Tag Archives: Sealver Siliga

New England Patriots News 3-6 and AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
March 6, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news notes and what’s happening around the division.

Brady/Pats Extend Contract to 2019: Sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Diana Russini that the Patriots will extend QB Tom Brady’s contract thru the 2019 season. Brady was signed through the 2017 season and was set to make $10 million in 2017 and $9 million this year. His salary cap hit of $15 million will most certainly come down now as a result.

With the extension and if Brady plays the entire length of his contract, Brady will be 42-years old and will have spent at least 20 years with one team, becoming one of only three players to do so. He’ll join Jackie Slater and Darrell Green as the only players to do that.

The contract isn’t signed yet, but it is expected to save the team between $2-3 million dollars against this season’s cap which is important because the team is looking to extend defensive stars Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Malcolm Butler and Chandler Jones to long-term deals to keep them in New England for the foreseeable future.

Backup QB Jimmy Garappolo is signed thru the 2017 season.

Brady Court Hearing Takes a Bad Turn: In the latest court news fallout from the Deflategate fiasco, the NFL’s case seemingly looks stronger again as at least two of the three judges in the appeals case on the surface appeared to take the NFL’s side in their questioning.

Judge Barrington Daniels Parker brought up the issue of Brady’s cell phone and said that Brady’s explanation that he routinely destroys his cellphones when replacing them to protect his privacy, “made no sense whatsoever.”

Judge Denny Chin even commented on the shoddy science used in the Wells Report pointed to a conspiracy, calling the NFL’s evidence of ball tampering, “compelling if not overwhelming.”

Their decision isn’t expected to be handed down for several months but most onlookers in the court expect the league’s suspension to be reapplied.

Patriots Begin Roster Trimming: The team this week cut WR Brandon LaFell,  TE Scott Chandler and LB Darius Fleming as well as telling RFAs WR Brian Tyms and DT Sealver Siliga that they won’t be offered new deals, effectively ending their time in New England.

LaFell was only a year removed from a combined regular season and playoff run from a 1000-yard year. But offseason foot surgery held him out of all of spring and summer workouts. Once he did return, he struggled badly and ended up with only 37 catches and zero touchdowns in 2015. Chandler too struggled badly last year and finished with just 23 catches. His knee issues bothered him all down the stretch and he failed his physical. Fleming was a backup linebacker who played sparingly in the absence of both Hightower and Collins.

Both Tyms and Siliga were depth personnel and on the surface, their departure, as well as Fleming is a bit surprising as they won’t get a chance to win a spot at training camp. But since they don’t fit into the Patriots plans, the decision to release them now both frees up some cash and allows them a chance to latch on with another team quickly.

Free Agency Peek: With the honeymooning phase of free agency beginning on Monday, the Patriots aren’t flush with cash so don’t expect them to be making a flurry of big moves once it starts. The most pressing needs for the team remain:

  • Running Back Depth: The team desperately needs a big back who can run between the tackles and catch some passes out of the backfield. A couple of names that continue to surface for NE include Matt Forte, Chris Ivory, and Alfred Morris.
  • Offensive Line Depth: The core of the interior OL is set with either 2nd or 3rd -year players, an added veteran would serve them well, possibly a return of Josh Kline. At the tackle position, ideally, they would find a right tackle as a replacement for Sebastian Vollmer and move him to swing.
  • Wide Receiver: With Tyms and LaFell both gone, now this is more than a depth need, they need youth, size and some speed on the outside. Don’t expect a big splash name but some solid veterans include Chris Hogan, Rishard Matthews and Rod Streater with more pieces added in the NFL draft.
  • Linebacker Depth: Collins and Hightower are set, the team still has some depth behind them with Jon Bostic and Jonathan Freeny but could use another linebacker to augment them.
  • Tight End: With Chandler gone, it is Rob Gronkowski, Michael Williams who is a blocking tight end and 2nd year player A.J. Derby who missed all of 2015 on IR. Mike Reiss pointed to former Colts TE Dwayne Allen as a possible fit and he’s a good receiver and blocker who would be of interest…if the price is right.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Dolphins Bring in Mario Williams: Miami is looking to augment its pass rush and brought in free agent Mario Williams for a visit on Saturday. Williams was released by Buffalo on Tuesday and is free to sign with any team now but has stated he will make several visits before deciding on a new team.

Miami placed a $12.734 million-dollar transitional franchise tag on DE Olivier Vernon. Which means he can negotiate with other teams but gives the Dolphins the right of first refusal. The status of DE Cameron Wake who is 34 and coming off an Achilles injury is still somewhat hazy at this point as well.

