The voters have spoken for the Patriots team Hall of Fame and Rodney Harrison has garnered the most votes, having bested both Richard Seymour and Mike Vrabel. He’ll be getting his red jacket at a ceremony later this summer.
Harrison, on a teleconference call with the media, said he was surprised by the vote. “I was kind of like frozen because I’m telling you, I had it in my mind that I wasn’t going to be the guy,” Harrison said. “You just kind of get used to that, whether it’s Pro Bowls or things like that. Once they told me, I just thanked God and gave Him all this praise. And I just started receiving all these text messages from (Patriots LB Tedy) Bruschi and a whole bunch of people, so it was just a really, really proud moment for me and my family.”
Harrison was often overlooked at how good he was because of his reputation as a dirty player. He only garnered two Pro Bowl nods but between 2003 and 2008, he was one of the most valuable players on the Patriots defense. Bill Belichick has said that Harrison was the best practice player he ever coached.
“That’s why it meant so much to me, so much more to me because it’s not going by reputation. You don’t have to have a certain reputation — good, bad or indifferent. The fans knew that I loved football. I gave everything for the organization, for my teammates, and for the fans and my family.”
Harrison had seven interceptions in nine playoff games for the Patriots, including two in Super Bowl XXXIX against Philadelphia. He also came to the Patriots with a reputation for tough, physical play and in his first two seasons (both Super Bowl wins) he led the Patriots in tackles with 140 (a career high) and 138.
Harrison is the only defensive back in NFL history with 30 sacks (30.5) and 30 interceptions. He was a team captain for all six of his Patriots seasons. He will be inducted with Leon Gray at a ceremony to be determined later this summer.
All three nominees are very deserving but Harrison has been the most visible with his hosting of Sunday Night Football telecasts with Tony Dungy. That certainly didn’t hurt his candidacy. Both Harrison and Seymour belong in Canton.
Of those Patriots’ teams that won three Super Bowls in four years, Harrison becomes the seventh player to be inducted into the team’s HOF. He’ll join Troy Brown (2012), Tedy Bruschi (2013), Ty Law (2014), Willie McGinest (2015), Kevin Faulk (2016) and Matt Light (2018).
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 03-03 and AFC East Notes. Sorry, no AFC East notes this week, we’ll bring them back in the days following the 2019 NFL Combine.
Adam Schefter is reporting that the Patriots have told Dwayne Allen that they plan on releasing him. They’d like to have him back, but at less money. But for now, he’s free to sign with anyone. Normally, a move like this means that the team is freeing up cap space to sign one of their own to an extension…stay tuned.
Youth? – Isn’t it strange that when all of the talk about the Patriots getting younger at wide receiver goes right out the window when veterans like Demaryius Thomas and Golden Tate become topics of discussion?
Local Talent: One local small school player, that we’d love to see get a chance to show what he can do is DE Ray Sarkodieh from Assumption College. The Worcester native who played locally at St. Peter Marian is a mathematics major. He’s a 6’2, 260 pass rusher who was the NE10 Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.
Another local player being linked to the Patriots in the NFL Combine thus far is Boston College and Shepherd Hill offensive lineman Chris Lindstrom. Lindstrom is one of the top five rated guards coming out this spring.
Super Bowl Trailer: Patriots fans will soon be able to purchase the team’s Super Bowl season highlight film. The NFL Films production will feature all 16 regular season games as well as their three playoff victories including the 13-3 triumph over the Los Angeles in Super Bowl LIII.
NFL Films and entertainment company Cinedigm will release Super Bowl LIII Champions: New England Patriots on Blu-Ray Combo Pack, DVD, as well as digitally on March 5. The trailer for the video can be seen here:
Chiefs, Reid, Latest To Lobby For Rule Changes After Losing to NE:
We knew this was coming…right? Hardly a year goes by where a team that loses to the Patriots doesn’t go to the league to change a rule in protest of what they perceive to be an “unfair playing field” in the NFL.
So, Andy Reid and Kansas City GM Brett Veach are the latest to join the crowd. The Chiefs are mad that their offense wasn’t allowed a possession in overtime of the AFC Championship Game. The Patriots won the OT coin toss and moved down the field and scored a TD that vaulted them into the Super Bowl.
