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Nick Caserio: ‘No other coach in football that I’d rather work alongside than Bill Belichick’

04.22.15 at 3:23 pm ET
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FOXBORO — One of the under-the-radar stars of the Patriots team-building process is Nick Caserio. The Patriots personnel chief, who prefers to operate out of the spotlight, plays an integral role in the construction of New England roster every season. From free agency through the draft, as well as trades and waiver wire moves, Caserio’s fingerprints are all over the franchise.

Several former members of the Patriots front office have gone on to bigger and better things at other locations: Scott Pioli took the reins in Kansas City, while Jason Licht became GM with the Bucs and Thomas Dimitroff did the same thing with the Falcons. While Caserio has had his opportunities to leave — he interviewed for the GM job with the Dolphins in January 2014 — he’s always returned to New England.

Now, it appears he’s going to be sticking around for a long time to come. In a rare session with the media on Wednesday — part of his annual pre-draft press conference — he was asked about the new deal he signed last fall, a contract that will keep him in New England through 2020. He said there were a “lot of things” that went into his decision to sign a new contract with the Patriots.

“I would say I’ve been fortunate to be able to be in the same organization for 14 years,” he said. “I’ve had a chance to work on a multitude of levels. The Kraft family has been extremely generous to me and my family, and there is no other coach in football that I’d rather work alongside than Bill Belichick.

“I like being here, I like winning and I enjoy my role. I have plenty of responsibility, and I enjoy being a part of a winning culture and winning organization. I feel blessed. To be here and to have the opportunity that I have, I’m really grateful and hopefully we can continue to win some games along the way as well.”

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Nick Caserio: Dante Scarnecchia has been ‘great resource’ when it comes to pre-draft evaluation

04.22.15 at 3:08 pm ET
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Dante Scarnecchia has been spotted at pro days at Florida State, South Carolina and Florida this spring. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Former Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia has been spotted at pro days at Florida State, South Carolina, Duke and Florida this spring. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — When it comes to the pre-draft process, it’s all hands on deck.

At least that’s the way that Patriots personnel chief Nick Caserio looks at it. Coaches and scouts are all part of the process when it comes to pre-draft evaluation. That means ex-coaches as well, including former offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia — even though Scarnecchia abruptly retired after the 2013 season.

Scarnecchia has been a ubiquitous presence on the pre-draft radar, showing up at several pro days over the course of the last two months while working out prospects at Florida State, South Carolina, Florida and Duke. Caserio said that when it comes to Scarnecchia, it’s not out of the ordinary to have him involved in the process.

“I would say that there’s a lot of people that have been involved in the process this time of the year,” Caserio said Wednesday when asked about Scarnecchia’s involvement with the team this spring. “Every coach in the building has worked out players. I would say that there’s a number of people in the personnel department that have worked out players.

“Dante has a lot of experience in our system. He’s a great resource. He’s been a great resource for us. It’s something that we decided that might be helpful to us in the entire process. Dante has a lot of experience in our system, and he has a lot of insight. I’d say it’s kind of worked out,” Caserio added. “We can’t cover everybody. We’re trying to take our resources and allocate our resources the best we can to try to get as much information as possible on a player however we can do it.”

Read More: Dante Scarnecchia, Nick Caserio,

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Northwestern SS Ibraheim Campbell

04.22.15 at 1:25 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 2015 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

IBRAHEIM CAMPBELL

Position: Strong safety

School: Northwestern

Height: 5-foot-11

Weight: 220 pounds

Achievements: 2014 coaches All-Big Ten, 2014 media All-Big Ten honorable mention, 2013 All-Big Ten honorable mention, 2012 All-Big Ten honorable mention, 2011 FWAA Freshman All-America team

What he brings: Many scouts consider Campbell’s character to be one of his most attractive traits, as he took on a leadership role throughout his time at Northwestern. The redshirt senior was an efficient tackler and forced a good amount of fumbles in his college career. He is considered efficient, though not a star, in run defense. In pass coverage, scouts like his ability to stay with tight ends and backs on shorter routes but are concerned that he lacks the ability to stay with receivers on deeper routes. Unless he can improve his coverage and ball skills, experts are worried that he may only be consistently effective in the box.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 5-7

Notes: Campbell was selected as a co-captain prior to the 2014 season. He is tied for third all-time at Northwestern with 11 career interceptions and tied for fifth with 24 pass breakups. He started 45 times through four seasons, but missed four games in 2014 with a hamstring injury. At the combine Campbell recorded the best score among safeties in the bench press with 23 reps. He did not participate in the other combine drills because of his hamstring injury.

