Tag Archives: Artie Burns

Patriots  Week 15  Report Card, Patriots Beat Steelers 27-24

Steve Balestrieri
December 19, 2017 at 9:00 am ET

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how you start but how you finish. Although the Steelers controlled the vast majority of this game with their offense dominating in terms of time of possession, it never really carried over to the scoreboard. Even when the Patriots were down by 8 points in the second half, you never had the feeling that they were out of this game and they were still only down by a single score.

The one thing we know about this team is that they are a resilient bunch and that if you’re going to beat them, you need to play a full 60 minutes. Pittsburgh controlled the majority of the game, but the last few minutes belonged to Tom Brady and company. Followed by a wild and wacky finish where there was a long pass play, a disallowed touchdown and an interception to seal the deal, it was a satisfying win that not only clinched the AFC East but put the Patriots back in control of the AFC with two games to play. Perfect? Far from it. Satisfying? You bet and the coaches will take it.

So we’ll go thru the positions after rewatching the tape and see what the grades say this week.

Quarterback: B

Tom Brady had a very good game considering the circumstances. His wide receiver corps was thinned even further with no Chris Hogan and then lost Rex Burkhead and James White during the game but he persevered.

Pittsburgh played much more man coverage in this game when they tried to sprinkle in some zone, Brady immediately hit Cooks with a 43-yard pass down the left side. They got good pressure on him all game long which made him uncomfortable in the pocket.

That pressure forced him into a bad interception in the third quarter with Vince Williams being the first Steeler to pick him in a dozen years. He nearly had another in the final two minutes on a tipped pass at the line.

But after that he was brilliant. Brady was 5-7 on throws of more than 20 yards in the air. So much for the dink-dunk myth or that his arm strength is failing. He realized that Pittsburgh still has no answer for Rob Gronkowski and they did what they always do to the Steeler secondary, they eviscerated it in the second half. On the key 4th and 1 play, Brady recognized the defense and signaled Gronkowski, who was one-on-one with Sean Davis. The result was an easy 10 yard gain, which led to a touchdown to Cooks.

Running Backs: C+

The Patriots didn’t run the ball very much in this one as they were mostly playing from behind this week. But when they did there was some hit and miss. Dion Lewis had 12 carries for 67 yards including the game-winning run from eight yards out that totally caught the Steelers off-guard after Gronk tortured them down the field. But he didn’t  seem to get enough work between the tackles.

Rex Burkhead went down with what looked like a serious knee injury but luckily that wasn’t the case. He had a nice touchdown run inside. James White went down during the game but was able to return.

What was surprising was how little production the backs had in the passing game. Lewis had one catch for 13 yards, White had two catches for eight although Brady overthrew him when he had a lot of open space and Burkhead had one catch for five. James Develin had an uncharacteristic drop but was mostly good in the running game opening up holes for the backs when they did run

Wide Receivers: C

The wide receivers weren’t a big factor in the game, part of that is on them, partly on the Pittsburgh secondary. Brandin Cooks had a 43-yard reception early and a nice touchdown in the back of the end zone but he ran a deep, double move pattern too close to the sideline. That allowed the defender to ride him out of bounds. That wiped out a huge gain on what was Brady’s best throw of the game.

Chris Hogan was out, Kenny Britt made an early contribution after just a few days on the team. He’ll be looked at more as the schedule plays out. Danny Amendola had just two catches on the day and Phillip Dorsett had just one. Not enough production

Tight Ends: A++

Rob Gronkowski came back from his one-week suspension and played like a man possessed, especially in the second half. Gronkowski finished with 9 catches for 168 yards, where 135 of them were after halftime. He was simply dominating the game.

Pittsburgh had no answer for him and they were simply outmatched by his strength and speed. It is one thing saying that you’re going to be physical with him, it is another thing entirely going out and doing it.

