Tag Archives: New England Patriots

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.

Today in Pats History: Happy Birthday Chris Long

John Morgan
March 28, 2017 at 7:00 am ET

Happy Birthday to Chris Long, who headlines March 28 in New England Patriots’ history.

 

Chris Long, 32 (3/28/1985)
Patriot DE, 2016
Uniform #95

The Longs are one of the premier NFL football families. Chris’ father Howie is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and his brother Kyle is a starting RG for the Bears. At Virginia Chris Long was a unanimous All-American and first team All-ACC. He was also the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, and won the Ted Hendricks Award for the nation’s best defensive end. The St. Louis Rams selected Long with the second overall pick of the 2008 draft.

Long was a steady starter on a solid Ram defense for several years. However he missed ten games in 2014 with an ankle injury and four more in 2015 due to a knee injury. Upon his return Jeff Fisher kept William Hayes as his starter, leaving Long as a situational reserve. The Rams had previously restructured Long’s contract which created a cap number of $14 million for 2016. Not surprisingly he was cut as one of several cap saving moves.

Long visited with Dallas, Washington and Atlanta, and then signed a one-year deal for $2 million with the Patriots on March 18, 2016. Having previously cashed in with two large contracts, Long was secure with leaving some money on the table in order to play for a Superbowl contender.

After eight years of wallowing in St. Louis Ram mediocrity, Long finally not only experienced a winning season but also the playoffs and a Superbowl victory. Though it did not show up in the stat sheet Long did have key plays in the improbable comeback victory over Atlanta. On one key play his bull rush over Jake Matthews applied pressure from the right, so Matt Ryan could not turn that way. This was on Dont’a Hightower’s oft-replayed strip sack and fumble recovered by Alan Branch. That play may have been a big reason why Long was able to draw Matthews into a holding penalty on the subsequent drive. That flag resulted in a loss of ten yards and kept Atlanta out of field goal range. It was one of several plays that was the difference between a Superbowl win or loss.

Long played in every Pats game in 2016, with seven starts. However his playing time decreased as the season progressed. In the first eight games Long was in for about 70% of the defensive plays, averaging 49 snaps per game. Down the stretch that dropped to just over 50%, averaging 34 snaps in the final six games of the regular season. In the playoffs Long had 27 snaps versus Houston, 20 plays (29%) against Pittsburgh and then only 15 snaps in the Superbowl. With that in mind it is understandable that he has elected to explore other options in free agency. Long finished the season with 35 combined tackles (22 solo), four sacks, three passes defensed and one forced fumble. Despite his short time in Foxboro all of Patriot Nation is grateful for his hard work and contribution.

Off the field the Chris Long Foundation’s signature project is The Waterboys. It unites NFL players and fans to raise awareness and funds with a goal to install 32 deep borehole wells in East Africa. Each well costs $45,000 and serves up to 7,500 people.

3/28 12:05 pm update: Long has reportedly signed a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles.

 

Reche Caldwell – Patriot WR, 2006

Reche Caldwell, 38 (3/28/1979)
Uniform #87

Like many pro athletes, Caldwell excelled in multiple sports as a youth. In high school he threw 77 touchdown passes and also set several school records in baseball. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 1998 but opted to play football instead. Caldwell stayed in state and went to the University of Florida. There he played for Steve Spurrier at the end of the Fun-n-Gun era. On offense he played alongside future NFL players such as Rex Grossman, Jabar Gaffney and Earnest Graham.

Caldwell finished his junior year with 65 receptions for 1,059 yards and ten touchdowns. San Diego then selected him in the second round of the 2002 draft, 48th overall. He spent four years with the Chargers, never quite living up to his draft status. Over that span Caldwell had 76 catches for 950 yards and seven touchdowns.

Following the 2005 season Patriot free agent David Givens signed with Tennessee. Troy Brown would soon turn 35. Depth at the wide receiver position needed to be replenished, and the Pats signed UFA Caldwell. At the same time Deion Branch was in the last year of his rookie contract. He held out and was eventually traded after lengthy and bitter negotiations. Rookie Chad Jackson injured his hamstring in training camp. Rather than being a third or fourth option at WR, Caldwell was suddenly by default forced to be the primary receiver.