Williams struggled in Buffalo in the first year of the Rex Ryan regime and at times was outwardly critical of how he was used and the game planning. In his first three seasons in Buffalo Williams tallied 38 sacks but that number plummeted to just five in 2015.

Jets Aren’t Expected to Be Big Players in Free Agency: After making a splash last year with a number of big name signings, the Jets don’t have the flexibility monetarily to be big spenders in 2016.

The biggest question now is QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and how much and how long he gets. NY GM Mike Maccagnan can’t be a happy camper seeing the deal that Sam Bradford got with the Philadelphia Eagles because that just drove up the price for Fitzpatrick’s contract.

Damon Harrison should probably be back and then the team will have to make a decision on which running back Chris Ivory or Bilal Powell remains. Right now the money is on Powell remaining with Gang Green but it is possible the Jets could lose both in free agency. Look for them to start cutting some middle of the roster veterans to create some cap space.

Right now the Jets have about $7 million dollars in cap space to work with.

Bills Release Long-time CB Leodis McKelvin: Williams wasn’t the only notable member of the Bills released this week as the team released Leodis McKelvin after he refused to accept a pay cut.

McKelvin, 30 immediately becomes a free agent and should draw significant interest even though he suffered through an injury-shortened 2015 season that saw him play in only nine games. He’s been with the Bills since being drafted in the 2008 NFL Draft as the 11th overall pick by Buffalo.

The team is still in good shape at cornerback with Stephon Gillmore and 2nd year player Ronald Darby who shined as a rookie. The release of McKelvin is expected to free up $3.9 million dollars and now gives Buffalo around $13 million in cap space.

Help Save and Rescue Dogs and Meet a Patriots Legend: Odie’s Place is a registered 501c3 Animal Rescue organization run by Brian Harrington and his wife Kerrie down in Dartmouth, Mass.

They rescue dogs that are either in a bad situation or from shelters that are about to put them down. Rescuing these animals, placing them in temporary foster homes and finding them a safe, happy permanent home is time-consuming and takes money.

Today, Sunday, March 6 at the New Bedford Home Show, he’ll be doing a fundraiser with Patriots Hall of Famer Steve Nelson who’ll be signing autographs for a small fee with all of the money going to Odie’s Place. They’ll also be raffling off a Nelson jersey that will be autographed by Nellie on site as well as taking some pictures with fans.

Come down and support a great cause and talk some football with a Pats legend…BTW my own family recently adopted a two-year-old English Bulldog from Odie’s Place and we are happy to have added her to our household.

Odies place

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.

Following Sealver Siliga’s Release, Veteran Thanks Fans

Robert Alvarez
March 4, 2016 at 9:34 pm ET

As reported on Twitter by his agent and later the New England Patriots, defensive tackle Sealver Siliga was released by the team on Thursday making him an unrestricted free agent.

According to ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, “Siliga opened 2015 as the team’s starting nose tackle, but finished the year fourth on the depth chart behind Malcom Brown, Alan Branch and Akiem Hicks. The turning point in his season came in an Oct. 18 game against the Colts when he struggled at times against the run, which is his forte.”

Siliga took to Instagram to thank the Patriots organization and their fans for the last two seasons.


Patriots LB Jerod Mayo Announces Retirement On Instagram, Players React.

Robert Alvarez
February 17, 2016 at 9:03 am ET

On Instagram Wednesday night, New England Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo formally announced his retirement from the NFL following eight NFL seasons with the team that drafted him 10th overall in the 2008 draft out of the University of Tennessee.

Mayo had an instant impact on the Patriots, being named defensive rookie of the year in 2008 and two pro bowl selections in 2010 and 2012. He helped lead a defense that was in a transitional stage, helping guide the team to a Super Bowl appearance in 2011 before injuries plagued his career from 2013-2015. Mayo suffered a torn pectoral twice in 2013 and most recently this January after the divisional round versus the Kansas City Chiefs. In 2014 Mayo tore his patellar tendon. Mayo played a combined 12 games over 2013-2014, missing the Super Bowl championship last February.

Mayo rebounded to play in all 16 regular season games in his final NFL season in 2015, but only started half. He walks away from the game at 29 years old following the latest injury.

As PatsFans own Miguel Benzan fully states in this article HERE, Mayo’s retirement led to key salary cap ramifications moving forward, while freeing up $6.475 million in cap space.

Below is Mayo’s statement from Instagram with the bold caption “Retiring A Patriot.”


