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Patriots Pre-Training Camp Player Spotlight: Ryan Allen


Punter Ryan Allen played extremely well in his rookie season. (USA TODAY Images)

(This is the fifth 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¬†punter Ryan Allen:)

2013 Summary: 

Ryan Allen proved that punters are certainly people too in 2013, and a lot of his value got lost thanks to the fact he was incredibly consistent over the course of his rookie season.

Allen definitely¬†didn’t play like a rookie in his first year. ¬† He finished among the best in the league for punters in 2013 and was a key player in changing field position in quite a few games when New England’s offense was struggling. ¬†Looking back at how last season ultimately went down, Allen was quietly an unsung hero after unseating incumbent Zoltan Mesko during the preseason. ¬†Mesko was a popular player and it was hard to see him go, but the luxury of hindsight ended up being proof that there’s a method to Bill Belichick’s madness, and¬†the undrafted free agent out of Louisiana Tech ended up being one of the best decisions made last season.

Best game of 2013:

Ryan’s best game came in Week two against the New York Jets when he finished with 11 punts for 514 yards including four downed inside the twenty yard line along with two touchbacks. ¬†His yardage total tied a franchise record, and that performance came on a night that the Patriots couldn’t get much going offensively after escaping with a 13-10 Thursday night win over the Jets.

One of his biggest kicks of the season actually came in their incredible come from behind win over Denver in Week 12, with Allen hitting a nice high kick in overtime on a windy night at Gillette Stadium that landed in just the right way and hit one of the Broncos’ players, which helped set up a 31-yard game-winning field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.

Notable Stat of 2013:

Allen finished 2013 in the top 10 for punts inside the 20 yard line with 29 and also lead the league with 12 touchbacks.   He also had just 29 punts returned against him last season, the 11th lowest total among punters with more than 30 kicks.

What to Watch For in 2014: 

Allen had a terrific start to his NFL career, and he’s a player who New England will be relying on to come out and have a repeat season. ¬†There were quite a few occasions where a good kick by Ryan prevented a game-changing scoring opportunity for opponents last season, and he’s a significant reason why the Patriots finished the way they did in 2013. ¬†He set the bar pretty high for himself this season, and hopefully he’ll be able to deliver.


Patriots LB Jamie Collins’ finished strong in 2013. (USA TODAY Images)

(This is the fourth¬†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¬†linebacker Jamie Collins:)

2013 Summary: 

One of the areas addressed in recent years has been Bill Belichick finally moving toward infusing youth and speed at the linebacker position, which early in New England was something he had been reluctant at addressing early in the draft.

Going back to 2001, Belichick never took a player at that position higher than the fifth¬†round (2005, Ryan Claridge) until 2008 when he took Tennessee’s Jerod Mayo in round one, followed by Michigan’s Shawn Crable in round three. ¬†That was the beginning of a trend that has continued in recent years, including South Florida’s Tyrone McKenzie in round three in 2009, followed by Florida’s Brandon Spikes and Jermaine Cunningham in the second round in 2010, along with Dont’a Hightower¬†in round one in 2012.

It’s a position he’s committed to improving, and last year saw him grab Southern Mississippi’s Jamie Collins with their first pick in the second round.

Collins had a season that went exactly how one could only hope every rookie would have. ¬†He just kept getting better and more comfortable with each passing week, seeing his snap totals increase from the 3% he saw in week one to playing in 68% of the snaps by week 17. ¬†He was one of the bright spots for this defense last season, and heading into training camp it’s going to be fun to see how much more he can grow before he hits the field in 2014.

Best game of 2013: 

Collins played well during the team’s win over the Browns in Week 14, playing 53 defensive snaps, the highest regular season total of 2013 while also finishing tied with Rob Ninkovich and Steve Gregory with seven tackles, including one tackle for a loss along with a pass defensed. ¬†However, the image of the play he made during the Divisional round against the Colts while battling against tight end Coby Fleener was one that definitely encompasses his athletic ability. ¬†On the play, Collins lined up over Fleener, who was split out, and played him just like a defensive back,¬†staying step-for-step¬†with him down the field before leaping up and batting the ball away for the incompletion. ¬†

That was one of Collins’ most memorable outings, with the rookie finishing tied for second on the team with six tackles. However, the rest of his stat line was ridiculous compared to everyone else that afternoon. ¬†He finished with a sack, two tackles for a loss, three quarterback hits, and an interception along with a pass defensed.

Games like that are the ones that fans can only hope he’ll carry over into his sophomore season. ¬†But it was obviously a terrific look at¬†what he’s capable of.

Notable Stat of 2013:  

A recent mention of Collins by NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal called Collins a ‚Äúcornerback trapped in a 250-pound body‚ÄĚ,¬†and looking at his numbers in 2013, it’s hard not to agree with that notion. ¬†Despite his limited playing time through most of the early part of his rookie year, Collins still finished with 4 passes defensed, tied for sixth with safety Duron Harmon. ¬†In the postseason his two passes defensed were more than every other defensive back other than Alfonzo Dennard (4), with every other corner and safety finishing with zero. ¬†Dont’a Hightower, who has also shown some good athleticism, also had one.

