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Upcoming schedule of notable Pro Days

02.26.14 at 4:21 pm ET
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With the combine completed, the next step in the pre-draft process is the on-campus Pro Days. Here are a few of the more notable Pro Days that have been scheduled — we’ll add to this list as more information becomes available.

March 3: Pitt, Ole Miss
March 4: Auburn, Buffalo
March 5: Texas A&M, Arkansas, Mississippi State
March 6: Missouri
March 7: Ohio State
March 12: Southern Cal, Michigan, Alabama
March 13: Oklahoma State
March 14: Texas Tech, Kentucky
March 17: Florida
March 18: Florida State
March 19: Central Florida
March 20: Fresno State, Notre Dame
March 21: Vanderbilt
April 2: South Carolina, Tennessee
April 9: LSU
April 16: Georgia

Quick look: Could one of these 3-cone stars land with Patriots?

02.26.14 at 1:07 pm ET
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Knowing what we know about the Patriots and their history when it comes to prospects and the 3-cone drill, here’s a look at the top 10 finishers in the 3-cone drill at the combine, as well as a little bit about them and how they might fit with the Patriots.

1. Safety Daniel Sorensen, BYU: 6.47 — Sorensen’s 3-cone was the fifth fastest of any position since 2006, and the best performance of anyone at the combine this year. He was second in the 60-yard shuttle (10.8) and fifth in the 20-yard shuttle (3.95). The 6-foot-1, 205-pound strong safety is not expected to be any more than a third-day pick, but he’s known as a special teams ace and could be this year’s edition of Nate Ebner.

2. Wide receiver Damian Copeland, Louisville: 6.53 — Considered a mid- to late-round prospect coming into the combine, the 5-foot-11, 184-pounder had a good week in Indy, finishing in the top three in four of the seven workouts among the receivers, including the 3-cone (first at 6.53), vertical jump (second at 40 inches), 20-yard shuttle (second at 3.9) and 60-yard shuttle (second at 10.84). He had a team-leading 49 catches for 655 yards last season.

3. Quarterback Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois: 6.55 — It’s not like the Patriots would be in the market for a quarterback, at least not early on, but Lynch could be that late-round/UDFA possibility at QB New England seems to seek out every year. The 6-foot, 217-pounder finished third overall in the Heisman voting after amassing 2,892 yards passing and 24 touchdowns. One interesting note: He made it very clear at the combine that he wanted to stick at quarterback at the NFL level, but the Patriots might be more inclined to take him if he showed an interest in displaying some versatility. After all, New England had success with another former college quarterback who did well at the 3-cone and ended up shifting positions when he arrived in Foxboro (although Lynch’s body type is substantially different than Julian Edelman‘s).

4. Cornerback Terrance Mitchell, Oregon: 6.57 — Mitchell had a terrific 3-cone time, but a guy who was supposed to be a mid-round prospect likely saw his stock drop after he struggled in some of the other on-field events. A three-year starter at Oregon, the 5-foot-11, 192-pounder posted a 4.63 40, which means he’s locked in as a third-day selection, at least as it stands right now.

5. Cornerback Phillip Gaines, Rice: 6.62 — Gaines had a really good week in Indy, and in the wake of the Seahawks‘ success with their supersized secondary, the 6-footer could be in line for a serious post-combine bump in his draft stock. In addition to his quick 3-cone, he ran a 4.38 40, just one one-hundredth of a second off Justin Gilbert‘€™s DB-best time. He also hit over 10 feet in the broad jump and posted a 36 1/2-inch vertical. While there’s some strength questions — at 193 pounds, he’s a little on the light side for his height — and a worry that he relies too much on his speed, he’s an intriguing, developmental prospect. He’s not a top-of-the-line guy, but his size and quickness could make him an attractive target for New England as a mid- or late-round possibility.
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Read More: 2014 combine, Bruce Ellington, Damian Copeland, Daniel Sorensen