He owned the field on the final Patriots touchdown drive gaining 26 yards on back to back plays taking the Patriots from deep in their own end to the Steelers 25 yard line. Then showing incredible flexibility, (TB 12 Clinc?) he reached down to pluck a low Brady pass off the turf and rumbled for 17 more setting up Dion Lewis’ touchdown run. On that play, both he and Dwayne Allen put punishing blocks on the Steelers defensive line.

And he’ll still hear it in the film room, he dropped a touchdown that he’d normally make the catch on. But his overall play more than made up for that. As games go this was a dominating performance as you’ll see.

Offensive Line: B-

The offensive line had a mixed game, they were allowing too much pressure, once again Joe Thuney struggled, as did Shaq Mason in pass protection and they didn’t get the consistent push in the running game but it was good enough. As is the norm with them, when the chips were on the line, they held up really well. Nate Solder had one of his best games of the year. Did anyone hear T.J. Watt’s name once in the game? He’s been a disruptor for the Pittsburgh defense and Solder kept him far away from Brady all day. Nice bounce back type of game for Dante Scarnecchia’s crew after the Miami mess of a week ago.

Defensive Line: C

Trey Flowers was back and he made his presence felt getting some pressure in the passing game. But overall the pass rush is still an issue and it is a case of them “almost getting there” it seems. No Alan Branch this week and the Steelers ran at the interior early but the middle of the line, Lawrence Guy, Malcom Brown and Ricky Jean-Francois did a pretty good job of gumming up the middle. Where the Steelers ran very effectively was on the edge. Both Deatrich Wise and Eric Lee were consistently washed out or pushed inside and Le’Veon Bell was eating them up on the outside.

Lee missed a sack that he should have had against Roethlisberger, he’s not as mobile as he used to be and Lee should have made that. The team dropped Flowers into the flat on a few passing plays and he was abused by Bell.

Linebackers: D

This is an area to watch moving forward and a possible Achilles Heel in January, especially with no Kyle Van Noy. Elandon Roberts, David Harris, and Marquis Flowers had games that won’t be pretty in the film room this week.

They were consistently blown up in the running game by the Steelers offensive line who once they got to the second level owned them. Roberts flew up into the wrong gap and had a handful of air on Bell’s touchdown run and looked lost there. Harris, whose specialty is the run game, was blown up quite a few times, too many.

Coverage isn’t their strong suit which is why the Steelers were successful on those shallow crosses. Matt Patricia tried blitzing them and they had an o-fer. Every time they blitzed Roethlisberger made them pay going a perfect 6-6 for 80 yards and a score.Ugly day again for the linebackers.

Secondary: B-

The secondary had its problems with the Pittsburgh speedy group of wide receivers. Overall the Steelers were 10-16 on third down which is very good, but the team stopped them on their final three attempts. When they’re having that kind of success, the secondary has to bear a lot of the burden but it goes hand-in-hand with the pass rush as well. Rewatching the film, Roethlisberger had so much time, the receivers had time to shake themselves open.

Stephon Gilmore had a rough day with Martavis Bryant who was giving him trouble with his combination of size and speed. Malcolm Butler didn’t have to cover Antonio Brown for long as he was injured, but made a great play tackling Heyward-Bey inbounds on the Steelers final drive keeping the clock moving… under the radar great play.

Eric Rowe made the tip on the final interception that Duron Harmon picked off. Don’t pay attention to that knucklehead on the radio. Harmon is a money player who is always around the ball. Devin McCourty and Pat Chung were solid as always. Jordan Richards? What in the wide world of sports was that attempt on the JuJu Schuster-Smith catch and run? That was singularly awful and nearly cost them the game. That’s a tackle he has to make and to whiff like that? Inexcusable.

The secondary as a whole deserves high marks for not falling for the fake spike. Roethlisberger threw that into triple coverage, something that been lost in the shuffle among the hysterical fan/media outrage over the James drop in the end zone.

