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NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Utah DE Nate Orchard

04.21.15 at 1:21 pm ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2015 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

NATE ORCHARD

Position: Defensive end

School: Utah

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 255 pounds

Achievements: 2014 All-American, 2014 All-Pac-12 first team, 2014 Ted Hendricks Award for best defensive end, 2013 All-Pac-12 honorable mention

What he brings: Orchard is considered a quick defensive end who is able to use good footwork to avoid blockers. Scouts believe he is stronger as a pass rusher than against the run, and they would like to see improvement in run defense. Orchard only had one season of strong, consistent production, which concerns some experts, but others believe that he will continue to grow as a player. There are concerns that he lacks the physicality to shed tight ends and bigger backs who come across the line to block him. Many scouts think that if Orchard is able to develop more physically and continue to improve in the run game, he will be very productive in the NFL.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 2-4

Notes: Orchard was selected as a team captain in 2014. He participated in the Senior Bowl and recorded five tackles and two quarterback hits. His 18.5 sacks in 2014 set a school record and tied for the season lead in the FBS. He also tied a Utah record for most sacks in a game with four in October 2014. The 22-year-old did not miss a game through his four years with the Utes.

Related articles:

 ESPN.com: Catching up with Utah DE Nate Orchard

NFL.com: Nate Orchard excelling at Senior Bowl in unfamiliar position

Video: Here’s Orchard recording three tackles and one sack against Colorado State in Utah’s 2014 bowl game.

Read More: 2015 NFL Draft, 2015 Potential Patriots, Nate Orchard,

Resetting Patriots depth chart: Offensive line

04.21.15 at 11:27 am ET
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Ryan Wendell, Bryan Stork and Dan Connolly were all smiles at several points this season. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Ryan Wendell, Bryan Stork and Dan Connolly were all smiles at several points during the 2014 season. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

With the majority of free agency completed and the draft looming, we’re going to take a look at the Patriots depth chart by position, and try and assess the level of need going forward. We started with special teams, tight end, wide receiver, running back and quarterback. Now, it’s offensive line:

Current depth chart: Tackle Nate Solder, tackle Sebastian Vollmer, guard/center Ryan Wendell, center Bryan Stork, guard/tackle Marcus Cannon, guard/tackle Jordan Devey, guard Josh Kline, tackle Cameron Fleming, Chris Barker, Caylin Hauptmann.

Lost in free agency: Connolly hasn’t technically been lost in free agency, but he has yet to sign, and remains on the market.

Gained in free agency: None.

Other changes: Other than Connolly’s uncertain status, there’s not much to report as it relates to the state of the Patriots personnel along the offensive line. (Although the fact that Solder’s announcement this week that he was undergoing treatment for testicular cancer in 2014 certainly provides some context for some of his struggles last season.)

Is this an area of need going into the draft? This is a discussion that’s open to some debate. From this viewpoint, if the Patriots end up sticking at No. 32, they’ll take an interior offensive lineman, either FSU’s Cameron Erving or Duke’s Laken Tomlinson for a few reasons, not the least of which is the fact that New England needs a replacement for Connolly at left guard. However, if the Patriots do decide to let Connolly walk, there’s the possibility they feel secure with either Fleming or Cannon at the vacant guard spot, which might allow them to turn their attention to another position of need early in the draft. Regardless, with ex-offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia such an active presence on the pro day circuit, it would be surprising if New England doesn’t use at least one of its five picks in the top 101 on an offensive lineman.

Read More: resetting the depth chart,

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Auburn DT Gabe Wright

04.21.15 at 9:19 am ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2015 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

GABE WRIGHT

Position: Defensive tackle

School: Auburn

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 300 pounds

Achievements: 2014 AP All-SEC honorable mention, 2013 AP All-SEC honorable mention

What he brings: Wright has great initial quickness, exploding into his first step and playing “with leverage at contact,” according to NFL.com. He is capable of staying square and battling double-team blocks. Wright also has the ability to “get into gaps and disrupt the run game.” Rob Rang of CBS Sports added that Wright’s quickness can “penetrate gaps and wreak havoc in the backfield.” However, he doesn’t necessarily play with consistent power and “displays inconsistent secondary motor when asked to pursue plays beyond the line of scrimmage,” NFL.com noted, even running himself out of plays sometimes. Wright might not be an individual star at the NFL level, but he could succeed if used in a rotation.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 2-4

Notes: Wright played in all 52 games of his four-year career. In 2014, he had 24 tackles, 4.5 of which were for a loss of 15 total yards, and recorded one sack and 10 quarterback hurries. During Auburn’s 2013 run to the FBS title game, Wright recorded 35 tackles, 8.5 for loss. At the combine Wright ran a 5.07-second 40-yard dash, recorded 34 reps on the bench press (which earned him top-performer status) and ran a 4.56-second 20-yard shuttle.