4 things we learned from combine Tuesday

02.26.14 at 12:31 am ET
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Four things we learned from the combine Tuesday:

1. Daniel Sorensen could be this year’s Nate Ebner

On Tuesday, Sorensen — a safety out of BYU — put up some impressive numbers in the on-field workouts, and one thing that could help grab the eye of the Patriots is the fact that he posted a 6.47 in the 3-cone drill — the fifth-fastest of any position since 2006, and the best performance of anyone at the combine this year. He was second in the 60-yard shuttle (10.8) and fifth in the 20-yard shuttle (3.95). The 6-foot-1, 205-pound strong safety (a former linebacker who moved into the secondary after he lost weight on his mission trip) also had a 32-inch vertical and 9-foot-6 broad jump, both impressive numbers. Considered a special teams ace while at BYU, he could be a late-round pickup or undrafted free agent for a team like New England in need of secondary depth and special teams assistance.

2. Shane Vereen‘s brother Brock knocked it out of the park

The safety out of Minnesota finished in the top 5 in the 40 (4.47, best among all safeties), 3-cone (6.9) and short shuttle (4.07). The 6-foot, 199-pounder also bench pressed 225 pounds 25 times (best for all safeties and cornerbacks) and posted a 34-inch vertical and 117 inches in the broad jump. Considered anywhere from a mid-round to a late-round pick entering the combine, he may have solidified his status as a second-day pick based on his work this weekend in Indy. (For what it’s worth, he semi-jokingly talked about wanting to play against his brother instead of on the same team. But at the same time, he noted that he did have a meeting with the Patriots while at the combine.)

3. Justin Glibert is the best corner in the draft, but Darqueze Dennard isn’t far behind

We had Gilbert available to the Chargers at 25 in our first mock draft, but his performance this weekend will likely push him up the draft boards around the league and make him a legitimate top 15 candidate. On Tuesday, the 6-foot, 202-pound Gilbert recorded the fastest time of the day in the 40 (4.37) while also showing impressive explosiveness with a 35.5-inch vertical and 10-foot-6 broad jump. Meanwhile, Dennard (the cousin of Patriots corner Alfonzo Dennard) was also equally as impressive, showing fluidity and good range, running a 4.51. The 5-foot-11, 199-pound Dennard (who we had at No. 14 overall to the Bears) also solidified his first-round status with a really good weekend. (Ohio State’s Bradley Roby and TCU’s Jason Verrett are also likely late first-round possibilities.)

4. It’s going to be a mixed market for bigger corners

For teams looking to replicate the Seattle defensive blueprint of a super-sized secondary, there are a few intriguing possibilities out there, with one big corner doing well on Tuesday (Utah’s Keith McGill) and another struggling a little (Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste). McGill is a 6-foot-3, 212-pounder who moved from safety to corner as a collegian, but really flashed some nice speed (a 4.51 40), as well as some good performances when it came to the rest of the measureables (39-inch vertical leap and 10-foot-9 broad jump). As for Jean-Baptiste, he was a little underwhelming — another big guy who was converted to corner as a collegian, he was relatively slow when compared to the rest of the corners (4.61). He did do well in the vertical (41.5, best among defensive backs and tied for second overall) and the broad (10 feet, 8 inches), but his speed may be a factor when determining where he ultimately ends up in the draft.

Read More: 2014 combine, Bradley Roby, Brock Vereen, Daniel Sorensen

Report: Aaron Hernandez attacked fellow inmate

02.25.14 at 6:12 pm ET
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Aaron Hernandez allegedly attacked a fellow inmate at the Bristol County jail on Tuesday, according to TMZ.

While Hernandez is usually relegated to solitary confinement, he apparently came in contact with the other prisoner in a hallway. According to TMZ, Hernandez recognized the other man — who had been harassing Hernandez “nonstop” throughout the day — and “beat the guy up pretty good.”