Special Teams: B-

Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point but that was because of a rare snap miscue by Joe Cardona. Ryan Allen had to adjust and didn’t have a good hold, it forced Gostkowski’s timing off and he shanked it.
Allen had a net 47 yards on his punts and Gostkowski’s kickoffs consistently put the Steelers deep, behind the 20-25 yard line. Other than the one miscue, they were fine, but it could have been costly. Matthew Slater had a great play on a sliding downing of an Allen punt pinning the Steelers deep.

Coaches: B

Bill Belichick always preaches situational football, that’s why the Patriots pull out so many of these close games and opponents fail. No one bit on the fake spike, and the Steelers were unprepared for the final few plays after the James score was overturned. That is something the Patriots never have to worry about. Josh McDaniels’ crew couldn’t convert third downs again in the first half, but once he locked in on the Brady-Gronk connection, he rode it. Matt Patricia’s beat up crew on defense couldn’t get off the field on third down. It wasn’t for lack of trying, but they got the final three third downs including the final pick.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots Mock Draft 4.0, Pats Head to La. Early, Late

Steve Balestrieri
April 18, 2016 at 6:00 am ET

Team Needs Change Slightly with Release of Easley, Jones

With The Patriots making some moves in releasing three different defensive linemen and the NFL Draft less than two weeks away, it is time for our Mock Draft 4.0

There is a fascinating tool to use for doing a mock draft made possible by the guys over at Fanspeak.com that we touted last year and is more fun to use in 2016.
In their “On the Clock” simulator, you are the GM for any NFL team. You can choose how many rounds you’d like to draft for (1-7), and pick one of nine different big boards to choose from.

All of the big boards differ quite a bit and the site has a random selection process that picks for the other 31 teams based on the best player available and team needs that are constantly updated. For this fourth mock draft (conducted 4-16), I used the big board of CBS Sports.

With the continued moves the Patriots are conducting in free agency, they still have needs at OT, RB, CB and now at DT with the releases of Dominique Easley, Chris Jones, and Ishmaa’ily Kitchen. It looks like the team is building towards bigger tackles to handle run stopping duties since the team spends most of their time in sub-packages. But they can still use a disrupting penetrator…or two.  The team could still use depth at WR and LB… Read on.

Here is our Patriots Mock Draft 4.0 – CBS Sports Big Board Edition:

Round 2, Pick #1 RB Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech:
Dixon from La. Tech. would be a perfect fit for the Patriots offense and is a true dual-threat running back that can be equally effective running the ball as he is catching it out of the backfield.

Dixon is not the biggest back at 5’10, 215 but he’s not afraid to and is effective running between the tackles. In his four years at La. Tech he had a combined 87 touchdowns, (72 rushing and 15 receiving) and is very effective after first contact. He averaged 3.3 yards after contact.

Dixon rushed for 1070 yards averaging 5.4 yds per carry and caught 34 passes for 26 combined TDs (19 rushing, 7 receiving) in 2015. Read our draft profile here:

Round 2, Pick #2 CB Artie Burns, Miami: 

Burns is a corner with the size, (6’0, 190 lbs), that teams are looking for. Heis a playmaker who led the ACC with six interceptions in 2015. He’s still raw with his technique at times but with his long arms, he very effective at jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage. He has experience at corner as well as free safety.

He’s a very physical corner well-suited to play man coverage. He was a track star with outstanding athleticism and had experience as a kick returner while at the “U”. Burns is also a mature young man who is the kind of guy the coaches here would love. Read our draft profile here:

Artie Burns

Round 3, Pick #3 DT Sheldon Day, Notre Dame:
Day is a slightly undersized DT at 6’1, 293 pounds but plays with a relentless motor. Like the player he’d replace, Dominique Easley, Day has an explosive first step and is the first to fire off the ball and disrupt plays in the backfield. Also like Easley however, he does come with some injury concerns.

His quick feet allow him to slip by would-be blockers while his lateral quickness and good, aggressive hand movements make him a natural at rushing the quarterback. Played 3-technique and 5-technique at Notre Dame.

With the preponderance of big-bodied run stuffers at the Patriots defensive line, Day fulfills a need for a penetrating pass rusher in the interior.

