|Countdown to Camp: Linebackers||07.28.09 at 10:34 pm ET|
With training camp looming at the end of the week, WEEI.com will look at the 2009 Patriots in a daily position-by-position breakdown we’re calling “Countdown to Camp.” In today’s installment, we take a look at New England’s linebackers.
CURRENTLY ON THE ROSTER: Projected starters — Pierre Woods, Tedy Bruschi, Jerod Mayo, Adalius Thomas. Projected reserves — Shawn Crable, Gary Guyton, Paris Lenon, Vinny Ciurciu, Tyrone McKenzie, Eric Alexander, Tully Banta-Cain, Vince Redd, Tank Williams.
A LOOK BACK: While there was still plenty of fight left in the veterans like Bruschi, Vrabel and Junior Seau, it was clear that the New England linebacking corps underwent something of a transition last season. In his rookie season, Mayo established himself as one of the premier linebackers in the NFL, and other youngsters like Guyton and Woods saw dramatic increases in playing time.
Statistically, Mayo set the pace for the linebackers, leading the team with 128 tackles. Mike Vrabel had 62 tackles and four sacks, while Bruschi had 75 tackles, and Thomas, who battled through an arm injury for much of the season, finished with 34 tackles and five sacks. Overall, the linebackers accounted for 10 of the teams’ 31 sacks.
A LOOK AHEAD: When you combine the youngsters’ emergence with the offseason trade of popular veteran Mike Vrabel, it’s clear that a new day is dawning in what the Patriots’ locker room refers to as “Backerhood.” But let’s face it: with New England’s linebacking situation in a fluid state — the Patriots worked out free-agent defensive end/outside linebacker Stryker Sulak Tuesday, and reportedly still have an interest in acquiring disgruntled Oakland linebacker Derrick Burgess — the list of projected starters could change within the hour.
The trade of Vrabel — who had 55 career sacks — alters the New England pass rush. With no Vrabel for the first time since 2000, as of this moment, the Patriots are likely looking at a combination of Thomas and Woods on the outside and Mayo and Bruschi on the inside as starters, with Crable or Banta-Cain spelling Woods on passing downs and Guyton doing the same with Bruschi on the inside. (If Crable starts the year on the PUP list as has been reported, that could also mean more snaps for Redd. If not, Redd will likely seeing the bulk of his time as a backup and on special teams.)
A veteran acquisition, Lenon could challenge for playing time on the inside — he appeared to be taking a significant leadership role in spring practices. Alexander has experience in the system, but could face an uphill battle for playing time. Two players who are linebackers in name only are Williams and Ciurciu. Ciurciu, a veteran acquisition, is the odds-on favorite to take the bulk of snaps on special teams for Larry Izzo, who departed via free agency in the offseason. If he stays healthy, Williams will see time as a safety/linebacker hybrid.
|Pats add DB Jones, cut OL Porter||07.28.09 at 5:30 pm ET|
The Patriots have just announced via their Twitter page they have signed defensive back Herana-Daze Jones and released offensive lineman Jermail Porter.
UPDATE, 5:45 p.m.–Moments ago, the Patriots just issued the following press release on the move:
Read the rest of this entry »
|Countdown to Camp: Defensive Line||07.27.09 at 10:48 pm ET|
With training camp looming at the end of the month, WEEI.com will look at the 2009 Patriots in a daily position-by-position breakdown we’re calling “Countdown to Camp.” In today’s installment, we take a look at New England’s defensive line.
CURRENTLY ON THE ROSTER: Projected starters — Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, Richard Seymour. Projected reserves — LeKevin Smith, Mike Wright, Jarvis Green, Ron Brace, Myron Pryor, Darryl Richard, Titus Adams, Stephen Williams.
A LOOK BACK: When healthy, New England’s front three was one of the best in the league last year. All three started at least 13 games in 2008, and proved again that they remain the bedrock of the Patriots’ defense.
New England’s front three had its issues — they were embarrassed when the Dolphins ran over them for 215 rushing yards in a 38-13 loss at Gillette Stadium on Sept. 21 thanks in large part to the Wildcat. But Wilfork and the others responded well the second time around, blowing up the Miami running game — they ran for just 66 yards the second time the two teams met in November.
Out of the defensive end spot, Seymour led the team with eight sacks — a bit of an anomaly for a 3-4 team. (It was the first time since 2001 that an outside linebacker did not lead the Patriots in sacks.)
A LOOK AHEAD: If contract situations don’t change, this could be the last round-up for one of the best defensive fronts the NFL has seen in the last 15 years — currently, Wilfork, Seymour and Green are all entering the final year of their contracts. Seymour is playing his cards close to his vest, while Wilfork has already made his contractual requests clear and Green has already made statements — which he later retracted — about this being his last season in a New England uniform.
