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If Pats are Jonesing for offensive line help, Georgia’s Ben Jones could be their man

02.23.12 at 1:43 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — A year after taking Nate Solder 17th overall, the Patriots could stand to address the offensive line with one of their earlier picks again this season.

The the Pats could use a right guard, and the uncertainty of 32-year-old free agent Dan Koppen leaves the center position up in the air. Factor in that Koppen played in only one game last season due to a sprained ankle, and the Pats would be wise to at least snag a center.

Georgia’s Ben Jones could fit the bill for the Pats, as he has plenty of experience at both center and guard and is widely considered to be the draft’s second-best center prospect behind Wisconson’s Peter Konz.

“I can play guard,” Jones said Thursday at the scouting combine. “I played it at the Senior Bowl. I didn’t play center until I got to college. All of high school, I played guard, so I can play it any time.”

Aside from his versatility and balanced strengths in both pass protection and run-blocking, the 6-foot-2 4/8, 305-pound Jones could appeal to the Pats for his experience in the no-huddle offense, which the Patriots like to use.

“This year we went to a no-huddle offense,” Jones said. “We were a pro-style team, but we did it as a no-huddle to speed the game up and to open it up because we had a lot of weapons on the outside this year as receivers. I’m used to that, I’m used to going 80 to 90 snaps a game, so I can definitely do that.”

Jones said the no-huddle changes the way he plays his position, and that it has better prepared him for the next level.

“It’s a little bit of everything,” he said. “If you’re going at a fast pace, you’ve got to know. You’ve got to read the defense while they’re shifting and everything instead of hearing the play in the huddle and all of that. It’s definitely a little change, but I did it all year and you get the hang of it really quick.”

Perhaps he was playing to the crowd here in Indianapolis, but Jones said he would like to be like longtime Colts center Jeff Saturday. Jones could likely be had with one of the Patriots’ two second-round picks.

Read More: 2012 combine, 2012 NFL Draft, Ben Jones,

New Dolphins coach Joe Philbin says it was his time at Worcester Academy that led him to a career in coaching

02.23.12 at 1:26 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — New Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin can trace his football roots back to Massachusetts ‘€” he was born in Springfield, went to Worcester Academy and really cut his teeth as the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach with Northeastern from 1995-96 and then with Harvard from 1997-98.

But it was his time at Worcester Academy that really laid the groundwork for his life as a coach. Philbin spent one year there as a student and football player, on a team that had then-unknowns Kirk Ferentz, Mike Sherman and Ken O’€™Keefe on the coaching staff: Ferentz would go on to coach at Iowa and serve as the offensive line coach under Bill Belichick in Cleveland, while Sherman would become head coach at Texas A&M and Green Bay and O’€™Keefe would become offensive coordinator at Iowa.

Speaking at the annual NFL scouting combine on Thursday, as far as he was concerned, when it came to putting together a coaching staff, he jumped at the chance to add Sherman (another Massachusetts native) as Miami’€™s offensive coordinator and O’€™Keefe as wide receivers coach.

‘€œWorcester Academy was a special time,’€ said Philbin, who spent the previous three seasons as the Packers‘€™ offensive coordinator before being named head coach of the Dolphins last month. ‘€œI only spent one year there — Mike Sherman was an assistant coach on staff, Ken O’€™Keefe my receiver coach was the head coach, Kirk Ferentz, who I talked to Saturday, was an assistant coach on the staff.

‘€œI was very, very lucky,’€ he added. ‘€œMy dad always said it was the best money he ever spent. Like I said before, those guys inspired me to get into the coaching profession, I’€™m really lucky to have two of them on my staff right now.’€

Philbin’€™s parents live in Agawam, but he said that when it comes to his first trip to New England as a head coach this season, it’€™s going to be all business.

‘€œI’€™ve got great respect for what they’€™ve accomplished in New England, there’€™s no question about that — they’€™ve done a tremendous job,’€ Philbin said Thursday at the NFL scouting combine. ‘€œBut beyond, that it’€™s going to be a business trip. We’€™re going to ask our players to treat it as a business trip, so personal feelings aside, it’€™s going to have to be the same for me.

‘€œIt’€™s going to be one game out of 16-game schedule that we play in Gillette Stadium, and we’€™re going to do our best to have our team prepared as best as possible. So it’€™s not really about me, it’€™s about the Miami Dolphins.’€

It’€™s been an unbelievable stretch months for Philbin, who endured horrific tragedy in January when his son, 21-year-old Michael Philbin, was found dead in a Wisconsin river. Less than a month later, he was able to realize his professional dream of becoming an NFL head coach. He reflected on the emotional roller coaster Thursday.