A post shared by Jerod Mayo (@jerod_mayo51) on

Many current and former teammates reflected on Mayo’s career over social media.


And why not end with his crushing hit on Dennis Pitta in the 2012 AFC Championship game.

Patriots Free Agent Profile Sealver Siliga

Steve Balestrieri
February 11, 2016 at 6:43 am ET

The Patriots have a couple of decisions to make in regard to free agents this offseason, but they are mainly to do with their role players and not with the starters like last year or the upcoming 2017 season.

The Patriots are deep at the defensive tackle position; starters last season were rookie Malcom Brown and Alan Branch, the latter who played very well but is entering into the last season on his contract. The rotation consisted of Dominique Easley, Sealver Siliga, Akiem Hicks and Ishmaa’ily Kitchen. The team also has Chris Jones returning as well as Joe Vellano. Easley was the team’s top draft choice in 2014 but has never played a full season due to injuries.

Siliga was signed to the Patriots practice squad back in October 2013 and if re-signed will start his fourth season with the team. With the departure of Vince Wilfork last spring, it was penciled in that he’d take over the starting tackle position while the rookie Brown found his feet in the pro game.

But after starting the first few games, Siliga had a poor outing against the Colts in Week 5, losing containment on several plays. The next week, he lost the starting job to Brown and played only 10 defensive snaps against the Jets, although chipping in with three tackles.

The big 6’2, 325-pound run stuffer is one of two free agents (Hicks), the Patriots have in their interior. He’ll turn 26 in April and still has plenty of tread left on his tires. Now the question is, after losing his starting job and a lot of snaps to the duo of Brown and Branch, will the Patriots bring Siliga back for the 2016 season?

Why Siliga Will Return: Siliga is one of those big bodied guys who are invaluable as run stuffers. One of the indelible moments of training camp was his crunching hit of Tyler Gaffney on August 1, shooting across the gap and leveling the runner as he was trying to get to the second level. That’s his type of play and frankly the type that the Patriots need more of.

With the injury history of both Easley and Jones and Branch’s uncertain future given his age (31) and his contract status, it would certainly bode well for the Patriots to at least bring him back to compete for a slot in training camp. He certainly shouldn’t break the bank and with Hicks possibly commanding a lot of money in free agency, their depth would certainly take a hit if they were to lose both.

At a minimum, if Hicks returns and Easley is healthy, Siliga would provide the big-bodied run stuffing rotation against the run heavy teams that the Patriots will face in 2016.

Why Siliga Won’t Return: The Patriots may see the diminishing returns of Siliga this season as a sign of things to come. If they re-sign Hicks then their rotation with he, Branch, Brown and Easley would be close to being set and Siliga would be relegated to a #5 role.

The big man has also battled some injury concerns as well and that will also have to be taken into consideration.

Bottom Line:  It makes too much sense for the Patriots not to offer Siliga a team-friendly deal and bring him back to compete for playing time during the spring and summer workouts. Training camp snaps will become important as they have potentially a lot of depth to work with.

There shouldn’t be a ton of pursuers coming after Siliga so a bidding war isn’t in the cards. Much of their decision may come down to how their negotiations go with Hicks and monitoring the health of Easley and Jones in the spring. Easley didn’t need surgery on his injured quad so that was a positive sign for the 2nd year player.

Siliga has been a nice part of the team’s rotation up front and given the extent of the injuries the team has suffered the past few years, the chances are 60/40 or better that they’ll bring him back in 2016.

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

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


VIDEO: Revisiting “The Butler Did It” One Year Later

Robert Alvarez
February 1, 2016 at 11:07 pm ET

It has been over a week for Patriots fans to digest the heartbreaking AFC Championship loss to the Denver Broncos, but today, February 1st does mark a positive anniversary in team history. It was one year ago, the Patriots pulled off one of the most miracle Super Bowl wins of recent memory with a then unknown undrafted rookie named Malcom Butler bursting into the spotlight.

In honor of that moment, the New England Patriots posted this unique and raw video recorded from the team sideline the instant Butler sealed the fourth Lombardi trophy with his interception. Take a watch and listen below.

This reaction never gets old.

Posted by New England Patriots on Monday, February 1, 2016

A few players also took a moment to reflect back on the memories.

@patriots @nfl @nflnetwork The Play That Changed My Life And Others…..#PATSNATION #XLIX #BLESSED #1YearAgo

A post shared by Malcolm CB Butler (@mac_bz) on

While others are already looking ahead to…the next one.

