recent radio appearance by Mike Reiss on WEEI – READ MORE

Nick O’Malley looks at some of the longshot players heading into training camp – READ MORE

O’Malley also looks at the position battles and feels the quarterback one is simple – READ MORE

Nick Underhill of MASSLIVE says good bye as he moves on to cover the Saints down in New Orleans – READ MORE

Glen Farley ponders whether or not the Patriots tough schedule will weaken them this season РREAD MORE

James Christensen looks at some of the top position battles heading into training camp – READ MORE

Yahoo! Sports has their camp preview for the Patriots from the Sports Xchange – READ MORE

Kate Lemasters of Football.com looks at the fact the Patriots have quite a few receivers heading into training camp – READ MORE

Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN has comments from Ron Jaworski who ranked former Patriots QB Matt Cassel as one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL – READ MORE

Patriots Pre-Training Camp Player Spotlight: FB James Develin


James Develin performed well in his first season in NEw England. (USA TODAY Images)

(This is the eighth in a series of individual player spotlights over the next few weeks leading up to training camp. We’ll have several each day, so check back frequently as we go down the roster.  This edition focuses on Patriots fullback James Develin:) 

2013 Summary: 

Patriots fullback James Develin was one of the more pleasant surprises on New England’s roster in 2013, quietly carving out a nice niche that should potentially set him up for an opportunity to build on his first season when training camp opens in a few weeks.

Develin saw increased duties down the stretch last season, mostly being used as a blocker in both the running game and the passing game. He had limited carries in 2013, carrying just four times for ten yards, but he’ll forever live on with one of the most memorable touchdown runs fans have ever witnessed after bouncing off defensive players repeatedly in the Patriots win over Houston.

The former defensive end at the University of Brown finished his collegiate career with a sack and an interception before moving to fullback when he played in the UFL for the Florida Tuskers. He had previously spent time with the Bengals, but in his first full season with New England, Develin appeared in all 16 regular season games and became a stalwart at the fullback position.

Best game of 2013:

The touchdown run against the Texans was obviously his most memorable plays of the year, but his best performance was arguably his blocking performance during the Divisional playoff win over the Indianapolis Colts. In that game the Patriots racked up 234 yards rushing the football, including a 166 yard, four touchdown performance by LeGarrette Blount. Develin was responsible for opening up many of those runs, which doesn’t exactly show up on the stat sheet but can’t be overlooked.

Notable Stat of 2013:

Develin saw some action catching the ball out of the backfield last season, and finished with a perfect four receptions on four targets, the only player on the roster who – albeit on limited attempts – caught everything thrown his way during the regular season. He wasn’t targeted at all during the postseason.

What to Watch For in 2014: 

The above stat may be one of the reasons why James Develin got some work in at the tight end position during this offseason, which could set him up to be in the mix there by the time the regular season begins. Michael Hoomanawanui is expected to be the number two tight end behind Rob Gronkowski heading into camp, and adding Develin in the mix of the remaining group of tight ends should make for a competitive camp a that position.

Develin previously talked about being a versatile player and so far he’s done a good job in taking advantage of the opportunities he’s been given. His transition should certainly be something to keep an eye on during training camp, as well as how he’s used during the preseason. Not to mention the fact that being able to move him around both out of the backfield as a receiver and what he does with his blocking ability has already made him quite an asset for this football team.

He’s a hard worker with the right attitude and his personality has made him a great fit here in New England so far. If all goes well, he should be another player to expect great things from in 2014.

Patriots Huddle: Monday’s News, Notes and Links


Julian Edelman was part of a NASCAR event on Sunday. (USA TODAY Images)

Another quiet Monday, but here are a couple of quick notes and some links:

EDELMAN MAKES NASCAR DEBUT:

While he wasn’t driving one of the race cars on Sunday, Patriots wide receiver got a feel for what it was like to be out on the track¬†and part of the NASCAR’s Camping World RV Sales 301 Sprint Cup race in Loudon New Hampshire.

Edelman drove the pace car for the event, and he said after that after seeing the crowd and the energy he may become more than just a casual fan.

‚ÄúAfter coming here today and seeing this and the excitement and energy of the crowd and the people, it‚Äôs pretty insane,‚ÄĚ Edelman told the Boston Globe. ‚ÄúIt was a fun experience, but I‚Äôll definitely be watching a lot more now, because I‚Äôm vested.‚ÄĚ

Edelman was reportedly told three rules, which was to stay at 47 miles per hour, stay away from the walls and to remain in the middle of the track. ¬†Edelman admitted that he was allowed to “open it up” and drove 90-100 miles per hour at one point. ¬†To the veteran receiver that seemed fast enough, and the thought of each of these drivers going twice as fast for three hours gave him a new appreciation for what they do and felt they deserved to be called athletes.