‘€œIt’€™s been great seeing some familiar faces here the last couple of hours, but it’€™s been hard as well,’€ he said. ‘€œIt’€™s been the best of times and worst of times. I feel very fortunate — I have a wonderful family, a lot of tremendous friends I’€™m fortunate to have, I’€™m excited about this opportunity that Mr. Ross and Jeff Ireland have provided me, I’€™m anxious to build a program that our fans, our alumnus can be proud of, and I’€™m confident we’€™re going to do that.’€

Read More: 2012 combine, Bill Belichick, Joe Philbin, Ken O’Keefe

Pre-Combine Mock Draft: Patriots have options

02.23.12 at 9:07 am ET
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With the NFL combine set to kick off, WEEI.com will be in Indianapolis to follow the action and get a feel for which players might be headed to Foxboro.

It will be particularly interesting to see how receivers fare in workouts, as the Patriots, who have two first-round picks (Nos. 27 and 31) should be in the market for one despite not having drafted one in the first round since 1996 (Terry Glenn). Will any of the receivers in this year’s class be worth it? We should find out over the next few days.

There’s still plenty to be learned, so here’s an early mock draft to kick things off. We’ll have an updated mock following the combine, and there should be some big changes depending on how players fare in Indianapolis.

1. Indianapolis (2-14) Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

This pick is as sure as a sure thing gets, meaning that for the first time since 2009 (Matthew Stafford) there will be little suspense at the combine regarding who will be chosen first overall. The selection of Luck is a no-brainer, but the highly touted Stanford signal caller has some enormous shoes to fill.

2. St. Louis (2-14) Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

The last wide receiver to be drafted second overall was Calvin Johnson back in 2007. Is Blackmon Calvin Johnson? No, but he would immediately become Sam Bradford’s best weapon after amassing over 1,500 receiving yards and 18 touchdown catches last season. It initially seemed that Blackmon would run on Sunday, but ESPN is now reporting that he might not. Whenever he runs, if he can wow scouts with a time anywhere from the mid-4.4’s to the low 4.5’s, he’ll likely cement his status as a top-5 pick.

3. Minnesota (3-13) Matt Kalil, OT, USC

Though he declared for the draft after his junior year, Kalil has long been destined to be a top-5 pick. Consider that last year’s ninth overall pick, USC right tackle Tyron Smith, was playing right tackle because he couldn’t take the left tackle job away from Kalil. If the Rams opt to take him second overall, Minnesota would have an interesting choice between Blackmon and LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne.

4. Cleveland (4-12) Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

The Browns’ history of first-round quarterbacks is downright scary, with the likes of Bobby Garrett (traded before playing with the team, wound up playing just nine games in his career), Tim Couch (released in 2004) and Brady Quinn (Brady Quinn) among them.  Griffin’s wide-ranging skill set will bring excitement to a team that’s lacked it for years. The Browns spent a third-round pick on Colt McCoy in 2010, but Griffin is on another level.

5. Tampa Bay (5-11) Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

According to Pro Football Focus, Ronde Barber led NFL cornerbacks in missed tackles with 22. According to anyone with eyes, the Bucs were a defensive train wreck last year. Part of that had to do with injuries on the defensive line, but the secondary was woeful when healthy, and Barber is at or near the end of his playing days.  Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 NFL Draft, Andrew Luck, Fletcher Cox, Justin Blackmon

Patriots release Mike Wright, Rich Ohrnberger

02.22.12 at 7:16 pm ET
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The Patriots announced Wednesday that they have released offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger and defensive tackle Mike Wright.

The Pats signed Wright out of Cincinnati after he went undrafted in 2005. He was with the Patriots for seven seasons, but played in only one game last season before being placed on injured reserve with his latest concussion.

Ohrnberger was drafted in the fourth round of the 2009 draft. Though he became popular for his twitter account leading up to the Super Bowl, he played in only five games over his three seasons in New England.

Christopher Price, Mike Giardi discuss Patriots’ future in latest ‘It Is What It Is’ podcast

02.22.12 at 10:39 am ET
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In the latest edition of the “It Is What It Is” podcast, WEEI.com’s Christopher Price talks with Mike Giardi of Comcast SportsNet. Giardi breaks down the Patriots on both sides of the ball, while both men give their thoughts on the legacy of the 2011 team and provide some thoughts on what the team is going to do in free agency and the draft. To listen, click here.

