Tag Archives: Bill Belichick

Patriots Draft Profile: Villanova DE Tanoh Kpassagnon

Steve Balestrieri
March 29, 2017 at 6:06 am ET

Big, Freaky Athletic Player is a Project But an Intriguing One

As the 2017 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar or that we feel would be a great fit.

The Patriots are thin at defensive end; Jabaal Sheard has left via free agency and Chris Long has said that he isn’t coming back in 2017. The team did pick up Kony Ealy from the Carolina Panthers in a trade. That leaves him, Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich, and Geneo Grissom. Flowers came on and was fantastic down the stretch and into the playoffs. Ninkovich seems to be on the downside of a very solid career here in New England. Grissom was strictly a STs guy. So, they’ll need to add some depth.

Edge rushers are like cornerbacks, you can never have too many good ones and the team is expecting Flowers to continue to improve on his 2016 season. Ealy has flashed and had an incredible Super Bowl with Carolina but hasn’t been able to do it consistently. The Patriots have plenty of options but as of today, they don’t pick until the third round.

Tanoh Kpassagnon from Villanova is a fantastic athlete with tremendous size and very long arms that can play on the edge. He may be the most intriguing ‘Nova prospect since Brian Westbrook to come out of All-Colonial Athletic Conference.

He was an All-American in 2016 with 21.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks, 1 pass defensed, 1 forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. He shows on his tape that he has a very good short area burst, he changes direction well for a man his size and can block kicks in the STs.

Kpassagnon measured out a 6’7, 289 pounds at the Combine and has 35 5/8 arms which helps keep opposing offensive linemen away. His large frame can handle getting even larger, he could easily measure out at 300-305 with no loss of athleticism.

He showed that he could two-gap albeit at a lesser level of competition. He’s still a bit raw with his pass rush moves but flashes his potential with his freaky athleticism. He’s very intelligent and mature and is set to graduate with a double major of accounting and economics.

Pros:

– Tremendous size, and length on the edge

– Impressive burst off the snap

– Smart, very coachable player

– ST’s factor in the kick blocking game

Cons

– At times plays too upright

– Played at a lesser level of competition

– Needs to get stronger at the NFL level

What his Role Will Be:
Kpassagnon’s role would be to be a part of the rotation outside for the Patriots defensive line. He’d project initially as a sub-package pass rusher to add depth and fresh legs to the Patriots pressure on the QB. But with some coaching, he could find himself pushing for more reps and possibly kick inside as an interior pass rusher.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, with improved ability to set the edge in the running game, some strength added in the weight room and being coached up, he could develop into an impressive pass rusher.

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
He’ll try to challenge Ninkovich and Ealy for reps in the sub packages. But he will look to replace Geneo Grissom on the roster

What is his ST Value?
Limited to field goal and extra point blocking units for now.

Conclusion:
Kpassagnon is an intriguing project. He has tremendous size and length coming off of the edge. But he’s still raw and will take some time to develop to reach his full potential. He’d primarily be a third down specialist and play STs in his rookie year and gradually work his way into the rotation.

He’ll need to get a bit stronger and could possibly pack on another 10-15 pounds of muscle on his frame before he can take on the tackles in the NFL. But his arrow is moving upward, this is a guy who is just scratching the surface of his potential.

Once he works out his issues with his balance and plays under control, Kpassagnon could be this classes version of Jason Pierre-Paul. He has good lateral quickness and has shown the ability to be a disruptor in the backfield. He got off to a slow start in his college career and he’s not yet reached his ceiling.

Kpassagnon should around in the 4th round of the draft. If he’s there, the Patriots would have the option of picking him up. He could become part of the rotation on the edge and even provide a big interior pass rusher on obvious passing downs. Whatever team drafts him will have to be patient, however, it will some time to see what he can really do.

Kpassagnon’s highlight tape can be seen here:

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.

Daily Notebook: Wednesday Patriots News and Notes 3/29

Ian Logue
at 5:00 am ET

Here’s a look at this morning’s top stories:

Goodell Finally Planning to Visit Foxboro – After being chased out of New England thanks to the incredible disdain and rancor he managed to create among every single Patriots fan, it appears that Roger Goodell is ready to make his return to Foxboro.

With New England having won their second Super Bowl in three seasons last month, apparently Goodell believes that all of the misery he created here, along with the damage he did to Tom Brady and the Patriots’ organization, is just water under the bridge and he’s planning on being at Gillette Stadium for the home opener in 2017.

It doesn’t matter that he was still calling Brady a cheater during the week leading up to the Super Bowl, but now he’ll be on hand at Gillette Stadium when the team unveils their 5th championship banner.

Robert Kraft dropped the gauntlet Monday when he said the commissioner was “welcomed to come” to the team’s home opener.

“Well, I think I’ll let you all ask him that,” Kraft said Monday via the Boston Herald. “Look, he’s commissioner in the league. As we all know, he has the right to go wherever he wishes to go. And if he wanted to come, he’s welcomed to come. We’re happy we’ll be celebrating our fifth banner. He can decide whether he wants to be there.”

Knowing how much he’s disliked in this region, it will likely be a choice fans will do their best to help make him regret, but one he’ll probably be glad to get out of the way.  Goodell skipped the 2015 banner ceremony and hasn’t stepped foot at Gillette Stadium in nearly two years.