Round 3, Pick #4 WR Leonte Carroo, Rutgers:
Carroo comes from the Rutgers player pipeline and possesses good size at 6’0, 212 pounds with a solid, muscular build while displaying very good athleticism despite not having breakaway speed.

He’s quick to catch the ball and turn north-south, averaging over 20 yards per catch in 2015. He runs crisp, effective routes and possesses excellent hands. He’s a very smart player and is adept at working the middle of the field with the occasional double move to go deep. The Patriots already conducted a visit with him.

He has great leaping ability and adjusts well to the ball in the air. Does come with some off-field issues as well. Read our draft profile here:


Round 6, Pick #5 OT John Theus, Georgia:
Theus kept sliding down in this mock draft and we gambled that he’d still be here. We were looking for Kyle Murphy or Le’Raven Clark in Round 2 but both were gone.

Theus has very good size for the tackle position at 6’6, 313 pounds. While he started at RT as a freshman, he really didn’t start to get his game together until 2014. He moved to the left side and really improved as both a run blocker and pass protector.

He needs to build up his strength but played against top echelon competition in the SEC. He’d be the RT of the future with some work by Dante Scarnecchia.

Round 6, Pick #6 DE Matt Judon, Grand Valley State:
Judon is an intriguing player with a nice blend of size, speed, and athleticism to garner a long look during the NFL Draft. At 6’3, 275 pounds he has the prototypical build for a DE but showcases a really nice bend on the edge that keeps tackles from engaging him effectively.

Was a truly dominant player albeit against lesser competition at D-II with 20 sacks in 2015. Posted good times in the 40-Yard Dash with 4.65 with a 7.67 time in the 3-Cone Drill. Also did a 35-inch vertical and 30 reps on the bench press.

His Pro-Day was attended by scouts from 26 NFL teams. Diamond in the rough.

Round 6, Pick #7 RB Keith Marshall Georgia:
Marshall is another intriguing prospect, at 5’11, 219 pounds he has good size but is an absolute burner, running a blistering 4.31 in the 40. He added 25 reps in the bench press. Stuck behind Todd Gurley, Marshall lost most of two seasons to injury.

He was used as a receiver a little bit as a freshman, something the Bulldogs didn’t do much of with him after that. As an open field runner, he doesn’t possess great moves but with his speed, he can literally run by anyone. Worth a Day 3 look? Sure thing.

Round 6, Pick #8 DT Luther Maddy, Virginia Tech:
Maddy is a second DT who is slightly undersized at 6’1, 295 pounds.  Like Day, he’s best suited to playing in a four-man front as a sub-package interior pass rusher.

He has got a quick first step and explodes into the backfield making plays behind the line of scrimmage. He’s at rushing the QB and a player that improved each year against the run. He too, should add some strength in the NFL.

Round 6, Pick #9 OLB Tyler Matakevich, Temple:
Too small, too slow and not athletic enough is what is commonly heard about the Owls’ linebacker. But all he does is make plays and is very productive.

A football film junkie, Matakevich is always very well prepared and plays with great instincts which counteract his lack of speed. He’s very physical and shows good timing on his blitzes. Non-stop motor and a madman mentality make him a natural STs player, a sure-fire way to earn a roster spot.

Round 7, Pick #10 OT Caleb Benenoch, UCLA:
Benenock was a three-year starter at RT for the Bruins and has the size at 6’5. 305 pounds. He’s athletic with good footwork in pass protection, with good knee bend. Plays at times with a nasty streak which is a positive.

He needs to build up his strength at the next level, especially with his lower body. But has good potential and worth the late round flyer as he fell throughout the draft.

Round 7, Pick #11 QB Jeff Driskell, Louisiana Tech:
Driskell has the pro-typical size of an NFL QB at 6’4, 230 pounds. He shows good scrambling ability and pocket awareness. He’s a tough kid and a competitor who makes good decisions under pressure. He passed for 4033 yards with 27 TDs and only 8 INTs in 2015.