What to Watch For in 2014: 

Collins joins Logan Ryan as one of the more pleasant surprises of 2013, and it’s hard to not have the expectations to be extremely high for him heading into this season. ¬†He’s got freakish speed and body control, and actually looks more like a tight end playing linebacker. ¬†One area this team has been lacking in recent years is having linebackers who can handle themselves against bigger tight ends, and at 6’3″, Collins’¬†size and speed had made¬†him a terrific asset in New England’s defense. ¬†If he¬†can start 2014 the way he finished 2013, it’s hard not to be excited about what the season holds for him.

Patriots Huddle: Wednesday News & Notes 7/9


A recent ESPN Insider article believes Darrelle Revis may help put the Patriots over the top in 2014. (USA TODAY Images)

Some news and notes on this Wednesday:

DOBSON UNSURE OF STATUS HEADING INTO CAMP:

Patriots receiver Aaron Dobson will likely be a big key to New England’s success in 2014, but for now it sounds like it may be difficult to say exactly when he’ll be available to hit the field.

According to Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe, Dobson’s availability heading into training camp appears to be up in the air after Dobson downplayed his status on Tuesday. ¬†The receiver was taking part in his annual football camp for kids at Merrimack College, and just said he’s continuing to work on getting healthy after undergoing foot surgery.

‚ÄúI don‚Äôt know, it‚Äôs hard to say,‚ÄĚ Dobson said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm taking it one day at a time, rehabbing hard, just to get back out there as quick as I can.‚ÄĚ

The second-year receiver said that he’s been trying to work on his strength and doing what he can to stay mentally prepared as well.

‚ÄúIt‚Äôs frustrating but I‚Äôm just trying to stay humble and do what I can do to stay fresh on everything,” said Dobson.¬† “Still thinking about plays, upperbody lifting, core, everything that I can do that can help me benefit on the field while I was down, but like I said, I‚Äôm just trying to get better every day.‚ÄĚ

TALIB ON BEING A PATRIOT, “IT WAS A WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE”

Talib is also taking part in running the football camp with Dobson, and he spoke about his time in New England, saying he learned a lot while he was there.

‚ÄúIt meant a lot,” Talib told the Boston Globe. ¬†“I learned a lot, learned a lot about just being a professional, learning from Bill [Belichick], seeing how Bill ran his building. It was a wonderful experience for me.‚Ä̬†

So far he’s already been through minicamps as a member of the Denver Broncos, but he said that so far he’s happy with how things are going.

‚ÄúIt‚Äôs definitely good work,‚ÄĚ he told the newspaper regarding¬†OTAs. ‚ÄúEvery day it‚Äôs either Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders coming out there, so it‚Äôs definitely good work, Peyton [Manning] is the quarterback, man, a lot of fun. Great locker room. No complaints.‚ÄĚ

JOYNER: PATRIOTS WILL HAVE NUMBER ONE SECONDARY IN 2014

Joyner has a piece for ESPN Insider this morning looking at New England’s secondary, and believes that after the additions of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner that the Seahawks title reign may come to a close much sooner than expected due to a strong challenge from the Patriots.

In the article Joyner points out that looking at the metrics, the addition of Revis over Talib will make a dramatic difference in their defense.

A detailed analysis of their relative metrics indicates that replacing Aqib Talib (who signed with the Denver Broncos) with Revis will save the Patriots somewhere in the range of 200 yards this season. Revis is not known as being quite as accomplished a ball hawk as Talib, but that study illustrated how Revis is likely to generate just as many pick chances, and possibly more interceptions, than Talib posted last season.

As significant as that upgrade would be, it likely pales in comparison to the impact Browner will have. Browner had a lower YPA than Sherman in 2012 (6.2 for Browner, 7.4 for Sherman) and should provide a huge coverage improvement over Alfonzo Dennard (9.3 YPA) and Kyle Arrington (9.2 YPA). Browner has nearly as many career interceptions (10) as Dennard and Arrington combined (13) and thus could improve the turnover total as well. Any impact will be delayed until at least Week 5, as Browner will start the season by serving a four-game suspension, but that may not be an issue given that New England begins the season with games against Miami, Minnesota, Oakland and Kansas City — teams that all have issues in the passing game.

One can only hope Joyner is right.

GIRL TRADES FIRST CLASS AIRLINE SEAT IN EXCHANGE FOR GRONK’S BOXERS

File this under one of those stories you wish you hadn’t heard, but apparently a girl emailed into Barstool Sports about a recent encounter with Gronkowski.

According to the story, after asking for her first class seats during a recent flight where his ticket was in an extra leg room aisle in coach, Gronkowski was propositioned by the girl who asked, “what’s in it for her?” ¬†Apparently a pair of boxers and a chance to touch his junk.

