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NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Boise State FS George Iloka

03.08.12 at 11:16 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.

GEORGE ILOKA

Position: Free safety

School: Boise State

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 216 pounds

Achievements: All-Mountain West first team (2011), Athlon Sports Preseason All-America second team (2011), All-Western Athletic Conference first team (2010)

What he brings: Iloka (pronounced Eye-LOKE-uh) played all 13 games for the Broncos in his senior season at free safety, but he does not possess stats traditionally associated with safeties. Iloka did not record a single interception in the 2011 season, but he was second on the team in tackles with 58. His physical frame and tackling ability may lead one to think Iloka is a linebacker prospect, but the Houston native has run the 40 in as low as 4.42 seconds and possesses the kind of elite speed that is needed deep in the secondary. His man-coverage skills and technique have been a point of criticism.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 2-3

Notes: Iloka helped his stock with an impressive week of practices leading up to the Senior Bowl, although he recorded just one tackle in the game. He had a season-high 12 tackles in the Broncos’ 37-26 win over Air Force on Oct. 22. … Initially tagged as immature early in his Boise State career, Iloka was able to transform into to a team leader and a hard worker. He has also been described by teammates as an “amazing athlete.” Many have written that Iloka may be moved to cornerback in the NFL, a move he has said he would be willing to accept.

Recent articles:

Idaho Statesman: George Iloka has worked diligently to mature into a leader

Sports Illustrated: Top defensive back prospects to emerge out of Senior Bowl

Idaho Statesman: George Iloka seizes opportunity to make impact

Video: Here’s Iloka talking about his pro future and the possibility of playing corner.

Read More: 2012 NFL Draft, 2012 Potential Patriots, george iloka,

Where will Peyton Manning land?

03.08.12 at 7:37 am ET
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Very rarely is a four-time MVP and 11-time Pro Bowler on the free agent market. The release of Peyton Manning has created a frenzy around the league and there will undoubtedly be a number of teams interested in Manning’s services for the 2012 season and beyond.

Now that the tears have dried up, it’s time for Manning to start listening to offers. A number of factors will be considered in the decision process. His brother Eli, the location of the franchise, head coach, money, and talent on the team will all be important reasons for and against a certain organization.

Below are 10 of the most likely landing spots for the former Colts quarterback.

1. Dolphins

For: The Dolphins and Manning are the perfect fit for each other. Let’s start at receiver. Fellow Colts free agent Reggie Wayne already said he would be interested in signing with Miami. Add Wayne to a receiving corps that includes Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess and the Dolphins could go from the No. 22-ranked offense to a top-five offense.

— Don’t underestimate the location. Do you remember those cold-weather games Manning played in Foxboro? Manning enjoyed playing in a dome and prefers when the elements aren’t a factor.

— Owner Stephen Ross can’t be happy with attendance at Sun Life Stadium. Season tickets were at a historic low in 2011 and the Dolphins had the fifth-lowest attendance in the NFL. Peyton Manning instantly solves that problem.

Against: New coach Joe Philbin might have another free agent quarterback in mind, and that’s Matt Flynn. Flynn, 26, shined under Philbin when given the opportunity in Green Bay. Now the former backup quarterback is on the market looking to become a franchise QB while his former offensive coordinator is a first-year head coach in the market for one.

2. Texans

For: The Texans are one of the most intriguing teams in the Manning sweepstakes. We know they like Matt Schaub, but he’ll be 31 in June, he has one year left on his contract, and he’s played just two full seasons during his five-year tenure. Manning makes Houston an instant favorite in the AFC and a lock to win the AFC South. This has to be an attractive destination for No. 18. There may not be a better running back/receiver combo then Arian Foster and Andre Johnson in the league.

Against: The AFC South division might be a negative for Manning. He’d have to face his old team twice every season.

3. Chiefs

For: Well, we know they’re interested after this quote from Romeo Crenel: “With a talent like that, I would be crazy not to consider it if he were available. I’ll leave it at that.” The Chiefs would be a great landing spot for Manning. There is loads of talent on the offense. Dwayne Bowe, Jon Baldwin, Jamaal Charles and Tony Moeaki make KC an attractive spot.