‚ÄúThey‚Äôre, for sure, athletes,‚ÄĚ said Edelman, who was introduced at the drivers‚Äô meeting along with Pats offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs an endurance thing and they‚Äôre sitting in the car for three hours, going 200 miles per hour, you‚Äôve got to be focused.‚ÄĚ

FORMER PATRIOTS HOYER NOT FOCUSED ON MANZIEL’S ANTICS:

Lost in the Manziel Mania going on out in Cleveland is former Patriots quarterback Brian Hoyer, who is going to be facing a lot of critics who will likely be looking for any reason for Johnny Manziel to see game action at some point this season.

Hoyer, for now, is considered the starter for the Browns heading into 2014, but he’s still keeping the same mindset that he’s always had and a Tweet over the weekend was one that caught the attention of many after it was retweeted over 4,000 times.

After reading the article published about LeBron James in Sports Illustrated, Hoyer appreciated the fact that James noted that “in Northeast Ohio, nothing is given, everything is earned.”

That will likely remain the case as he tries to keep Manziel behind him on the depth chart, and having spent time in New England he’s handling the questions about his teammate quite well. ¬†When asked recently about if he’s been paying attention to the news surrounding Manziel that keeps appearing, Hoyer said he’s only focused on getting ready for training camp.

‚ÄúNot really,” Hoyer said. “I‚Äôm not really focused on my teammates, what they do in their off life so that‚Äôs none of my business. ¬†They can make those decisions on their own. All that matters is that we come back ready to go for the season.‚ÄĚ

Hoyer said when asked if he should pull Manziel aside, he said he feels the best way for him to be a leader is to do it by example.

”¬†Like I‚Äôve always said, the best way for me to be a mentor and a leader is to go about my business and lead by example,” said Hoyer. ¬†“We‚Äôll go from there and it‚Äôs going to be a fun time and it‚Äôs going to be fun so [fans] come out to training camp because it‚Äôs going to be a fun time.”

ADDITIONAL LINKS:

Nick Underhill of MASSLIVE.com finishes up his “Ranking the Patriots” series, with Tom Brady topping the list. READ MORE

Oliver Thomas of NEPatriotsDraft.com has a good article¬†as he revisits Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins’ rookie seasons. READ MORE

Christopher Price has his “countdown to camp” series, and looks at the reciever position in today’s edition. – READ MORE

James Christensen has a good read on five players he believes will surprise people during training camp – READ MORE

Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston goes through some of the developments that happened while he was away on vacation, including some news around the division. – READ MORE

Erik Frenz of Boston.com continues going through the positional groupings and takes a closer look at the offensive line in today’s entry. – READ MORE

Frenz also has a good read on how the addition of Will Smith adds a missing veteran presence to the team heading into training camp. – READ MORE

Patriots Huddle: Friday’s News and Notes 7/11


Bill Belichick making a move for receiver Andre Johnson seems unlikely. (USA TODAY Images)

Another quiet morning, but here are some news and notes on this Friday:

DON’T COUNT ON ANDRE JOHNSON IN NEW ENGLAND:

There are plenty of fans who would love to see Andre Johnson catching passes from Tom Brady, but as it currently stands, the Patriots would have to be considered a long shot to acquire him.

Johnson has told the Texans that he no longer wants to be there and wants to be traded, which reportedly stemmed from an earlier situation where the star receiver missed the early portion of the offseason workouts and cost him a $1 million bonus.  According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, Johnson requested the opportunity to workout extra to make up for the time he missed, but the team told him no.

That sets up where he is now, which has the two sides in a standoff and Johnson at the center of trade rumors.

Looking at the implications of him coming to New England, the numbers don’t really work out too well. ¬†As our colleague Miguel Benzan points out,¬†Per the CBA, the Patriots would have to be under the cap by $10,580,000 in order to take on Andre Johnson‚Äôs 10 million salary and 1 million roster bonus. ¬†According to Benzan, the team is currently below the salary cap by $6.4 million, which would require a series of moves to squeeze Johnson under and he goes over a series of moves¬†to shave off the additional $4.2 million that might make it work. ¬†Some of those moves would involve extensions for Devin McCourty along releasing Dan Connolly or even Logan Mankins, among other necessary transactions.