Related articles:

Press-Register: Gabe Wright transforms body to become Auburn’s most versatile defensive lineman

AL.com: Gabe Wright might be Auburn’s best defensive lineman, but he still has unfinished business

Video: Here’s a video of some of Wright’s snaps against Louisiana Tech in September 2014.

Read More: 2015 NFL Draft, 2015 Potential Patriots, Gabe Wright,

Nate Solder reveals he was treated for testicular cancer prior to last season

04.21.15 at 8:24 am ET
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In an interview with ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, Patriots left tackle Nate Solder revealed he was diagnosed and treated for testicular cancer prior to the 2014 season. He said he first became suspicious right before his season physical. After the physical he received an ultrasound and three days later he had surgery.

“I knew nothing about it. It was a complete surprise,” Solder said to Reiss. “You Google something like that and it kind of scares you, so I was like, ‘I’m not going to freak out about this.’ Had I not had a routine physical, I probably wouldn’t have checked it, saying, ‘Oh, it’s just in my head, I’m going to be fine.'”

Solder is now out to raise awareness, urging people to get checkups regularly to raise early detection. Solder still goes to Mass General for checkups every three months, and everything has gone as expected so far and there is optimism it will continue to moving forward.

“I was completely healthy, I’m a professional athlete. It can happen to anybody,” Solder said. “Make sure you get yourself checked out, especially young men, because that’s who it’s really targeted toward.”

The left tackle credited his Christian faith and his wife Lexi along with his family with helping him deal with the process.

“The biggest thing is letting people know and giving them the information. And maybe giving people some courage that if they are in a situation like I was, maybe they would go and say something, and that could make a difference,” he said.

“It’s more common than people realize. A lot of people are either afraid to do it, or they don’t think it’s important enough to get it checked. It’s a simple check. Six months, a year, and then it starts spreading and then you start to feel symptoms and it’s a more serious situation. So that’s a big thing; you can save lives with early detection.”

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Nate Solder,

Senior signal-caller: Tom Brady will enter 2015 as one of oldest players in NFL

04.20.15 at 10:50 pm ET
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Tom Brady will turn 38 prior to the start of the 2015 season. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Tom Brady will turn 38 prior to the start of the 2015 season. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

In hindsight, it’€™s probably no surprise that quarterback Tom Brady was the first guy to show up at Gillette Stadium on Monday for the offseason program. He knows older guys take a little longer to get prepared before a workout.

Unless something unforeseen happens, Brady will enter the 2015 season as the fifth-oldest non-kicker or punter in the NFL — the second straight season where the Patriots’€™ quarterback will have that designation. In addition, he’€™ll be the 10th-oldest player in the NFL. Here’€™s a look at the 10 oldest players in the league this past season, with who they played for and their age as of September 1, 2015. (By all accounts, all the players on this list are expected to try and play in 2015.)

1. Kicker Adam Vinatieri, 42 years old (12/28/72)
2. Kicker Phil Dawson, 40 years old (1/23/75)
3. Kicker Matt Bryant, 40 years old (5/29/75)
4. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck 39 years old (9/25/75)
5. Kicker Jay Feely, 39 years old (5/23/76)
6. Punter Shane Lechler 39 years old (8/7/76)
7. Long snapper Mike Leach 38 years old (10/18/76)
8. Quarterback Peyton Manning 39 years old (3/24/76)
9. Defensive back Charles Woodson 38 years old (10/7/76)
10. Quarterback Tom Brady 38 years old (8/3/77)

Brady became one of only five quarterbacks over the age of 35 to win a Super Bowl with the Patriots’ win over the Seahawks in February, joining a group that includes John Elway, Roger Staubach, Jim Plunkett and Johnny Unitas. If he can win another one this year, he’€™d become the second-oldest quarterback of all-time to win a Super Bowl. Elway was 38 years and 217 days when he won the second of his back-to-back titles. (Brady would be 38 years and 176 days old on Feb. 7, 2016, the date of Super Bowl 50.)

Barring an unforeseen trade, the 2015 season will mark the fourth consecutive year Brady will be the oldest player on the New England roster. (The last time Brady wasn’€™t the oldest player on the New England roster was at the end of the 2011 season, when offensive lineman Brian Waters, defensive lineman Shaun Ellis and running back Kevin Faulk were all on the team at the time, and all older than the quarterback.) While things could change come draft weekend, currently the youngest player on the New England roster is offensive lineman Cameron Fleming, who will turn 23 on Sept. 3. (To put that in perspective, Fleming was nine when Brady and the Patriots won Super Bowl XXXVI.) Their current 16-year age difference between Brady and Fleming is the largest age discrepancy on the New England roster since Junior Seau (age 40) and Patrick Chung (age 22) occupied the same roster in 2009.