Hernandez has been behind bars since June — he’s facing murder charges stemming from the 2013 shooting death of Odin Lloyd.

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Lucky Seven: Taking a look at how some possible fits for Patriots did at combine

02.25.14 at 4:28 pm ET
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Earlier this month, we presented a list of seven players for Patriots fans to keep an eye on at the combine. With the combine now in the rearview mirror, here’€™s a look at how each one of them did, as well as how it all relates to New England:

Tight end Jace Amaro, Texas Tech: Amaro, regarded as one of the best tight end prospects in the draft, checked in at 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds. His arm length was 34 inches and his hand size was nine inches. He finished with a 4.74 in the 40, 28 reps in the bench press (in the top five at his position), and 118 inches in the broad jump. Amaro appeared to be a little sloppy in the pass catching drills, but there appeared to be no reason why he wouldn’€™t be a solid first-rounder as the pre-draft process kicks into high gear.

While it’€™s questionable whether or not he’€™d last until No. 29 — when the Patriots are on the board — he still met with New England while in Indianapolis:

“€œIt was good — they broke my tape down. They look like they like me a lot. They said I fit their system very well so I guess we’€™ll see how it goes,”€ he said when asked about his meeting with the Patriots. “I think that starting [with] maybe one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game would be a great start for me, especially in a system like that. Yeah, I’€™ve taken notice of teams like that. I think that would be an ideal place for me.”

Tight end Eric Ebron, North Carolina: The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Ebron ran a 4.6 40, the second highest among tight ends (behind the 4.50 of Tennessee State’€™s A.C. Leonard). He tweaked his hamstring and was unable to participate in the pass-catching drills, but still managed 10 feet in the broad jump (tied for third among TEs), as well as 24 reps on the bench (tied for sixth among TEs). He doesn’€™t lack for confidence, but that should bear itself when the draft rolls around in May, as he’€™s expected to be the first tight end picked, at least as it stands right now. That means it would be a stretch for him to last until New England’€™s first pick at No. 29.

Tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa: Fiedorowicz checked in at 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds, and will likely be a second-day pick come May. (It’€™s debatable because of Oregon’€™s Colt Lyerla, a talented prospect who has had some off-field issues that could take him off New England’€™s draft board, regardless of his numbers.) Regardless, Fiedorowicz was consistently with the combine leaders at his position across the board, as he posted a 7.1 in the 3-cone (best among TEs) and 4.26 in the 20-yard shuttle (best among TEs). In addition, he had 25 reps in the bench press (fifth-best) and a 4.76 in the 40 (sixth best) and 110 inches in the broad jump (sixth-best).

Fiedorowicz has some New England connections: one, Iowa’€™s offensive line coach the past two seasons was Brian Ferentz, who spent the previous season as the Patriots tight end coach, working with both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. And two, D.J. Hernandez –€” the brother of ex-Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez‘€” was a graduate assistant with the Hawkeyes last year.

He was asked about watching Gronkowski while in college.

“€œI was watching him on film. I always used to watch him in games, but when you see it break down as film it’€™s even more impressive,”€ Fiedorowicz said. “He plays hard every down, every play. He finishes guys. He uses his body in the passing game. He’€™s just an impressive guy. It’€™s the way he plays the game.”

Offensive lineman Zack Martin, Notre Dame: Martin was 6-foot-4 and 308 pounds. He wasn’€™t overwhelming — he was 14th among offensive linemen in the vertical jump (28 inches) and 11th in the bench press (29 reps). He also had a broad jump of 106 inches, a 3-cone time of 7.65 and a 4.59 in the 20-yard shuttle. But pedigree and versatility indicate that while he might not be a first-round pick, he’€™s probably not too far off, at least at this point. If the Patriots would be interested, they’€™d probably have to take him at No. 29.