Arm strength and velocity are only so-so. His release needs to speed up at the NFL level. Driskell is a good prospect to garner some reps in TC and to backup Jimmy Garappolo just in case Tom Brady’s suspension is put back into place.

Mock Draft 4.0 2016

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots Mock Draft 2.0 – Early April Edition

Steve Balestrieri
April 4, 2016 at 6:00 am ET

Free Agency signings make for better draft flexibility

With the Patriots still being active in free agency, it is time to conduct our Patriots Mock Draft 2.0 – Early April Edition. Obviously with the moves their making with available veterans it will affect the way they approach the draft.

There is a fascinating tool to use for doing a mock draft made possible by the guys over at Fanspeak.com that we touted last year and is even more fun to use in 2015.
In their “On the Clock” simulator, you are the GM for any NFL team. You can choose how many rounds you’d like to draft for (1-7), and pick one of nine different big boards to choose from.

All of the big boards differ quite a bit and the site has a random selection process that picks for the other 31 teams based upon the best player available and team needs that are constantly updated. For this second mock draft (4-2), I used the big board of Optimum Scouting.

I say this because the big boards differ a great deal depending upon the board chosen. I did another using a different big board and the results were vastly different. Looking at how the board plays out, I think we can all expect the Patriots to make a move to move into either the 4th or 5th rounds as the talent level begins to drop steeply between the third and sixth rounds.

With the continued moves the Patriots are conducting in free agency, it makes their job a bit easier once the draft rolls around. Without as many holes to fill, they can be flexible and opt for the best player available or move up and down if they so choose. It was a surprise to see both a well-known RB and CB plummet down the draft boards until they were available much later that we thought earlier… Read on.

Here is our Patriots Mock Draft 2.0 – Early April Edition:

Round 2, Pick #1 RB Alex Collins, Arkansas: Collins earned second team All-SEC honors behind Heisman winner Derrick Henry in 2015 where he had his third 1000-yard season in a row, rushing for 1577 yards and 20 touchdowns for the Razorbacks.

Collins has good size at 5’10”, 217 pounds and was a TD machine getting 32 scores in three years. Great vision and patience, keeps his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage and stays low with excellent pad level thru the hole.

Displays very good hands out of the backfield and is very consistent at finding daylight and moving the sticks. His major red flag is ball security, with 16 fumbles over the past three seasons.

Round 2, Pick #2 OT Joe Haeg, North Dakota State: Haeg was a 4-year starter at NDSU and is versatile, playing both tackle spots. Athletic at 6’6, 304 pounds, he could use some bulking up at the NFL level as well as building up his core strength.

Haeg uses his length to his advantage in pass protection and has good agility and lateral quickness to get to the edge in the running game. His run blocking needs to improve a bit.

Selecting him in the 2nd round may be a bit of a reach, but with the NFL strength and conditioning program and being coached up by Dante Scarnecchia, Haeg could be a nice pickup.

Round 3, Pick #3 OLB Leonard Floyd, Georgia: Here was the first of a few surprises in this draft as Floyd fell all the way to Round 3. He’s been widely mocked to go in the 1st in many spots. With a playmaker of his caliber, he was too good to resist.

Floyd has great length at 6’4, 244 pounds, and is a rangy, athletic player with off-the-charts numbers in the vertical (39.5 inches), and in the broad jump (127 inches) which for a player of his size is fantastic. He ran a 4.60 time in the 40-yard dash and a 7.18 time in the 3-Cone Drill.

Floyd is extremely versatile and played ILB, OLB and as a down lineman for the Bulldogs. While his production wasn’t eye-popping, he led the team in sacks for three seasons in a row. He can rush the passer by blitzing off the edge and cover in space. He needs to add some beef before he can set the edge in the running game but would be a great addition in the Pats sub-packages.

Round 3, Pick #4 WR Keyarris Garrett, Tulsa: Garrett is a big-bodied WR (6’4, 221 pounds) who had a tremendous 2015 in the high-flying Tulsa offense. He grabbed 96 passes for 1588 yards and eight touchdowns.

