|01.13.10 at 7:30 am ET|
Want to get your frustrations out? Or maybe you simply want to see what’s next for the Patriots. Talk all things Pats with WEEI.com Patriots beat writer Christopher Price at noon, Wednesday in a season-ending live chat:
|01.13.10 at 7:01 am ET|
No use sitting around wondering what could have been. The end of the Patriots’ season only means one thing: time to start looking to late April. WEEI.com will take you through the Patriots depth charts one position at a time and tip you off to which players could be donning Patriots garb come draft day.
State of the position: Leigh Bodden (free agent), Shawn Springs (2 years remaining), Terrence Wheatley (2 years remaining), Jonathan Wilhite (2 years remaining), Darius Butler (3 years remaining).
Potential free agents of note: Dunta Robinson, Richard Marshall, Carlos Rodgers
CORNERS IN THE DRAFT TO KEEP AN EYE ON:
Joe Haden: Junior, Florida, 5-foot-11, 190 pounds
2009 Stats: 57 tackles, FF, 4 INT
What he brings: Nose for the ball, athleticism
Where the Patriots could get him: Top 10 (trade)
If Haden is the Patriots’ guy, they can easily get him — it’s just a matter of what they’re willing to give up to move into the top 10. They have the ammunition in the form of three second-rounders and the Raiders’ 2011 first-rounder. Haden is an absolute ball-hawk who, unlike Asante Samuel in his first two professional seasons, has the hands now. The Patriots’ 18 interceptions put them in a tie for 11th in the league, but five of those interceptions may be leaving (Bodden) and another came from a game of 500 between Kyle Orton and Randy Moss. Butler showed enough promise in his rookie season to be a starter on one side should Bodden leave, but adding Haden to the mix would give the Patriots a shutdown corner that they have been missing since the departure of Samuel.
Patrick Robinson: Senior, Florida State, 5-foot-11, 194 pounds
2009 Stats: 46 tackles, FF, 0 INT
What he brings: Darius Butler 2.0
Where the Patriots could get him: No. 22
The jury is still out on Robinson. The former Seminole will almost definitely be on the board when pick No. 22 rolls around, but do the Patriots need another sub-six-foot soft-hitting cover corner that lacks the ball skills of a Haden? Robinson’s measurables are far too similar to those of Butler, so it would seem illogical to add the same player two years in a row.
Perrish Cox: Senior, Oklahoma State, 6-foot-0, 195 pounds
2009 stats: 36 tackles, 0 FF, 4 INT
What he brings: Size, athleticism, outstanding return capabilities
Where the Patriots could get him: Second round
Cox is the one to keep an eye on. Talent-wise, he is off the charts and he would add size that the Patriots’ young corners (notably the 5-9 Wheatley) lack. He’s a better tackler than he gets credit for and is a threat to take any kickoff to the house. The Patriots have greater needs than cornerback, so should Cox stay out of the first round (a pretty big gamble at this point considering that a good workout could lead to a Rodgers-Cromartie-like rise) they could address their needs at linebacker in the first and land Cox in the second. Character issues are what could keep Cox from going higher, as he was arrested for a non-violent crime and suspended for the Cotton Bowl in the span of just a few months. The Patriots didn’t let serious character issues stop them from taking Brandon Meriweather with the 24th pick in 2007, so should driving with a suspended license really scare them away?
Donovan Warren: Junior, Michigan, 6-foot-0, 187 pounds
2009 stats: 66 tackles, 0 FF, 4 INT
What he brings: Size, athleticism
Where the Patriots could get him: Second round
Warren could be a nice value pick with the second or third of the Patriots’ three second-rounders. Many have questioned his decision to declare for the draft because he hasn’t fully matured as a player, but considering that he never had a defensive coordinator for more than one season at Michigan, he has to be used to learning by now. With Bodden a free agent, Springs is the only corner on the roster taller than 5-11, so if Cox proves to be too big a risk, the secondary has to add size somehow.
Other corners to keep an eye on:
Javier Arenas: Senior, Alabama, 5-9, 195 pounds (2nd round projection). Shorter than listed but, excellent in the return game.
Brandon Ghee: Senior, Wake Forest, 6-0, 191 pounds (3-4). Patriots have been suckers for hard-hitting DBs.