Against: Matt Cassel is under contract until 2014. He signed a six-year, $63 million deal in 2007 and got $28 million guaranteed.

4. Cardinals

For: Larry Fitzgerald is exactly the type of player Manning wants to play with. The Cardinals also had great success when they signed Kurt Warner. The NFC West is one of the easier divisions in football, so the Cardinals could instantly contend for a division title. They also play in a dome, which definitely has to be an added perk in Peyton’s book.

Against: The Cardinals already invested in Kevin Kolb. Arizona traded a Pro Bowl cornerback and a second-round pick, and guaranteed Kolb $20 million in a $63 million deal. The run game is questionable. Beanie Wells has failed to stay healthy and there is no reason to believe that will change in the near future.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Peyton Manning, Rex Ryan,

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Clemson DE Andre Branch

03.07.12 at 10:00 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.

ANDRE BRANCH

Position: Defensive end

School: Clemson

Height: 6-foot-5

Weight: 260 pounds

Achievements: All-America second team (2011), All-ACC first team (2011), finalist for 2011 Ted Hendricks Award (nation’s top defensive end)

What he brings: Branch is a strong, all-around athlete who can fit well in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. Branch’s primary talent is his ability to rush the passer, as he is very flexible and shows a consistent ability to beat blocks and dart around linemen, and his skills improved every year in college. Branch is considered to be a good option for teams that want to convert a player to linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, which is an area of weakness for the Patriots. His balanced game, good speed and stamina make him a highly palatable pick.

Where the Patriots could get him: Round 1

Notes: Branch led the ACC in tackles for loss (17) and sacks (10.5), and he finished second on his team in total tackles (85) and quarterback pressures (17). … Branch enjoyed his best game of the 2011 season in a 23-3 victory over Virginia Tech on Oct. 1, registering six tackles for loss and four sacks in that game. … He pulled out of the Senior Bowl due to a groin injury.

Recent articles:

Clemson’s Andre Branch leaves lasting impression

Clemson’s Andre Branch answers the bell

Video: Here is Branch in action against Virginia Tech.

Read More: 2012 NFL Draft, 2012 Potential Patriots, Andre Branch,

Upcoming schedule of notable Pro Days

03.06.12 at 3:34 pm ET
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Per NFL.com, here’s a look at the schedule of Pro Days for the next month:

March 7: Alabama, California-Davis, Colgate, Eastern Washington, Fordham, Fort Valley, Kent State, Kentucky, Louisville, Northern Colorado, Southern California, Texas A&M, UTEP, Wisconsin
March 8: Akron, Alabama State, Buffalo, Clemson, Colorado, Miami (Fla.), Mississippi State, Nebraska, North Alabama, Northwestern, Ohio, Syracuse, Texas Tech, Washington, West Texas, Western Kentucky, Wofford, Wyoming, Youngstown State
March 9: Florida International, Furman, Mississippi, Montana, Northern Illinois, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Presbyterian, Purdue, TCU, Troy, Washington State
March 12: Air Force, Arkansas-Monticello, Central Michigan, Central Washington, Pittsburgh, Tulsa, Wayne State
March 13: Ball State, California (Pa.), Florida, Kansas State, Marshall, North Texas, Sacramento State, Slippery Rock, Toledo, Western Michigan
March 14: Bowling Green, California, Central Arkansas, Central Oklahoma, Eastern Michigan, Florida State, Grambling, Kansas, Kansas State, Louisiana-Monroe, Maryland, Michigan State, Mount Union, Oklahoma, Penn State, Portland State, Tennessee Tech
March 15: Delaware State, Louisiana Tech, Michigan, UNLV, Nicholls State, Oregon, Southern Illinois, Townson, Tusculum, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wayne State (Mich.), William & Mary
March 16: Arizona State, James Madison, Missouri State, Oregon State, Richmond, Temple, Tennessee, West Virginia
March 19: Appalachian State, Arizona, Florida Atlantic, Iowa, Montana State, Rice, Southern, Wake Forest
March 20: Brown, Idaho, Iowa State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Monmouth, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Carolina A&T, South Florida, Texas
March 21: Baylor, Boston College, Houston, N.C. State, North Dakota State, Rutgers, San Diego State, San Jose State, Tulane, Western Kentucky
March 22: East Carolina, LSU, Maine, Memphis, Middle Tennessee State, South Dakota, South Dakota State, Stanford, Tennessee-Chattanooga
March 23: Cornell, Jackson State, Missouri Western, N.C. Central, Southern Mississippi, Vanderbilt
March 26: Indiana State
March 27: Arkansas State, Coastal Carolina, Merrimack College, Stephen F. Austin, Washburn
March 28: Central Florida, Connecticut, Newberry, Northern Iowa, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Carolina State
March 29: Brigham Young, Georgia Southern
March 30: Bethune-Cookman, Dartmouth
April 3: Abilene Christian, Notre Dame, Stonybrook
April 4: SMU

