Tag Archives: Avery Williamson

Free Agency Fits For the New England Patriots Defense

Steve Balestrieri
March 13, 2018 at 8:23 am ET

The legal tampering window is upon us and with free agency and another blizzard right around the corner, it is a good time to kick back with a coffee and look at the free agency help that is out there. For this particular exercise, we’re looking at fits for the Patriots defense, specifically, the linebacking core as all but one of these are linebackers and one corner. Are there others out there? Absolutely. But these are the ones we like the fit to New England.

As always the price of the free agents will drive the train and the Patriots don’t have anywhere near the flexibility that they had a year ago. And many of these free agents, perhaps all of them may be out of their price range. But in terms of fit, in our opinion, these players would be good additions to the defense.

Again, there are other players out there who may either be of interest to the Patriots but here are some of the ones we believe will be a good fit in the defense.

Nickell Robey-Coleman: The Patriots are very familiar with him, having played for four seasons with the Buffalo Bills and he fits a very specific need of theirs, which is a slot corner. Coleman can play boundary corner but at 5’8, 165 pounds, he’s better suited for the slot where he’s flourished.

Coleman was an undrafted free agent in 2013 played on a one-year prove-it type deal with the Rams last season and there is plenty of talk that he wants to return to Los Angeles and that Rams want him back.

Coleman had a very good 2017 season logging 50 tackles, two tackles for loss, nine passes defensed, one forced fumble, and one interception. The Patriots need a slot corner. Jonathan Jones was close to taking over that spot but then was injured and went on IR. He was missed in the Super Bowl, especially with Malcolm Butler being benched in the game.

Eric Rowe is better suited to be a boundary corner which would leave the slot wide open. Cyrus Jones is still in the mix, but at this point, he can’t be counted on as he’s still an unknown. I would still expect them to address the position in the draft as well.

Paul Worrilow: If the name sounds familiar, it should reportedly the Patriots kicked the tires on him last spring when he was a free agent from the Atlanta Falcons. The 27-year old linebacker signed a one-year, $3 million dollar contract with the Lions last season.

Worrilow was slowed by a knee sprain of his MCL and played in just 13 games, starting in eight. He put up only so-so numbers with 30 tackles, one pass defensed and a fumble recovery. He struggled with his tackling as well as in coverage.It doesn’t appear that Detroit is interested in bringing him back with new head coach Matt Patricia.  

Would the Patriots be interested in him a second time around? I’d say no at first glance but one can never be too sure. If they feel he’d fit better in Foxboro in what they’d ask him to do, he could be a middle of the road, lower cost free agent.

Avery Williamson: Another guy that the Patriots have liked in the past is Titans inside linebacker Avery Williamson. The 26-year-old has just finished his rookie contract deal with Tennessee and wants to test the market.

Williamson would immediately upgrade the Patriots run defense in the middle as he led the Tennessee defense with 92 tackles, 3 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. He received a 90.1 grade in run defense from Pro Football Focus, which was sixth best in the league. He’s a very durable player who has missed only one game in four years and is decent but not great in coverage.

He turned down a four-year, $12 million dollar deal with Tennessee and according to Diane Russini from ESPN is drawing interest from both the Jets and Dolphins. Spotrac has reported that he’s due for a possible four-year, $36-million dollar deal which would put him probably right out of the Patriots market.

Nigel Bradham: We wrote about this about a month ago as he’d be a great fit for the defense. Bradham is a very durable, sure tackler in the middle of the defense who is very good in coverage.

After Jordan Hicks went down with a torn Achilles last year in Week 7, Bradham began calling the signals for the Eagles defense and was one of their leaders and a very well respected veteran in the locker room. The 28-year-old finished with 88 tackles, 1.0 sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

He’s one of the most highly sought free agents out there with sources within the NFL reporting that 8-10 teams are interested in his services. While Philadelphia would love to have him back, they are currently $17 million dollars over the cap. And the interest he’s being given, will no doubt drive his price out of the Patriots range, but in terms of fit. He’d be excellent in the Patriots defense.

Preston Brown: Brown has already made it clear that he would be open to signing with the New England Patriots as they’ve gotten a lot out of several former Bills players.

“I think I can definitely help the young guys they have,” Brown said. “They’ve got some good young talent at linebacker. They run pretty well. I know Harris retired. A lot of young guys were playing well, Van Noy and Roberts played well. They definitely have some things they can work on like we all do, but I think I can help that defense get better. “

The Patriots know him well having faced him twice a year in the division. Brown has never missed a game in his four-year NFL career and calls the plays in the Bills defense. He’s a tackling machine and led the league with 144 tackles in 2017.

He’s just 25 years old and would be an instant upgrade in the middle of the defense and a fantastic fit. He’s rumored to be in the market for about in the area of a $7 million a year range. If the Patriots can somehow make that work, Brown would be a tremendous addition to the front seven.