“I gave up first class seats to grab gronks d&*k. His ticket was in an extra leg room aisle, I was in first class and he asked for our seats. I told him I‚Äôd do it but asked what‚Äôs in it for me. He signed his boarding pass and gave it to me, we shot the shit for 20 minutes in the air and he gave me his boxers after. Win win, no??”

There are photos from the encounter here - READ MORE.

ADDITIONAL LINKS:

Mike Reiss continues his “Checking the locks” series, and this morning focuses on the linebackers – READ MORE

Erik Frenz of Boston.com believes running back James White is a threat for major touches heading into training camp. – READ MORE

The National Football Post looks at the 10 most expensive tickets for 2014, with the Patriots match-up against Denver in Week 9 among that list – READ MORE

MASSLIVE’s Nick Underhill continues his series ranking Patriots players, and has Devin McCourty coming in at number four – READ MORE

James Christensen has his Top 5 Sleepers for the Patriots to watch in camp – READ MORE

Nice piece from Oliver Thomas with a look at Josh Boyce’s performance last season – READ MORE

Patriots Pre-Training Camp Player Spotlight: CB Logan Ryan


Logan Ryan had quite a rookie season in 2014. (USA TODAY Images)

(This is the third 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 cornerback Logan Ryan:)

2013 Summary: It’s been a while since a player has emerged and made the same type of splash in their rookie season that 2013 third round draft pick Logan Ryan did, and it fortunately ended up being one of the best surprises that happened to New England’s defense last year.

After not seeing much playing time through the first five games of the season, the rookie out of Rutgers obviously showed Bill Belichick and the coaches enough for him to get increased playing time on the road during the team’s week seven match-up against the Jets, which saw him play in 70% of his snaps (64-of-91) in a 30-27 overtime loss. ¬†However, Ryan caught everyone’s attention with his first interception of the year, which he returned 79-yards for a touchdown in the first quarter of the game.

Overall he finished the season with a team best five interceptions, and was tied for third on the team in tackles during the postseason. ¬†He’s a talented, physical player who is one of the best prospects in a secondary that has been in dire need of young talent in recent years. ¬†His emergence helps make this group one of the more dangerous ones we’ve seen in a while thanks to the addition of Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis and sets up what should be an interesting year.

Best game of 2013:

One of Ryan’s best games in coverage came in week 16 on the road against the Ravens during their 41-7 rout. ¬†Ryan finished that game with two interceptions and three total passes defensed, and looked less like a rookie and more like a player who seemed right at home in New England’s system.

Notable Stat of 2013:

Ryan also showed his ability to get after the passer during the team’s home win over the Dolphins in week eight, taking down quarterback Ryan Tannehill for 1.5 sacks in that game. ¬†He also finished third on the team with 10 passes defensed in 2013, one better than Devin McCourty (9) trailing just Kyle Arrington (13) and Aqib Talib (14) in that category.

What to Watch For in 2014: 

One of the biggest things that can’t be overlooked about Ryan is the fact he’s got such terrific instincts and is just a really smart football player. ¬†He mostly played corner last season, but didn’t appear to have any trouble when asked to do other things in some game-specific packages. ¬†He’s facing an interesting battle heading into training camp considering he’s going to have to battle for playing time in a group that suddenly has quite a bit of talent. ¬†Going along with Revis and Browner are Arrington and Alfonzo Dennard, although Ryan may see more time earlier in the season while Browner serves his four game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

With another year under his belt we’ll see if he’s able to take the next step this season. ¬†If he does and this group plays up to its potential, this could be quite a¬†difficult¬†bunch for teams to try and pass against in 2014.


Kenbrell Thompkins is looking for a solid follow-up performance in 2014. (USA TODAY Images)

(This is the second¬†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 receiver¬†Kenbrell Thompkins:)

2013 Summary: Undrafted free agent receiver Kenbrell Thompkins caught everyone’s attention during training camp and the exhibition season in 2013, with the former University of Cincinnati standout looking like quite a find after an impressive preseason. ¬†Tom Brady missed him just twice during the exhibition season,¬†with the two connecting on 10-of-12 passes over that span.

However, that success didn’t carry over into the season opener out in Buffalo. ¬† Overall Brady went Thompkins‚Äô way 14 times, while connecting on just four¬†of them¬†for 42 yards. ¬†Those troubles carried over into week two against the Jets, after Thompkins was targeted seven times with just two¬†receptions. The following week during the team’s win over Tampa Bay they also had trouble connecting after Brady hit him just three times on seven targets. ¬†However, the good news is two of those receptions were touchdowns, so there at least appeared to be some progress.

He had some good moments in 2013, including his exciting game-winning touchdown grab against the Saints in week six in what was certainly his best moment of the season. However, that would be the first of just three fourth quarter catches for him for the rest of the year, proving that it takes more than one play to define a season.