Two-a-days have begun…

Posted by Tom Brady on Monday, February 1, 2016

Patriots Free Agent Profile Akiem Hicks

Steve Balestrieri
January 29, 2016 at 6:00 am ET

The Patriots defensive line entered the 2015 season with some questions. It was the first time in more than a decade that they’d not have big Vince Wilfork clogging the middle. And with questions about how the rookie 1st round draft pick Malcom Brown would work out, the Patriots ability to stop the run as well as push the pocket from the interior was not as sure as in years past.

The Patriots traded for Akiem Hicks on September 30, sending backup tight end Michael Hoomanawanui to the New Orleans Saints for his services. At the time the trade made little fanfare, but it ended up being a steal for New England. Now at the end of the 2015 season, Hicks is the team’s biggest free agent priority to bring back in 2016.

Hicks was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Saints and after three seasons due to a change in philosophy as well as diminishing returns, he was relegated to a backup role in New Orleans. There were some whisperings of his work ethic, which made the trade seem like a bust. But Hicks just needed a fresh start and has been a valued member of the team.

He started slowly as the four-man rotation featuring Malcom Brown, Dominique Easley, Alan Branch and Sealver Siliga was already set. But when Dominique Easley went down with a season ending injury, Hicks stepped in to the third player in the rotation and played very well.

The big 6’4, 325-pound lineman is versatile, a Bill Belichick staple and can play anywhere from 0-technique to a 5-technique. His ability to stop the run and collapse the pocket were big parts of the Patriots defense down the stretch. His role increased as he became more familiar with the Patriots system and given a better defined role once Easley went down.

Playing a 5-technique defensive end in the Big Easy, he played more of a defensive tackle role in New England moving in different spots on the line. He logged 21 tackles, including 15 in the final four games, with three sacks and a fumble recovery for a touchdown in 2015. He uses his big frame and plays with good leverage in the running game but has long arms that he can shed blockers in pass rushing, his specialty.

“I think that my time here has been spent well, focusing on what I need to do to become a better player, in general,” Hicks said just prior to the playoffs beginning. “And then, along with the coaches, keeping me as a part of the defense and pushing me forward.”

And it never hurts to get a little love from the head coach. Bill Belichick was singing his praises to the media earlier this month.

“We change things a little bit fairly regularly, Belichick said. “So there is definitely an element of game planning and things we do specific to one team that don’t necessarily carry over from the week before, so I think that’s an adjustment for a lot of players that come in here. But he’s done a good job, he works hard, he’s certainly improved and gotten a lot better in all those areas.”

Why Hicks Will Return: Versatility, leadership and production. And he’s only 26 years old so he’s just entering his prime. Hicks seems to have found a second lease on his career in New England this season and his signing will align him with Malcom Brown, Dominique Easley, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins to give the team an incredibly young and talented nucleus for the front seven.

The Patriots had their eye on Hicks this season at the joint practices in West Virginia, Belichick said as much back in September when they made the trade for what was their fourth tight end on the depth chart.

They know what they have in Hicks and he was just finding his groove at the end of the season after a slow start. He should only get better in 2016.

Why Hicks Won’t Return: Money. Hicks’ performance may put him in-line for a huge payday that the Patriots may decide that is too rich for their blood. Belichick is a pragmatist when it comes to contracts. He will pay a player what he feels that player is worth and not a penny more.

If another team comes in with an offer for big money, Hicks could be moving on next season. The Patriots won’t be the only team vying for his services as Hicks plays a position that is always paid and paid well in free agency.

Bottom line: Our take is that there is a better than 50/50 chance that Hicks will return to wear the Flying Elvis in 2016. He’s more than shown he’s a fit. And once he got to play regularly, he played and played well. Now that he’s comfortable in the system, he should be even better next season.

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.

Looking Back: Best of Veterans Day, Patriots Players Tributes

Robert Alvarez
November 11, 2015 at 8:00 pm ET

As Veterans Day arrived on Wednesday, players of the New England Patriots made sure to thank the true Patriots of this country through a variety of social media tributes to those who serve. Social media provided a powerful look into the personal lives of a few members of the Patriots who had loved ones in the Armed Forces.

So grateful to have him as a brother and as one of my heroes!