The date and time of the game have yet to be announced, but you can bet there will be a sea of boos unleashed should his face hit the scoreboard.

Columbia High School Retires Flowers’ Jersey – On Tuesday, one member of the Patriots got a little recognition, and it was definitely well deserved.

According to AL.com, Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers returned to his former stomping ground and was honored at his high school on Tuesday, with Columbia High in Huntsville opting to retire his #88 jersey.

“It’s definitely something special to be able to go back to your school and have your jersey retired,” Flowers said in a video provided by Huntsville City Schools.

https://twitter.com/columbiahschool/status/846811774276046852

Good for Flowers, who played in all 16 regular season games in 2016, finishing with a team-best 7 sacks and then added 2.5 more in the postseason.

McClellin not impressed with NFL’s decision to ban leaping FG block – Whenever the Patriots enjoy success exploiting an NFL rule (or lack thereof), it usually ends with the league making a change to ensure that success doesn’t continue.

On Tuesday, the NFL ruled the technique of leaping over the line of scrimmage to block a field goal is now illegal, with Shea McClellin going down as the final NFL player to try it thanks to his attempt in Super Bowl LI, which was called back after he was called for an illegal formation penalty.

McClellin took his displeasure in learning the news to Twitter, which saw him post this tweet:

McClellin was the final Patriots player to successfully pull it off, with the linebacker doing his best Jamie Collins impression when he blocked a field goal against the Ravens back on December 12th.  It was a big play at the time, with New England leading 2-0 in the first quarter and they turned around and marched back down the field and scored a touchdown to take a 9-0 lead.

The Ravens eventually battled back but fell short, and thanks to that play, New England walked away with a 30-23 victory on Monday Night Football.

The NFLPA reportedly endorsed eliminating the play citing safety concerns.  For now, it’s safe to say McClellin looks like he might disagree.


The Patriots paid back $4.5 million in cap space this week.

Patriots Lose Cap Space After Repaying Cap Loan – Even after the moves the Patriots have made this offseason, they still found themselves sitting with plenty of cap room as they continue building their roster for the upcoming season.

However, it was noted on Tuesday that the Patriots simply repaid a cap loan from the 2011 and 2012 seasons, which saw them “borrow” $1.5 million in 2012 and $3 million in 2011 to help adjust to the new CBA.  That money was due before the 2017 season.

Following the change, according to Patriots salary cap guru Miguel Benzan, the team currently sits with $21.9 million in cap space.

The Patriots weren’t the only ones in this situation, with the Cowboys, Broncos and Saints among other teams who took advantage of the additional space.

Raiders Coach Not Happy With Patriots Moves – Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio never got an opportunity to face New England in the postseason and it seems he might not be looking forward to a potential match-up should one arise.

Del Rio admitted on Monday that after seeing the moves New England has already made this offseason, he appears concerned that the road through the AFC will still likely go through the Patriots in 2017.

VIc Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle Tweeted on Monday that Rio told him, “I do cringe a little bit. Cooks can really create separation.”

Del Rio was obviously referring to New England receiver Brandin Cooks, who the team acquired from the Saints this offseason.  But the Patriots are the least of his problems as the Raiders now face a difficult challenge in 2017 after it was announced Tuesday that the team is leaving Oakland and heading to Las Vegas, which will likely be quite a distraction for a club who had finally seemed to be heading in the right direction after finishing 12-4 in 2016.

The 8-hour trek by car will likely sever the connection to one of the wildest and most passionate fans in the league, which is obviously a major disappointment for a group who supported that club week in, and week out for so many seasons, only to see them leave town.  Those who wish to stay on will continue pouring money into the machine for at least two more seasons, with the relocation coming after their current stadium lease expires after the 2018 season.

Principal owner Mark Davis knows there will be backlash, and he’s just hopeful that the fans support them until the end.

“We know that some fans will be disappointed and even angry,” said Davis via the New York Times. “But we hope they do not direct that frustration to the players, coaches and staff.”

What’s to be frustrated about?  After 13 straight seasons without a playoff appearance, this is a team finally on the way up with a young talented nucleus of players who will likely become a serious contender both in the AFC West and in the Conference in the coming years.

Instead, another city will get to enjoy it while Oakland joins St. Louis and San Diego as the latest fan base who get to have their hearts broken while the NFL machine rolls on out of town without them.

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Patriots Draft Profile: Texas RB D’Onta Foreman

Steve Balestrieri
March 28, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

Foreman is a Big, Fast Athletic Back With Upside

As the 2017 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar or that we feel would be a great fit.

The Patriots’ offense needs a big bodied running back to replace LeGarrette Blount. Blount is a free agent and is unlikely to return at this point. He was terrific in 2016 rushing for over 1100 yards and a league leading 18 touchdowns but he’s 30 years old now, a time when big backs begin to break down. He slowed considerably down the stretch.

The Patriots have a slew of pass receiving backs, James White, Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, and D.J. Foster. While all of them can catch the ball out of the backfield, they are not the big, physical downhill style runners they need to move the chains.

D’Onta Foreman from Texas is just what the doctor ordered. He’s got tremendous size and is deceptively athletic for a big man. He measured 6’0, 233 pounds at the Combine and has a 10 1/8 size hands. He was a consensus All-American and won the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best back.