Looking back at the first half of the season, Thompkins finished with 23 receptions on 55 targets (42% completion rate) over the first eight games. ¬†Over the second half of the season, Thompkins caught 9 passes on 14 targets, but appeared to wear down as the year went on and didn’t appear to be anywhere near as quick or explosive as he had¬†looked¬†early on in the season.

He was inactive in three of the final four games and despite playing 34-of-75 snaps, Thompkins finished without a reception in the season finale against the Bills.

It was quite a slide for a player who started off with so much promise. ¬†Hopefully with a year of experience under his belt and a better understanding of what it takes to keep his body¬†conditioned for a 16-game regular season, he’ll be able to play at a high level¬†for an entire season.

Best game of 2013:

One of his better overall performances¬†came in week four down in Atlanta when Thompkins caught six passes on 11 targets for 127 yards along with a¬†touchdown. ¬†He also caught a 49-yard pass in the second quarter that helped set up a field goal, which at the time put the Patriots up 10-3 in what ended up being an exciting 30-23 victory in a nationally televised outing. ¬†Three of Thompkins’ receptions also came in the fourth quarter and included his touchdown. ¬†That was his highest reception total in that quarter in all of 2013.

Notable Stat of 2013:

Thompkins clearly fell out of favor late in the game as the season went on, finishing with just one target and one reception (an 11-yard reception in week 12 against the Broncos) in the fourth quarter over the final eight games. ¬†That stat alone was a bad sign, and should he fight his way back onto the roster in 2014, it will be interesting to see if he earns back Brady’s trust enough to look his way in critical situations.

What to Watch For in 2014: 

Thompkins is up against an incredibly crowded group, with eleven receivers set to participate in training camp. ¬†So far this offseason all indications are that he’s once again shined and has impressed during spring camps, and appears stronger than he was last season. ¬†One area that he struggled with was battling against physical corners, and that’s something he’ll need to be better at in 2014. ¬†Battling cornerbacks like Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner in practice should help with that, and should also force him to be more precise with his routes and use his body to create better separation. As a result, that should make him a more effective target for Brady this time around.

He started off strong last year, but it’s probably going to take a little more to ensure he’s still standing when the final cuts are made before the regular season. ¬†Considering the leading incumbents are Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, and Julian Edelman, that sets up an interesting battle between Thompkins, Brandon LaFell, and Josh Boyce. ¬†That is, of course, unless someone out of the remaining group of Jeremy Gallon, Jeremy Johnson, Wilson Van Hooser, or Reese Wiggins outshines one of them during the preseason.

Those are players who are all trying to do exactly what Thompkins did last year. ¬†One advantage Thompkins¬†has is the luxury of a full season under his belt and a better understanding of what’s expected of him. ¬†However, should he come out of training camp playing well, hopefully this time around he’ll¬†carry that over for an entire season. ¬†He finished 2013 with two of the 10 longest pass plays the Patriots had last year, and they could certainly use more of those in his second season.

Patriots Huddle: Tuesday News & Notes 7/8


Kyle Arrington has made the most of his opportunities since becoming an important part of the Patriots’ secondary. (USA TODAY Images)

Today marks the start of our series of Pre-Camp Player Profiles where we’ll be releasing at least three player spotlight pieces each day throughout the week leading up to the beginning of training camp later this month.

One will run each day at 8am, noon, and 3pm, with the first one spotlighting Stevan Ridley now available. So be sure and check back throughout each day for the next few weeks as we make our way down the roster heading into training camp. You can also follow us via our official Twitter feed at @PatsFans to be alerted to when they’re posted.

But in the meantime, here’s a quick rundown of today’s stories:

ARRINGTON MAKING THE MOST OF HIS OPPORTUNITY:

Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington has worked hard since arriving in New England, and he’s quietly become an important asset to the Patriots’ secondary.

The former standout from Hofstra recently admitted that coming from a small program in college and living the dream of playing of the NFL proves that anything is possible. He’s going to be hosting his newly formed “Kamp Kyle” football camp, which will take place July 19th in Plainfield, Connecticut working with players from ages 7 to 18 years old.

‚ÄúTo be in this position, I am a prime example, a real-life example of whatever your dreams are or aspire to be, with undeniable faith, determination, resilience, what can happen. It is possible,‚ÄĚ Arrington told Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal. ‚ÄúTo be in a situation where I can have a positive impact on just one life, it makes it all worthwhile.‚ÄĚ

Heading into training camp Arrington knows that the competition will be tougher than it’s been in recent years with Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner now in the mix, but he told the newspaper he’s looking forward to it.

‚ÄúOh man, that‚Äôs what it‚Äôs all about in this game. It‚Äôs all about competition, and we have a great group of guys,‚ÄĚ Arrington said. ‚ÄúThe guys you just mentioned, Revis, Browner ‚Ķ their body of work speaks for itself. I‚Äôm definitely looking forward to training camp. When things get full throttle, things should get interesting and be fun.‚ÄĚ

EDELMAN SET TO DRIVE THE PACE CAR FOR A NASCAR EVENT:

Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman will be taking part in an upcoming event this weekend in New Hampshire for NASCAR’s Camping World RV Sales 301 Sprint Cup Series.

