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Projecting the Patriots Starting Offense

New England Patriots

SAN DIEGO, CA – DECEMBER 07: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 and his New England Patriots teammates take the field against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on December 7, 2014 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

Now that the NFL’s team OTA’s are underway, we can take a look at what might be the Patriots starting lineup. Going into the draft, many believed New England would take a Cornerback in the 1st round. But there was also a sense that the Patriots might move up for CB Byron Jones out of UCONN, the Patriots didn’t do that either. But when it came to their 1st round choice, they picked 6’2″ 320 lb Defensive Tackle Malcolm Brown out of Texas. Scouts said he was a top 20 talent, but as many players do, Brown slid further and further down the draft board till pick #32. Lucky enough for New England, they had just lost All-Pro Defensive Tackle Vince Wilfork to the Houston Texans. So New England thought Brown would be a perfect replacement.

After the draft the Patriots would go on to sign multiple free agents, even some Patriots fans should remember. The Patriots inked LB Brandon Spikes and LB Dane Fletcher to 1-year deals.

The Patriots were hurting for depth at Linebacker and this is the exact veteran depth they needed. The Patriots filled their roster to the brim at 90 players. The Patriots have exactly $9,998,212 in salary cap after they signed their draft picks and multiple free agents after the draft. So lets get to assessing the roster.

Lets play devil’s advocate and say Tom Brady’s suspension stays at 4 games, for the first 4 games you have Jimmy Garoppolo under center, after that. Tom Brady re-claims his throne and the Patriots continue their winning ways.

We all know at Running back LeGarrette Blount is the starter, but with Shane Vereen going to the Giants, the Patriots need a receiving back, my best guess for a starter is last years 4th round pick out of Wisconsin James White. The 5’10” 205 lb back has great hands and is great at finding open space. The Patriots drafted White to prepare for the departure of Vereen. James White is my pick, but he has other competition like Tyler Gaffney, Dion Lewis and Travaris Cadet.

At Wide Receiver the top 4 starters would be Edelman, LaFell, Amendola and Dobson. I believe that Dobson (if healthy, which is a huge “if”) can put up some good numbers for New England. The former 2nd round pick out of Marshall has all the ability to be the Patriots deep threat. In Dobson’s first season he put up good numbers for New England. Dobson went for 37 receptions, 519 yards and 4 touchdowns. Not too shabby for a rookie. But Dobson will have to out battle Brandon Gibson, Josh Boyce and Brian Tyms.

The Patriots added great Tight end depth this offseason, bringing in, 6’7″ Buffalo Bills Scott Chandler. Scott Chandler will add an extra dimension to the Patriots offense, with Chandler and Gronkowski working the seams, it makes LaFell and Edelman even more dangerous. The Patriots also added former Washington Redskins Fred Davis. Davis will have to beat Michael Hoomanawanui for a roster spot, but I believe that you could pencil in Chandler’s name next to Rob Gronkowski.

Now, time to see who will protect Tom Brady. I strongly believe Nate Solder is a shoe-in at Left Tackle for the Patriots. While at Left Guard, its up in the air, the Patriots could go with their 4th round pick out of Florida State, Tre Jackson. The 6’4″ Guard was listed as the 2nd best all around Guard in the draft behind the Redskins Brandon Scherff. But they could go with their other 4th rounder, Shaq Mason. Mason is a big mauler at Guard, the 6’1″ 300 lb beast could fit very well in the run game. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said he believed Mason was the best run blocker in this draft. But the one thing that allowed Mason to drop in the draft, was his lack of skill in the pass blocking department. At Center, Bryan Stork is an obvious starter. For Right Guard, its a little tougher. The Patriots don’t have a plug-and-play Right Guard, their only options are Marcus Cannon, Jordan Devey & Ryan Wendell. Wendell isn’t exactly the Patriots fix at Right Guard. He did a pretty solid job last year, but maybe the Patriots could get more out of a Marcus Cannon who is younger and bigger. Lastly at Right Tackle the Patriots have a fine starter in Sebastian Vollmer. Vollmer has been in the NFL for several years and has a great experience at the position.

Overall, the Patriots offense looks to have only gotten better in the off season, maybe New England will have a juggernaut of an offense and defense that is sub par at best. Only time will tell.