That’s a lot of work for one player and doesn’t exactly fit how the Patriots have previously done business. ¬†Not to mention the fact that it leaves them without any breathing room or the ability to adjust in the event of disaster from an injury standpoint, and puts them in tough shape cap-wise heading into 2015 unless Johnson would be willing to take a pay-cut in order to make it work. ¬†Rapoport reports that Johnson is willing to restructure, but it doesn’t sound like lowering his salary is something he’s willing to do.

Needless to say it seems unlikely that he may end up in a Patriots uniform. ¬†Granted stranger things have happened, but the numbers don’t add up and that’s one of the bigger reasons why he’ll probably end up elsewhere if¬†Johnson and the Texans¬†can’t work out their issues.

CHUNG HOLDING A PEP RALLY:

According to the Boston Herald, Patrick Chung and his wife Cecelia recently threw a pep rally with JAM’N 94.5’s Maverik, crooner Louie Bello, and hip-hop dancers Phunk Phenomenon and Fame or Juliet to kick off his free summer music academy, SMART, at the Josiah Quincy School.

‚ÄúWe‚Äôre excited to welcome music students from all levels and backgrounds to join us once again for SMART,‚ÄĚ Patrick Chung said in a recent press release. ‚ÄúBoth of my parents were music professionals ‚Äď my mother a singer and my father a producer. Because they followed their passions, they were able to give me the opportunities I‚Äôve had to succeed. I‚Äôm thrilled we can offer the same opportunity for music students to follow their passions.‚ÄĚ

The academy is designed for music students between the ages of 12-15 and from the Greater Boston area.  The program is currently taking place from July 7 through August 15th, but the application process is closed.

GRONK SPENDS TIME AT THE CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL:

It’s probably only a matter of time before photos appear of Rob Gronkowski at a recent Katy Perry concert, but for now it’s nice to see him giving back to the community, which is something he’s spent a lot of time this offseason doing and those things don’t tend to get enough press.

Gronk recently visited the Boston Children’s Hospital and brought some ice cream to some of the patients there, and the Hospital tweeted a photo of him:

Good stuff.

ADDITIONAL LINKS:

Our friend James Christensen has a good article on how the Patriots defense will be better without Brandon Spikes – READ MORE

Nick Underhill of MassLive continues his series of ranking the Patriots, will Darrelle Revis coming in at number two – READ MORE

Erik Frenz of Boston.com looks at the battle potentially looming between Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce for the final roster spot at the receiver position heading into training camp - READ MORE

Frenz has another article on the back-up tight end position and the upcoming competition heading into training camp. – READ MORE

Have to love this¬†title of an article on Gisele in the Daily Mail “Gisele Bundchen shows lean legs in skin-tight faded skinny jeans while shooting commercial for Falabella in Miami”. ¬†Purely for clicks, but it obviously worked – READ MORE

 

Patriots Huddle: Thursday News and Notes 7/10


The offseason criticism of Tom Brady continues, with critics doubting whether or not he’s still one of the best in the NFL. (USA TODAY Images)

A quiet morning on this Thursday, but here are some quick news and notes from this morning:

CRITICISM OF BRADY CONTINUES:

Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz of USA TODAY apparently isn’t happy with how the NFL Network’s Top 100 Players of 2014 turned out, especially when it came to where Patriots quarterback Tom Brady fell in the rankings:

Tom Brady’s ranking would be disputed no matter what, given his tumultuous season. But the Patriots quarterback finished No. 3 on this year’s list, behind Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson. It’s clear players who voted found some explanation for Brady’s struggles at the start of the year.

Whether it was on Brady or not, the Patriots’ early offensive woes were evident. A thin receiving corps contributed to an eight-game slump for Brady, which he then seemed to break out of. But he still finished with a pedestrian 6.9 yards per attempt (easily his lowest in a full season since 2006) and unremarkable numbers both downfield and on third down.

USA TODAY’s Nate Davis pegged Brady as the No. 3 QB and No. 12 overall player two weeks ago. The Washington Post’s Neil Greenberg went further by claiming the Patriots’ star doesn’t belong as one of the league’s top-five signal-callers. That’s probably a step too far; Brady’s entire season didn’t definitively indicate a fall from the elite.

Peyton Manning actually came in at number one overall, while Brady came in at number three.

There has been plenty of criticism surrounding Brady’s play this past season from those who didn’t watch every game and were purely looking at numbers on paper. ¬†The offense evolved over the course of last season before injuries, once again, simply set them back and made it too much for them to overcome. ¬†That’s something that most critics seem to overlook, and that appears to be the case, once again, with this piece as well.