Edelman will reportedly be driving the pace car for the event, although unfortunately for the Patriots receiver he won’t be driving a glitzy race car during the event. Edelman will be driving a Toyota Camry SE, but he’s still excited about participating.

As a punt returner in the NFL, I know all about teamwork, high-speeds and collisions on Sundays,” said Edelman in a media release. “But my goal on Sunday, July 13 will be to get those guys around the track safely before they drop the green flag for what is sure to be a highly-competitive race. I am honored to be chosen to drive the pace car at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and I can’t wait to take in my very first NASCAR race from what will certainly be the best seat in the house.

GRONK ON TRACK FOR WEEK ONE RETURN, SPOTTED IN CHICAGO RECENTLY:

After the uncertainty that surrounded him in the early part of last season, the Patriots were forced to live without Rob Gronkowski as he continued recovering from an infection in his forearm, as well as offseason back surgery at the start of 2013.

The good new is the torn ACL he suffered against the Browns sounds like it’s continuing to recover well and according to Paul Perillo of Patriots.com, Gronkowski may be on the field for New England’s opener in Miami.

Perillo, in his examination of the tight end position, writes, “At this point all signs point toward Gronk being ready to go in Week 1,” which would certainly be good news for an offense that struggled in the early part of the season without him.

In the piece Perillo wonders what most fans are also thinking, and that’s whether or not Gronkowski can make it through an entire season healthy and move on from his injury woes. According to the Chicago Tribune, the veteran tight end apparently spent the fourth of July weekend in the windy city, hanging out with DJ Dante The Don, along with WWE developmental talent Mojo Rawly:

JIM BROWN SAYS ’64 TITLE RING WAS STOLEN:

File this under a story that’s certainly bizarre, but Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown spotted his 1964 NFL Championship ring being auctioned online, a ring that Brown claims was stolen from him more than¬†40-years ago.

The ring is reportedly up for bidding¬†on lelands.com until July 25th, with the highest bid on Monday at $33,275. ¬†Brown told cleveland.com that a claim by the auction company that he authenticated the ring is “a lie” and that he was unaware the ring was being auctioned off.

A spokesman for the online auction house, Lelands.com, told ESPN’s Darren Rovell that¬†the company would be issuing a statement in response to the claims made by Brown, who said he believed a police report was filed when it was first discovered that it was stolen.

Lelands.com claims¬†the ring has actually been sold several times after it was passed down from Brown to a family member. It’s¬†currently owned by Josh Evans, the owner of the auction house, which first sold it to a bidder in 1998 before buying it back again.

The obvious question now is whether or not Brown will be able to recover it.

Additional Links:

Jordan Jennings of the Postgame blog for Yahoo! Sports has a nice entry on Devin and Jason McCourty teaming up for Sickle Cell awareness, which is a cause close to both of them because their father carried the trait – READ MORE

MassLive.com continues his series ranking the Patriots, and has Chandler Jones coming in at No. 5 in his latest entry – READ MORE

Patriots.com’s John Rooke has some notes this morning, and wonders how Darrelle Revis will fair along with a couple of other bits in this piece – READ MORE

Boston.com’s Erik Frenz looks at the quarterback position, and feels that Ryan Mallett and Jimmy Garoppolo are in a battle this preseason to lead the team in the event the Patriots face a worst-case scenario with Brady getting injured – READ MORE

Patriots.com’s Paul Perillo has a good look at the Patriots’ defensive line, and believes health will be a major factor up front for the Patriots’ defense. – READ MORE

ESPN BOSTON’S Field Yates highlights a couple of pieces focusing on the NFL’s top 100 players, which obviously contains some Patriots on each list – READ MORE

ESPN BOSTON’S Mike Reiss continues his series on who he feels are locks to make the roster, with this morning’s edition focusing on the defensive ends. – READ MORE


Stevan Ridley has a lot to prove in 2014. (USA TODAY Images)

(This is the first 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 running back Stevan Ridley:)

2013 Summary: Last season was certainly a forgettable year for Patriots running back Stevan Ridley, but years from now he may look back on it as one of the more important seasons, and lessons, of his career.

Coming off of a season where he finished with 1263 yards rushing, the 4th highest single season total in franchise history, Ridley was riding a pretty good wave heading into the team’s opener out in Buffalo to kick off 2013. ¬†After taking an early 10-0 lead against the Bills early in the game, the Patriots were off to a great start and seemed poised to easily dispose of a team they’ve had their way with for most of the last decade. ¬†But Ridley committed his first turnover of the season just minutes into the second quarter after he lost the football at the Bills’ 25-yard line, and safety Da’Norris Searcy picked it up and took it 74 yards the other way for a touchdown for Buffalo.