Brian Jackson: Senior, Oklahoma, 6-1, 202 pounds. (4-6). Combination of size and speed worth a late-round flier.
|01.13.10 at 1:23 am ET|
With the 2009 season in the rear-view mirror — and the Patriots facing a number of key personnel decisions — it seems like a good time to break down the current 53-man roster, taking a look at who might be the most valuable members of the franchise.
We arrived at this list by considering a combination of factors, including overall ability, positional versatility, expectations, contract situation and place on the depth chart. We also looked at what might be best described as intangibles — loosely defined as a mixture of clubhouse character and willingness to work. In all, it helped us determine the overall value of each player within the Patriots system. (The 53 players were taken straight from New England’s postseason media guide, the most up-to-date listing available. That means injured players such as Brandon Tate — who will make the 2010 roster — as well as practice squadders are not included for purposes of this exercise. We will, however, include Wes Welker as the exception to the rule.)
Today, it’s No. 53 through No. 26. Check back for the rest of the list Thursday.
53. Linebacker Eric Alexander: Someone has to be last on the list, and Alexander is in that spot. A special teamer, he also provides depth at linebacker.
52. Cornerback Terrence Wheatley: Few players have slipped down the depth chart as precipitously as Wheatley. As a rookie in 2008, he was starting by November. But he injured his wrist and has not been the same since. He was inactive an astounding 11 times in 2009 and is likely currently last on the depth chart among the cornerbacks on the roster.
51. Offensive lineman Ryan Wendell: The only reason he’s so low is because he’s had so little NFL experience — over the course of the season, he went back and forth between the 53-man roster and practice squad. (He played in two games in 2009.) Could be a part of a guard rotation in 2010 if Stephen Neal decides to retire.
50. Offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger: Like Wendell, the only reason he’s ranked this low is because he mostly gets an incomplete for the season — the rookie was inactive for 13 games in 2009. The organization is reportedly very high on him, and you have to figure he will have an opportunity to win the right guard spot in 2010 if Neal does leave.
49. Cornerback Jonathan Wilhite: A rough year for Wilhite, who started eight games at cornerback but had little success. Probably in the same boat as Wheatley.
48. Long snapper Jake Ingram: I know my “NFL Sunday” co-host Christian Fauria isn’t going to show him any love, but in his rookie season, Ingram was solid and dependable — not a single blown snap all year. The only reason he’s not higher is because he’s a long snapper.
47. Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis: When called upon, Green-Ellis is a dependable presence who gives New England some depth at the running back spot. Depending on how the numbers ahead of him shake out (namely, whether or not Fred Taylor comes back), he could be a part of the team next season. Will likely be another preseason star in 2010.
46. Cornerback Darius Butler: A mostly passable year for the rookie defensive back. He struggled at times but also flashed some playmaking skills here and there. A returner in college, he might see some time there next season if the Patriots aren’t able to find a steady kick returner this offseason.
45. Offensive tackle Mark LeVoir: A spare tackle who was used mostly as an extra blocking tight end, LeVoir could be on the roster bubble next season — if Nick Kaczur is bumped down the depth chart because of Sebastian Vollmer’s presence, his playing time would suffer.
44. Defensive back Kyle Arrington: A special teams demon who should get his chance to see some snaps next season, Arrington was a multiple winner of the Practice Player of the Week belt.
43. Punter Chris Hanson: A free agent, Hanson was in the middle to bottom of every major punting category this season. Courtesy of Nuggetpalooza: The Patriots ended the season with the league’s worst punting average (39.0) and second-worst net average (34.1). Over the last four weeks of the regular season, New England’s net average was just 29.5 yards, a full three yards worse than any other team’s net average in that span. Their 39.0 gross average is the third worst by a Patriots team since 1989 (2002 and 2003 were worse than 2009). Look for a new punter in 2010.
42. Safety Pat Chung: Like Darius Butler, the second-round pick had a relatively good season, both in the secondary and on special teams, where he showed promise. However, Chung must take a leap forward in 2010 if he wants to avoid the same fate as some other young New England DBs of recent memory who played well as rookies but slipped in their second year in the league.
41. Linebacker Adalius Thomas: The relationship between coach Bill Belichick and the linebacker got off to a bad start when Thomas first joined the Pats before the 2007 season, and with a few exceptions (the end of the 2007 and start of 2008 season), has gotten worse in the three seasons he’s been here. Thomas already has said he does not expect to return in 2010, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Patriots haven’t already examined ways to rid themselves of his contract.