He passed up his final year of eligibility and posted excellent numbers for the Longhorns with 323 carries for 2028 yards with a 6.3 yards average per attempt. And 15 touchdowns in 2016.  He also caught seven passes out of the backfield for 75 yards.

Foreman has the size and physicality to move the chains and in short yardage had a fantastic conversion rate. Can either hurdle would-be tacklers who go too low or run over safeties when he lowers his head. Has very good yards after contact.

He’ll be limited in third down production initially as he’s not good at all in pass protection and that is something Ivan Fears and the Pats coaches will insist upon him improving.

Pros:

– Tremendous size, very athletic

– Very good cut-back ability and can change direction easily

– Runs hard, low and gets yards after contact

– Punishing runner when he wants to be

Cons

– Put the ball on the ground seven times in 2016 (six fumbles lost)

– Not a breakaway threat and is impatient at times with his reads

– Pass protection needs lots of work

What his Role Will Be:
Williams role will be as the Patriots big, physical, move-the-pile back. He’d take over the Blount role, especially as a red zone, goal line running back that will pound the ball between the tackles.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, with improved pass protection and ball security, he could see his snaps definitely increase in Year 2.

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
LaGarrette Blount, and/or Brandon Bolden.

What is his ST Value?
None

Conclusion:
Foreman is a tough physical runner that has proven that he can shoulder a tremendous workload as a featured back. In the Patriots offense, he won’t be asked to do as much of that, but as a role player with the responsibilities in short-yardage, goal line and as a closer late in games, he’d be terrific.

He has very good lateral movement and can cut into open lanes without any loss of speed. He’s outstanding at running between the tackles and has the size to create his own hole when need be. He makes very good yards after contact (YAC).

For a big man, he has excellent foot quickness. At times, however, he showed a tendency to choose the finesse route rather than bull his way thru the line. He needs lots of work on his pass protection skills where at times he just throws a shoulder up rather than square up on a pass rusher.

Foreman had some issues with fumbling last season and that will also have to be worked on with the coaching staff. But as a punishing runner inside between the tackles, he would be a tremendous fit.

He can come in and contribute in a big way on Day1 as the “big back” with their offense. Foreman is slated to be available in Round 2-3. If he is available when the Patriots are on the clock, then he’d be a great choice to bolster the running game. With the weapons in the passing game, Foreman in the running offense would make this team a very difficult one to stop.

Foreman’s highlight reel tape can be seen here:

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.

Daily Notebook: Tuesday Patriots News and Notes 3/28

Ian Logue
at 5:00 am ET

Here’s a look at today’s top stories:

Brady Plans on Sticking Around For a While – People might still be wondering what type of time frame Tom Brady might have in mind in terms of how much longer he plans on playing football, and it sounds like anyone concerned about this era coming to a close any time soon might be able to rest a little easier.

Brady had already made it clear that he’s far from close to being done with the game and recently reiterated that to Robert Kraft, who said on Monday that the veteran quarterback plans on playing into his late 40s.

“As recently as 2-3 days ago, he assured me he’d be willing to play six to seven more years and at the level he performed,” Kraft said Monday at the NFL’s annual meeting via Mike Reiss of ESPN. “There’s no one that would be happier than I, and our fan base.”

The 39-year old turns 40 on August 3rd, starting both a new chapter in his life both on and off the field.  As he waves good-bye to his 30s, he’ll begin his journey down the road of what will most likely be the most scrutinized of his career.  Crossing the barrier into that age group has usually spelled the beginning of the end for even the best quarterbacks, with none of them playing anywhere close to the level of what Brady did at the age of 39.  Now the question will be whether or not one of the most consistent players in the game can carry his success into the next stage of his career.


Brady and Kraft obviously share a special relationship.

Everyone knows about his work ethic both in terms of how he approaches the game in his preparation and with how he takes care of himself.  Kraft mentioned on Monday that Brady has been doing that since the beginning, which certainly speaks volumes about his success.

“I think Tommy’s sustained excellence is just unbelievable,” said Kraft.  “It’s a lifestyle. He’s in training now, it’s not like he’s stopped.  I remember after our first Super Bowl in ’01 going down in the training room in the old Foxboro Stadium, three days after we won, he’s in there with the music blaring working out. He’s really dedicated.  The thing that’s amazing about him. To this day, he hasn’t changed as a human being in how he relates to people, but also how he works out. The only thing that’s probably changed is how he eats and his diet. I’m not sure avocado ice cream is right for me, but if I could look like him and perform half as well, I guess I’d do it.”

How he performs at 40 will likely be one topic we’ll probably hear quite a bit in the months ahead and expect the pool of sharks to continue grow. There have already been plenty of media both locally and nationally who spent all of last season circling him and waiting for him to fail, obviously looking to pounce while being the first to announce his demise.

We’ve probably already missed out on many of them.  If you could go back and dig out the stories written when the Patriots trailed by 25-points in the third quarter against the Falcons in Houston (or likely following the pick-six he threw in the first half), there were probably some nauseating ones.  Fortunately those never saw daylight and instead they were ultimately crumpled up and thrown into the bin after Brady erased the deficit and brought the team back for a historic victory.

But there are likely some who still have one on their laptops half-written, knowing that day has to come eventually.  Now it’s just up to Brady to decide whether they’ll ever be printed, or if he’ll instead walk away at the top of his game before his critics ever get the opportunity to write his obituary.


What does the future hold for Butler?