12 Reasons The Patriots Lost Super Bowl XLVI

The Patriots are just about set to take on the NFC Champion Seahawks in their sixth Super Bowl appearance in the last 13 years. In their two most recent trips in 2007 and 2011, however, the Pats have not been able to come away victorious. In their most recent Super Bowl loss to the Giants, there were some pretty clear reasons as to why they were unable to win the game. We all remember the last-minute, game-winning touchdown drive orchestrated by Eli Manning, Ahmad Bradshaw’s accidental touchdown and the last-second Hail Mary attempt falling incomplete. Chances are, however, most people have forgotten about some of the other reasons the Pats came out on the wrong end of the score, but not to worry. Here are the top-12 reasons the Patriots lost Super Bowl XLVI.

Tom Brady walks off the field in Indianapolis following the Super Bowl XLVI defeat.

Tom Brady walks off the field in Indianapolis following the Super Bowl XLVI defeat.

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Patriots Beef Up In Later Rounds With Linemen (Videos)

Bryan Stork was one of three offensive linemen taken by the New England Patriots on Saturday.

The New England Patriots addressed their depth on both sides of the line of scrimmage in the final day of the NFL Draft on Saturday.

They came into the day with seven total picks after they added two more selections (in the fourth and sixth rounds) with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Friday night.

1. Fourth Round (105th pick): Center Bryan Stork

In their first pick and the first of three fourth-round selections on Saturday, the Patriots chose center/guard out of Florida State, the reigning national champions. Stork started at center for the Seminoles, but the Patriots also could use him as a guard. This offseason, the Patriots brought back center Ryan Wendell on a two-year deal. The 6-foot-3-inch, 315-pound interior lineman will challenge Wendell. Last season, the Patriots struggled to protect Tom Brady from inside pass rushers. In the AFC Championship game, the Broncos were able to apply pressure in the middle. Also, the Cincinnati Bengals’ ferocious defensive line was able to sack Brady on four occasions in a 13-6 victory over the Patriots in a regular season game. Stork is a big body, but he has durability concerns. He missed several games with various ailments, including a concussion during a game last season against Maryland. He also did not play in a game against Boston College due to frequent headaches. If Stork can stay on the field, the Patriots may have a steal. This is the initial pick that the Patriots got from the Jaguars in the transaction on Friday.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eiuQyUC2jJM?rel=0]

2. Fourth Round (130th): Running Back James White Read more

NFL 2013: BST&N’s Patriots Midseason Report Card

The Gronk could only be held out of the endzone for so long. TB12 is back on track.

It’s been one crazy roller-coaster ride for Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots in 2013. Entering the season with a key playmaker departure in Welker and Hernandez gate in full swing, the odds were not in favor of the 3-time Superbowl Champions. Furthermore, after season-ending injuries to defensive captains Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo, the Red Sox playoff chase took a front-seat to what seemed like a rocky road ahead for New England. Sprinkle in Gronk’s lengthy return, Vereen’s IR stint and Amendola’s notoriously fragile nature, the Patriots seemed doomed after multiple sputtering offensive performances. Early season woes aside, Brady and company sit atop the AFC East at (7-2), while the Jets (5-4) and Dolphins (4-5) trail a few games back. There is a new powerhouse in the (9-0) Kansas City Chiefs, just one game ahead of Peyton Manning and the (8-1) Denver Broncos in the AFC West. Division leaders (6-3) Colts and (6-4) Bengals peaked early but looked subpar in Week 10 losses.

Belichick is a November and December mastermind which bodes well for the Patriots who are lucky to even be in this position in 2013. After resting up this week on the bye, New England travels into Carolina for a MNF matchup against a (6-3) Panther team that has won 5 straight – most recently San Francisco on the road. As we enter the second half of the 2013 season, check out this report card grading the Patriot’s performance thus far.

Passing Offense: C+ : Despite dropping 432 yards and 4 touchdowns on a Dick LeBeau Steeler’s defense in Week 9, Tom Brady is averaging exactly 200 yards less in 2013 (232 YPG). There is no doubt the aforementioned injuries above took a toll on TB12’s production in the first half of the year. Historically completing 63.4% of his passes, Brady sits at 57.1%, 13 TDs and 6 INT through 9 games. He passed for less than 250 yards in 5/9 games, something he only did 4 times last year. Tom had a rough October, throwing 2 TD and 4 INT but quickly dismissed skeptics with the dominating performance against Pittsburgh. On passes 11-20 yards through the air, Brady is only completing 45.7%; however he has logged 7 TD and 2 INT. His swollen hand is an afterthought and “the decline” of Brady does not seem imminent. With Gronkowski (19 rec, 284 yds, 1TD) came a renewed chemistry and a versatile offensive attack. TB12 is better than 13 TDs through 9 games, Peyton Manning has 33. The only reason they are not lower on this two weeks ago was a preview of the success that can still be attained.