A post shared by Sealver Siliga (@sealver_siliga) on



Happy Veterans Day to my parents and all that have served our country and protected our freedom

A post shared by Cameron Fleming (@cammyjfresh) on

Thank you to all that served and continue to serve our country #VeteransDay

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

A post shared by James Develin (@jdevelin) on

Breaking Down the Akiem Hicks Trade, Belichick Continues Roster Building

Steve Balestrieri
October 1, 2015 at 6:04 am ET


The Patriots made a flurry of roster moves on Wednesday just after the final bye week practice, releasing one player from the active roster LB Dekoda Watson, and three more from the practice squad WR Kenbrell Thompkins, DL Joe Vellano and OL Chris Barker.

But the big news of the day was the trade the team made with the New Orleans Saints, trading TE Michael Hoomanawanui and receiving DL Akiem Hicks in return.

Hoomanawanui had fallen down the depth chart with the arrival of free agent Scott Chandler and the trade that brought TE/T Michael Williams from the Lions. Now the fourth tight end, Hoomanawanui was a healthy inactive for the Jacksonville game.

He has good blocking skills and decent hands in the passing game but never was a big factor there. His best year was in 2013 with Gronkowski out, he caught 13 passes. He did bring value in his versatility however, he could line up as a traditional tight end, H-back or as a fullback. New Orleans, with a need of in-line blocking tight end depth made the deal with the Patriots for the 6’4, 260 pound six-year veteran. Hooman was always a valuable work-pail type of player that teams love to have on the bottom of the roster.

But this trade was really about Hicks, the talented but inconsistent defensive lineman. Taken by the Saints in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Hicks’ best season was in 2013 when he tallied 4.5 sacks and 76 tackles.

He has some positional versatility and will probably be used as an inside three-technique defensive tackle by the Patriots. That is where his best work was done with the Saints, although he played some five-technique there as well. It was the move to defensive end this season where he struggled.

Hicks dropped 20 pounds this past offseason in an attempt to add a bit more of quickness to his game and other than a minor ankle injury, had a solid training camp for the Saints. But the coaching staff there had lost faith in him and his playing time dwindled. It was a quick fall from grace for the 25-year old, where just a year ago he was considered one of the more important players on the defensive line.

But after playing in nearly 70 percent of the snaps in the opener, the coaches were replacing him with rookies Tyeler Davison and Bobby Richardson more and more as his snap counts plummeted to 44 and 43 percent.

Perhaps a change of scenery and a chance to start fresh will ignite the 6’5, 324 pound Hicks. Rather than the traditional two-gap run stuffer that the Patriots have favored in the past, Hicks, when at the top of his game is more of a penetrator, a guy who can use his quickness off the line to disrupt plays in the backfield and push the pocket.

He has plenty of upside, now the coaches have to bring it out of him, Bill Belichick has always had a great touch in using a player to fullest potential by playing to his strengths. And that would be as an inside penetrator who is very solid in the running game.

He’ll join Dominique Easley, Malcom Brown, Sealver Siliga and Alan Branch at the rotation inside on the defensive line. This move will further strengthen the front seven and provide another good run stuffing presence along with a player that can be a factor in the pass rush as well.

This trade was a good one for New England, Hoomanawanui was obviously not going to be a big factor in the Patriots offense moving forward and so the cost of taking a flyer on the former 3rd round pick Hicks was minimal. Plus…if Hicks does leave after the season, the Patriots would be eligible for a compensatory pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

These moves show that, despite being on a bye week, the work never stops and especially in the area of team building, the Patriots under Belichick have always tinkered with the roster.

This will not be the last move the team makes before the November 3 trade deadline. I would expect the Patriots to be active in search of more players that they feel can put them in the best position to win this season.

The amount of turnover of the roster is amazing; the Patriots Super Bowl winning roster of just a few months ago has changed dramatically. As our salary cap guru Miguel (@Patscap) pointed out on Twitter, just 30 players from the 53 who beat the Seahawks are currently on the roster.

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.

Bye Week Observations: Patriots Defense Still Some Tinkering to do

Steve Balestrieri
September 30, 2015 at 6:26 am ET

The Patriots are on their early bye week this Sunday and the team will enjoy some down time before returning next week in preparations for away games at Dallas and Indianapolis.

Yesterday we took a look at where the offense lies at this early juncture and today we’ll take a look at the defense. It is playing with Fool’s Gold to make any sweeping projections on the defense based on this small sample of work. One of the hallmarks of a Bill Belichick team is that continue to add to the defense as the year progresses and that they get better as the year goes on.

So we’ll break down the positions and see where they’re set or need some help.

Sheard , Rookies Provide Depth at Defensive end: Back in the spring, we wrote that the signing of Jabaal Sheard was going to be one of the more underrated ones of the year. For the past two years DEs Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich were forced to play far too many snaps and rarely if ever came off the field. That has changed.