That game was a bad omen for Ridley and a sign of things to come. Overall he had a rough year in 2013, fumbling four times, all resulting in turnovers. ¬†Three of them came while he was carrying the football, and another came¬†after a reception. ¬†Ridley’s¬†last¬†miscue came against the Broncos in Week 12 where he coughed up the football at the Denver 40, and Von Miller took it 60 yards the other way for a touchdown to put Denver up 7-0 and he watched the remainder of that come-from-behind win by New England from the sidelines.

However, after sitting out against Houston the following week, Ridley managed to turn things around. ¬†He¬†carried 43 times for 197 yards over the final four¬†games, as well as 19 times for 69 yards and two touchdowns during the postseason. ¬†He’s actually got a pretty good streak going at this point, and has carried 62 straight times¬†without losing the football heading into 2014.

Best game of 2013:

Ridley’s best performance came in week six during the team’s incredible last-second win over the Saints. ¬†In that game he carried the football 20 times for 96 yards and two touchdowns. ¬†It wasn’t his highest yardage output (that came in week 9 against the Steelers where he finished with 115 yards and also two touchdowns), but he finished that game turnover-free in one of his better all-around performances of 2013. ¬†One play he made was a fourteen yard reception on a 2nd-and-14 following a 4-yard loss on first down by LeGarrette Blount early in the second quarter. ¬†That play helped move the chains and extend the drive, and resulted in a touchdown which at the time put New England up 17-7.

Notable Stat of 2013:

Ridley actually improved on an area that the team seemingly hoped Blount, being the bigger running back of the two, would fix for them.  Down on the goal line in 2012 Ridley carried 10 times for -1 yards but had 4 touchdowns, having been stopped for no gain twice and losing yards four times.  In 2013 he carried five times for three touchdowns, a much better success rate than he had the year before.

What to Watch For in 2014: 

It’s pretty obvious that Patriots running back Stevan Ridley is facing a critical campaign¬†heading into 2014, and this may be one of the most important training camps of his young career.

The running back position is one of the more competitive ones heading into training camp, with Ridley suddenly among a crowded group of players vying to line up behind Tom Brady this season.   The team currently has seven players on the roster, with Brandon Bolden, Roy Finch, Jonas Gray, Stephen Houston, Shane Vereen, and James White rounding out what should be an interesting competition over the next month.

In the end one would believe that when the dust settles, Ridley will be in the final running back mix when the season starts. ¬†However, after what transpired last season, his margin for error will likely be slim. It’s worth noting that Bill Belichick stood by him through the year and never completely gave up on him, but Ridley has to know that he’ll need to be better this time around. Hopefully 2014 will see him make last season nothing more than a rough learning experience that will make him better moving forward.

Patriots Huddle: Monday News & Notes 7/7


It sounds like WR Aaron Dobson could be ready to go by the time training camp begins. (USA TODAY Images)

Some news and notes on this Monday:

PATRIOTS ARE THE SMARTEST NFL SPENDERS:

USA Today has an article this morning looking at the fact the Patriots have compiled a 61-19 regular season record from 2009-2013 and did it with payrolls that ranked, on average, in the bottom half of the league.

Of course they credit Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, calling Belichick “not only one of the best in the league, but among the best in any sport, anywhere.”

“How did they do it? It starts with two people who’ve been with the franchise over a decade – and one of them doesn’t count toward the team’s payroll at all. The latter, of course, is Bill Belichick, the head coach universally regarded as not only one of the best in the league, but among the best in any sport, anywhere. No matter how much the Patriots retool their roster, Belichick remains in¬†complete command¬†of the franchise, and his steady stewardship (though not so steady that he won’t make adjustments on the fly¬†as needed) has produced a 163-61 regular season record with the Patriots, as well as 11 straight seasons of 10 wins or more. Grantland’s Bill Barnwell¬†suggested in 2012¬†that top coaches are undervalued, since they play a vital role in a team’s success without costing a cent against the salary cap. For that reason, no matter what the Patriots pay Belichick – and no one outside the organization¬†has much of an idea¬†- he’s worth every penny.”

You can read more here – CLICK HERE

DOBSON OPTIMISTIC ABOUT BEING READY FOR TRAINING CAMP:

After missing spring practices following offseason surgery on his foot, it sounds like Aaron Dobson may be making enough progress to potentially be out on the field in a few weeks for the start of training camp.

According to MASSLIVE’s Nick Underhill, there is now optimism the second-year receiver may be ready to hit the field later this month, which is good news for a player who will likely be a big key to the Patriots success this season.

Dobson suffered a foot injury against the Broncos in week 12 that caused him to miss three games, but then he reaggravated it against the Bills in the season finale. ¬†He initially avoided surgery after there was a belief it would heal on its own, but clearly that wasn’t the case and he underwent the surgery in March.

Fortunately it sounds like he’s making progress. ¬†Hopefully he’ll be ready to go and won’t suffer any setbacks.