Rushing Offense: B+ : What started as running back by committee has quickly become Stevan Ridley’s (118 car, 514 yds, 6 td) backfield to lose once again. The Patriots average 129.1 rushing YPG, good for 8th in the NFL. This provides an imperative balance Brady continues to lean upon during his supbar start to 2013. The Patriots came into the season with a healthy lot of 5 halfbacks, adding LeGarrette Blount and Leon Washington to go alongside Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden. Blount is the only player to remain unscathed by the injury bug, logging carries and kick returns, yes kick returns, in every game (70 car, 312 yds, 2 td). Vereen looked sharp, gaining 159 total yards in Week 1 before it was discovered his wrist needed to be surgically repaired – forcing him to IR until Week 11. With Shane out, Bolden stepped up as the passing down back with 107 yards receiving and 205 yards rushing/2 touchdowns. Depth at RB is integral and New England only looks up as do-it-all Vereen is slated to make his much needed return on Monday Night Football.

Offensive Line: C+ : The Patriots allowed 27 sacks all of last year, care to guess how many they have surrendered just over the half way point in 2013? The answer is 26, yikes. Although the Pro Bowl caliber core hogs have not changed much since last year, RT Sebastian Vollmer broke his right leg in Week 8 against the Dolphins and has been spelled by Marcus Cannon. There are many variables that have caused a spike in the number of opponents getting to Brady. First and foremost, Tom is not as mobile and athletic as he used to be. There are countless times this season where TB opts for the “safe play” by taking the sack by being passive in the pocket. He was never nimble by any means but at times turns heads with a juke here or there. Without the Gronk security blanket, Brady does not have enough chemistry to trust his receivers with risky back-shoulder attempts. In turn, plays are taking longer to execute. Furthermore, the lack of experience from the receiving corps creates situations where hot-reads become ever important. So while some of the blame is shifted off the o-line due to the rushing success, they need to give Tom more time in the pocket.

Wide Receivers: B : Amendola is what we thought he was. A talented, young and feisty competitor with a nose for big plays. Unfortunately, he can’t seem to shake the injury woes trailing him from St. Louis and has missed 4/9 games to start the year. There will never be another Welker; however, Edelman has filled the slot nicely, hauling in 49 of 74 targets for 473 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jules started the year hot with 34 receptions in the first 4 games but just 15 in the next 5. He has cooled down recently in favor of rookie Aaron Dobson (31 rec, 454 yds, 4 TD), who mysteriously overtook fellow rookie Kenbrell Thompkin’s (23 rec, 334 yds, 2 TD). While Kenbrell never looked sure handed, he did make that game-winning catch against New Orleans. Gronk looks to be back at it and remains on another level. In 3 games he’s been targeted an aggressive 33 times, catching 19 of those passes at an average of 14.9 yards for 284 yards total. If he’s out there at full strength, the Patriots are dangerous contenders. “B” rating for putting up solid numbers despite a ton of drops and inexperience.

Defense Line: A- : Keeping up with the Jones’. Quickly becoming one of the most athletic and distinguished families in all of sports, Chandler Jones is making a strong case for a Honolulu dance. The DE leads the Pats with 8.5 sacks on the year, following the footsteps of Baltimore Ravens DT Art Jones and the current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon “Bones Jones. He has displayed flashes of finesse and bull rushes of strength, attracting double teams as of late. Week in and week out, Chandler continues to disrupt the QB and has been the anchor on the defensive line with Wilfork out. Ninkovich remains solid with 3 sacks on the year. As a unit, New England has limited opponents to 232.8 passing YPG – good for 12th in the NFL. On the ground, teams are pounding the rock at an average of 128.2 YPG which is 30th in the NFL, that is where Wilfork is felt most. Now after losing Tommy Kelly, rookies Chris Jones and Joe Vellano had some serious pressure on them. How have they responded? Keep reading to find out.