LOOKING AT THE TITLE WINDOWS FOR THE NFL’S ELITE:

Field Yates has a good piece in ESPN’s Insider looking at the title window for some of the older elite quarterbacks in the NFL, which included Brady along with Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger.

Yates feels that a regression in 2014 is unlikely, but that it’s fathomable that his play will slide at some point before he reaches 40, but either way if Bill Belichick remains as head coach, he still believes they’ll remain a contender.

As stated, a Brady regression is far from a guarantee. He’s under contract for four more seasons, and while there’s little precedent for quarterbacks playing into their 40s, he’s a rare player.

Moreover, while the sample size is small, we’ve seen the Patriots without Brady in 2008, and they won 11 games. Even if it was against a watered-down schedule, that’s hard to do in the NFL. Belichick is the preeminent coach of his generation (perhaps of all time), and the organization is strong in all the foundational positions. (Their front office ranked seventh overall in our FPR, and the coaching staff ranked first.) Few teams adapt to change better than New England, and if Belichick stays in it for the long haul, the Patriots cannot be counted out.

As for the Broncos and Steelers, he believes Denver is in tough shape without any real answers in the post-Manning era, while he also feels Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is “underrated”.

FORMER PATRIOT SEYMOUR MAKING RUN AT WORLD SERIES OF POKER:

After retiring in 2012 from the Oakland Raiders, it appears that former Patriot, Richard Seymour, is looking for a new challenge and has decided to focus his competitive energy playing poker.

“Now that I’m done playing football I realize that poker is competitive,”¬†Seymour told Pokerlistings.com. “A lot of the qualities I had on the field I can use on the poker table.”

According to SilverAndBlackPride.com, Seymour survived day one and is currently still alive on day two in the tournament. There were 2,571 players still left at the beginning of the day, which may seem like a lot but considering the Main Event had 6,683 entries and the entire tournament began with a record 82,360 entries.

Seymour has reportedly played poker his whole life, so this isn’t new to him as¬†he often played with his teammates in Oakland on plane trips.

For now it appears he’s trying to compete in something with much higher stakes, with the big prize being $10 million should he be able to survive and win it all.

ADDITIONAL LINKS:

Mike Reiss continues his “Checking the locks” series, with this morning’s edition focusing on the cornerbacks – READ MORE

Nick Underhill of MASSLIVE continues his series ranking the Patriots players, with Rob Gronkowski coming in at number three in this entry – READ MORE

Erik Frenz of Boston.com has a piece this morning on Bleacher report pondering whether or not Ryan Mallett has become a forgotten man in New England – READ MORE

James Christensen also has an article looking at a lot of the recent buzz surrounding the team – READ MORE


Sebastian Vollmer’s 2013 season didn’t end well after he suffered a leg injury that saw him end up on injured reserve. (USA TODAY Images)

(This is the seventh in a series of individual player spotlights over the next few weeks leading up to training camp. We’ll have several each day, so check back frequently as we go down the roster.  This edition focuses on Patriots tackle Sebastian Vollmer:) 

2013 Summary: 

Sebastian Vollmer’s season ended abruptly in 2013, with the right tackle suffering¬†a gruesome leg injury¬†during the team’s week eight match-up at home against the Dolphins.

It was a moment that was hard to forget.  On the play Vollmer was engaged with Miami defensive tackle Tony McDaniel, who Vollmer had blocked out of the play, opening up a hole behind him for Stevan Ridley to cut through.  However, Dan Connolly, who was lined up next to Vollmer, wasn’t able to keep McDaniel’s teammate, Randy Starks, from cutting inside and taking Ridley down as he made his move behind Vollmer.

Starks grabbed Ridley from behind and as he twisted to pull down the Patriots running back, he landed right on the legs of Vollmer.  The normally tough right tackle let out a scream that was audible on the television broadcast and was heard by the fans who were on hand to witness it unfold right in front of them.  Over and over he yelled, slamming his fists into the turf as his right leg was visually bent awkwardly.

Moments later with his leg placed in an air cast he was driven off the field, which marked the final time fans saw him in 2013.

Best game of 2013:

It’s hard to quantify it, but for Vollmer, his best performance of 2013 was arguably against the New Orleans Saints in week 6 after a terrific overall showing that afternoon. ¬†He faced a tough Saints defense that afternoon, but of the five sacks allowed that day he was only responsible for one and actually did a good job of giving Tom Brady enough time to help engineer their last-second victory. ¬†He also opened up holes during what ended up being one of Stevan Ridley’s best games of the season running the football. ¬†Of Ridley’s 20 carries, eight of them came to Vollmer’s¬†side of the line (2 over right tackle, 6 around the right end) for 39 yards.