In that 2006 season Caldwell had 61 receptions (on 101 targets) for 760 yards and four touchdowns. The playoffs started well as he caught 12 of the 15 passes thrown his way over two games, for 130 yards. That included a TD against his old team in a 24-21 victory at San Diego.

2006 AFCCG at Indianapolis

Reche Caldwell Eyes

Caldwell was targeted nine times against Indy, catching just four passes. At one point Caldwell muffed a perfectly thrown pass in the corner of the end zone. Then with under ten minutes to go and the score tied, Caldwell was left uncovered on a botched Colt defensive assignment. Brady threw to Caldwell for what should have been an easy catch and an 18 yard waltz into the end zone. Caldwell became overanxious and turned too soon – even though no defender was remotely close to him – and dropped the ball. Two plays later he was unable to catch another pass and the Patriots had to settle for a field goal. The Colts came back to win the AFCCG 38-34. The NFC was weak that year; the winner of that game was the defacto Superbowl champion. It was a huge missed opportunity for the Patriots.

Bill Belichick retooled his offense the following season with the additions of Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Caldwell was cut on September 3, 2007 and spent one final NFL season with Washington. His post-NFL career did not go well.

Caldwell returned to his old Tampa neighborhood and opened up a gambling parlor. His problem was that it was successful, and he never considered that perhaps he should keep a low profile. After the inevitable arrest for bookmaking and running a gambling house, Caldwell posted bond. He kept hanging out with his old crew and saw how popular Ecstasy was at the clubs. Caldwell made the absurdly foolish decision to buy some Molly over the internet as his next business venture. That resulted in a 27-month prison sentence.

How Reche Caldwell Googled his way from the Patriots to prison | ABC News

 

Greg ‘Truck’ Moore – Patriot LB, 1987

Greg Moore, 52 (3/28/1965)
Uniform #54

The 6’1, 240 lb linebacker went to college at Tennessee-Chattanooga. He was one of the replacement players in 1987 when the NFLPA went on strike. Moore started in all three of those replacement games, with one fumble recovery.

With his brief NFL career over, Moore returned to his native Georgia. He is the owner of Elite Realty Specialists.

Greg Moore

 

Bryan Wagner – Patriot P, 1991 and 1995

Bryan Wagner, 55 (3/28/1962)
Uniform #8 and #9

Wagner was with five different teams over nine season in the NFL. With the Browns in 1997 he led the league in number of punts with 97; the following season he led the NFL with four punts blocked. He signed with the Patriots in 1991 but was released after three games. Wagner was averaging a mere 29.1 net yards on his 14 punts.

The Patriots re-signed him in 1995. He punted 37 times over eight games, with a carer-high 42.1 yards per punt. He now teaches phys ed and is a high school football coach in Ohio.

1/12/1986: Bryan Wagner Is Alive and Hopes to Be Kicking in the NFL

1/25/1995: Super Bowl XXIX : Persistence Lands Him on His Feet

5/31/2005: Ex-punter lands coaching job

 

Steve Doig – Patriot LB, 1986-87

Steve Doig, 57 (3/28/1960)
Uniform #59

Doig is a New England native. He was born in Melrose, played hockey at North Reading High School and went to the University of New Hampshire. At UNH he was the ECAC player of the year. Detroit selected Doig in the third round of the 1982 draft, 69th overall. Over three seasons with the Lions he appeared in 34 games with four starts.

The Patriots signed Doig in 1986, after he had not played at all the previous season. He played in five games for the Pats in ’86, and one more in 1987. Doig also appeared in the playoff loss to Denver following the 1986 season. The Pats waived Doig on September 8, 1987.