Alex Okafor: The Saints definitely had a free agent under the radar hit signing when they nabbed Okafor during free agency last year. He was playing very well for a rejuvenated defense that went back to the playoffs in 2017. He had 4.5 sacks, nine QB hits, and two forced fumbles in the first 10 games before tearing an Achilles that ended his season prematurely.

Okafor, 27, is expected to be fully healthy and is a versatile defender as the Saints used him both on the edge and kicked him inside as a sub-package interior rusher. The Patriots could some help on the edge.

With Dont’a Hightower, Shea McClellin, and Derek Rivers all ending up on IR, it left the team thin with Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise, Adam Butler and Eric Lee. Okafor could be one of those veteran signings (we’ve already mention Connor Barwin) that won’t break the bank but would allow the team to rotate their players in and out, set the edge and get some pressure on the quarterback.

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 – Titans, All-22 Film Study Highlights Big Plays

Steve Balestrieri
December 22, 2015 at 6:00 am ET

The Patriots were once again victorious on Sunday in Foxboro, their last regular season game prior to the playoffs starting. In winning their 12th game of the season, they guaranteed themselves of at least the #2 seed and a bye week in the opening round of the playoffs, something they really will need moving forward considering all of the injuries they’ve suffered.

We’ll take a final look at some of the key plays on Sunday before we move on to the second game vs the Jets this year. Using the NFL Game Pass’ All-22 coaches’ film, we get a good look at the plays and how they developed.

Bolden Nine Yard Run: On the Patriots opening drive and first play from scrimmage QB Tom Brady lines up in the shotgun with Bolden beside him on his left. At the snap, LG Shaq Mason pulls and leads the way into the second level with a great block sealing LB Avery Williamson.

Bolden cuts back against the grain back to the left and appears ready to break it for a long gain towards the sideline before he’s tripped up on a shoe string tackle. It was a good way to get started by the Patriots offense and good patience and vision by Bolden.

Bolden.Mason 9yd run

LaFell 29-Yard Cross: Also on the Patriots opening drive was a big 29-yard pass play from Tom Brady to Brandon LaFell. In our keys to the game last week we thought the middle of the field would be a good place to attack.

The Titans inside linebackers take deep drops in their zone coverages and much like early in the Pittsburgh – Denver game, were vulnerable to the underneath shorter passes. Josh McDaniels and Brady recognize this early in the first drive and LaFell lined up on the right side is Brady’s target.

LaFell crosses shallow from right to left just beyond the line of scrimmage and Brady hits him in stride as the linebackers are too deep to influence the play. Brady and LaFell stretch the field horizontally and as LaFell turns the corner, he’s got plenty of room to run before the safeties force him out of bounds. It was a great call and even better execution from Brady and LaFell.

Lafell 29 yrd cross

Gronkowski 5-Yard Touchdown: To cap off the Patriots first drive, the Patriots found themselves on the Titans five-yard line. Tight end Michael Williams and Danny Amendola are aligned to the right, Rob Gronkowski is inline and WR Keyshawn Martin are on the left side.

The Titans are in man-coverage with a single deep safety in the middle of the field. Gronk is singled up on linebacker Avery Williamson, a mismatch and Brady recognizes it immediately. Amendola is also open on a short cross with Williams underneath but Brady’s first read is on Gronk. He releases straight up the field to about the one-yard line before cutting outside to the left towards the pylon. Martin drags his defender toward the center of the end zone on a deep slant, leaving Gronkowski plenty of room.

Gronk beats Williamson easily and it is an easy pitch and catch for Brady for the touchdown which put the Patriots up 7-0. Amendola was also wide open in the center of the field for Brady who had two easy options for the touchdown.

Gronk 5 yd TD

Hicks Sack: Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks has really turned it on lately for the Patriots. He’s been solid against the run but has regained his explosiveness that he was known for when he first joined the Saints. He logged a pair of sacks against the Texans and got another against Tennessee as well as return a fumble for a touchdown.

On his sack the Patriots had him inside on the left side lined up as a three technique right over the guard. At the snap Hicks attempts to bull-rush the guard over his outside (right) shoulder. QB Marcus Mariota can’t find anyone open as the pocket collapses.

RB Bishop Sankey drifts out into the right flat; DE Jabaal Sheard peels off and takes Sankey into the flat. Jerod Mayo is no longer responsible for Sankey and comes on a delayed blitz. Hicks spins and comes hard inside over the guards left side and meets Mariota as he tries to step up in the pocket.

Hicks gets the sack with Mayo right on his heels. It was a perfectly executed play by the Patriots defense who gave Mariota nowhere to go with the ball and with no room to scramble in a collapsing pocket.

