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Patriots News 03-05, Weighing In On Defensive Prospects At The Combine

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
4 weeks ago at 5:00 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary

Patriots News 03-05, Weighing In On Defensive Prospects At The CombineBrian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, and here are our Sunday Patriots news and notes. While many fans are upset to learn that the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Chargers are reportedly not trading WRs Tee Higgins and Keenan Allen, respectively, Remember, the Vikings said the same things a few years ago, only to trade Stefon Diggs to Buffalo just a few days later.

I don’t believe either will end up with New England, but crazier things have happened. Remember, the spring is “smoke-screen” season in the NFL before free agency and the draft.  

While I love the discussions on what position to use a 1st round draft pick on (or move back), we all know that those decisions will ultimately hinge on what transpires during the free agency period. But for discussion’s sake, in early March, I’d go with the best lineman available.  

The Patriots are bringing back former area scout Pat Stewart for a yet-to-be-named position within the Patriots scouting department. Stewart was the Carolina Panthers Vice President of Player Personnel. 

The Patriots hired Stewart in 2007 as an area scout, where he spent three years before becoming a pro scout from 2010-2012. According to NFL insider Aaron Wilson, he left New England for Philadelphia in 2018 and was the target of several teams this spring. 

Quick Hitters For the Patriots and NFL News: 

DeAndre Hopkins/Matthew Judon: The Patriots edge rusher, who is also the team’s unofficial recruiter every spring, set Twitter on fire for Patriots fans with his tweet on Friday night: “Breaking News – DeAndre Hopkins to the Patriots. 

Whether it is true or just Judon having more fun with his Twitter account remains to be seen. However, early Saturday morning, his tweet hit over 1.4 million views.

Willie McGinest: The ex-Patriots star has been charged with two felonies stemming from an altercation at a California bar in December. TMZ was the first to release the video from the incident, where McGinest, along with two other men, accosted then beat a man who was sitting in a booth after exchanging words. 

The exact cause of the altercation is still unknown, as McGinest and the men accompanying him appeared to be looking for the victim in the attack. McGinest beat the man, picked up a bottle, and appeared to him with that. 

If convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and assault by means of force likely to cause great bodily injury, McGinest could face four years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine for each charge. After the incident appeared in the news, McGinest was suspended indefinitely from his job on the NFL Network. An official arraignment is set for April.

Slade Bolden: The Patriots worked out the former Alabama slot receiver, who was roommates with QB Mac Jones and played for a season with Bill O’Brien as the offensive coordinator, catching 42 passes for 408 yards and three TDs. 

He went undrafted last spring but spent time on the Baltimore Ravens’ roster before landing on IR last August. He was waived off of IR last October. 

Patriots 4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2”, in a bit, please check it out. We’ll be back this week discussing the Combine

Russ Francis/Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach both should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame, and the fact that especially Francis isn’t is an absolute travesty. Francis and the Raiders’ Dave Casper changed the game with how teams used the tight end position…this will be on our Sunday posts until it happens.

Defensive Prospects at the Combine…Watch The Splits 

The Patriots have representatives at the Combine, while Bill Belichick and several other head coaches opted to skip the annual event, deciding they could get more work done at home. But while everyone loves to watch the 40 times of the next speedsters in the NFL, for the defensive players not in the secondary, the 40 times are not as important from this view. 

I make no claims of being a scout, nor was I trained to be one. These are strictly personal opinions from watching football for the past several decades. My favorite players to watch are the DL, Edge rushers, and Linebackers. Many of them have been preparing for the NFL Combine to add size, speed, or strength after their college seasons are over to impress NFL scouts and coaches in attendance. 

However, their college tape is out there as well and that gives you a much better barometer of actual playing speed, with the Combine UnderArmor Olympics showing if they’ve made any significant changes. The actual measurables of players are always important because frequently, college athletic departments overinflate players’ heights and weights (Say it ain’t so). 

In terms of times, I don’t care what an interior DL, edge rusher, or linebacker’s 40 time is. But I do want to see the 10-yard splits. These measure explosion off the line. If a 330-lb nose tackle or edge guy has an excellent 10-yard split time, that means he’s getting off the ball quickly and can get inside of the blocker’s arms and body, and can dictate to his advantage. The actual split times vary by player’s weight, obviously, but that is much more important than what a guy’s 40 time is. 

Explosion is also measured with player’s vertical and broad jumps. These aren’t as sexy as the 40 and don’t get the air time that a 40 does, but for these players, they are very important. 

But for edge rushers, the 3-Cone Drill is akin to that for Patriots WRs. When you hear the television commentators talk about “bending around the edge,” that’s it in a nutshell. Some of the best pass rushers have the innate ability to lean at a 45-degree angle. Obviously, because of their size, their 3-Cone times will be a bit slower than a slot guy, but an edge guy with about a 7-second time is going to get serious consideration. 

Off-the-ball linebackers should have good 3-Cone time as well as a good time in the Short Shuttle which measures his ability to change direction smoothly. We always talk about “so-and-so being stiff” in coverage. That will negate blistering straight line speed in a New York minute. 

The Patriots like their edge rushers a tad bigger as they’re responsible for setting the edge. One guy who really stood out was Lukas Van Ness, from Iowa, who measured in at  6’5, 272. Coincidentally, he met with the Patriots this week. His 10-yard split was 1.64. He looked smooth and powerful and looked very much like a guy who helped his own draft stock. 

He’s still raw and didn’t test well in the vertical and broad jumps. He’d be a situational pass rusher in 2023, with Matthew Judon and Josh Uche is just fine. By the way, his 3-Cone Drill time was 7.02 seconds, which for a 272-lb edge rusher is excellent. 


“Tackle is always a popular position right behind quarterback and edge rusher. Those guys are often right up at the top of the draft boards,” Groh said. “You talk about traits for a left tackle, you talk about traits for a right tackle, kind of put them in two different buckets. But ultimately, they have to block the same guys. T.J. Watt, he’s not just going to the same side every time.”

“Those guys, first and foremost, they have to be able to pass protect and keep the quarterback upright, keep the pocket clean. Then, you’re looking for a guy who’s got a certain kind of playing style to come in and fit what we’re looking for, so those are certainly two things that are important.”

“There are certain stereotypes. But when you look at a guy like Sebastian Vollmer, who played right tackle for however many years, if we had to put Sebastian over at left tackle, which I think we did a couple of times, he had the athleticism and foot speed to be able to do that and not skip a beat.”

Patriots Director of Player Personnel Matt Groh talking about tackles prior to the NFL Combine in an exclusive with


“So, how was your week?”

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on Stitcher and Streamyard as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, and myself from discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.


Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2023 NFL combine Bill Belichick Lukas Van Ness Mac Jones New England Patriots Patriots edge rushers

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