Kraft Hopes Butler is “with us” – The situation with Malcolm Butler continues to drag on, but Patriots owner Robert Kraft told reporters on Monday that it remains his hope that Butler is still in New England’s secondary in 2017.

“I know he has the ability to go out in the market and get someone to sign him, and then we either match it or get the first-round draft pick. “I’m rooting, I hope, he’s with us and signs his [tender] and plays for us,” Kraft said via the Boston Globe.  “I have a great affection for him. He was part of probably the greatest play in the history of our team, but there are a lot of people involved in that on both sides.”

When asked if the team intended to trade him, Kraft responded with a clear “No.”

The Saints remain the team who appear to be the team Butler might be destined to end up, although despite a cryptic post on Instagram, nothing has materialized just yet.  Multiple reports have indicated that the two sides having discussed possible parameters about a new contract, but the Globe reports that as of now, Butler hasn’t received an offer sheet.

Having already signed Stephon Gilmore to a contract this offseason, New England’s secondary will certainly have a different look to it next season.  Whether or not Butler might still be a part of it remains to be seen, with the April 21st deadline for restricted free agents to sign an offer sheet with another team now less than a month away.  After listening to Kraft, it sounds like the Patriots intend to continue to be patient while it plays itself out.


Could Revis Return to New England?

Kraft on Revis: “I would love it” – With Darrelle Revis still without a football team, there are some who believe that a reunion in New England would make plenty of sense and Kraft certainly sounds like he might be open to the possibility.

The New York Daily News reported that Kraft said he has no problem with a Revis reunion, and wouldn’t mind having him back.

“I would love it,” Kraft said via Gary Myers of the New York Daily News. “Speaking for myself, if he wanted to come back, he’s a great competitor, I’d welcome him if he wanted to come.”

Myers also asked Kraft if there had been any contact, to which Kraft replied, “Ask my boy,” referring to Belichick.

As Myers points out, the Jets still owe Revis $6 million in guaranteed money and New York would owe him the balance of whatever another team pays him.  That means that if the Patriots paid Revis the $1 million veteran minimum to return to Foxboro, the Jets would be on the hook for the remaining $5 million.

There’s no love lost between the two organizations and it would certainly be fun seeing the Jets paying the salary of one of their key players during another championship run.  For Revis, if he can’t earn another big pay day, the next logical step would be the opportunity to add another piece of jewelry to his collection.

Either way, for Kraft, it’s up to “his boy” and after winning another ring without him, Revis no longer has the leverage he might have believed he had if he thought the Patriots couldn’t win unless he was on their roster.  Instead, Revis is just another player with an uncertain future who could end up being a spectator again in January while watching his old team make yet another run.

Kraft Calls Move For Patriots Getting Cooks From Saints “Excellent” – Kraft saw how things played out in 2007 after the team acquired Randy Moss and he seems pretty happy about the former Saints receiver being a part of his football team.

Kraft said Monday that he’s been pleased with the personnel moves the team has made so far, and he’s excited about what Cooks will bring to their offense.

“Part of it is the makeup of our team and the opportunities that have come along,” Kraft said via the Boston Globe. “I think what [the football staff] has done has been excellent, including getting [Brandin Cooks] from New Orleans. Since I’ve owned the team the only player that could make an impact like that at wide receiver was Randy Moss. [Cooks] doesn’t have his height but he looks like he’s got his speed. So, I think that’s complementary to what we have on the team and I’m excited about that.”

As for the guy who will be coaching these players, Kraft said he’d like to keep Belichick around until “he’s in his 80s.”

Kraft Believes Giants Would Have Beaten them in Super Bowl XLI – According to Giants co-owner Steve Tisch, Kraft wouldn’t have liked his team’s chances against Tisch’s Giants had they ended up facing each other in Houston in February.

Tisch said that Kraft told him just that, which he took as a compliment.

“Bob Kraft after the Super Bowl told me, ‘You would have beat us,’ ” Tisch said via the New York Post at the NFL Annual Meeting on Monday. “That was a nice compliment.”

Given New York’s history in that game against the Patriots, Tisch admitted that he liked his team’s chances.

“When I heard that, I agreed with him,” said Tisch.

Gronk Anxious to Get Back – It’s been a while since fans have seen Rob Gronkowski out on the football field and it seems like he’s definitely motivated to get back out there.

The veteran tight end is continuing his rehabilitation coming off of a season-ending back injury last season, and although he’s had some fun moments this offseason, he’s looking forward to playing again.

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Patriots Draft Profile: Colorado CB Chidobe Awuzie

Steve Balestrieri
March 27, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

Four Year Starter is Versatile with Good Size, Athleticism

As the 2017 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar or that we feel would be a great fit.

The Patriots lost Logan Ryan in free agency and the jury is still out on whether Malcolm Butler returns at least for the 2017 season. With the signing of Stephon Gilmore, the Patriots can still use another corner, especially if Butler is indeed traded. That would leave them with Gilmore and Eric Rowe outside with Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones and Justin Coleman battling it out for the third corner position.

The draft is deep as usual in good talented cornerbacks, with many talented players being available in the middle rounds. And with no current picks in the first or second round, the Patriots will be selecting starting in Round 3. So, we’ll base our player profiles (for now), on players we think will be around then.