Michael Lombardi on D&C: ‘There’s a sense of arrogance on the part of the Saints’

03.06.12 at 12:22 pm ET
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NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi made an appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Tuesday morning to discuss the Saints defense bounty scandal that is rocking the NFL as well as the possible punishments and repercussions that could result from it. In a story on NFL.com Sunday, Lombardi likened the bounty scandal to that of the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon and the White House in the early 1970s. Lombardi elaborated on that idea on air, saying the source of the money for the bounty pools could extend farther than originally thought.

“The bigger issue here is the Bounty-gate stuff, really, it shouldn’t be in place, but the reality is, it’s a cap circumvention as well,” Lombardi said. “Where’s the money coming from? You’ve got Mike Ornstein who is in the building, who’s really not an employee. He’s part of a marketing branch. Are they helping give money to put into the pool? I think it is like Watergate in the sense that if you follow the money, I think you’re going to lead to a trail that’s really not what the commissioner thought initially when he investigated it.”

One of the sticking points of the scandal is that although the team was warned about the practice, it did not stop it. Once Saints owner Tom Benson was reportedly made aware of the bounties, he allegedly told general manager Mickey Loomis to put an end to it, but the team continued to run the bounty system against the wishes of its owner and the league. In the wake of the allegations, many have wondered whether Loomis will be able to remain the general manager job in New Orleans. Lombardi said he doubts Loomis will remain employed by the Saints.

“I was told reliably by somebody intimate in the league office is the only way he keeps his job is if Benson fights for him,” Lombardi said. “And it seems to be, yesterday there was a report coming out of New Orleans that Benson was going to support both Loomis and [coach Sean] Payton.

“I find that hard to believe because if Benson is going to support Loomis, then basically, he’s supporting insubordination. Now he’s saying to everybody in the organization, ‘Don’t listen to what I say. Just do whatever the heck you want to do, because I’m going to keep Loomis in place.’ So I think it’s going to be hard for Mickey to keep his job. I know it’s going to be difficult for him to be able to weather this storm.”

Lombardi also noted that the controversy could be an example for players of how the NFL will punish management wrong-doings in addition to punishing players. The punishments meted out in this scandal will be all the more pertinent because of the recent labor dispute between the players and management that almost led to a lockout this past season.

“This is one of the situations where every player in the league is looking at [Roger] Goodell to see exactly what standard he’s going to utilize in terms of he’s been tough on the players,” Lombardi said. “Let’s see if he’ll be tough on management of the teams. And most players take the attitude of, ‘Well, the owner and the commissioner are in bed together. Therefore they won’t go as hard.’ I think that’s the one thing that’s going to hurt the Saints in this case. Goodell is going to be above and beyond that.”

Following are more highlights of the conversation. To listen to the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Mike Lombardi, roger goodell, sean payton, Tom Benson

Brian Billick on D&C: ‘Have to get some definitions’ on bounty

03.06.12 at 11:37 am ET
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Fox Sports and NFL analyst Brian Billick made an appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Tuesday morning to share his opinions about the Saints bounty scandal and the state of the Patriots following their Super Bowl loss last month.