Defensive tackle Ra’€™Shede Hageman, Minnesota: Hageman was one of several versatile defensive lineman who worked out in Indy, a group that included Timmy Jernigan and Aaron Donald. The 6-foot-6, 310-pounder posted a 35.5 in the vertical jump (seventh-best among defensive linemen) and had 32 reps on the bench (ninth-best among the defensive linemen). He’€™s known for his high level of athleticism — he bulldozed an offensive lineman onto his back during one-on-one drills at the Senior Bowl — as well as the fact he played several spots along the defensive line over the course of his career.

“€œIt’€™s 32 teams –€” it’€™s a lot to take in,”€ he said when asked specifically about New England’€™s defense against the rest of the league. “I’€™m pretty sure they run either a 3-4 or a 4-3. I’€™m capable of playing both positions. Just the fact if I had the chance to play for New England, I’€™d be ready.”

Cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska: Jean-Baptiste could be the beneficiary of the Richard Sherman Effect — at 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds, he’€™s the biggest corner in the draft, and if teams are trying to replicate the Seattle defensive blueprint, Jean-Baptiste would allow them to super-size their secondary. Considered a second-day prospect, on Tuesday he led all defensive backs with a vertical jump of 41 1/2 inches, and his broad jump of 10-feet-8 inches was tied for third at his position. It appears unlikely that the Patriots would be in the market for a cornerback, particularly through the first two days of the draft. But it will be interesting to see if Jean-Baptiste’€™s draft stock rises simply because of the success of the Seattle secondary of if his rise is tied to his good work at the combine and Pro Day.

Defensive lineman Louis Nix III, Notre Dame: Nix had an eventful combine. He got off one of the best lines of the combine when he was asked about his recent weight loss, saying that dropping more than 20 pounds made him “€œfeel sexier.”€ He checked in at 6-foot-2 and 331 pounds, and ran a 5.42 in the 40. (He struggled to stick the landing on the broad jump, falling backwards.) Despite the drop in weight, he’€™s still considered a space eater of Wilforkian proportions, someone who is able to work consistently as a run stopper at either defensive tackle spot. With the Patriots having to thinking about the post Vince era sooner rather than later, it would be ideal to see him drop into the twenties, as his size and versatility might allow some Wilfork comparisons. But we had Nix going to the Steelers with the 15th overall pick in our first mock draft, and his performance in Indy did nothing to dissuade us from moving him off that spot.

Read More: 2014 combine, Aaron Hernandez, C.J. Fiedorowicz, Colt Lyerla

Jason Cole on M&M: Greg Schiano gets advice to pass on Patriots

02.25.14 at 12:57 pm ET
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National Football Post reporter Jason Cole joined Mut & Merloni on Tuesday to discuss NFL and Patriots news, including the team’s reported interest in former Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Cole reported earlier this week that Schiano was getting advised not to take a position with the Patriots under his friend, Bill Belichick.

“He’s got some agents and other coaches and people saying, ‘Look, if you go there, where are you going to get back on the head coach track? Because what credit are you going to get if the Patriots are good? Was it your genius that turned around the Patriots linebacking corps?’ That’s the problem that you have at this point in time with going to work for Belichick.

“Now, if he’s comfortable and he’s saying, ‘Look, I want to take a step back for a few years, maybe be an assistant for a little while, learn under Bill and then I’ll branch off and get a college job,’ yeah. But I think that most people are getting the feeling that Schiano wants to be a head coach sooner than later. And a lot of people basically told him, ‘Why don’t you just take the year off? You’re getting paid. Go learn about the NFL, look around at some college jobs. Go figure out the things that didn’t work when you were in Tampa.’

“But he’s doing what coaches normally do, which is they feel compelled, they can’t get out of the game, they have to be back in it. They get that jones, that itch to coach, they take a job.”

Added Cole: “That’s what other people are saying, they advised him not to do it. ‘€¦ Other people advised him to sit out a year, and he’s doing it over their advice. It’s an interesting decision. And for a guy who presumably wants to be a head coach, how’s he going to play this out?”