There was a similar call for this after SB LI when the Patriots beat the Falcons. The Patriots also won the toss and Tom Brady eviscerated the Falcons easily to win the game while Matt Ryan was left to wonder what happened to a 28-3 lead on the bench.
This year was different. The Patriots faced three 3rd and 10s during the overtime drive, any of which would result in the Chiefs getting the ball. KC’s defense, which was porous all season long, showed once again why they weren’t Super Bowl ready. But now it is the rules that need changing.
Leach was a guest on Pro Football Talk Live and had this to say: “I think everybody wants a chance for guys to do what they do. I don’t really see the downside of having that,” Veach said. “Especially when you have a player like Pat Mahomes. It would have been a lot of fun. I think people, if they weren’t already tuned in for a great game, would have turned on that overtime.”
One has to wonder how much “fun” it would have been for Leach if the Chiefs had won the toss and gone on to score and Brady was allowed to touch the ball in OT. I’ll take the under.
The current O.T. rules were changed from a true sudden death where any score would end the game to each team having “a chance” for possession in overtime. That chance is neither allowing a touchdown or a safety on the opening possession.
The Chiefs will need 24 of the 32 teams to agree to change the rules. Reid and Leach now join Bill Polian who as a member of the Competition Committee lobbied for changes to the rules on how teams play defense after his Colts receivers got beat up in back-to-back years in the playoffs in New England. John Harbaugh of the Ravens, who was incensed at the wacky formations the Patriots ran in the 2014 Divisional Playoffs that he tried to change the rules, then smugly smiled in a post-game celebration when he ran the same type of formation. Let’s not forget the calls for “player safety” after Shea McClellan blocked several field goals by leaping over the kicking team’s blockers.
Just imagine the angst next year, if the rules are changed and Brady and the Patriots use that to come back and win a game in OT after allowing a touchdown to start the session.
Patriots “ Character Coach” Jack Easterby Leaving:
The Patriots are losing Jack Easterby who is labeled the team’s “character coach/team development,” in a situation first reported by the Boston Globe. Easterby was brought in the 2013 season to help the players navigate thru the Aaron Hernandez fiasco.
Easterby, whose contract expired after the Super Bowl stated that he felt his position had “run its course” and that he’d be exploring new opportunities elsewhere. But this is the first true fallout from the Robert Kraft scenario.
Easterby was deeply troubled by the allegations surrounding Kraft and he retweeted a post from former Patriot Ben Watson that human trafficking is an“entrenched evil.’’ He’ll be missed in the locker room as he was considered a very important piece of the puzzle behind the scenes.
Hightower Won’t Budge on His Salary:
Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower hasn’t been approached by the team about taking a pay cut in 2019 and reportedly won’t be in favor of doing so either. Doug Kyed of NESN first reported that Hightower won’t be accepting any overtures from the team about taking a pay cut this season.
Hightower played in 15 games in 2018, the most he’s played in since the 2013 season. He and fellow linebacker Kyle Van Noy keyed a defensive resurgence down the stretch and into the playoffs where the New England defense was the key into winning the team’s sixth Super Bowl.
And in this case, we’re going to fall within Hightower’s line of thinking here. Although Hightower has a cap hit of $11 million this season, his salary is $7 million. Linebackers eligible for the franchise tag are getting $15.4 million in 2019. That puts Hightower among the bargains for the league.
As we’ve said on these pages many times before, is Hightower an All-Pro? No, but in THIS defense, his value is the same as one. And without him on the field, the last three Super Bowl wins don’t happen. He stopped Marshawn Lynch at the one-yard line with the game on the line in Super Bowl XLIX. His strip sack of Matt Ryan ignited the Patriots to come from behind in Super Bowl LI. And he was outstanding in all three playoff wins this year, where he logged two sacks, four quarterbacks hits, three tackles for loss and a pass defensed.
The Patriots can work something out where his cap hit is lessened this season and his money still isn’t being cut. And we’d be all for that. Because moving forward, the 28-year old linebacker is still an extremely valuable piece on the team’s front seven.