Some of the key qualities that the Patriots like to see in their cornerbacks are as follows:
Physicality
Versatility
Ability to Play Press Corner and Jam at the line
Must be Willing in Run Support
Sure Tackler (Logan Ryan)
ST’s Contributor

Chidobe Awuzie from Colorado is a cornerback with excellent size and strength that can play both press man and zone. He’s versatile and has covered outside as well as inside in the slot. Was Second Team All-Pac 12 in 2015 and 2016.

Made 65 tackles, with 12 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and an interception in 2106 for the Buffaloes. He’s got the size, 6-0, 202-pounds to line up outside and matchup with the bigger wide receivers.

He’s got good footwork for a bigger corner and is smooth at turning and running with wide receivers. He has a good jam at the line of scrimmage and has played confidently and well when put on an island against a top opposing WR. His top end speed isn’t fantastic but he should be able to run and mirror well.

Awuzie is good in run support although at times he wasn’t as aggressive as he should have been. Colorado used him as a blitzer his final two years and he was productive, notching seven sacks coming off the edge.

Pros:

– Instinctive and athletic

– Versatile, he can play outside or in the slot

– Excellent change of direction, 3-Cone Time (6.81)

– Good ball skills, gets his head turned around

Cons

– Top end speed is a question

– Needs to keep improving at defending the run and tackling

– A bit grabby when running downfield with WRs, could result in flags

What his Role Will Be:
Awuzie would immediately compete for reps. Initially, that may be inside in the slot where he has played in the past. He has the size and athleticism to match up anywhere.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, with improved play in run support and tackling, he could vie for starter’s reps on the right side opposite Gilmore.

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Four

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
Logan Ryan who departed via free agency, and Awuzie will battle the Jones’ and Coleman for the third CB slot

What is his ST Value?
Good, he played some in Colorado and you can expect to see him on the coverage units as a gunner for the Patriots.

Conclusion:
Awuzie was essentially a starter since the end of his freshman year. He’s got lock-down corner qualities and is athletic, versatile, and aggressive. He’s very alert and instinctive on the field with good ball skills when the throw is on the way.

For a bigger corner, he can change direction quickly and will mirror even the smaller, shiftier slot wide receivers down the field. His top end speed was thought to be a question but ran well (4.43) at the Combine.

Awuzie is a smart, physical player that rarely makes mistakes or is out of position. His tackling can be an issue as he tends to go too high, where in the NFL the bigger receivers or tight ends can break those for yards after the catch.

He’s a guy that would fit in well with New England if they decide to pursue him. He’s got very good size, is aggressive and versatile, a facet of his game that plays well with Bill Belichick. He can play outside or in the slot. That quality as the potential third corner allows Matt Patricia to use him as a matchup player either inside or out. He’s a dangerous and effective blitzer off the edge and can play gunner on Special Teams.

Awuzie is a player that may be around in Round 3 when the Patriots get to make their first selection. If he’s still there, then he’d be a good fit for New England and will immediately compete for starting reps as the third corner.

Awuzie’s highlight film can be view here:

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.

New England Patriots News 3-26 AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
March 26, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 3-26, & AFC East Notes.

Although I’m glad that the FBI and the Houston Police were successful in reacquiring Tom Brady’s jerseys and got them returned to Foxboro as well as catch the culprit, doesn’t it seem a bit over the top with the resources used to find it? I wasn’t aware the one from the Seattle Super Bowl was missing as well. One must wonder if the culprit will get credentials this upcoming season.

Building Depth Still Easily Done Before the Draft:
The Patriots have made a lot of moves during free agency, signing some free agents, bringing back a few of their own and adding other players via trade. But with almost $27 million in cap space, there’s no reason that the team cannot continue to build depth and add some impact players in free agency.

Just because things slowed down on the free agency front, don’t think that Bill Belichick and company are done. There are still plenty of good players available and some of those may still end in Foxboro. With the cap space available, they have the option of adding free agents that are still out there and spending to the limit or rolling over whatever cash they have left after the draft and adding UDFAs to the 2018 season.

That may not be that far-fetched. If they keep Jimmy Garoppolo, then the cost of franchising him will not be cheap. It will be interesting to watch how much they roll over into next season.

Revis Rumors Persist:
The rumors that the Patriots are going to sign CB Darrelle Revis “at any time” refuse to die. So perhaps there is some truth to those rumors, however, I don’t see that happening. As we spelled out here about a week or so ago, the Patriots wouldn’t be served well by bringing Revis back.

His level of play has slipped badly, he’s no longer a top corner, the Patriots are better served by sticking with Stephon Gilmore, and further developing young players in Eric Rowe, Jonathan and Cyrus Jones and deciding on whether they hold onto Malcolm Butler.

We’ve heard the rumors as well about Revis moving to safety. First of all, it was Bill Belichick that said that his skill set didn’t lend itself to moving there. But even if they did, who do you sit? Devin McCourty? Duron Harmon, who the team just re-signed? He’s not going to be a strong safety so Pat Chung is out too. Time for this rumor to go.

DC Bound in April:
The White House announced that the Patriots will visit on April 19th. The tradition is for the champions to be welcomed and honored by the President.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer made the announcement on Thursday and now the only question remains as to how many members of the team will opt to show up to meet President Trump or decide to sit it out.

Six players from the 2016 Super Bowl team, (Alan Branch, Chris Long, Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty, LeGarrette Blount, and Martellus Bennett) have all stated that due to either political or personal reasons they will not attend.