He’s a huge target that can go up and catch contested balls in space. Dropped only 3 of 99 catchable balls in 2015. Once he gets his hands on the ball, he can make opponents miss and forced 21 missed tackles last year.

He ran a limited route tree at Tulsa and his route running needs to get crisper but he has all kinds of potential and the Patriots have the offensive personnel now that they can take their time with him to develop him into a big target for the offense.


Round 6, Pick #5 RB Kenyan Drake, Alabama: Shocked to see Drake still available on this mock. Drake was the #2 back to Henry in Alabama but the 6’1, 210 pound back has good size and is explosive as both a runner and a pass receiver.

Has quick feet that never stop moving and he’s elusive in the open field and has the ability to make people miss. Extremely versatile, Drake was sometimes split out as a slot receiver where his value as a receiver was showcased.

He can run, catch the ball, has been a kick returner and blocked a punt on special teams. He’s perfect insurance for Dion Lewis, in case he’s not ready to start the season while recovering from his ACL injury.

Round 6, Pick #6 CB Artie Burns, Miami: Another shocker here as I expected to see Burns gone by Round 2 at the latest. Burns has good size at 6’0, 190 pounds with excellent ball skills and the ability to play press man coverage or zone.

Burns shows good awareness and can read the play and react quickly, but he needs to add some weight at the NFL level and improve his tackling. He’s very aggressive which could lead to some penalty flag issues in the NFL

Another versatile guy, he was a kick returner and is a very mature young man, foregoing his senior season to care for his two younger brothers and a son after his mother died in October of a heart attack.

Round 6, Pick #7 OL Willie Beavers, Western Michigan: Beavers was a three-year starter at left tackle at Western Michigan and has very good size at 6’5, 321 pounds. He has good athleticism and agility with quick feet which aids in pass protection. He’s quick off the snap and is able to slide and protect against speed rushers on the edge.

Good run blocker that is able to fire out, and push him man downfield with leverage. Has no major weaknesses, he just needs to fine tune his game, something Coach Scarnecchia will be bound to do.

Round 6, Pick #8 DT Darius Latham, Indiana: Latham was a two-year starter for the Hoosiers playing both the one and three-technique in the hybrid defense, improving every season. He has good size at 6’4, 311 pounds and shows good lateral agility and strength. He can overpower blockers at the point of attack. Plays with a mean streak.

Plays a bit upright and doesn’t have great vision. Latham has some red flags for off-field issues. Was suspended twice for violation of team rules and for an altercation with the student ethics committee.

Round 6, Pick #9 DE Miles Grooms, Hampton: Grooms is a small school stud, playing for Hampton but the 6’3, 251-pound edge player has dominated and is looking to make the big jump to the NFL.

He projects to be a strong side linebacker in the NFL and has the speed and athleticism to be able to cover in space and blitz off the edge. He has excellent initial burst, quick feet, and the flexibility and knee bend to consistently force tackles off balance.

Round 7, Pick #10 OT Tyler Marz, Wisconsin: Marz has good size at 6’6, 316 pounds and played well for the Badgers for the past three seasons. He has decent but not great arm length at 33.5 inches. He’s a good, tough run blocker but at the East-West Shrine game, struggled against good pass rusher in one-on-one drills.

Probably a fit at right tackle or guard is in store for him at the NFL level.

Round 7, Pick #11 QB Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky: Doughty was a three-year starter at WKU and finished up his FBS career with 111 TD passes (15th all-time), and had the 10th best career completion percentage at 68 percent.

Doughty has decent size at 6’3, 216 and has adequate arm strength but is inconsistent with his deep ball throw. Draft expert Dane Brugler from CBS Sports said that “Doughty was an ideal fit for the up-tempo scheme that relied on a quick release and smart decisions, making most of his reads pre-snap and identifying soft spots in coverage. He has improved functional pocket mobility and carries himself like a coach.”


mock Draft 2.0 2016

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.