Defensive Rookies: A- : The Patriots have a host of rookies receiving ample opportunity in 2013. The aforementioned DT Chris Jones has 5 sacks & 1 huge “penalty” against the Jets. Aside from that “mistake”, he has been brilliant in attempting to fill some pretty heavy shoes. Fellow DT Joe Vellano has also proven to be a solid run-stuffer half way through the year. Next up is LB Jamie Collins. Quiet to date, Collins and veteran Dane Fletcher have been splitting the reserve duties with Mayo out. It seems as though Jamie has a little ways to go in Belichick’s book. Notorious for his premature crotch grab pick six TD celebration against the Jets, CB Logan Ryan still has a lot to work on. Just last week a touchdown flew right by his head as he played the receiver, not the ball. We get it, who doesn’t love big plays? Logan has been successful rushing the QB off the edge with 1.5 sacks but will need to improve on his ball skills to become a well-rounded cornerback. S Duron Harmon only recorded 8 tackles but has a nack for the ball with 3 PD and 2 INT. These plays need to continue in the coming months. DT Michael Buchanan has not seen much time but when he has it’s been effective, getting the QB twice in 2013. That’s six rookies on defense, it’s been a while

Defensive Backs: B+ : You can’t start anywhere else except with the exceptional play from CB Aqib Talib. In the 6 games he’s started, Talib has 9 PD, 4 INT and 1 FF. He prevented the NFC’s Gronk (Jimmy Graham) from recording a single catch in Week 6 but has not seen the field since with that lingering hip injury. Spotted at practice the past couple weeks, Aqib is questionable but is expected to return against the Panthers. S Devin McCourty has carved out a nice space in the Patriots defense as a defensive captain and center fielder, making multiple TD saving deflections, breakups and 1 INT. His leadership play alongside veteran Steve Gregory makes for a solid and consistent group; quite the opposite from old friends Brandon Merriweather and Patrick Chung. Gregory was wearing the communication device in his helmet the past two games but just recently broke his thumb and is expected to miss at least a couple weeks. Kyle Arrington, Alfonso Dennard and Marquice Cole continue to be serviceable NFL cornerbacks, not making outstanding reads/jumps but not giving up homerun balls either. New England can improve on their man-to-man coverage but made enough impact plays to survive.

Special Teams: A- : Another rookie, P Ryan Allen beat out Zoltan Mesko in training camp for the gig. Mesko didn’t even make the trip to Foxboro in Week 9 – getting cut midweek. Allen is averaging 46.9 yards per boot with a 39.9 net. Although a long of 65 yards is impressive, it was a touchback and that area of his kicking needs to take a turn for the better. K Stephen Gostkowski has returned to his accurate ways, converting on 22/23 tries with a long of 54. Furthermore, he’s had his fare share of clutch kicks during a couple nail-biters. What pushes this rating into the “A” bracket is the effectiveness of PR Julian Edelman. He is average 11.5 yards per return and has made the field short for Tom Brady and company in key situations. Belichick preaches executing in “all three phases of the game” and the Patriots would not have a 7-2 record if they weren’t solid all around. If Talib can make a healthy run in November/December, watch out NFL.

Regular Season Prediction: 13-3, 2 seed behind Denver (13-3 with tiebreaker)

Playoff Prediction: Lose 34-31 in AFC Championship @ Denver

Breaking: Patriots Re-sign Talib

Aqib Talib wil return to the Patriots in 2013.

Aqib Talib wil return to the Patriots in 2013.

Just after 11:45 this morning, Adam Schefter broke the good news that all Patriots fans wanted to hear. After letting one of their “big three” free agents in Wes Welker get away earlier this week, the team has reached an agreement with cornerback, Aqib Talib, on a one-year deal reportedly worth $5 million.

The news comes less than a day after the organization announced they signed five-time Pro Bowl safety, Adrian Wilson, formerly of the Cardinals. He will replace Patrick Chung, who left for Philadelphia.

Bringing Talib back should fortify the Patriots secondary, which struggled mightily last season. Talib’s presence alone was a season-changer for them and he was missed in the AFC championship game after being forced to leave with an injury. He also battled a hip injury during much of his time in New England, but should be good to go for the 2013 season.

As long as he can remain healthy and out of trouble, Talib has shown that he can be a very useful player for the Patriots’ defense. His size as a corner presents matchup problems for opposing receivers and his skill usually puts him against the opposing team’s best threat.

Talib reportedly turned down several multi-years deals the Patriots offered him and stuck with one of the one-year variety.

The team has also met with defensive ends Dwight Freeney and John Abraham with the expectation that they could very well sign one of them – more likely Abraham.

As free agency continues, Talib adds to the list of defensive players signed by the team that includes the aforementioned Wilson and also Kyle Arrington, who they reached a four-year agreement with Friday as well. It has also been reported that the team is close to making an offer to former Steelers receiver, Emmanuel Sanders.They added former Bill, Donald Jones, Friday after the departure of Welker for the Broncos and Danny Woodhead to the Chargers. After a very quiet start to free agency, the Patriots are coming alive.