Team Interested in Bringing Back Hogan/Dorsett in 2019:
The Patriots are supposedly talking with both Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett about returning in 2019. The free agent wide receivers are far from locks to bring back, however, depending on the deals involved, it may still happen.
Hogan, 30, played in about 72 percent of the Patriots offensive snaps in 2018 but his targets were way down. Since signing with the Pats before the 2016 season, he’s averaged 36 receptions and 550 receiving yards.
He seemed to lose a lot of the trust factor with Tom Brady during the season, but with a solid special teams player that can be an effective #3-4 Wide Receiver, there is expected to be no shortage of teams that come calling.
Dorsett is just 26 and was arguably the #2 WR when the season started and played well. When the team signed Josh Gordon, his snap totals went way down. On the season, Dorsett caught 32 passes for 290 yards and three scores. He also added a big touchdown in the AFC Championship Game.
The former 1st round pick of the Colts has stated that he wants to return to the Patriots but they’ll have to work out a deal that benefits both parties. What is key for Dorsett is being a starter somewhere.
“Obviously, I want to be a key contributor for a team — a starter, that’s always been my goal, a guy that can help a team win. I enjoy going out there, working hard and just playing football. I love the game. It’s the only thing I want to do.”
Who Are We Watching at the 2019 NFL Combine?
With the NFL Combine in full swing in Indianapolis this weekend, the Patriots have an abundance of draft picks this year (12) with six in the first 101 selections. While it is extremely doubtful that the team will use all 12 picks, they do, however, have enough draft capital that they will be able to maneuver around the draft board and address their needs this spring.
It is really too soon to judge how the team will approach the draft since free agency hasn’t started yet. After the initial feeding frenzy dies down, we should have a better idea of how they’ll approach this year’s holes to fill on the team.
With that being said, we’ll list a couple of players we feel would be a nice fit in New England and who we’re watching for this weekend in Indy.
Defensive tackles: Christian Wilkins – Clemson: Wilkins was a key contributor for the Tigers two recent National Championship teams. A smart, locker room leader, Wilkins was a captain who graduated in just two and a half years. He was a first-team AP All-American and an All-ACC selection in 2018.
Wilkins is versatile and can play end or inside and would fit in well with the Patriots recent attacking style of defensive line play. He keeps his pad level low, has very good short-area agility and is good at shooting the gaps.
Gerald Willis – Miami: Like many players who’ve played for the Canes, Willis comes with some questionable red flags. He was dismissed from Florida for fighting with a teammate and then took off the 2017 season to work out personal issues. But returned in 2018 and played some tremendous football, leading the ACC with tackles for loss with 18.
Willis projects as a one-gap pass rusher right now, but with some work with the coaches, he could be a very productive three-down player. He’s more of a mid-round prospect.
Tight Ends: Noah Fant – Iowa: Fant has received a lot of noise as a possible Patriot. He’s more of a move tight end and at this point, isn’t a great blocker. But he has good length, excellent speed, and explosion off the snap to get separation. He could become an immediate weapon and matchup nightmare in the passing game.
Irv Smith – Alabama: Smith is another matchup winner in the passing game. He’s a very smooth route runner who runs crisp routes and has good hands and a knack for finding the open spots on the field. He’s very well rounded and will be an immediate impact player.
Quarterbacks: ***Note*** While we don’t believe the Patriots will pick a QB early in this draft, never say never. Daniel Jones – Duke: Jones is a guy who seems like a really good fit for the Patriots and the offense that they run. Prototypical size at 6’5, 221, Jones doesn’t have a cannon for an arm but has good mechanics and goes thru his progessions quickly. His receivers dropped 38 passes in 2018 alone…
Brett Rypien – Boise State: Rypien is the nephew of former Redskin Mark Rypien. He projects as more of a project than a pro-ready QB. He doesn’t have great size or arm strength but he’s very accurate, keeps his eyes downfield and has a quick, compact release. He has excellent football intelligence and keeps his eyes downfield.
Wide Receivers: Riley Ridley – Georgia: Ridley is a WR who should be a better pro than college player. While not a burner, he’s tough and will make the physical catches while still able to stretch the field when matched up one-on-one.
He runs precise routes, has very good hands and will make those tough contested catches in traffic.