Hicks sack

White 30-Yard Touchdown Pass: On Brady’s second touchdown pass of the day and his 35th of the season, it was another very well executed play by the Patriots offense where the offensive line got plenty of big bodies downfield quickly to help spring White for a highlight reel catch and run to the end zone.

At the snap, White drifts out into the left flat; the Titans OLB is coming hard on a pass rush to the inside on Sebastian Vollmer and is easily sealed. The safety inexplicably is drifting to the right and isn’t in a position to help. Josh Kline, David Andrews and Shaq Mason all get downfield quickly to help and have more blockers than the Titans have defenders to contend.

The two defenders in the area are sealed by Kline and Andrews allowing White a clear path between them. The defensive linemen don’t have the speed to catch White as he cuts back to the outside, avoids the tackle by Wesley Woodyard and gets two outstanding downfield blocks from LaFell and Amendola.

The result is another easy pitch and catch for a touchdown. White showed great patience and the blocking downfield was superb. White is really coming into his own now as a receiver out of the backfield.

White 30 yd TD

White 70-yard reception, called back OPI: The one play everyone keeps going back to on Monday is the 70-yard pass play from Brady to White that was wiped out by a offensive pass interference penalty (OPI).

It was during the 4th quarter and the Patriots were facing a 3rd and 7 from their 23-yard line. Keshawn Martin is lined up on the left side and is supposed to run a cross and take the defender inside and allow White who is coming out in the flat some clear running room.

Martin releases inside and is met with a defensive end at the 24-yard line, within a yard of the line of scrimmage and within the legal limit. It was the defensive end who initiates contact trying to jam Martin at the line of scrimmage.

LaFell drags his defender on a deep post and once White has the ball, blocks downfield and allows White to cut inside where he ran all the way to the five-yard line before being finally brought down. Instead of a first and goal at the five, the Patriots faced a 3rd and 13 which forced a punt. On the ensuing drive by the Titans, Delanie Walker caught a long touchdown pass making it a 14-point turnaround.

White 70 yd pass OPI2.gif

This is one the officials should take a look at once Director of Officiating Dean Blandino begins to have more of a say in these OPI penalties. But don’t hold your breath on that one…

We’re on to the Jets…

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 – Titans Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
December 17, 2015 at 6:29 am ET

The New England Patriots return home for their last regular season game at Foxboro on Sunday afternoon against the Tennessee Titans.  Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. The team will finish the last two games on the road as the stadium is being readied for the NHL Classic on New Year’s Day as a hockey rink is being constructed inside Gillette Stadium for the game between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens.

The Pats game will be televised by CBS with the announcing crew of Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts on the call. The game will also be on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call.

The Patriots (11-2) beat the Houston Texans 27-6 on Sunday Night Football. The defense was outstanding allowing only 189 total yards and just 102 of them thru the air. The defense sacked Texans’ quarterbacks six times. Tom Brady threw for two touchdowns, to Keshawn Martin and Rob Gronkowski in the game.

The Titans (3-10) lost to the New York Jets 30-8. The offense struggled and the only score was on a half-back option pass from running back Antonio Andrews to quarterback Marcus Mariota.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our  “Razor’s Edge”  column in 2015 to give a quick break down on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:
The Patriots and Titans history goes back to the earliest days of the AFL when they were known as the Houston Oilers. The teams have met 40 times with the Patriots holding a 23-16-1 overall edge. At home the Patriots have a 16-6-1 advantage over the Titans.

In recent years the Patriots have dominated winning the last five matchups including an early September 2012 matchup 34-13 the last time the teams met.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots 2015 Opponents, Five First Impressions of the Titans

Steve Balestrieri
December 16, 2015 at 6:36 am ET

The Patriots return to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro for their final home game of the season to face the Tennessee Titans. The Patriots will finish the last two regular season games on the road as the stadium prepares for the construction of the ice rink for the NHL’s Winter Classic to be played at Gillette on New Year’s Day.

The Titans (3-10) were blasted by the New York Jets 30-8 on Sunday. The Titans lost the chance for consecutive wins for the first time since 2013. Their only score was on a pass from RB Antonio Andrews to QB Marcus Mariota.

The Patriots (11-2), beat the Houston Texans 27-6 to clinch a playoff berth and with the Giants win over Miami on Monday night, the Patriots won the AFC East Division crown for the seventh year in a row and their 13th in the past fifteen years. They now have a chance to clinch a bye on Sunday against the Titans.

The game will be televised by CBS with the announcing crew of Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts.  The game will also be carried by the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 FM the SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call.

The history between the Patriots and Titans stretches all the way back to the early days of the AFL when they were known as the Houston Oilers. The teams have met 40 times with the Patriots holding an all-time 23-16-1 edge overall against the Titans.