Doig’s biggest highlight came in the last game played at the Orange Bowl. In the ’86 season finale Doig recovered a fumbled kickoff to give the Patriots the ball at the Miami 24. On the next play Craig James fumbled the ball away, and Tony Eason injured his shoulder making the tackle. Steve Grogan replaced Eason and later threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Stanley Morgan with 44 seconds remaining. That gave the Patriots a 34-27 victory, and the AFC East title.

 

Lonnie Farmer – Patriot LB, 1964-66

Lonnie Farmer, 77 (3/28/1940)
Uniform #55

Farmer played in 31 games over three seasons for the Pats, but his carer was cut short by a knee injury. This is from the 1966 Patriots Media Guide:

This rebel belter from Lookout Mountain, Tenn., enters his third pro season with best prospects ever … lost last season with a knee injury … otherwise would have been a regular … is one of the surest, toughest tacklers on Patriots team … is one of Coach Holovak’s best on the suicide squad … was brought to Boston’s pros by fellow Chattanooga alumnus Charley Long … was Williamson All-American and AP second team All-American in ’63 … has a real taste for action … intense competitor … injury free season could give Lonnie a shot at All-Star honors.

Lonnie Farmer
Left to right: defensive tackle Jim Lee Hunt, safety Ron Hall, and linebacker Lonnie Farmer.

 

Other NFL notables born on March 28 include:
Geno Atkins (29), five-time Pro Bowl DT for Cincinnati Bengals.
NaVorro Bowman (29), four-time All Pro LB for San Francisco 49ers.
Derek Carr (26), two-time Pro Bowl QB for the Oakland  Las Vegas Raiders.
Jim Turner (76), AFL-AFC kicker for the Jets and Broncos

 

There is only one March 29 Patriot birthday, so I will insert it here.

Chris Calloway – Patriot WR, 2000

Chris Calloway, 49 (3/29/1968)
Uniform #82

Calloway is most well known for seven years with the Giants. He was their leading receiver for four straight years. Calloway had receptions in a team record 47 straight games, and at the time he ranked third in franchise history with 334 receptions. He was originally drafted by Pittsburgh in 1990, but only spent two seasons with the Steelers.

In 1999 the Giants released Calloway, attempting to get younger and also save money. Calloway signed a $4 million contract with Atlanta, which was very big money at that time. He caught only 22 passes and the Falcons let him go after one season.

During training camp in 2000 Bill Belichick axed Vincent Brisby and signed Calloway. By that time though he was 32 and his best days were behind him. Calloway appeared in seven games with two starts for New England. He had only five receptions for 95 yards while with the Patriots. The Pats cut him on October 21, 2000. Calloway finished his NFL career with 386 receptions for 5497 yards and 30 touchdowns.

11/28/2009: Former New York Giants wide receiver Chris Calloway trying to hang on

Chris Calloway

 

Other NFL notables born on March 29 include:
Earl Campbell (62), Houston Oiler Hall of Fame running back.
Ryan Kalil (32), Carolina Panther five time Pro Bowl center.
Justin Tuck (34), two time Pro Bowl defensive end.

 

Patriots Draft Profile: Texas RB D’Onta Foreman

Steve Balestrieri
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.

Today in Pats History: Happy Birthday Justin Coleman

John Morgan
March 27, 2017 at 9:00 am ET

Justin Coleman is one of five players in New England Patriots history to share today’s birth date. Here is a look at March 27 in Pats history.

 

Justin Coleman, 24 (3/27/1993)
Patriot CB 2015-
Uniform #22

Coleman started 38 games over four seasons at the University of Tennessee from 2011-14. He signed with the Vikings as an undrafted rookie but was cut near the end of training camp. Soon after Coleman was involved in four transactions over a six day period. The Patriots signed Coleman and then released him a day later. Seattle signed him to their practice squad. Bill Belichick apparently really liked Coleman though. With a spot available when Bryan Stork was placed on injured reserve, BB gave him a raise and signed Coleman to the 53-man roster.

In 2015 Coleman appeared in twelve games with two starts. He appeared primarily as a nickel back and was on the field for 45% of the defense’s snaps. Coleman finished the season with 17 tackles and five passes defensed. He also had seven tackles in the two playoff games. The following April the Patriots signed the exclusive rights free agent to a one-year, $525,000 contract.