Deebo Samuel – South Carolina: Samuel is a tough, competitive wide receiver, who thrives in working the middle of the field where the game is at its toughest. While he too isn’t a burner, he’ll make YAC (yards after the catch) with surprising changing of direction as well as excellent vision.
He’s got strong hands and will work back to the football. He could be used similarly to how the Patriots used Danny Amendola in the past.
Six-Cess! Belichick Defensive Gameplan a Gem Wins Another SB
Bill Belichick has saved some of his best defensive game-planning for the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams. And in doing so, he’s capped the latest Super Bowl victory much like he did their first.
In Super Bowl XXXVI, the Patriots showed the Rams something they hadn’t seen before. Recognizing that the “Greatest Show on Turf” went thru Marshall Faulk, the Patriots decided that they were going to hit Faulk (and hard) every time he went out of the backfield and they punished him enroute to a huge upset win.
Last night, Belichick showed the Rams something they hadn’t seen the Patriots do on tape by playing a defense that was different for them and totally confusing to the Rams offensive players. It was stifling, physical and utterly brilliant.
In our pregame matchups, we thought the Pats would dust off a look of the old Bears 46 Defense in an attempt to take away the Rams stretch running plays. What Belichick did was different but similar. They ran what looked a 6-1 front with both outside linebackers up on the line of scrimmage. The Rams run with a ton of motion and use play action more than anyone with QB Jared Goff under center about 40 percent of the time.
But the Patriots interior defensive linemen didn’t take the cheese. Rather than sliding east-west with the motion, they were attacking north-south and penetrating the gaps. The Rams outside running game was negated by the linebackers setting the edge. Todd Gurley who does the bulk of the Rams outside running was held to just 35 yards on 10 carries. And by having the outside backers up, right on the line of scrimmage, those screens to the backs were negated. Gurley and C.J. Anderson had just three catches for 11 yards.
The other thing it did was take the Rams out of their tight formation packages that they like to run where it gives its more options. By having the linebackers in their face, everything was disrupted and it was plain to see all day. Sean McVay, who after the game said he was thoroughly out-coached then had to adjust by moving their receivers farther out wide. That further hurt their zone stretch running plays and much of their crossing routes over the middle.
But the second half of the defensive equation was arguably Belichick’s best move and he can thank his former Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia for the blueprint on this one. Matty P, who was being roasted by the talking heads on the air after the game last night, must have got a huge smile on his face and a big piece of redemption because Belichick copied what Patricia’s Lions did late in the season.
The Patriots played quarters coverage in the secondary, something they didn’t show the Rams on tape. Patricia’s Lions ran this on early downs with two safeties back, it took away those play action slants the Rams were so successful running this year. Duron Harmon, normally the third safety was replaced by slot corner Jonathan Jones who played safety for the first time. With Belichick, versatility is key, the more you can do…
Harmon however, did come on to play in the second half, when Pat Chung appeared to break his arm early in the third quarter. Chung was put in an air cast and then watched the rest of the game from the Patriots sidelines.
Facing a lot of third and long situations, Belichick and Flores unleashed the Ameoba fronts we’ve seen so much of down the stretch and the pass rush was outstanding. Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower were all over the field and provided outstanding pressure. Hightower had a pair of sacks, a tackle for a loss, a pass defensed and three QB hits. Van Noy was a pain in the backside for Goff as well with a sack, a tackle for loss and a pair of QB hits. For two players who are “too slow”, they certainly didn’t appear so, …especially to the Rams offensive line.
The coverage was a perfect blend to the pass rush. Goff most times had absolutely nowhere to throw the ball and was hounded all night long. But it wasn’t just Goff, the entire Rams offense was out of synch and looking for answers all night long. Stephon Gilmore was once again outstanding and sealed the deal with an interception on the Patriots 2-yard line after Harmon blitzed and forced Goff into launching a floater that was a too-easy interception.
The Rams had the #2 offense in terms of yards (421.1) and points (32.9) during the season. The Patriots held them to just 260 yards and three (3) points in the Super Bowl. For all the talk all season about this defense wasn’t good enough, they faced three excellent offenses in the Chargers, Chiefs, and Rams in the postseason and beat all three with outstanding efforts in each game.