He played a lot of snaps in that game, with the 87 plays matching the second most the team played during the regular season, which came against the Broncos.  But they did enough to win the game, and Vollmer certainly played an important part.

Notable Stat of 2013:

Overall through each of the first seven games running backs had¬†the second¬†highest yards-per-carry average running over right tackle¬†compared to the¬†other positions, gaining 111 yards on 19 carries (5.8 avg). ¬†They also carried 22 times for 78 yards and two touchdowns around the right end, with Ridley and Brandon Bolden each accounting for one. ¬†He also¬†wasn’t called for a single penalty during the eight games he did take part in.

What to Watch For in 2014: 

Vollmer is such an important part of the team’s offense both in terms of his pass blocking and his toughness in opening holes in the running game. ¬†His health will certainly be something to watch during training camp, and despite the fact that Cannon has been serviceable during his time filling in while Vollmer was injured, it’s hard not to appreciate the type of player Vollmer¬†is. ¬†Tackle is certainly not the sexiest position by any means and it’s one of those positions that doesn’t fetch a lot of glory. ¬†But he’s a player whose name isn’t called very often for the wrong reasons, and¬†he’ll likely be an important part of this offense once again this season.

Patriots Pre-Training Camp Player Spotlight: TE Michael Hoomanwanui


Michael Hoomanawanui remains as one of the more dependable players the team currently has at the tight end position heading into 2014. (USA TODAY Images)

(This is the sixth in a series of individual player spotlights over the next few weeks leading up to training camp. We’ll have several each day, so check back frequently as we go down the roster. ¬†This edition focuses on Patriots tight end Michael Hoomanwanui:)

2013 Summary: 

2013 must have been an interesting experience for Patriots tight end Michael Hoomanawanui. ¬†The veteran tight end¬†went from being the team’s third tight end to becoming a starter very quickly after Aaron Hernadnez’ double life caught up with him and quickly ended his tenure in New England. ¬†With Rob Gronkowski still recovering from a forearm injury and offseason back surgery, Hoomanawanui ended up finding himself as the go-to guy for the majority of last season.

Paired with Matthew Mulligan, Hoomanawanui saw the lion’s share of the offensive snaps in 2013, and for the most part did about as much as could have been expected. ¬†He was utilized quite a bit in the running game, and through the first six games was relatively productive. ¬†He caught eight passes on 11 targets for 95 yards over that span and overall finished with 12 catches on 19 targets for 136 yards including one touchdown.

He’s not a great player by any means, but he’s one of those players who has proven to be a terrific fit in an offense that suddenly values him a little more given what’s transpired over the past year.

Best game of 2013:

Hoomanawanui’s most productive outing¬†came against the Saints in week six after he finished having caught all four targets for 57 yards and three first downs during the Patriots’ dramatic last-second win over New Orleans. However, his most memorable¬†moment of the year came ¬†against the Dolphins in Week 15¬†when he made a very cool one-handed touchdown, which unfortunately occurred¬†in a losing effort.

Notable Stat of 2013:

When Rob Gronkowski returned to the line-up in Week 7, Hoomanawanui’s production dropped off dramatically. To make matters worse, he also suffered a knee injury in Week 11 against the Panthers that kept him out until their week 15¬†loss¬†down in Miami. ¬†But from Gronkowski’s first game back up until that loss in Carolina, Gronk caught 24 passes for 343 yards, while Hoomanawanui saw just three targets with two receptions and 19-yards. ¬†Over the final three games, aside from the touchdown, he caught just one other pass but he did have three receptions for 39-yards in the playoffs, two of which came in the AFC Championship loss to Denver.

Another significant stat that stands out for Hoomanawanui is the fact that he caught just one of Tom Brady’s 112 fourth quarter completions during the 2013 regular season, which came in that week six win over New Orleans.

What to Watch For in 2014: 

Expect more of the same from Hoomanawanui in 2014. ¬†He’s been a terrific asset since he was signed, although he’s better suited as a number three tight end and obviously isn’t at the level of what Gronkowski gives them, nor is he quite the dynamic player that Hernandez was. ¬†But since the team wasn’t able to bring in an upper-echelon player this offseason, the job behind Gronkowski remains his to lose and they’re lucky to have him. ¬†For now he remains as the most dependable player the team has at that position, and¬†there’s no doubt that the amount of playing time he experienced last season will certainly help him in 2014.