Sheard now is a regular rotational piece and it will keep everyone much fresher, which means at the end of games and the season, the wear and tear will be greatly reduced on all of the players. This was in evidence on Sunday in the blowout win over Jacksonville, Sheard led all DEs in snaps.

Rookies Geneo Grissom and Trey Flowers as well as Rufus Johnson will all see some action as the team gets them some experience. This position went from one very thin to one of the deeper units on the team this offseason.

Interior DL Coming Together: The team has opted to keep four interior DL with rookie first round draft pick Malcom Brown, Sealver Siliga, Dominique Easley and Alan Branch. Occasionally they’ll slide one of the ends inside when trying to project a speed rushing NASCAR package.

The coaches are still tinkering with different combinations but with Easley back from a hip injury suffered in the opener, the unit is blending together nicely. Branch and Siliga are the big men who are dedicated run stuffers while Brown and Easley are the penetrators, the quicker guys who can shoot gaps, disrupt plays in the backfield.

They were gashed on the run a bit in the first two weeks but some of that was scheme related; this week they were much better holding the Jaguars to 2.8 yards per carry. One area that they can still improve upon is the pass rush and the pushing of the interior of the pocket for opposing quarterbacks.

But the unit has a nice blend of youth and experience and barring injury should be set.

Bostic, adds depth to Linebacker Core: The Patriots just completed a trade with the Chicago Bears adding linebacker Jon Bostic and trading a 6th round pick in the process. Bostic was a second round pick of the Bears selected just prior to Jamie Collins and is a downhill, run stuffing Mike linebacker. It should be noted at the NFL Combine he performed well in the 40-yard dash (4.61) and had a nice time in the Three Cone Drill (6.99), something the team covets.

But the strength of the Patriots linebackers rests with their two main pieces Dont’a Hightower and Collins. Playing a lot of sub-packages, the defense relies on an abundance of two linebacker sets and Collins and Hightower have been outstanding in their roles. Collins in particular in the early going is becoming one of the better linebackers in the league.

Veteran Jerod Mayo is coming off of two seasons in a row cut short due to serious injuries. He’s played mainly in the base look and goal line and it still isn’t known whether they’re just easing him back in they feel he’s lost a step. Dekoda Watson mainly a STs presence, rounds out the linebacking core.

Bostic should provide immediate help with the depth and will probably see plenty of work on STs as well.

McCourty Heads Solid Group of Safeties: The Patriots are deep and talented at safety and Captain Devin McCourty heads the group with an All-Pro presence in centerfield. The Patriots recognized his leadership and value and rewarded him with a big contract extension this season. His play has been stellar thus far as the quarterback for the secondary.

The Patriots constantly shuffle personnel with Pat Chung, Duron Harmon, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner and newcomer Jordan Richards all getting some work in. Richards got some extended reps this past Sunday against Jacksonville and looked good in a small sample size.

Team still has questions at corner after Butler: With the large turnover at cornerback this offseason, a lot of pressure was placed on the shoulders of 2nd year player Malcolm Butler. Butler has played well and is a very competitive guy on the field. While he’s given up touchdowns in each game, the passes in each went right thru his hands. It is only a matter of time before those completions start to turn into interceptions.

At the right corner Tarrell Brown did start the first two games but on Sunday, he dressed but sat and Logan Ryan got the start. It is believed that it was a precautionary take on the part of the coaches. Brown seems to have the right side as his own with Ryan as the nickel corner but that will deem watching as they move forward.

Bradley Fletcher was a healthy scratch Sunday and he’s struggled badly the first two games, especially in Buffalo. This gave newcomer Justin Coleman the chance to show what he can do against Jacksonville and he responded with a pretty decent performance. It will be interesting to see if the team opts to use Coleman more as the season progresses and they either sit or release Fletcher.

The biggest question remains, is this unit capable of making the big stops on third down in big games? This is one area that the team could still use an influx of talent. Don’t be shocked if the Pats try to work a deal before the deadline of November 3rd and bring in a veteran corner.

The defense hasn’t been great the first three weeks of the season, but Belichick’s defenses rarely are. It usually entails the team adding pieces bit by bit and evolving as the season progresses. Like we mentioned above, trying to put a stamp on things, good bad or indifferent after less than 20 percent of the games is folly.

But the unit has a nice blend of youth and experience, with an added piece here or there…this could be a very nice complement to the Patriots offense down the stretch.

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.