Read More: Christopher Price, Mike Giardi,

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: North Carolina DE Quinton Coples

02.22.12 at 8:12 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 2012 NFL draft. Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

QUINTON COPLES

Position: Defensive End

School: North Carolina

Height: 6-foot-6

Weight: 285 pounds

Achievements: 2010 first-team All-ACC, 2011 Lombardi Award candidate, 2011 Hendricks Award candidate

What he brings: A strong defensive end who brings a lot of length to the line, Coples played as a defensive tackle for a most of last season, a move that showed how versatile he can be. Coples has the athletic tools to be an elite pass rusher but lacks the agility and overall speed that separates the elite defensive ends. Coples has great hands and strength that make him very hard to block without leverage. He’s been mentioned as a less-agile Julius Peppers.

Where the Patriots could get him: Round 1 (likely via a trade to move up)

Notes: Coples was cleared by the NCAA in the agent scandal that rocked the UNC program in 2010. While playing tackle last season Coples earned All-ACC honors after recording 59 tackles, 15.5 for loss, and 10 sacks. The biggest knock against him besides his lack of burst speed is the question of whether he can play defensive end on the right side. Coples added 30 pounds to his frame while at North Carolina.

Recent articles:

ESPN: UNC players stand out at Senior Bowl

CBS: Coples versatility drawing rave reviews

Video: Here is a collection of clips of Coples against Clemson and Florida State.

Read More: 2012 NFL Draft, 2012 Potential Patriots, quinton coples,

Tom Brady could always count on Tom Martinez

02.22.12 at 12:35 am ET
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Simply put, you cannot tell the story of Tom Brady without Tom Martinez.

The quarterback first came across Martinez when he was a teenager in the Bay Area, struggling to learn the game. The coach, who would come to be known as an invaluable mentor to generations of young athletes in Northern California, watched Brady for a couple of minutes before effortlessly breaking down his mechanics.

It was the start of a relationship that would last more than 20 years. While Martinez continued to serve as a youth coach in several sports in his community and quarterbacking guru to several young signal callers, he remained close with Brady, forging a deep friendship, one that continued through Brady’€™s years at Michigan and into his career with the Patriots. When Brady won his first start as a pro in New England in 2001, he gave Martinez the game ball with the inscription: ‘€œCoach Martinez ‘€” Thanks ‘€” The first of many ‘€” 9/30/01 ‘€” Patriots 44, Colts 13 ‘€” Tom Brady #12.’€

And even after three Super Bowl titles and two MVPs, whenever Brady’€™s game needed fixing, Martinez was there, whether it was through e-mail, text or over the phone. Brady always kept a list of reminders from Martinez in his wallet, one that he often looked at before games, a list that included mantras like ‘€œKeep your elbow high,’€ ‘€œThrow it down the hall,’€ ‘€œKeep your hips closed.’€ (The quarterback would later switch the list to his Blackberry.)

The quarterback trusted Martinez for several reasons, not the least of which was that he remained consistent in his coaching methods: It didn’€™t matter if Brady was the starter on the Serra High JV team or the leader of a Super Bowl champion — with him, it was always the same. They continued to connect on a regular basis, whether it was back in California during the offseason or an occasional surreptitious trip by Martinez to Foxboro. The two were constantly seeking what Martinez would later call ‘€œthat perfection,’€ always looking to improve on an already unimpeachable game.

In recent years, Martinez struggled with complications brought about by diabetes, and was awaiting a possible kidney donation. In the days before Super Bowl XLVI, Brady talked about the impact that Martinez had on his life.

‘€œWe’€™ve worked together for over 20 years trying to work on my mechanics and nail those down. He’€™s had a great commitment to me,’€ Brady said. ‘€œHe’€™s always calling and texting and saying, ‘€˜Get your shoulder down and get your arm up and close your left side and take a shorter stride.’€™ Talk about a perfectionist — he’€™s a perfectionist and he doesn’€™t let anything slide with me.’€

‘€œThat’€™s amazing,’€ Martinez said quietly after hearing Brady’€™s words. ‘€œWe have a very special relationship, but it’€™s always nice to hear his point of view on something like that. I can only give my point of view, and you’€™re never sure what the other person thinks. That’€™s very nice of him, and extremely gracious. We’€™ve been working together for a long time, and we’€™re still working on that perfection.’€

On Tuesday, Martinez passed away on his 66th birthday. While coaches, coordinators and teammates will continue to pass through Brady’€™s football life, none will have the sort of impact on his development that Martinez did.

‘€œHe’€™s obviously a great friend of mine and a great friend of my family’€™s, and has been for a long time,’€ Brady said. ‘€œHe taught me how to throw the football at a young age. I’€™m forever indebted to him. I owe so much to him. I love him.’€

Read More: Tom Brady, tom martinez,
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