The NFL accused the Saints defense, led by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, of conducting a lucrative bounty system that paid players for injuring opponents over the course of the last few seasons. According to the NFL, the system reached its height during the 2009 playoffs which culminated in a Super Bowl championship for New Orleans. The league claims general manager Mickey Loomis and head coach Sean Payton were aware of the program, but did not stop it.

Billick, who was the head coach of the Ravens from 1999-2007, said the punishment for this practice should be severe considering commissioner Roger Goodell‘s stance on player safety and his handling of the Patriots’ Spygate scandal.

“We’re now talking about player safety,” Billick said. “We’re talking about the bell cow for this commissioner in terms of the helmet-to-helmet, the protecting the players, it’s a long list of what we’re going to do to protect our players. I can’t believe that the sanctions aren’t going to be well north of [the Spygate] line in the sand that the commissioner has already drawn.”

Despite his expectation for severe punishment, Billick said it will be difficult for the league to determine the exact nature of the bounty system in terms of where it ranks against a typical objective for teams to try to play as physically as possible.

“Understand this, every defensive coordinator on Wednesday morning when he puts in the defensive game plan, at some point that morning will say, ‘Guys, we have to take the quarterback out’ meaning we’ve got to get to him, we’ve got to get hits on him, we have to take him out of his game, we have to move him off his spot,” Billick said. “So again, we’re talking semantics here ‘€¦ we have to get some definitions here. We have to be very careful to separate the rhetoric of what we’re talking about and what the actual intent was.”

Billick also commented on the Patriots Super Bowl disappointment, noting that New England should be pleased by how close the game since a few plays easily could have changed the course of the game. One of the plays Billick highlighted was Wes Welker‘s inability to catch a ball with 4:06 left in the game and the Patriots clinging to a two-point lead. According to Billick, the play will be “the cross [Welker’s] going to bear for the entire offseason”, but Welker’s behavior in the aftermath of the game was more satisfying to Billick than that of Rob Gronkowski, who was photographed partying shirtless at a team party after the Super Bowl.

“No one takes it more personal [than Welker], as opposed to Gronkowski, who didn’t much care and just decided to go party all night,” Billick said unprompted. “I can’t imagine Wes Welker was out partying all night after that game. You know he was devastated.

“It just shows a lack of an appreciation, and it’s typical of young people, of how hard it is to get there. And although it’s a likely scene, particularly when you have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, hey son, you may never be back there again. You don’t know how hard it is to get there and be that close to it.”

Following are more highlights of the conversation. To listen to the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Brian Billick, Gregg Williams, Mickey Loomis, new orleans saints

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus

03.06.12 at 10:49 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.

WHITNEY MERCILUS

Position: Defensive end

School: Illinois

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 265 pounds

Achievements: Consensus All-America, All-Big Ten, Ted Hendricks Award (nation’s top defensive end), Bill Willis Award (nation’s top defensive lineman), CFPA National Defensive Performer of the Year

What he brings: Mercilus is a most effective player when he can work the inside off speed from the outside. For a player with little experience as a starter, he has shown a lot of refinement in his pass rush repertoire. He has a quick first step and has enough speed to threaten the edge. He can sometimes lose leverage on contact and struggles to move laterally but his natural strength gives him an advantage to hold up at the point of attack.

Where the Patriots could get him: Round 1

Notes: Mercilus only started one season at Illinois, but he made the most of it. His nine forced fumbles this past season set the Big Ten single-season record and tied the NCAA mark. He also led the nation in sacks (16). … He ran a 4.68 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, fourth among defensive ends. … Mercilus grew up in Akron, Ohio, the son of Haitian immigrants.

Recent articles:

Mercilus after weightlifting injury

Whitney Mercilus NFL Draft Diary

Video: Here are some highlights of Mercilus from a 38-35 victory over Northwestern on Oct. 1.

Read More: 2012 NFL Draft, 2012 Potential Patriots, Whitney Mercilus,
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