JAMIE COLLINS MAKES THE “MAKING THE LEAP” LIST:

Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com continues his series of top 25 players he believes¬†will “make the leap” in 2014, with Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins coming in at number five on this list.

Rosenthal calls Collins a “cornerback trapped in a 250-pound body”, and writes that, “while most linebackers are forced into pass coverage duties, Collins looks at home on an island.”

“As a rookie, Collins played inside and outside linebacker. He lined up at defensive end occasionally to rush the passer, and could blitz up the middle. Moving forward is typical of a guy his size, but it’s not typical to see the same player line up one-on-one outside the numbers against receivers, and win.

Bill Belichick¬†has found a new sort of prototype. Nearly 30 years removed from establishing what NFL teams look for in a 3-4 linebacker, Collins is the right player for this era. Once a safety at Southern Mississippi, Collins can go entire games without going after a quarterback. (Week 16¬†against Baltimore was a great example; he shut down their tight ends on passing downs.)”

One interesting comment is the fact Rosenthal believes that “Collins is the player that Adalius Thomas was supposed to be.” ¬†He also feels that Collins is much like a five tool player, making a baseball reference and believes that while teams love hybrid linebackers, the Patriots may have finally found one.

MCCOURTY BROTHERS MAKE A CASE FOR RUTGERS:

Dan Duggan of the Star Ledger has an article with Devin McCourty and his brother Jason among former players making a case to recruits as to why Rutgers is their best choice to come and play college football.

“You get an opportunity to be in a program where you can go talk to a coach about anything in life,” said Devin, a Patriots safety. “He’s a very open guy where he can laugh, he can joke with you, he can be strict. I think just on a personal level it’s a great fit. But like I always say, Rutgers has to be a fit for you. I don’t know if every guy can go there and work hard and be willing to put in that work and sacrifice. I think it has to be a good fit. I think for guys that are young and hardworking and want to be the first guys to do something under a great coach that might not have a huge name, but you can be the first just like he’ll be, it would be a perfect fit for you.”

Linebacker Steve Beauharnais also had high praise for coach Kyle Flood, calling him a “players coach” and believes that he’s just as tough as former coach Greg Schiano.

Duggan writes that Rutgers hasn’t landed any of the top 17 recruits in New Jersey’s class of 2015 according to Rivals.com’s rankings, and has just three in the top 35. ¬†Then again, it’s not always the biggest names that necessarily become the brightest stars. ¬†However, it never hurts to get some endorsements by former alumni¬†who have been there and have proven that players from that university can go on and do great things in the NFL.

BOB KRAFT COMMITS FUNDS TO CROSSROADS CAMP PROGRAM:

Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who is a Brookline resident, surprised Crossroads for Kids last month with a commitment of up to $100,000 to send 100 young people to its residential “Camp Wing” program.

From Wicked Local Brookline:

“Through the program, they will meet mentors and friends who will stand by them for the next 10 years as they learn to dream big and travel the path to a safe and successful future.

It costs $1,000 to send a child to a 20-day session of overnight camp, a cost Crossroads subsidizes through fundraising to ensure 1,000 kids have the opportunity to experience a safe and happy summer each year.”

According to the article, Kraft’s commitment entails that he¬†will match all donations by new donors and past supporters who will increase their support to send a child to camp, and will mtch them up to $100,000.

ADDITIONAL LINKS:

Jarrrett Bell of USA TODAY has this piece in the Detroit Free Press looking at the Patriots and writes the franchise is at the milestone 10-year mark and believes it’s time for a reunion – READ MORE

Nick Underhill of MASSLIVE continues his series raking the top 10 Patriots heading into training camp, with this morning’s edition focusing on Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer -¬†READ MORE

ESPN BOSTON’S Mike Reiss looks at some of the top plays in Patriots history, with today’s entry focusing on the infamous “Snow Plow Game”READ MORE

He also continues his series looking at players who he feels are “locks’ to make the roster heading into training camp, with this morning’s edition focusing on the defensive tackles – READ MORE

Oliver Thomas of NEPATRIOTSDRAFT.com has a nice write-up on Devin McCourty, looking at the rise of the former Rutgers standout. – READ MORE

James Christensen has a good read on Bleacher Report looking at five “dark horses” he believes may make the final 53-man roster. -¬†READ MORE

For those who enjoyed watching him play here, Ricky Henne of Chargers.com has a nice feature on former Patriots RB Danny Woodhead - READ MORE

 

Thursday’s Patriots News & Notes 7/3


Patriots receiver Aaron Dobson had one of the longest receptions in the NFL in 2013. (USA TODAY Images)

Some news and notes on this Thursday:

BRADY MAKES ANOTHER LIST:

An article this offseason regarding the fact Tom Brady may be slipping caught the attention of most fans here in New England who disagreed that New England’s signal caller may no longer be one of the NFL’s elite, and a recent study by ESPN’s Mike Sando seems to have squashed that premise among 26 insiders around the league.

