Monday Patriots Notebook 3/19: Defense Taking Shape, Another Trade is Made
It’s the beginning of another week, so let’s get to it.
Patriots Improved Their Defense In Week One of Free Agency – So far through the first wave of free agency, while the Patriots didn’t make any big-name signings, they managed to make some improvements to their defense heading into 2018.
After losing Malcolm Butler to the Titans, the Patriots very wisely made the move to acquire Jason McCourty, pairing him together with his brother, Devin, while adding a solid veteran cornerback to a group that already has Stephon Gilmore in their secondary. From there, the addition of defensive end Adrian Clayborn gives them someone who can get after the quarterback, which should also hopefully reduce the amount of time they’ll have to cover and even possibly increase the number of interceptions. That was a problem as New England had a tough time forcing turnovers in playoffs, having picked off just one pass in the postseason.
The other addition of defensive tackle Danny Shelton from Cleveland should provide help them in stopping the run, giving them a big tough player inside that should hopefully free up other guys to make plays. Toughness is an attribute they lacked in February, as the Eagles pushed them around all day and they never managed to string together any possessions where they were able to shut Philadelphia down. With Dont’a Hightower set to return next season, these are the types of additions that tend to play dividends and it’s pretty clear that Bill Belichick knows his group needs to get better.
While New England’s offense has suffered notable losses so far having lost Dion Lewis, Nate Solder and Danny Amendola to free agency, as well as Rob Gronkowski’s uncertainty as he continues pondering his future, they’ve managed to make a couple of additions in running back Jeremy Hill, along with offensive tackle Max Tobin. That side of the football still has some work ahead, but the defense has already improved over last season’s group.
It’s a solid start and while there’s still a long way to go, the good news is, their approach so far should have fans feeling a little bit better about their chances of being able to play better defense heading into next season.
Patriots Acquire Patterson – After acquiring Brandin Cooks last offseason, the Patriots made another big move on Sunday by adding more speed after acquiring receiver Cordarrelle Patterson from the Raiders.
According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the move cost the Patriots their fifth-round pick in exchange for Patterson and a sixth-round pick from Oakland.
The addition of Patterson helps in two key areas. It gives Tom Brady some more quality receiver depth on offense, and it also gives the Patriots a kick-returner to potentially replace Dion Lewis, along with a pretty solid overall special teams player.
His speed in the return game has been an area where he’s made quite a bit of noise, having currently tallied 4,613 yards on 153 returns over his career, including 5 touchdowns.
One thing to note on Patterson is he’s surprisingly big at 6’2″, 220lbs, which is a pretty incredible and rare trait to go along with someone with his speed. He’s also a tough player and possesses the ability to not shy away from initial contact, while being able to make plays and get away from defenders. He’s had quite a bit of success carrying the football, rushing 44 times for 454 yards and 6 touchdowns, which equates to 10.3 yards-per-carry. He averaged 9.3 yards per carry last season and had two touchdowns, including one that went for 47-yards. He’s no stranger to big plays, having also broken one off for 50-yeards in his rookie year in 2013 and one the following year for 67-yards in 2014.
In the return game, he had a return of 109 yards for a TD in 2013, one for 101 yards and TD in 2015, and one for 104 yards and a touchdown in 2016. He averaged 28.3 last season in his first year with Oakland, including 4 of over 40-yards.
Here’s a pretty good video with some of his better moments with Oakland, which will make some of the above numbers make a little more sense, Overall, given how little it cost to get him, it could turn out to pay dividends if he can carry that success over with New England this season:
Slater, Fleming Among Patriots Free Agents Visiting Other Teams – The Patriots still have players who are exploring their value on the free agent market, which could still see more changes coming as we head deeper into the offseason.
Special Teams captain Matthew Slater is the latest notable name out there fielding offers, with ESPN reporting that Slater visited with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday. The news of Slater making the trip to one of the Patriots’ biggest rivals was certainly a surprise, especially since he’s been a stalwart for New England’s special teams group since joining the team in 2008.