Related articles:

Phillymag.com: Philly’s Ibraheim Campbell is a real-deal NFL prospect at safety

Video: Here’s Campbell recording seven tackles and an interception return of 79 yards against Michigan in November 2014.

Read More: 2015 NFL Draft, 2015 Potential Patriots, Ibraheim Campbell,

Report: Patriots, Jerod Mayo rework contract to 1-year, $4.5 million guaranteed, with 2 option years

04.22.15 at 12:29 pm ET
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According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, Jerod Mayo and the Patriots have reworked the linebacker’s contract.

The former No. 10 overall pick has restructred his deal to $4.5 million guaranteed for this season and a chance to make $6 million with playing time incentives. Then he has options for two more years, with the team having to pay him $4 million next year before free agency begins and the same before 2017, all according to Rapoport.

Mayo has suffered season-ending injuries each of the past two seasons — tearing his patella tendon in Week 6 this past year against Buffalo and tearing his pectoral muscle in 2013, also in Week 6. With his current contract, Mayo would have had a cap hit for 2015 of $10.3 million.

The Patriots would have owed Mayo money if they cut him because of an injury protection guarantee in his contract.

Mike Garofalo of Fox Sports was first to report the sides were close.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

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Matthew Slater: Scott O’Brien ‘earned his retirement,’ but ‘excited to play for’ Joe Judge, Ray Ventrone

04.22.15 at 11:31 am ET
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Scott O'Brien

Scott O’Brien

FOXBORO — There’s no question the Patriots’ special teams played a large role in the Super Bowl winning season last year.

Whether it was blocking a field goal and returning it for a touchdown, blocking a punt, or even just a huge flip in field position, the Patriots’ special teams unit seemingly made a big play every single week.

Just two days after winning the Super Bowl, their leader, coach Scott O’Brien announced his retirement after 24 seasons in the NFL, including the last six in New England. O’Brien will remain with the organization in some capacity.

In the same release, the team announced assistant special teams coach Joe Judge would take over for O’Brien and then later the team signed former player Ray Ventrone to serve as Judge’s assistant.

“I know that the game comes to an end for all of us and I know Scott had jokingly mentioned it over the years, and I certainly didn’€™t want him to retire because he definitely means a lot to me personally and I know to a lot of guys around here, but he’€™s earned his retirement,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said.

“He’€™s given a lot to this game, and I know he’€™s excited about the next chapter. That being said, we’€™re excited about having Ray [Ventrone] here and Joe Judge, them starting their legacy, we’€™re excited to play for those guys.”

Ventrone actually played for the Patriots and Bill Belichick from 2006-08. In all he played nine seasons in the NFL,  primarily used as a special teams player, registering 57 total tackles.

Slater was actually a teammate of Ventrone, and he always had a feeling one day he would become a coach.

“Certainly,” Slater said. “I think Ray was just a pro’€™s pro, the way he played the game and the way he prepared, he had a better understanding of the game than most guys I’€™ve ever played with. The way he competed, I had so much respect for him as a competitor and the passion that he played with and he’€™s already bringing that to the meeting room and we’€™re excited about it. Like I said, I’€™m not surprised that he’€™s doing what he’€™s doing now.”

Having a former teammate now be his coach, Slater said there was one thing he needed to be made clear before getting started.

“The big thing that I wanted to get clear with Ray was, ‘€˜Should I call you Ray or should I call you coach Ventrone?’€™” Slater joked. “So it’€™s going to be great. Coach Ventrone is a very intelligent guy and he played this game at a high level for a long time and he really understands the game, so I’€™m excited to work with him, to learn from him, and I think he’€™s going to bring a lot to the table.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Joe Judge, Matthew Slater, Ray Ventrone

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Florida OT D.J. Humphries

04.22.15 at 9:15 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 2015 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

D.J. HUMPHRIES

Position: Offensive tackle

School: Florida

Height: 6-foot-5

Weight: 307 pounds

Achievements: 2012 SEC All-Freshman team

What he brings: Humphries looks more like a tight end than an offensive lineman and can likely gain another 10-15 pounds, according to Rob Rang of CBS Sports. He is very athletic, quick off the snap and plays a tough game “through and past the whistle,” Lance Zierlein of NFL.com wrote. Humphries can also mirror and move linebackers in space and “has desired foot quickness combined with proper angles to be effective blocker on play side and back side on stretch plays.” He can be prone to lunging and leaning, though, and can fall off balance. Humphries’ hand placement could also use some work. Rang wrote that Humphries “can get a little lazy with his fundamentals” as well. While his talent is obvious, CBS Sports notes, he only started 19 games for Florida.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 1-2

Notes: Humphries recorded two consecutive injury-shortened seasons in his sophomore and junior years, forgoing his last season of eligibility to enter the draft. As a sophomore, Humphries experienced MCL sprains in both knees and only played in seven games before being shut down. As a junior, he started in 10 games before missing two with a high ankle sprain. At the combine he ran a 5.12-second 40-yard dash, had an 8-foot, 8-inch broad jump, and ran a 4.64-second 20-yard shuttle.