Coleman played a bit more on special teams last year. He participated in 292 snaps over the course of the 2016 season. With the addition of Eric Rowe however, Coleman’s playing time dwindled. He appeared in only three games after the week 10 loss to Seattle and was a healthy inactive for each of the three playoff games. On March 16 Coleman signed his ERFA tender, a one-year deal for $625,000.

 

David Key, 49 (3/27/1968)
Patriot Safety, 1991
Uniform #26

Key led his Ohio high school team to a state championship in 1985. Surprisingly he turned down an offer from Ohio State and instead went to Michigan. While there he collected three Big Ten Championship Rings. The Wolverines finished in the top ten three times in his four years in Ann Arbor.

The Patriots selected Key 140th overall in the sixth round of the 1991 draft. He spent most of the season on the practice squad after being released in training camp. Key was activated for the final three games, appearing exclusively on special teams. In week 15 Key recovered a fumble in a 6-3 victory over the Jets.

Key decided to no no longer pursue an NFL career after he was released again prior to the 1992 season. With a degree in kinesiology he began his second career as a personal trainer. He is the owner of Key Body & Fitness Corporation and a professional body builder.

 

David Bavaro, 50 (3/27/1967)
Patriot LB, 1993-94
Uniform #52

The Danvers native is the brother of former Giants TE Mark Bavaro. David Bavaro was the leading tackler at Syracuse, when Dick MacPherson coached the Orange. The Phoenix Cardinals selected Bavaro with the 225th overall pick in the ninth round of the 1990 draft. After splitting time with the Cardinals, Bills and Vikings, the Patriots signed Bavaro in 1993. That season he played in twelve games, which was Bill Parcells first year with the Pats. Bavaro finished with one defensive tackle, six special teams tackles and a fumble recovery. The following year he started five games, with twelve defensive tackles.

In 1995 Bavaro signed with New Orleans as a free agent, but did not make the roster. He now teaches at Malden Catholic High School.

 

Gene Chilton, 53 (3/27/1964)
Patriot Center, 1990-92
Uniform #63

Strongman Gene Chilton was an integral part of a formidable offensive line that blocked for Earl Campbell at the University of Texas. The St. Louis Cardinals drafted Chilton in the third round (59th overall) in the 1986 draft, the first center drafted that year. He played in all 16 games and was named to the All-Rookie team, splitting time between center and left guard. The Patriots picked Chilton up in 1990 and he was their starting center before a knee injury landed him on IR. Chilton started all 32 games at center for the Pats over the next two seasons.

With knee injuries taking a toll on his body, Chilton retired in 1993. Over three seasons he appeared in 36 games for the Patriots with 35 starts.

 

Jerry Patton (3/27/1946-5/20/1983)
Patriot DT, 1975
Uniform #72

Patton was named MVP at Saginaw High School in not just football, but also basketball and track. He was then a three-year starter at defensive end at Nebraska. Undrafted, he played semi-pro football in the Continental Football League for two years. In 1971 Patton bucked odds and landed a spot on Minnesota’s roster. He started all but one game over the next three seasons, two with Buffalo and one in Philadelphia. He appeared in the final three games of the 1975 season for Chuck Fairbanks’ Patriots, but did not play in the NFL after that.

Patton then returned to Saginaw where he was active in community affairs. He was a president of the Saginaw Athletic Club, ran a Sickle Cell Celebrity Golf Tournament, organized a Midget Football League, and ran sports clinics at schools and rec centers. After a lengthy illness Patton passed away at the age of 37.

Video: Remembering Jerry Patton

 

Other March 27 birthdays of former NFL players include Eagle QB Randall Cunningham (54), four-time Pro Bowl MLB Mike Curtis (74) and three-time Charger Pro Bowl LG Doug Wilkerson (70).

Patriots Draft Profile: Colorado CB Chidobe Awuzie

Steve Balestrieri
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.