40. Running back Laurence Maroney: Where to start? He had many good performances this season, but because of a surprising proclivity to fumble, he ended the year deep in the doghouse — he had just six carries in the final three games of the season (including one in the playoff loss to Baltimore). After fumbling just once over the course of his first three years in New England, he had four (including two on the goal line) over the course of the 2009 season.
39. Outside linebacker/defensive end Derrick Burgess: When the Patriots traded a third- and fifth-round pick to Oakland for him, it was thought that New England had solved its pass-rushing conundrum. But Burgess was underwhelming at best this season, finishing with five sacks and never appearing comfortable in the Patriots system. A free agent, he likely has played his last game with New England.
38. Defensive lineman Ron Brace: No rookie slipped down the depth chart this year like Brace, who came into camp as a second-rounder who was expected to contribute and ended the season with seven healthy scratches next to his name. The offseason programs will be key for Brace, who could be fighting for a job in training camp if he doesn’t show enough between now and July.
37. Wide receiver/defensive back/kick returner Matthew Slater: Like Woods, Slater provides special teams support, but he also is clearly willing to do whatever it takes to stick on the roster. After Ellis Hobbs III was traded on draft day weekend, Slater became a regular kick returner in 2009, finishing second on the team with 24.5 yards per return. (He also took some snaps at wide receiver and has practiced with the defensive backs.) Signed through 2011, Slater is a pretty good value with his versatility and attitude.
36. Linebacker Rob Ninkovich: He is a veteran who filled in adequately on the outside at times this season. He’s a relatively good deal through 2011 and likely will be in the mix to provide depth outside and on special teams.
35. Linebacker Pierre Woods: An outside linebacker who has seen time as a starter the last two seasons, Michigan product provides his biggest value on special teams, where he is a consistent and steady performer. He’s best known as the guy who knocked the ball loose from Buffalo returner Leodis McKelvin in the season-opener to set up the Patriots’ game-winning touchdown.
34. Quarterback/wide receiver Isaiah Stanback: This is a key offseason for Stanback, who, if he progresses through the system, could figure into the mix as an offensive spare part, either as a possible second or third quarterback or as a possible fourth option at wide receiver.
33. Defensive end Jarvis Green: If 2009 was his last season in New England, it was a vaguely disappointing end to his eight-year career here. He never progressed from being the part-time pass-rusher he was a few years ago (he had 14 sacks combined in 2006 and 2007). When other defensive veterans left over the offseason, it provided Green with an opportunity as a leader and as a player, and he failed to seize either opportunity.
32. Cornerback Shawn Springs: A tough season for the veteran corner, who was dogged by injury problems and never really appeared to get into a groove until the end of the season, where he started the last four games. He signed a two-year deal before the start of the 2009 season and could get another shot in 2010.
31. Right tackle Nick Kaczur: He struggled at times this season, but based on the extension he signed during the 2009 season that will take him through 2010, he has some job security. However, he ended the 2009 season as an extra tackle, having been bumped down the depth chart by Vollmer. He might be forced to play somewhere else if Belichick decides to go with Matt Light and Vollmer at the tackle spots in 2010.
30. Linebacker Junior Seau: Hard to imagine that the veteran will be back again, but never say never, right? His on-field production wasn’t what it was a few years ago, but he had a lot of value when it came to off-the-field work — he was a veteran presence in the locker room with a fiery passion for the game that maybe rubbed off on some of the younger and more impressionable players. Plus, his welcome back press conference in October was the unquestioned highlight of the season for the media.
29. Tight end Benjamin Watson: The specter of unfulfilled expectations always will haunt Watson, who has done some amazing things since he’s been in New England but has been maddeningly inconsistent since he first arrived as a rookie before the 2004 season. A swell guy by all accounts who has a lot going for him, he likely has played his last game for the Patriots.
28. Running back Sammy Morris: The classy veteran is not what he used to be, but he was moved around a little this season (including a brief stint at fullback), and is a good locker room presence. He’s signed through 2010, and barring any major moves will be a part of the running back rotation next year.
27. Offensive lineman/fullback Dan Connolly: Connolly was asked to do many of the same things that Russ Hochstein did — play several roles along the line, as well as occasionally serve as a fullback. As a spot starter, he gave the Patriots a lot of good snaps this season, working at both guard positions and fullback. If he can recover fully from the ankle injury that dogged him at the end of the year, he should be able to do the same thing in 2010.