Warren, who is signed through 2013, figures to be here for the long-term. Brace is an intriguing presence — I’m guessing the Patriots are eventually looking at him as a space-eater not unlike Wilfork. That’s not to say Brace could step in this season and play at the same level as Wilfork now. But at the same time, if Wilfork plays out his contract this season and New England slaps the franchise tag on him in 2010 before eventually departing, a two-year apprenticeship for Brace might be enough to get him up to speed.
Wright and Smith remain serviceable backups (the former predominantly on the nose, while the latter mostly at end), while Adams and Williams also project as backups this year. Pryor and Richard face an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster, and could end up as practice squadders.
|Source: Sulak will work out for Pats on Tuesday||07.27.09 at 6:03 pm ET|
A source tells WEEI.com that free agent defensive end/linebacker Stryker Sulak did not work out for the Patriots today — contrary to this report in the Rock Hill (N.C.) Herald — but will work out in Foxborough tomorrow.
An initial report had the Missouri product working out for the Patriots on Monday afternoon. However, the source indicated that Sulak did not arrive in Boston until 5 p.m. on Monday, and said Sulak “is scheduled to work out for the Pats [Tuesday].”
Sulak was selected by Oakland with the 199th overall pick of the 2009 Draft, but was released by the Raiders two weeks ago in a move that left people around the league scratching their heads. The 6-foot-5, 241-pound Sulak is considered a pass-rushing specialist, and had 22.5 quarterback sacks during his career at the University of Missouri.
If he was tossed into the mix with the Patriots, he would almost certainly project as an outside linebacker and challenge Pierre Woods, Shawn Crable, Tully Banta-Cain and Vince Redd.
Sulak’s agent Bob Lattinville told the Herald that “at least 10 other teams” are interested in his client — Sulak reportedly has a workout scheduled for later this week with the Carolina Panthers.
“He’d be a fine addition for any team,” Lattinville said. “And there’s no lack of motivation, that’s for sure.”
|Report: Sulak works out for Patriots||07.27.09 at 5:44 pm ET|
According to this report, free agent defensive end/linebacker Stryker Sulak worked out for the Patriots today and will work out for the Carolina Panthers on Friday.
The 6-foot-5, 251-pound Sulak was selected by Oakland with the 199th overall pick of the 2009 Draft, but was released by the Raiders two weeks ago. Sulak had 22.5 quarterback sacks during his career at the University of Missouri.
(H/T to Mac’s Football Blog)
|Pats sign second-round pick Chung||07.27.09 at 4:37 pm ET|
The Patriots have just announced they have signed second-round pick Patrick Chung. Here’s the full press release from the team:
|Countdown to Camp: Quarterbacks||07.26.09 at 10:48 pm ET|
With training camp looming at the end of the month, WEEI.com will look at the 2009 Patriots in a daily position-by-position breakdown we’re calling “Countdown to Camp.” In today’s installment, we take a look at New England’s quarterbacks.
CURRENTLY ON THE ROSTER: Tom Brady, Kevin O’Connell, Matt Gutierrez, Brian Hoyer.
A LOOK BACK: Brady went down in Week 1 with a left knee injury, and Cassel stepped in to lead the Patriots to an 11-5 record. Cassel, who was dealt to Kansas City in the offseason, finished the season with a 63 percent completion rate, 3,693 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. In limited action, O’Connell was 4-for-6 for 23 yards, while Brady was 7-for-11 for 76 yards in almost two quarters of play. Gutierrez did not see any action in the regular season last year, while Hoyer threw for 2,404 yards and nine TDs as a senior at Michigan State.
A LOOK AHEAD: This year, it’s all about No. 12. This spring, Brady said he was “feeling really good” as he went through the organized team activities. He didn’t appear to be hamstrung in any way possible, going through every one of the same drills the other quarterbacks went through. Through most of the spring practices, there was the same zip on the football. And there was no discernible limp.
“I feel as good as I could possibly feel — I don’t think about it. It doesn’t bother me doing anything. It’s feeling really good and it’s about as good as I can say,” Brady said when asked about his knee. “I’m real happy with where I’m at.”
One person who might offer some unique insight into Brady’s rehab is Tom Martinez. Brady’s personal throwing guru, who currently lives in the Bay Area, said the New England quarterback will likely struggle out of the gate, but finish the year looking like the same old Brady. As a template, Martinez points to the rehab process that Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning went through last season after the Colts’ quarterback came off offseason surgery of his own.
“Do I anticipate Brady having trouble? Yes,” Martinez said. “Will he correct it? Yes.”
“I think if he was concerned and it showed early, I wouldn’t panic. The same thing happened with Peyton. He was holding back early last year, not attacking the throw and leaving a little off it. By the end of the season, he was back to where he needed to be.”
If the Patriots aren’t yet comfortable with the idea of O’Connell as the No. 2 quarterback, New England could always go out and get a veteran backup. The Patriots reportedly met with Patrick Ramsey earlier this year before he signed with the Titans, while Brian Griese is still available. But at this moment, O’Connell is your No. 2. Gutierrez and Hoyer will likely battle for the No. 3 spot — for more on that, click here.
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