Related articles:

Dallas Morning News: Bob Sturm’s 2015 NFL Draft profile: What I see in D.J. Humphries, T, Florida

ESPN.com: Florida offensive tackle D.J. Humphries quickly rising up draft boards

NFL.com: Davis: NFL teams would be foolish to pass on D.J. Humphries

Video: Here are all of Humphries’ snaps against Florida State in November.

Read More: 2015 NFL Draft, 2015 Potential Patriots, D.J. Humphries,

7 incredibly early thoughts on Patriots 2015 regular-season schedule

04.22.15 at 1:13 am ET
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Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will lead the Patriots into five prime-time regular season contests in 2015. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will lead the Patriots into five prime-time regular season contests in 2015. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

1. According to Google maps — using the distance between Gillette Stadium and the opposing stadium — the Patriots will travel a distance of 17,652 miles during the 2015 regular season. That represents a slight (almost negligible) spike from 2014, where Pro Football Reference had New England at 16,722 regular-season miles. (Those numbers should be taken with a grain of salt because the Patriots ended up going from Green Bay to San Diego late in the season instead of coming home in between games.) At the same time, both numbers represent a sizable increase from 2013, when New England was held to 12,124 round-trip miles, and just one regular-season game outside the Eastern Time zone (Houston).

By way of comparison, in 2012, the Patriots went 19,648 round-trip miles, including games in London, Seattle and Miami. In 2011, it was 14,630 round-trip miles, with three extended trips (Miami, Oakland and Denver). And in 2010, the Patriots regular-season odometer read 13,610 round-trip miles at the end of the year, with the longest trips to Miami and San Diego. The most round-trip mileage in recent memory came in 2009 when they traveled 21,122 miles in the regular season, a slate of games that included a contest in London against the Bucs. In all, there were five trips that season that could be described as extensive — London, Denver, New Orleans, Miami and Houston.

The biggest travel hurdles for the Patriots might come at the end of November and the start of December, as in one three-week period, New England has to play road games in Denver (a 3,938-mile round trip journey, most on the 2015 regular-season schedule for the Patriots), followed by a home game against the Eagles, and then a road game the following week on Dec. 13 in Houston against the Texans, a road trip of 3,676 miles from Foxboro to Houston and back again. The road games against the Cowboys, Broncos and Texans represent the only three regular-season games New England will play outside of the Eastern Time Zone in 2015. (By way of comparison, in 2013, the Patriots played one regular-season games and one postseason game outside of the Eastern Time Zone. In 2014, the Patriots had four regular-season games outside of the Eastern Time Zone, but just one — Super Bowl XLIX — not on the East Coast.)

While the grind of football travel isn’t necessarily the same as other sports, it can play a sizable role in the success of failure of a team that might not be mentally equipped to handle the occasional issues that come with a lengthy road trip. According to Grantland, from 1997 to 2011, teams that traveled 2,000 miles or more for a road trip only won 39.8 percent of their games. The winning percentage jumped up to 40.3 percent for road trips that were 1,000-1,999 miles long. Teams that traveled 999 miles or less to a road game won 43 percent of the time. While lots of mileage isn’t necessarily an indicator for some teams — playing in the Pacific Northwest, the Seahawks are almost always at or near the top of the league in terms of miles traveled — it can play a role for some teams who might not be mentally equipped to handle its’ business.

2. One more note, at least as it relates to logistics: it doesn’t appear that the Patriots will be forced to practice on the road for a week, like they did last season between road games against the Packers and Chargers. (New England also did the same thing in 2008 when. instead of criss-crossing the country on back-to-back weeks in October for road dates against San Francisco and San Diego, the Patriots stayed in California following their game against the Niners.)

3. There don’t appear to be any six-game gauntlets like the one that threatened the 2014 Patriots, a brutal stretch of schedule that was initially a point of dread but ended up forging a champion. Instead, there are a pair of three-game stretches that appear to offer the biggest challenge for New England: The first is in mid-October, with back-to-back road games against the Cowboys (Oct. 11) and Colts (Oct. 18), with the latter marking the first time the two teams will have met since the Dawn of Deflategate. That’s followed up by the first game of the season against the Jets, at home on Oct. 25. The second interesting series of games is the aforementioned three-game stretch that features road contests against the Broncos (Nov. 29) and Texans (Dec. 13), sandwiched around a home affair against the Eagles (Dec. 6).

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