Happy Birthday to New England Patriots Kyle Van Noy, Eric Kettani

John Morgan
March 26, 2017 at 11:00 am ET

The Duke, Gino Cappelletti is not the only Patriot born on March 26. Kyle Van Noy and Eric Kettani are also among a group of present or former Boston/New England Patriots to be born on this date. Mr. Patriot is such a significant story of the Pats that he deserved his own column. Here is a look at other Patriots born today.

 

Kyle Van Noy, 26 (3/26/1991)
Patriot OLB, 2016-
Uniform #53

Van Noy was a versatile high school athlete who lettered in four sports. His senior year he had ten tackles for a loss, six forced fumbles, 14 sacks and a pick six. Van Noy also caught 35 passes 731 yards and 18 touchdowns. After leading his team to a 14-0 record and state championship he was recruited by more than a dozen colleges, choosing BYU.

At Brigham Young he registered 226 total tackles, 62 tackles for loss, 26 sacks, 17 forced fumbles and seven interceptions. The Detroit Lions drafted him in the second round of the 2014 draft, 40th overall. Things got off to a bad start almost immediately.

Van Noy suffered the first injury of his football career in training camp. After undergoing surgery he missed the first eight games of the season. Upon return he was used sparingly. Van Noy was on the field for a mere 54 defensive snaps the final nine games of the season (including a playoff game) and finished the season with six total tackles.

The writing was on the wall. At the following year’s combine Detroit GM Martin Mayhew had this to say when asked about Van Noy’s future:

“That’s totally up to him. He can have a huge role if he has a great offseason and plays great. If he doesn’t have a great offseason, and doesn’t play great, then his role won’t be as big.”

“I think a lot of times with young players, not him specifically, but they come from a place where they’ve been great players and super stars and then they come into a new team and now they have to work their way up and play special teams and do things they didn’t do in college. Sometimes that’s an adjustment. But really, it’s totally up to him as to how he performs and how he is feeling and all those things.”

A Detroit beat writer speculates that due to injuries to DeAndre Levy and other Lion linebackers, Van Noy was asked to do too much too soon. After seven games with varying roles Van Noy was traded to New England on October 25, 2016. The Patriots gave up virtually nothing for the linebacker. The Pats only had to move down slightly (24 spots) very late in the draft for his services. Detroit received just a sixth round pick (215th overall) in exchange for Van Noy and a seventh rounder (239th overall).

Van Noy began his tenure with the Pats as a healthy scratch while learning a new defense. Just over three months after being unceremoniously dumped, he was celebrating a Superbowl victory. By season end Van Noy was on the field for as much as 82% of the snaps, and recorded six tackles and half a sack in the playoffs.

 

Eric Kettani, 26 (3/26/1991)
Patriot FB, 2009-12, 2015
Uniform #44, #34, #36

The 5’9″ 240 pound back was one of three players from Navy that the Patriots signed as undrafted free agents in May of 2009. All had to fulfill their military commitments first, and Kettani was activated from the Pats’ Reserve/Military list in May of 2011. He was released as part of the final camp cuts that September, then signed to the practice squad after clearing waivers.

In October he was denied leave from the Navy and had to return to active duty, but the Patriots re-signed him the following spring. Kettani was then cut again at the end of camp in 2012. The Pats added him to the practice squad on September 1, but released him four days later to make room for OL Jeremiah Warren. Kettani later spent time on practice squads with Washington, Kansas City and Jacksonville.

The Patriots re-signed Kettani in August of 2015, but was let go later that month as part of roster cutdowns. Kettani rejoined the Naval Academy in 2015, working in the Public Affairs Office. He also paints, selling his artwork online.

 

John Cagle, 70 (3/26/1947)
Patriot DE, 1969
Uniform #62

Cagle was a first team All-ACC defensive tackle at Clemson in 1968. The Patriots took a flyer on 6’3″ 260 lb lineman, drafting him 344th overall in the 14th round of the 1969 draft. Clive Rush originally planned on converting Cagle to guard or linebacker and he impressed enough to end up on the taxi squad. Half way through the season he was promoted to the active roster and appeared in six games at defensive end. Cable returned for the 1970 training camp, but those six games were the extent of his NFL career.