26. Defensive lineman Myron Pryor: He blew right past fellow rookie Ron Brace this season on the depth chart. This defensive tackle could be in line for a boost in playing time in 2010, depending on how the defensive line shakes out.
|01.12.10 at 4:46 pm ET|
In his first local radio interview since a left knee injury ended his season against the Texans, Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker called the Reliant Stadium turf “inconsistent” and saying it “definitely played a big part” in his knee injury.
“It was very inconsistent,” Welker told WAAF Tuesday morning (click here to listen to the entire interview). “I was probably the first person out there on the field trying to test out shoes, and any time you have to test out shoes in the NFL in a place that’s … you know good weather and good everything like that, there’s definitely something wrong there.
“It’s something that needs to be fixed, for sure.”
Welker said he had not had surgery on the knee yet, but was weighing his options.
“I’m still kind of researching that whole deal, talking to a lot of people and making sure I’m getting the best fit for me,” he said. “Making sure that I’m in a place I’m comfortable with and a situation that works best for me.”
Welker’s knee injury ultimately landed him on injured reserve, leaving him sidelined for last Sunday’s playoff loss to the Ravens at Gillette Stadium. Welker was with his teammates for the coin toss and on the sidelines before the start of the game (he watched the 33-14 defeat from a luxury box).
But watching from a luxury box was not the way he hoped to end the season.
“It was good to see all the fellas and everything like that,” said Welker, who led the NFL in receptions this season with 123. “I definitely wish I could have been there under different circumstances, but it was good to see everybody. I wish it could have been a better outcome than what happened.
“It was definitely a tough game to watch. It’s always hard to be a spectator and really put your finger on one thing or anything like that. It’s a lot easier on the field going through everything that’s going on out there. They definitely played real well and we didn’t. I think that was pretty evident out there on the field that was the case.”
|01.11.10 at 5:22 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Patriots coach Bill Belichick says that if fans had a problem with the offensive play-calling this past season, they should talk to him.
On his weekly appearance on The Big Show, Belichick was asked how much of the offensive play-calling he was involved in this past season — a year where the Patriots did not utilize a traditional offensive coordinator. The coach was straightforward in his answer.
“Well, ultimately, every play that gets called, I have the final say on,” Belichick said. “So therefore, I’d say if there was any of them that you didn’t like, you should probably hold me accountable for them.”
After offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels became the head coach in Denver last offseason, the Patriots did not name a new coordinator for the 2009 season, leaning on a variety of people to serve in that capacity, including quarterbacks coach Bill O’Brien. But Belichick indicated Monday that when it comes to offensive decisions, “the buck stops on my desk.”
“I have the final say on the plays, so ultimately, if the play is a bad play or of its called in the wrong situation or it doesn’t work out right, then I’m the one that’s finally responsible for it,” he said. “I accept that.”
Critics of New England’s offensive performance this past season say the Patriots need a strong offensive coordinator like the days of McDaniels or Charlie Weis. However, speaking at his season-ending press conference Monday morning at Gillette Stadium, Belichick certainly doesn’t appear to be in a hurry to slap a title on someone just to call them offensive coordinator.
“I don’t know — I think what’s important is the process and how things work,” he said when asked if would be interested in giving someone the title. “I’ve never been a big believer in titles. I’ve had them; I haven’t had them. I don’t think that’s an important thing. I think it’s how an operation works, how it functions.”
|01.11.10 at 3:56 pm ET|
Patriots coach Bill Belichick made his weekly appearance on The Big Show on Monday afternoon. Here are the highlights from the Q&A. (Check The Big Show audio on-demand page later Monday to listen to the entire interview.)
It can never be a good afternoon when they say to you ‘It’s time to go home…’
It’s certainly a disappointing day yesterday, today. Just kind of picking up the pieces.
How do you, when you deal with something like that, do you play it over and over in your head, or do you say, ‘I need to get away from it’ and collect my thoughts for next season?
I think a little bit of both. We play Baltimore next year — we can certainly learn a lot from this game for ourselves and our future preparation while its fresh in our mind. We’ll take a look at that, and then also, take a look at the entire body of work, the 17 regular-season and one postseason game, try to take a look at that. Not just one game, but the whole season and take stock of that as well.
Did Suggs’ grabbing of his finger on the strip sack affect Tom’s throwing mechanics?
I didn’t ask him about that. I’m not sure. I think he was OK. He hit a few passes. I don’t think it was the accuracy as much as it was the overall execution.
Read the rest of this entry »
|01.11.10 at 3:32 pm ET|
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