The Patriots defensive six-cess was another example of a brilliant coaching job by the master. Belichick did it to the Rams again, with a tip of the hat to Matty P.
For McVay who is one of the most brilliant of young coaches in the game, it will be a learning experience. He’s hardly the first who were taught the ways by the old Jedi master… his time will come. But for now, “PATIENCE YOU MUST HAVE my young padawan”
For anyone who watched the Patriots transform themselves from a perennial doormat to an NFL juggernaut, “Patriot Pride, My Life in the New England Dynasty” by Troy Brown and Mike Reiss is a must read. Also included is a foreward by Patriots QB and Brown’s teammate Tom Brady.
Brown’s early life is chronicled in Blacksville, South Carolina where his humble beginnings shaped him and prepared him for a future NFL career that lasted 15 seasons with the New England Patriots.
Brown is a shining example of a smaller player from a modest upbringing that can beat the odds and be a giant in the game played by physically much bigger men. Brown was an 8th round draft pick (they don’t have those anymore), from Marshall so today he would be considered an undrafted free agent.
His phone call from Bill Parcells was brief and typically Parcells, after welcoming him to the Patriots, Parcells said, “Thanks Troy, you just save me a lot of money.” At the time UDFAs signed for considerably more than Brown’s $15,000 would so it was Parcells way of challenging him. More of that would come later.
When arriving in New England in 1993, the Patriots were far from the powerful model franchise that they are today. They were nearly always at the bottom and had just hired the Super Bowl champion coach Parcells to try to turn the moribund franchise around.
Brown had an immediate rapport with Parcells and he saw how by publicly rebuking players, it was a way he had of challenging them, to bring out their best. Parcells’ words to Brown were, “Troy, you’ll never be a starting receiver in this league,” Parcells said. “Just a role player is the ceiling for you…Maybe a fourth or fifth receiver is the best you can do.”
Brown went thru his trials and tribulations and survived being cut by Parcells to being brought back and gradually working his way not only on the roster but earning a bigger and bigger slice of playing time along the way. He and backup quarterback and now Patriots announcer Scott Zolak would hone their skills by running the scout team offense. They would frequently go off script and make plays.
The scout team would have plays diagrammed to go to a certain place on every down. But instead of throwing into double and triple coverage, Zolak and Brown would improvise and Brown was productive and he opened eyes on the coaching staff.
After the 1996 Super Bowl, which Brown missed with an injury, Parcells left for the Jets. Pete Carroll came to New England and the culture change was evident. Brown never felt comfortable or confident in Carroll and the team foundered. Three years later Bill Belichick arrived and everything changed.
Brown had his best season in 2001 leading the NFL in punt returns and catching 101 passes for 1199 yards and five touchdowns. Under Tom Brady, the team overcame a rocky 0-2 start to beat a heavily favored Pittsburgh team in the AFC Championship game where Brown returned a punt 55 yards for a touchdown.
The Steelers were so cocky that they hung a Pittsburgh conference champion t-shirt in the Patriots locker room. From there the Patriots stunned the NFL by upsetting the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.
Brown recalls being shocked that the team during a third Super Bowl run in 2004 asked him to play defense when injuries decimated the secondary. That selfless act and the fact that he played very well in the role, epitomizes the Patriots under Bill Belichick. Everyone puts personal goals behind team goals and no one showcased that more than Brown.
As his career in the NFL was winding down, Brown knew it was time to retire when his body told him the time was right. Working out at Marshall in the off-season, he knew it was time and informed the Patriots he was retiring.
Brown parlayed his playing career into a broadcasting one, he’s now a regular on Comcast Sports New England with their Patriots coverage and was elected to the Patriots Hall of Fame in 2012.
Reiss weaves a great factual bio on one of the Patriots most beloved players on the Super Bowl winning teams. This book is a perfect gift for the Patriot fan and will one of those works that is always referred to as a ready reference to not only Troy Brown’s career but those three Super Bowl winning teams from 2001, 2003-04.
It is an easy, entertaining read and one that you can’t put down. You can order it on-line thru Amazon.com or find it in your own bookseller everywhere.