 

Bill Murphy, 71 (3/26/1946)
Patriot WR, 1968
Uniform #31

Murphy attended Cornell, where he set Ivy League single-season records with 50 receptions for 853 yards and nine touchdowns. He was Cornell’s MVP in 1967, and his 163 yards receiving against Harvard was a school record that stood for 25 years. The Patriots signed Murphy in 1968 as a rookie free agent but he was released in training camp. He joined the the Lowell Giants of the old Atlantic Coast League. With things going south in his final season as head coach, Mike Holovak signed Murphy to the roster.

Although not blessed with blazing speed, Murphy had good moves and sure hands. Murphy played the final six games of the 1968 season for the Patriots, starting five times. He ended up with 18 receptions for 268 yards, averaging 14.9 yards per reception. In week ten he had four receptions for 72 yards at Kansas City, and followed that up the next week with four catches for 74 yards against Miami. Murphy returned the following summer but did not make the 1969 roster.

With his pro football career over Murphy put his Ivy League education to good use. He worked on Wall Street, specializing in commodities futures and later opened his own brokerage firm. In 1998 he co-founded the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee, where he is the chairman. That organization was organized to expose, oppose, and litigate against collusion to control the price and supply of gold and related financial instruments. Murphy still works as a financial adviser, specializing in investments in gold and silver.

 

Jimmy Raye, 71 (3/26/1946)
Offensive Coordinator, 1990

Raye had a very brief NFL career, appearing in two games over two years with the Rams and Eagles. He then spent six years as a college assistant coach. In 1977 he began a 37-year career as an NFL coach. Over that time he changed teams fifteen times with titles ranging from position coach to offensive coordinator to senior offensive assistant.

1990 was the bottom of the abyss in the history of the Patriots. Raye was the OC of a team that went 1-15, distracted by the Lisa Olson scandal.

Incredibly that is not the most embarrassing mark on Raye’s résumé. He is currently a senior adviser to Roger Goodell’s right hand man and mouthpiece, NFL vice president Troy Vincent. How he lives with himself, I do not know.

 

New England Patriots News 3-26 AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
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.

3/25 Pats History: Happy Birthday Stephen Belichick, Glenn Gronkowski

John Morgan
at 8:00 am ET

Today in New England Patriots’ franchise history we celebrate the birthdays of Stephen Belichick, Glenn Gronkowski, Niko Koutouvides, Luther Henson and Willie Porter.

 

Glenn Gronkowski, 24 (3/25/1993)
Patriot FB, 2016-
Uniform #47

At Kansas State Gronk’s younger brother was a second team All-Big 12 and first team Academic All-Big 12 in 2015. The Bills signed him as an undrafted rookie and he made the 53-man roster. Buffalo cut him the day after a week one loss to Baltimore, replacing him with Jerome Felton in a move to insure the veteran’s contract was not guaranteed.

A week later the Patriots worked out Gronkowski and several other players, and eventually signed him to the Practice Squad on October 1. Glenn won the Pats 2016 Ventrone Award, signed to the Practice Squad four times and released three times over the course of the season. He will have another opportunity this summer as the Patriots signed him to a futures contract on February 14.

Kansas State Sports: Glenn Gronkowski

Glenn Gronkowski transactions

1/28/17: Glenn Gronkowski having a blast in his first season with Patriots | Providence Journal

1/31/17: Glenn Gronkowski finally speaks | Boston Globe

2/14/17: Patriots sign Glenn Gronkowski, again | Pro Football Talk

 

Stephen Belichick, 30 (3/25/1987)
Patriot coaching staff, 2012-

The Hoodie’s son attended Rutgers where he played lacrosse for four years and then was a walk-on long snapper for Greg Schiano. The younger Belichick came on board in Foxboro, spending four years as a coaching assistant. In 2016 linebackers coach Patrick Graham departed New England to work for the Giants. Brian Flores shifted from safeties coach to linebacker coach. At that point Stephen Belichick was promoted to fill the vacant position as safeties coach.