Looking at it from the Patriots’ angle, Cole said Schiano could help, especially if he’s willing to stand up to Belichick.

“Belichick likes him a lot and I think he respects him and he likes his discipline and some of the ideas,” Cole said. “Certainly Greg did a great job at Rutgers in building that program up. So, there’s a lot to like about Greg Schiano. Certainly he’s not the first guy who was a good head coach who didn’t do so well in his first turn around the NFL — Bill Belichick comes to mind, came back, got another job, fixed some things, got a quarterback, and then all of a sudden some things worked out. So, there’s a possibility for that.

“My only concern with bringing in [Michael] Lombardi and bringing in Schiano is I just hope that they’re guys who are willing to stand in there and say to Bill, ‘That’s not such a good idea. That doesn’t really work.’ Because the thing you worry about, particularly as coaches get a little bit older — and I don’t think Belichick is like this, I think he’s smart enough to realize you have to have contrarians on your staff and people who will question what you do.

“But that’s always a danger, and I saw Don Shula go through it [with the Dolphins in the early 1990s], which is he brought too many guys who he knew through for life, they were too comfortable with each other, and they didn’t stand up and say, ‘That’s not going to work,’ or, ‘That’s not a good idea.’ ”

The big NFL story this week has been the league considering a rule banning the use of racial slurs on the field. Cole said the only way the league can make this work is by having a strict no-tolerance policy, even when players use the N-word without bad intent.

“I get that point [that many African-Americans feel they can use the N-word amongst themselves], but I also say, yeah, but you’re just telling me that it’s only OK for black people to use this, so you’re basically segregating the language,” Cole said. “The other part of it is, you’re trying to differentiate when it’s supposed to be comfortable versus when it’s supposed to be angry and it’s a slur. That’s really hard to decipher. It’s like trying to decipher when some people are deadpan sarcastic and when they’re serious. It’s up to interpretation.”

Added Cole: “Or you get the other use where you get a real lunkhead, loud idiot like Richie Incognito, who starts throwing it around because he sees how comfortable all his friends who are black are using it. And then all of a sudden it’s like, OK, Richie, you can use it because it’s all right for you. It gets all twisted.

“The bottom line is, at least how I grew up, is it’s a dreadfully painful, hurtful word. That was what I was taught. Not just by white people but by black people. And that’s what I taught my kids. Let’s have a nice open discussion about it. Policing it? Yeah, it’s hard. But I think we’re getting to a point where there’s some issues that we’ve really got to talk about culturally about the use of this word.”

Cole predicts that if referees start throwing flags, slurs won’t be thrown around during games, although it will take longer to clean up the locker room.

“I think that you can enforce it on the field, as long as the officials are going to be strict,” Cole said. “If they strictly enforce it, it will disappear in a matter of a few weeks. And it will be done with. Because people will watch their language.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Greg Schiano, Jason Cole, Michael Lombardi

Tuesday’s NFL combine schedule

02.25.14 at 6:30 am ET
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Here’€™€™€™€™s what’€™€™€™€™s on tap Tuesday at the combine:

— Media availability is completed for players, coaches and GMs.

— Workouts for defensive backs highlight the last day of the combine. Nationally, the big names worth keeping an eye on are Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard (the cousin of New England cornerback Alfonzo) and Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert, as well as safeties Calvin Pryor (Louisville) and Ha-Ha Clinton Dix (Alabama). It’s not expected that the Patriots will invest heavily in a defensive back in the draft, but from a New England perspective, the biggest drill we’ll be keeping an eye on is the 3-cone, a workout that measures agility and quickness. The Patriots have often shown an affinity for defensive back prospects who pop in the 3-cone — Devin McCourty, Nate Ebner and Logan Ryan have all done well in the drill the last few years.

Read More: 2014 combine, Alfonzo Dennard, Calvin Pryor, Darqueze Dennard
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