Return of Pat the Patriot:
Some interesting news this week was that a proposed rule change that will be voted on at the League Meeting in Phoenix this week will be that teams be allowed to wear an alternate helmet in a color to match their third uniform.

That would allow the Patriots to wear the “Pat the Patriot” uniforms and helmets again, which were banned in 2013 in the name of player safety as alternate helmets required a break-in period.

For my money, the white jerseys with the red pants and the Pat the Patriot helmets were the best uniform that New England has ever worn. Nothing else comes close. Not that it would ever happen, but I’d love to see them go back to that setup full time.

A Look Back in Time:
It was 46 years ago, this week, on March 25, 1971, the Boston Patriots changed their name to the “New England Patriots” although at the time, it wasn’t a big deal, it has gotten more important as time goes along.

The Sullivan family who owned the team at the time wanted to change the name from Boston to New England in part because the city of Boston balked at building the franchise a new stadium. Sullivan had just finished building his new facility down in Foxboro on Route 1.

Originally Sullivan wanted the name, Bay State Patriots (yuck) but Commissioner Pete Rozzelle stepped in thankfully and suggested that the new name be reflective of and inclusive of the entire region and the New England Patriots were born. And as Paul Harvey used to like to say, “now you know the rest of the story.”

Amendola Contract Re-Do Still In the Works:
There was an intriguing post on ESPN by Pats beat writer Mike Reiss on Saturday morning about the importance of Danny Amendola. While many in NE are writing Amendola off with the addition of Brandin Cooks. Reiss made the very astute observation that this may be premature.

Amendola doesn’t possess gaudy numbers, but like we’ve said here more than once, the NFL isn’t a fantasy football league. In big games when the chips are on the line, Amendola has proven himself, time and again, to be clutch. More importantly, he has Tom Brady’s trust factor, something that can’t be overlooked.

In the past two Super Bowls played by the Patriots, Amendola has caught 13 passes for 126 yards, two touchdowns, and an all-important two-point conversion. In the playoffs for New England, he’s returned nine kickoffs for a 23.7-yard average and four punts with a 13.5-yard average.

Amendola’s current cap hit with a salary of $6 million will not fly this year, especially with him being a 4-5th option in the passing game. But if he’s amenable to another reduction, and all indications are that he is, he’ll be welcomed back.

Malcolm Butler Sets Social Media Afire with Cryptic Message:
There is nothing new on the Malcolm Butler front, we do know he met with the Saints and afterward, NO coach Sean Payton raved about Butler to the press. Then Butler posted a picture on Instagram of himself sitting on a plane with the quote, “Nothing’s changed but the change” which was a line from a rap song.

It immediately set off social media on a conspiracy theory burn that lasted the rest of the day. Anyone can interpret that to mean any number of scenarios. As many as there are possible outcomes in his contract stalemate. People are still reporting he may be dealt as early as this week, and although that may be true, Butler isn’t going anywhere until he signs his free agent tender.

The Saints and Patriots can’t even discuss a possible trade for him until he does sign it. New Orleans isn’t going to sign him to an offer sheet because, at that point, they run the risk of either losing Butler back to New England if they match. But more importantly, they risk losing their top draft pick #11 to the Patriots if they decline to match.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Picked as NE’s Top AFC East Competitor:
The Buffalo Bills and not the Miami Dolphins are the Patriots biggest competitor in the AFC East according to Adam Schein. Schein wrote this week:

“And I still wanna see Ryan Tannehill take the next step. But I love that Buffalo retained Tyrod Taylor. He’s a good quarterback who will get even better now.”

While I’ve always enjoyed Schein’s takes, I respectfully disagree with this one. Taylor has done little with the passing game. Buffalo averaged 189.7 yards per game thru the air. They were 32nd in attempts and 30th in yards. I’ve yet to see Taylor put the team on his back and carry them to a win. The Bills only success in throwing the ball has been when they’ve run it very effectively.

I do agree with Schein that Sean McDermott will change the culture quickly up in Buffalo. And it should prove to be interesting.

Miami a Finalist for LB Zach Brown:
The Miami Dolphins and the Oakland Raiders are the two teams that have hosted linebacker Zach Brown, the former Bills free agent. It is rumored that Brown will choose between one of the two in the next few days.

Brown, 27, led the Bills with 143 tackles and added 4 sacks, an interception and two forced fumbles in 2016. He is reportedly seeking $6 million dollars per year. It is reported by Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald that the Dolphins are only offering in the $3-4 million-dollar range. Brown would upgrade a Miami unit that struggled in 2016. However, they’ve re-signed Kiko Alonso and signed free agent Lawrence Timmons in free agency. Brown would add another solid veteran presence.

Jets sign Patton, Ijalana to Deals:
The New York Jets made a couple of deals this week, re-signing T Ben Ijalana to a new deal. Ijalana, 27, started the first 13 games of his career in 2016 while appearing in all 16 games.  Playing both RT and LT, the 6’4”, 332-pounder totaled 868 offensive plays and 925 overall snaps, ranking fourth most on the offense and fifth most on the team respectively.

The team also signed free agent WR Quinton Patton from the San Francisco 49ers. Patton, 26, set career highs last season with 37 catches and 408 yards, playing 68 percent of the offensive snaps for the Niners. He’ll join Eric Decker and Quincy Enunwa as the primary WRs for the Jets this season.