Meanwhile, according to reports, Cam Fleming is visiting with the Cowboys on Monday, which could remove a versatile player from the Patriots’ offensive line. After losing Solder, Fleming is among one of the few players on New England’s offensive line who could be capable of filling in at tackle. The bad news is, the Patriots may have a hard time keeping him as he’s reportedly expected to see his market heat up.
While on paper Slater’s loss may not necessarily seem like one they can’t overcome, his place on the team extends a little deeper than that. It would actually be fairly significant since, if you follow the team’s postgame locker room videos after each game, you’ll find that Slater is the spiritual leader among the players.
For a team that is already said to have issues in the locker room, seeing someone like Slater move on would definitely create quite a void. Seeing him end up in Pittsburgh would be even more difficult, especially taking into consideration the rivalry that exists among both fans and players from both sides.
Chung To Sign Extension? – According to Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal, Patrick Chung is close to finalizing a deal to keep him with the Patriots for the foreseeable future.
Daniels reports that the two sides are close to a multiyear extension, which would help extend what has been a terrific reunion since Chung returned to the team after departing to the Eagles in 2013.
Chung has been a consistent player since coming back, playing in sixteen games in three of the last four seasons. He finished 2017 having tied his career high of nine passes defensed last season, including one interception. He also finished with 71 solo tackles, one shy of his career high of 72 in 2010.
Chung was originally drafted in the second round by the Patriots in 2009 (34th overall).
No Return For Woodhead – It looks like former RB Danny Woodhead won’t be returning to the Patriots after all.
The veteran running back announced his retirement on Instagram, closing the book on a pretty solid 10-year career for a player who was one of the fan favorites during his time as a Patriot.
“10 years! Wow, God had crazy plans for a small little kid from North Platte, NE!” wrote Woodhead. “It’s been a wild ride and feel so blessed He allowed me to do what I loved for so long. But now it’s time to say goodbye to the game I love.”
Woodhead, who started his career with the Jets in 2009, finishes his career with 4,936 total yards during his nine NFL seasons, which included three seasons with the Patriots from 2010-2012. He departed to San Diego via free agency and spent 2013-2016 with the Chargers, as well as one season with the Ravens last season.
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10 years! Wow, God had crazy plans for a small little kid from North Platte, NE! It’s been a wild ride and feel so blessed He allowed me to do what I loved for so long. But now it’s time to say goodbye to the game I love. First, I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Without Him my career wouldn’t have been possible. He blessed me with the gifts and He paved the way. All I had to do was follow His plans for my life, and His plans were crazy awesome! Next, I want to thank my wife who has been by my side since freshman year of high school. She has been a rock through all the ups and downs. Sis, Willy, Mae Mae, and Hopie your daddy is going to be home a ton more and I can’t wait! Thanks to my Dad and Mom for always supporting me and showing me that God is first, then everything else will fall into place. Ben, Joel, and Anna thanks for preparing me for the NFL in our backyard games growing up. The dreaded in-laws Steve and Suzie for always being there for me. Chris Gittings (agent) you’re the best and thankful your my brother/uncle! Thank you Jets, Patriots, Chargers, and Ravens! Thanks to all my head coaches (Bob Zohner, Brad Smith, Bill O’Boyle, Eric Mangini, Rex Ryan, Bill Belichick, Mike McCoy, and John Harbaugh) who believed in me! To my rbs coaches (coach skiles, coach reiners, Jimmy Raye, A Lynn, Ivan, Ollie, Ridge, and Thomas) thanks for putting up with me. Thanks to all my teammates from high school till now. Without you guys I never would’ve become who I was as a player. To all my olinemen, you guys deserve the credit for anything that I received credit for. I thank you for helping make my career. To all the trainers, team docs, strength coaches, chiropractors, massage therapists, physical therapists, body gurus thanks for making sure I was on the field. To all the people who made my life easier at the facility (ops, pr, equipment staff, cafe workers, custodians) thanks and your work doesn’t go unnoticed. And how could i forget all my fans?! You’re the best and have always felt the love and support! I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few but know that I’m thankful for everything everyone has done on my journey.
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