With Alfonzo Dennard potentially facing jail time for his conviction of assault on a police officer, at least one conrnerback position will be accounted for in 2013. Next priority: Sebastian Vollmer.


Follow me on Twitter @RealAndyLarmand.

Will They, Won’t They? The Patriots And Their 18 Free Agents

It’s time to clean out the house, time to shuffle the faces and time for the 2012 New England Patriots to start looking toward 2013 after they failed to show up in the second half of their embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Ravens in Sunday’s AFC Championship game.

As is the case every year, the team has a host of free agents that they need to make decisions on. Eighteen of their 20 free agents heading into the offseason are unrestricted and if the team doesn’t do anything to lock them up, they could be gone like that.

If the front office is having any trouble, they can just ask me. I’d be glad to help. Here’s my first offseason addition of will they or won’t they. (Hint: Both Wes Welker and Aqib Talib need to be back).

A veteran in the secondary would be good to have, but I don't see Will Allen making a comeback in 2013.

A veteran in the secondary would be good to have, but I don’t see Will Allen making a comeback for the Pats in 2013.

Will Allen: The former first-round pick has had a decent career and certainly could have been able to help in the Patriots secondary this season, but he has played in just 21 games since 2009, missing entire campaigns in both 2010 and 2012. Of course, as he was drafted almost 12 years ago now, age is going to be a question. Would he be able to keep up with the fast and physical tight ends around the league like, oh, I don’t know, Dennis Pitta for instance as a 34-year-old coming off of whatever injury he had. I’m just not sure it would work out like that. I’d cut Allen loose.

Kyle Arrington: Assuming the team does bring Talib back for his first full season, Arrington’s role would be that of a third corner in nickel situations or when injuries occur, like in Sunday’s game when Talib went down. In that game, particularly in the second half, Joe Flacco was pretty much throwing the ball at will with Arrington and Marquice Cole in the secondary. In 2011, Arrington led the league with seven interceptions. In 2012, however, he had zero. If he is okay with his role as a third corner, then I wouldn’t hate to see him brought back in 2013, but for less than the $1.85M he made this year.

Josh Barrett: In the five years since getting drafted out of Arizona St., Barrett has barely touched the turf during the regular season. Though he has shown signs of strong play and intelligence, his consistent ability to get injured has done neither him nor the team any good. Though he should be ready for the 2013 season after a calf injury has held him out for more than a year, he just might be playing it with another team. I’d let this one go too.

Deion Branch: Branch only returned to the team in 2012 following the injury to Aaron Hernandez in Week 1 of the season. He was cut by the team in the preseason. At 33 years old, he isn’t getting any younger. While Tom Brady still trusts him as much as anyone else, Branch had just 29 targets on the season, an indication that even if the team may want him back, he might not be willing. I predict that one way or another, Branch will not be a Patriot for the 2013 regular season. That is, until someone gets hurt.

Patrick Chung: Chung’s play and presence on the field has declined in each of the last two seasons, culminating with him losing his starting safety job to Steve Gregory in 2012 and seeing most of his playing time come on special teams. With both Gregory and Devin McCourty expected back next season, Chung may be the odd man out at safety. He could always be used as a backup and a spot defender, but I think it’s fairly safe to say that he could be a starting safety on a lot of other teams in the league. I wouldn’t be shocked if Chung has played his last game as a Patriot.

Marquice Cole: Aside from being a pretty decent gunner, Cole doesn’t bring much to the table in terms of secondary play. Only used as a defensive back when there were six or seven of them on the field or, like Arrington, when there were injuries, Cole is the kind of player who makes his money on special teams. His speed, particularly utilized at the gunner position, can also be helpful on the coverage teams. If he wants to come back, I’d have no problem seeing No. 23 in blue again next season.

Julian Edelman has been solid, but unfortunately may have played his last game in a Patriots uniform.

Julian Edelman has been solid, but unfortunately may have played his last game in a Patriots uniform.

Julian Edelman: When Edelman went down with a broken leg on Dec. 2 against the Dolphins, there was talk about that potentially being his last game as a member of the Patriots. Assuming the team does decide to re-sign Welker, Edelman may not be needed or wanted. His real value to the team is in the punt return game and not as a play-making wide receiver. If Welker is lost, which I don’t see happening, then Edelman would appear more likely to return to the team in 2013. I guess it kind of depends on what happens with Wes, but it is very possible that Edelman does not return to the team next season.

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