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 Draft Profile, Edge Rusher Tyus Bowser

Steve Balestrieri
March 25, 2017 at 8:24 am ET

Ascending Edge Rusher May Be a Hidden Gem

As the 2017 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar or that we feel would be a great fit.

The Patriots added Kony Ealy early in free agency in a trade with the Carolina Panthers. They swapped pick #64 for Carolina’s #72 and got the talented by inconsistent DE from Missouri. But the team needs at least one other edge rusher, possibly two to round out the depth and help the team get the pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

The draft has several talented and well-known edge rushers, but unless the Patriots swing a trade to move up into either Round 1 or 2 in the draft, they’ll be picking no earlier than Round 3. So, with that in mind, we’re looking at prospective players that may be around in Round 3 or below.

Tyus Bowser from Houston is a name to keep an eye on. Although he’s a bit of tweener, he has the explosiveness off the edge to warrant moving up in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. The Patriots dipped into the draft with the revitalized Houston program last season with Elandon Roberts and could be tempted to do it again with Bowser.

In a very deep class of edge rushers, he is a player that isn’t being talked about too much but is a very intriguing prospect. Bowser shows very good bend and shoulder dip when rushing off the edge. He’s got an excellent change of direction skills and his 3-Cone Drill time of 6.75 is excellent for a man of his size.

He improved against the run in 2016 and with further coaching at the next level there’s no reason to expect that not to continue. The one caveat with him is his size, would he be able to hold up physically and set the edge in the running game.

Bowser is versatile, and rush off the edge as a DE with his hand in the dirt or stand up as an OLB. He can drop and cover TEs or RBs in the flat. His pass rush repertoire needs some work. He relies too much on his speed and athleticism and can use some work with the coaches. But his ceiling is high and probably hasn’t scratched the surface of his potential yet.

Pros:

– Explosive, Quick twitch athlete

– Versatile can play multiple positions

– Excellent change of direction, 3-Cone Time

– Just coming into his own, hasn’t scratched potential

Cons

– Undersized for the edge as 4-3 DE

– Needs to keep improving at defending the run and setting the edge

– Pass rush technique still needs work

What his Role Will Be:
Bowser would be initially, a sub-package pass rusher. With his athleticism, he could get after the QB and create some pressure. He can also cover tight ends and running backs as a standup linebacker in subs.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, with improved play at setting the edge he could push for starting reps. Working with the coaches on his pass rush moves, the potential is there for Bowser to become a dominating type pass rusher.

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard. Both have left via free agency

What is his ST Value?
Good, the Patriots will look to use him much like they did Barkevious Mingo a year ago. Bowser will quickly find himself on the coverage units that can utilize his athleticism.

Conclusion:
Bowser was a four-year player and a two-year starter for the Cougars. He has the versatility to play either as a 4-3 defensive end or as an outside linebacker. He dropped in coverage on about a third of his defensive snaps and can run with tight ends or running backs but he isn’t a deep coverage guy.

He missed five games with a broken orbital bone in his eye socket after an altercation with a teammate. It should be noted that he didn’t throw any punches in the incident so the off-field concerns aren’t a big concern.

Despite playing in just eight games as a senior, Bowser racked up some impressive numbers. He garnered 12 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He measured 6’3, 247 at the Combine and playing around 250 pounds at the next level, he would be an intriguing target to play either as a sub-rusher at DE or as SAM with the Patriots.

He was generally considered to be a 3rd to 4th round talent as he’s still emerging and a bit of a tweener at his position. But after an impressive showing at the Combine where he flashed his athleticism, many now have Bowser going much earlier as teams love players who show quick twitch tendencies.

So, if he remains where he was envisioned, I could see New England taking a look at him in Round 3. A movable piece, Bowser can be moved around to take advantage of personnel matchups. He’d be a nice fit for the defense and has the versatility to play multiple positions and special teams, something Bill Belichick loves in his defenders.

Bowser’s highlight film can be seen here:

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.

Podcast: Patriots Free Agency Frenzy Part Two

Russ Goldman
March 24, 2017 at 11:53 am ET

In this episode, we discussed again the moves made by the Patriots this off-season. During the show, we discussed the trades for Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy by the Patriots. We also talked about the signings of Dont’a Hightower, and Rex Burkhead by the team.

Patriots Draft Profile: RB Jamaal Williams BYU

Steve Balestrieri
at 6:00 am ET

Big, Physical Running Back Can Be the Replacement for LG

As the 2017 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar or that we feel would be a great fit.

The Patriots’ offense needs a big bodied running back to replace LeGarrette Blount. Blount is a free agent and is unlikely to return at this point. He was terrific in 2016 rushing for over 1100 yards and a league leading 18 touchdowns but he’s 30 years old now, a time when big backs begin to break down. He slowed considerably down the stretch.

The Patriots have a slew of pass receiving backs, James White, Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, and D.J. Foster. While all of them can catch the ball out of the backfield, they are not the big, physical downhill style runners they need to move the chains.

Jamaal Williams from BYU would fit that description nicely. He’s got good size at 6’0, 220 pounds and is physical, productive back who can carry the ball between the tackles and churn out the yardage when the game has to be closed out.

