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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,

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffery

02.21.12 at 1:15 pm 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.

Alshon Jeffery

Position: Wide receiver

School: South Carolina

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 229 pounds

Achievements: 2010 Biletnikoff Award runner-up, 2010 All-SEC, FWAA Freshman All-American

What he brings: Jeffery has the speed, size, hands and hand-eye coordination that make him extremely tough to handle for cornerbacks. His size advantage makes him a matchup nightmare, something Patriots receivers currently lack. While he doesn’t have the top-end speed of a true deep threat the Patriots desperately need, he has the ability to get yards after the catch because he is elusive for his size. Route-running and blocking are his biggest weaknesses.

Where the Patriots could get him: Round 1

Notes: In 2010, Jeffery broke South Carolina single season records with 1, 517 receiving yards and  88 receptions and he is the current leader in nearly every receiving category. His numbers dipped this season as a junior, but he ended strong, as on Jan. 2 he was the Capital One Bowl MVP in a win over Nebraska. Despite playing just weeks after having surgery on his hand for an injury suffered in the regular-season finale, Jeffery had four catches for 148 yards, including a 51-yard Hail Mary touchdown reception — before he was thrown out of the game in the third quarter for fighting. His lack of improvement in route-running and top end speed are major concerns and his 40 time will be extremely important.

Recent articles:

Top 10 prospects centered around the passing game

Kiper projects Jeffery to 49ers

Video: Here’s Jeffery’s Hail Mary TD catch in the Capital One Bowl.

Read More: 2012 NFL Draft, 2012 Potential Patriots, alshon jeffery,

Brandon Spikes tweets that he’s going in for surgery

02.21.12 at 10:21 am ET
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Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes took to Twitter Tuesday morning, saying that he was going in for surgery and asking fans to pray for him. Spikes, who just completed his second season with the Patriots, Tweeted: Surgery this am!!!! Y’all pray 4 me please. #PoWwWwW! The linebacker missed seven games in 2011 with a sprained MCL.

Read More: Brandon Spikes,

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Syracuse DE Chandler Jones

02.21.12 at 10:10 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.

CHANDLER JONES

Position: Defensive end

School: Syracuse

Height: 6-foot-5

Weight: 265 pounds

Achievements: All-Big East first team (2011)

What he brings: Jones, who is coming out a year early, is viewed by many to be a hybrid defensive end who could play some outside linebacker. In the past year he put on 15-20 pounds, making his body more pro-ready. His skill set is conducive to the 3-4 defensive scheme that the Patriots have used during much of Bill Belichick‘s tenure.

Where the Patriots could get him: Round 1

Notes: Jones earned a first-team Big East selection in 2011 even though he missed the first five games of the season with a knee injury. He was named Big East Defensive Player of the Week after registering six tackles and two sacks in his first game back from the injury against West Virginia. In seven games Jones managed to accumulate 39 tackles, 4 1/2 sacks, one forced fumble and an interception.

His knee injury initially caused his draft status to plummet, with predictions as low as the fifth round. However, ESPN analyst Todd McShay had Jones going to the Patriots in the first round at No. 27 in his most recent mock draft.

“Jones is an under-the-radar pass-rusher with the frame (6-5, 247) Bill Belichick likes in his DE/OLB hybrids, and he’s a gifted athlete who bends the edge naturally,” McShay wrote.

Jones earned academic honors in the spring of 2010. He has two brothers who are also athletes. Arthur plays defensive tackle for the Ravens and Jon is the light heavyweight champion of the UFC.

Video: Here are some highlights of Jones vs. West Virginia.

Read More: 2012 NFL Draft, 2012 Potential Patriots, chandler jones, Syracuse

Free Agent Snapshot: Mike Wallace

02.20.12 at 11:22 pm ET
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We continue our look at 15 possible fits for the Patriots in free agency this offseason with a breakdown of wide receiver Mike Wallace. With the understanding that the NFL’€™s franchise tag window is from now until March 5 (which means some of these players we list could ultimately be retained by their team) here are some players worth keeping an eye on that might be a fit in New England when free agency begins March 13:

Mike Wallace
Position: Wide receiver
Age: 25
Height: 6-foot
Weight: 199 pounds

Wallace is a restricted free agent, which would mean that depending on what sort of tender the Steelers place on the receiver, the Patriots could be forced to give up as much as a first-round draft pick. But New England had four selections in the first two rounds (including No. 27 and No. 31 overall), and would likely embrace the idea of giving up one of its two first-round choices to Pittsburgh, which is struggling with cap woes. (For what it’€™s worth, I would be drummed out of the media corps if I wrote a story about Wallace and didn’€™t include the fact that New England had the option to take him in the 2009 draft and went with Brandon Tate instead.)

You need a field stretcher? Wallace is the best option out there, even as an RFA. This past season with the Steelers, he had 72 catches for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns, and averaged 16.6 yards per catch. He had 18 catches of 20-plus yards and was tied for third in the league with seven catches for 40 or more yards. (For perspective, Wes Welker led the Patriots in 2011 with four catches of 40-plus yards.) In two career games against New England, Wallace had 15 catches (13 of them for a first down) for 206 yards and two touchdowns.

There is historical precedent for this sort of thing happening with a receiver who has torched them in the past: We are simplifying things a bit, but Wes Welker was a restricted free agent, but the Patriots were able to pry him away from Miami for a second-round pick before the 2007 season, eventually signing him to a five-year deal.

And finally, Wallace also passes what we call the Rosevelt Colvin Test: Bill Belichick has gushed about him on several occasions, with little or no provocation. Prior to the Patriots-Steelers game in October this past year, here was Belichick on Wallace: ‘€œHe’€™s a big-play receiver. He’€™s really fast. … Nobody is going to catch him, so you have to be careful about how much space he gets when he catches the ball. I think he’€™s improved a lot from when we played them last year, just as a football player, his patience and route technique.

‘€œHe stretches the field, but he can also take a short pass and turn it into a long run, so you have to defend him from the line of scrimmage to the back of the end zone and from sideline to sideline,’€ Belichick added. ‘€œHe’€™s a tough guy to match up on. He’€™s done a good job. Obviously he’€™s worked hard and he’€™s being well-coached and he’€™s got a good quarterback and other good receivers to complement him. He’€™s part of their very productive offense.’€

Why it might not work: The Steelers could tag Wallace, which would send him back to Pittsburgh at a cost of $9.4 million, at least for another year. And if the Patriots are pondering the idea of Wallace, you can be sure that there are several other teams out there who are thinking about the same thing, including division rivals like Baltimore and Cincinnati.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Brandon Tate, free agent snapshot, Mike Wallace

Taking a look at the NFL calendar for the next six months

02.20.12 at 5:20 pm ET
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Here’s a quick look at the NFL calendar over the next six-plus months:

Today: Teams can begin applying franchise and transition tags to players.
Feb. 22-28: NFL combine (in Indianapolis).
March 5: Deadline for teams to apply franchise and transition tags.
March 13: Free agency begins at 4 p.m.
March 25-28: NFL owners meetings (in Palm Beach).
Mid-April: Offseason programs begin (teams can hold a maximum of 10 OTAs during the offseason).
Late April: 2012 NFL schedule is announced.
April 26: First round of 2012 NFL draft.
April 27: Second and third rounds of 2012 NFL draft.
April 28: Rounds 4-7 of 2012 NFL draft.
Late July: Training camps across the league begin.
Early August: 2012 preseason begins.
Sept. 6: 2012 NFL regular season begins.

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