2011 Rutgers Football Media Guide

1/20/2015: What does Bill Belichick’s son do for the Patriots? | NFL.com

5/10/2015: Bill Belichick Adds Son, Steve, To Pats’ Coaching Staff, Promotes Patricia To Defensive Coordinator | CBS Boston

3/8/2016: Steve Belichick promoted to Patriots safeties coach | Mike Reiss – ESPN

1/18/2017: Steve Belichick’s First Season As Patriots Position Coach Has Been A Success

1/31/2017: Steve Belichick comfortable following in his father’s famous footsteps | nj.com

 

Niko Koutouvides, 36 (3/25/1981)
Patriot LB/ST, 2011-2012
Uniform #46 and #90

At Purdue the linebacker was a first team All-Big Ten and teammate of Drew Brees and Matt Light. He was taken by Seattle in the fourth round of the 2004 draft. Koutouvides spent four seasons with the Seahawks, one in Denver and two in Tampa Bay, developing his niche as a standout special teams player.

The Patriots signed him in August of 2011 but was let go at the end of training camp. The Pats re-signed Niko in November the day after Albert Haynesworth was released, and he remained with the Pats for the rest of the season. In 2012 he was once again released at the end of camp and then re-signed, this time appearing in 14 games. In August of 2013 the Pats cut Koutouvides just prior to the start of the season. That marked the third straight time he had been released by the Patriots just before the start of the season. He finished his Patriot career with one start in 22 regular season games, and also appeared in five playoff games. Overall he played in 125 NFL games over five years, plus 13 post-season games – including two Super Bowls.

In 2013 Koutouvides became a principal and co-founder of Skala Partners, a real estate investment, development and management company in southwestern Connecticut.

For more on this former Patriot and New England native check out Mike Reiss’ 2011 ESPN column, Football Journey: Niko Koutouvides.

 

Luther Henson, 58 (3/25/1959)
Patriot DT, 1982-1984
Uniform #70 and #60

A two time All-Big 10 defensive tackle at Ohio State, Henson originally signed in his home state as an undrafted rookie with Cincinnati. After being cut by the Bengals, Ron Meyer in his first year as New England’s head coach signed the big man to fortify the defensive line. Henson made an impact, upgrading the interior pass rush. The defense allowed six fewer points per game from the previous season and the Pats improved from 2-14 to a playoff berth in ’82.

Henson played in 21 games over three seasons for the Patriots, registering three sacks. He later returned to Ohio, joining former college teammates in a successful auto dealership and is now Sales Director at a company in Columbus.

 

Willie Porter, 71 (3/25/1946)
Patriot CB/KR/PR, 1968
Uniform #27

At Texas Southern he was a speedy flanker and kick return man, playing in the same offense with four other future AFL or NFL players. Porter also excelled at track in college as a sprinter and hurdler. College teammate Leroy Mitchell, who was an All Pro corner for the Pats in 1968, recruited Porter to come play for the Patriots as an undrafted rookie.

Porter’s pro football career got off to a great start In the first game of the 1968 season at Buffalo he ran the second half kickoff all the way back to the Bills’ 45 yard line. On the first play from scrimmage R.C. Gamble (who was filling in for an injured Jim Nance) went the distance for a touchdown. That gave the Patriots their first lead of the game, 10-7. More importantly after a lackluster first half those two plays gave the Pats a much needed spark and momentum. The defense responded with big turnovers and shut Buffalo out in the second half and the Patriots won, 16-7.

Mike Holovak converted Porter from offense to corner, just as he had done with Mitchell. Porter was utilized primarily on special teams, leading the Pats in punt returns and kick returns, totaling 949 all purpose yards. That turned out to be Porter’s only season in the league. Later he became a high school assistant coach at Jackson, Michigan.

 

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.