When healthy (he’s had injury issues), he runs quick to the hole and with solid instincts and vision to see where the play will develop. He is not a dancer at the line, he’ll lower his head, runs with a low pad level and gets good yardage after contact. He carried the ball 234 times for 1375 yards  (5.9 yd avg) and 12 touchdowns in 2016 and added seven receptions for 80 yards.

Williams rarely gets knocked backward, always keeps his feet moving and has excellent ball security. He fumbles once for every 140 touches which is good news for Bill Belichick as his pet peeve for running backs is turning the ball over.

Pros:

– Good, NFL sized running back

– Played in a Pro-style Offense

– Runs hard, low and smart and gets yards after contact

– Good hands although not used much in the passing game

Cons

– Injury history

– Not a breakaway threat

– Pass protection needs work

What his Role Will Be:
Williams role will be as the Patriots big, physical, move-the-pile back. He’d take over the Blount role, especially as red zone, goal line back

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, with his good hands, and work with the coaches on his pass blocking skills he could find himself as a bigger target in the passing game.

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
LaGarrette Blount, and Brandon Bolden. Tyler Gaffney was already released.

What is his ST Value?
Minimal, but that may change once he gets into training camp.

Conclusion:
Williams is an impressive, physical back when he’s healthy. While he’s had some injury concerns and off-field issues, he is a tough runner inside between the tackles, that will make yards after contact and keeps the pile moving.

His vision and lack of dancing at the line will be a boost to the Patriots short-yardage and goal line packages. He’s been used in a rotation at BYU and doing so with the Pats won’t be an issue at all for him. The Patriots are a pass first team especially with the backs in the system already but Williams will definitely have a chance to carve out a nice role for himself.

He’ll need to work on his pass protection, something that is prevalent with most of the big backs coming out of the draft this year. But he has good hands and could be used a bit in the passing game but those opportunities will have to be earned.

Williams isn’t the whole package yet, and with his injury history will no doubt fall to the mid rounds of the draft. That should place him in a perfect spot to be targeted by Belichick and the Patriots. I see him as a 4th round prospect that will have the ability to become a solid, contributor in the NFL. He’d be a tremendous fit for the Patriots offense.

William’s highlight reel tape can be seen here:

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 Draft Profile: LB Ryan Anderson

Steve Balestrieri
March 23, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

Anderson, Big, Physical SAM Linebacker to Play Next to Hightower

As the 2017 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar or that we feel would be a great fit.

The Patriots could use more depth at the linebacker position. The good news is that Dont’a Hightower is returning with a new 4-year, $43.5 million-dollar contract. But after him, they have some questions. Elandon Roberts did a good job at stuffing the run but was a liability in coverage. Shea McClellin and Kyle Van Noy are sub-backers on passing downs, while Jonathan Freeny spent the year on IR.

Hightower is the glue for the entire front seven and calls the plays on defense. The Patriots really don’t have a player that can replace him. Roberts may make a big jump in Year 2 but they’d be best served to draft a three-down linebacker that can set the edge in the running game but also help with some blitzing off the edge on passing downs.

Ryan Anderson from Alabama comes from a Pro-ready program with Nick Saban and can step in on Day 1 and be a key contributor. He paid his dues with the Tide and was a fifth-year senior. Although he had played extensively in 2014 and 2015, it wasn’t until this past year that he got to start. Anderson performed well in the Crimson Tide’s defense logging 61 tackles including 19 for a loss along with 9 sacks in 2016.

He’s thick in the chest and shoulders and has very good functional strength and power at the point of attack. Sets the edge very well in the running game. Can rush the passer although he doesn’t have elite speed and can use both power or moves to get to the QB.

He’s instinctive, aggressive with good ball skills and is consistently good against both the run and pass. He’s also got very good STs value.

Pros:

– Quick instinctive player that makes plays

– Tough, competitive, and aggressive

– Smart edge setter and strong pass rusher

– Good ball skills and WR awareness

Cons

– Speed is only so-so

– Short arms and only marginal height

– Only a starter for one season

What his Role Will Be:
Anderson’s role would be to be pushing for starting reps at the SAM linebacker spot on Day 1. With the lack of depth at the linebacker position, Anderson and Hightower should give the Patriots a pair of Alabama backers for the next several years.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, with his ability to set the edge in the running game and another year in the system he should see his level of play increase to where he can become an impact player.

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
He’ll challenge for starting reps right away, his spot on the roster would impact any of the other three McClellin, Freeny, and Van Noy. It should generate some good competition at training camp.

What is his ST Value?
Very good, he can be an immediate contributor in all four phases.

Conclusion:
Anderson is a very intriguing player, he comes from the Alabama and Nick Saban program, a close friend of Bill Belichick and played in a scheme that should translate very well for the Patriots.

He’s a relentless pass rusher and plays his angles superbly on defense and rarely if ever gets caught by a cutback run. Is never out of position. He’s a finisher as a tackler with four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and three passes defensed in 2016.

Anderson has a high football IQ with a great work ethic and was lauded by Saban for his leadership on a defense full of leaders. He’s a perfect player for the Patriots defense. He’s isn’t Von Miller flashy, he just does everything well and does them right. He’d be a tremendous addition next to Hightower.

His lack of ideal length and the fact that he isn’t a speed demon from the edge will probably set him back a bit in the draft which would help Belichick and the Patriots. He may just probably last into the 3rd Round of the NFL Draft which would put him in a good position to be picked up by New England.

Anderson’s highlight reel tape can be seen here:

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.