According to the study, 25 of 26 of them ranked Brady as the top quarterback as they broke the individual players into tiers.

Said one offensive assistant that took part,¬†“Brady might be the best because he does it with the least every year, just about,” this offensive assistant said. “To me, there is no falloff with that guy. If he played with what Rodgers and Peyton and Brees have played with, it would not even be close. He has not had an outside guy since¬†Randy Moss. These other guys have outside guys coming out of their ears, especially Peyton and Rodgers. It is such a difference when you have outside guys that can stretch, like Manning had in Indy. Then he’d kill you with the inside guys. Brady doesn’t have half the skill players that Manning has. The thing that is scary is that sneakily, the Patriots were pretty good last year anyway.”

These participants ignored the numbers put forth previously this offseason and apparently went by what their eyes told them, which more or less goes along with what those who follow this team closely already knew anyway.

TEAM SAYS THEY DON’T OWE “ANOTHER PENNY” TO HERNANDEZ:

After immediately releasing him following the news of the murder charge last year and the subsequent press conference by head coach Bill Belichick, the Patriots haven’t said much regarding former tight end Aaron Hernandez.

However, after having to appear in court, the lawyer for the team, attorney Andrew Phelan, said on Wednesday that,¬†“The Patriots believe under the terms of that contract that they owe not another penny to Mr. Hernandez,” regarding discussion of the $3.25 million contract signing bonus from Hernandez’s deal he received from New England.

The tight end has filed a grievance seeking that bonus, along with $82,000 he believes the team still owes him.

However, Hernandez’s attorney, John Fitzpatrick, is arguing that the attempt to prevent the team from paying Hernandez is “fundamentally unfair” because Hernandez needs the money to pay for his defense in the three killings and the civil cases. He wrote that depriving Hernandez access to his earnings “would impair his state and federal constitutional rights to counsel and to due process.”

It’s hard to imagine how that is the Patriots’ problem. ¬†They originally gave him that contract with the intention of seeing him play football and have a productive career on the field and with his family at home. ¬†Instead Hernandez put himself in this position, and the team appears set to ensure that paying him anything more than he had originally received¬†isn’t¬†going to happen.

DOBSON HAD ONE OF THE LONGEST RECEPTIONS OF 2013

Patriots rookie receiver Aaron Dobson had a decent start to his career in 2013, finding himself in the top 10 for longest receptions in the NFL during 2013.

Dobson’s 81-yard touchdown reception against the Steelers in Week 9 tied him for eighth in the NFL with the Rams ‘ Tavon Austin. ¬†That 81-yard catch was also the longest offensive play for the team in 2013, with Danny Amendola’s 57-yard reception in that same game as the second longest for the Patriots.

The rookie also had the third longest play for New England last season, having hauled in a 53-yard catch against the Bengals in week 5, along with holding the 9th spot thanks to his first ever NFL reception that went for a 39-yard touchdown in week 2.

ADDITIONAL LINKS:

Sean Leahy of the Boston Globe has questions for teams around the NFL regarding a variety of topics in what is a decent glance at each club РREAD MORE

A good read from the Providence Journal’s Mark Daniels on Matthew Slate – READ MORE

Wednesday’s Patriots News Links 7/2


Patriots CB Brandon Browner. (USA TODAY Images)

A condensed version of the links on this Wednesday, but here’s a quick rundown of what’s available this morning:

ESPN BOSTON:

Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston has an article on the receivers and gives his thoughts on who he feels are locks to make the roster this year in what is a competitive group – READ MORE

NEPATRIOTSDRAFT.COM:

Oliver Thomas has a good read looking at Brandon Browner in coverage – READ MORE

NESN:

Doug Kyed looks at the Patriot secondary and wonders how they’ll sort through all the collective talent they have this year. – READ MORE

In this video you’ll see Rob Gronkowski Dancing With Robert Kraft At Jay Z-Beyonce Concert -¬†READ MORE

CBS SPORTS:

Pat Kirwin of CBS Sports ranks the top 100 players he feels still manage to thrive despite facing some obstalces – READ MORE

MASSLIVE:

Nick Underhill of MASSLIVE.com is ranking the top 10 New England Patriots heading into training camp, and explains the reason why three receivers all came up at #10 on his list – CLICK HERE

BLEACHER REPORT:

James Christensen has an article on who he feels will be the last players in and out for the Patriots – READ MORE

THE SWELLESLEY REPORT:

Some Ex-NFL players who are taking part in a program called¬†‚ÄúBasic Training ‚ÄĒ It‚Äôs My Business‚Ä̬†at Babson College this week, which is a¬†program being run in conjunction with The Trust, an organization backed by the NFL Players Association to support retired football players and includes former Patriots LB Matt Chatham. – READ MORE

PATRIOTS.COM:

Former Patriots WR Cedric Jones caught up with NFL Engagement Insider Jim Gehman, and the full interview is on Patriots.com – READ MORE

That’s it for today, but the normal news and notes column will resume in full tomorrow.