The Patriots also hold a sizable advantage at home with a 16-6-1 mark. The last time the teams met was in September of 2012 and the Patriots beat Tennessee 34-13. In case you missed it, the last time Tennessee played in Foxboro was the snow game back in 2009 where the Patriots rolled 59-0.

Here are our five first impressions of the Titans:

Big Shakeup Coming at the end of the year? Tennessee gave a five-year contract to coach Ken Whisenhunt prior to the 2014 season and he was fired this year after a 1-6 start. Interim head coach Mike Mularkey, who had previous stops at Jacksonville and Buffalo as a head coach started off ok with a 2-3 record. But the loss against the Jets where it seemed the team didn’t show up could be a big blow to his staying on.

General Manager Ruston Webster is likely on very thin ice as well. Although the team drafted QB Marcus Mariota just this season, the Titans were expected to be much better and they just haven’t done that.

The 3-10 record puts them in last place in the AFC South, where the division leader is only 6-7. The fact that as weak as the division is this year and the Titans are a full three games back speaks volumes. There could be major changes coming.

Mariota/Walker Have Tenn. on the right track: Rookie QB Marcus Mariota came in with a lot of hype and he’s off to a very good start. He’s completing 62.4 percent of his passes and has thrown for 2786 yards with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His 91.9 passer rating is really solid especially considering the team’s record, his lack of quality weapons and the fact that he’s a rookie.

Mariota is also very mobile and can move around the pocket as well as pull the ball down and run with it. He’ll be a threat to scramble and move the chains at any time.

Mariota’s favorite target has been TE Delanie Walker; Walker isn’t a traditional type tight end at 6’0, 248 pounds, he’s more of a move-type tight end. He’s played wide receiver while with the 49ers. Walker has 70 receptions on the season, the most of any tight end in the NFL, for 871 yards and four touchdowns.

Walker and Mariota are a dynamic duo and these two will be garnering a lot of attention by the Patriots this weekend. They also should be safe after what promises to be a housecleaning in the offseason.

McCluster/Morgan Lost for the year: The Titans suffered a pair of costly losses adding to an already trying season by losing LB Derrick Morgan and RB Dexter McCluster who were placed on IR.

Morgan was the outside linebacker opposite Brian Orakpo that was supposed to take the pressure off of him and give them a pair of bookend pass rushers. Morgan started well with 4.5 sacks in the first four games, but has been slowed by a bad shoulder that now requires surgery. He’ll be a big loss down the stretch. David Bass played well filling in for spot duty but has struggled thus far as a starter.

McCluster is a scat-back who can do a variety of roles, running the football, catching it out of the backfield as well as returning punts and kickoffs. He had 55 rushes for 247 yards (4.5 ypa) with a touchdown. He also caught 31 passes for 260 yards and a score. McCluster also returned 24 punts for 9.0 average as well as 13 kickoffs with a 21.9 average per return.

In his stead the team will return to Bishop Sankey the top running back picked in last season’s draft. He started off well but has fallen out of favor with the coaching staff. He has 41 carries for 166 yards, 4.0 average and 1 touchdown as well having caught eight passes out of the backfield for another score.

Dick LeBeau’s defense was playing well but has struggled lately: The former Steeler defensive coordinator LeBeau is now in his first season in the same position with the Titans.

The Tennessee defense definitely has his stamp on things; they play an aggressive 3-4 scheme with active linebackers that like to come on the blitz.  While they’ll miss Morgan, Orakpo is their most prolific pass rusher with seven sacks followed by DE Jurrell Casey who plays on the same side with six. ILBs Wesley Woodyard and Avery Williamson are frequent blitzers as well up the middle. The Titans have 35 sacks on the season.

The Titans are middle of the road defending the run which is a huge improvement over 2014 and are 11th overall in yards allowed with 344 yards per game. But their corners can be a liability in coverage, they miss Jason McCourty who is on IR and the middle of the field in the passing game can be an attractive target for opponents. The Titans are allowing a whopping 8.1 yards per pass attempt with opposing QB’s having a passer rating of 102.2 against them.

Limited Weapons have hurt Tennessee’s Offense: The Titans offense struggles with the lack of playmakers for Mariota. They really miss WR Kendall Wright who gives them a second quality target with Delanie Walker. Wright can at least put defensive game planners in the position of having to account for them.

Harry Douglas the former Falcon and Dorial Green-Beckham are the other two wide receivers. Green-Beckham has the ability to go deep but has only caught 24 passes for 415 yards with three touchdowns. Douglas has 26 catches for 298 yards and two scores.

Their lead running back Antonio Andrews has good size at 5’10, 225 pounds but has had only so-so production with 127 carries for 474 yards, good for only a 3.7 yard per attempt average and just three touchdowns. With McCluster on IR, Sankey will have to pick up the slack. But there is no doubt they really need Wright back in the lineup.

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.