Of course, older quarterbacks are nothing new for the Patriots. Steve Grogan was 37 years and 103 days when he took his last snap for New England on Nov. 4, 1990. Vinny Testaverde was 43 years and 55 days old when he saw his last action for the Patriots in a playoff win over the Jets on Jan. 7, 2007. And Doug Flutie was 43 years old and 70 days when he delivered the dropkick in the regular-season finale of the 2006 season on Jan. 1, 2005 against the Dolphins.

The good news for the Patriots? Despite his age, the quarterback doesn’t appear to show signs of slowing down. The fact that he was the first player in attendance at Gillette Stadium on Monday shows he’s still got a passion for the game. And as long as there’s enough avocado ice cream in the greater Foxboro area and Alex Guerrero doesn’t leave his side, there’s no telling how long he can keep playing.

With apologies to the punters and kickers, here’€™s a look at the four position players who will enter the 2015 regular-season older than Brady:

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Tom Brady,

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Stanford DE Henry Anderson

04.20.15 at 5:29 pm ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2015 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

HENRY ANDERSON

Position: Defensive end

School: Stanford

Height: 6-foot-6

Weight: 287 pounds

Achievements: 2014 All-Pac-12 first team, 2014 Pac-12 All-Academic team, SI.com All-America honorable mention, 2013 All-Pac 12 honorable mention, 2013 Pac-12 All-Academic team, 2012 All-Pac-12 second team, 2012 Pac-12 All-Academic team

What he brings: Anderson, a fifth-year senior, has experience playing several positions on the defensive line and in several different defensive schemes. He is considered a team-first player who is very competitive and doesn’t take any plays off. There are concerns that he lacks power in his legs and will need to bulk up in order to be productive at the NFL level. Scouts like his awareness and intelligence, and his ability to get his hands in the passing lanes when his rush is stopped. He is expected to be more effective as a pass rusher than a run defender, especially if he does not add some strength.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 2-4

Notes: Anderson led the Cardinal in 2014 with 15 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He played in every game in 2014 and 2012 but missed six in 2013 with a left MCL sprain. At the combine Anderson finished second among defensive ends in the 20-yard shuttle (4.19 seconds) and fifth in the three-cone drill (7.20 seconds). He participated in the 2015 Senior Bowl.

Related articles:

ESPN.com: Pre-NFL Combine Q&A: Henry Anderson

Bleacher Report: Henry Anderson provides rare interior disruption for mid-round prospect

Video: Here’s Anderson recording four tackles and a pass defended against Oregon State in October 2014.

Read More: 2015 NFL Draft, 2015 Potential Patriots, Henry Anderson,

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Michigan State WR/CB Tony Lippett

04.20.15 at 1:32 pm ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2015 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

Tony Lippett

Tony Lippett is an NFL prospect at both wide receiver and cornerback after playing both positions at Michigan State. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

TONY LIPPETT

Position: Wide receiver/cornerback

School: Michigan State

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 185 pounds

Achievements: 2014 Big Ten Receiver of the Year, 2014 All-Big Ten first team, 2014 Governor’s Award as team MVP, 2011 Big Ten All-Freshman honorable mention

What he brings: Lippett started at both wide receiver and cornerback in the final few games of the 2014 season for the Spartans, and he impressed scouts with his ability to use his height and length to out-jump opponents and win 50-50 battles. His speed has come into question, as well as his ability to make blocks and shed physical defenders. Scouts and experts have noticed his ability to learn quickly and accept new challenges. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein said, “Lippett’s production skyrocketed thanks to hard work, confidence and competitive fire.”

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 3-5

Notes: Lippett was primarily a cornerback as a freshman, switched to full-time receiver as a sophomore and played both ways for the latter part of his senior season. He indicated he prefers receiver but is open-minded. “A lot of teams like me as a corner. A lot of teams like me as a receiver,” he told Sports Illustrated. “It’s kind of like 50-50.” He finished the 2014 season with 65 receptions for 1,198 yards and 11 touchdowns, leading the Big Ten in receiving yards per game (92.2). At the scouting combine he was fifth among wide receivers in the 60-yard shuttle (11.44 seconds) and 12 in the three-cone drill (6.92 seconds).

Related articles:

Sports Illustrated: Wide receiver or cornerback? Tony Lippett drawing interest at both spots

NFL.com: Lippett draft diary

Detroit Free Press: Lippett’s road to success

Video: Here’s Lippett catching five passes for 74 yards in the 2015 Cotton Bowl against Baylor.

Read More: 2015 NFL Draft, 2015 Potential Patriots, Tony Lippett,

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