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NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Wisconsin OT Rob Havenstein

04.19.15 at 7:56 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.

Rob Havenstein (Tom Lynn/Getty Images)

Rob Havenstein was recognized as the anchor of the Wisconsin line that opened holes for record-setting running back Melvin Gordon. (Tom Lynn/Getty Images)

ROB HAVENSTEIN

Position: Offensive tackle

School: Wisconsin

Height: 6-foot-7

Weight: 321 pounds

Achievements: 2014 AFCA All-America first team, 2014 FWAA All-America second team, 2014 All-Big Ten first team, 2014 Big Ten Sportsmanship Award, 2013 All-Big Ten second team (coaches)

What he brings: Considered the leader of the Wisconsin offense, Havenstein was a three-year starter and is very large. In his first year with the Badgers the right tackle weighed about 390 pounds, and he trimmed down to 321 by the time of the scouting combine. Dane Brugler of CBS Sports wrote that Havenstein has “the strength to absorb contact and hold his ground,” while also being a “physical mauler with the ideal OL mentality.” For someone his size, he has “adequate initial quickness.” Havenstein has some hip, joint and knee stiffness that impedes some of his bending abilities, which could really start affecting him once in the NFL. Brugler wrote that Havenstein also has “inconsistent body control” and can overextend himself at times.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 3-4

Notes: At the combine Havenstein ran a 5.46 40-yard dash (which was better than just eight other linemen there) before posting a 7-foot broad jump and a 4.87-second 20-yard shuttle. He helped pave the way for record-setting running back Melvin Gordon. Havenstein began his sports career as a basketball player but switched to football in ninth grade and realized it was his calling.

Related articles:

Fox Sports: Havenstein has something to prove as NFL draft draws near

Fansided: NFL Draft Prospect: Q&A with Wisconsin offensive tackle Robert Havenstein

Madison.com: Badgers football: Rob Havenstein not just an offensive tackle, he’s the leader of the offense

Video: Here’s a brief focus on some of Havenstein’s blocks during Wisconsin’s game against Rutgers in November.

Read More: 2015 NFL Draft, 2015 Potential Patriots, Rob Havenstein,

Sunday NFL Notes: Patriots backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo ‘looks like a linebacker’ as he preps for second season

04.19.15 at 5:00 am ET
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Jimmy Garoppolo is back for another season with the Patriots, but it sounds like he's bulked up a bit. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo is set for another season with the Patriots. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

1. Backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t get a lot of opportunities to show what he could do as a rookie with the Patriots, but that certainly hasn’t dissuaded him as the 2015 season nears. According to Garoppolo’s personal quarterbacking guru Jeff Christensen, Garoppolo is ready to attack his second season in the NFL.

“I talked to Bill (Belichick) at the combine, and I asked him how Jimmy was doing,” recalled Christensen in a recent phone call. “He said ‘(Jimmy) looks like a linebacker. He works out like a linebacker. He acts like a linebacker. I really like him a lot, coach. You did a great job with him. Thank you.’ ”

Christensen, who said he’ll work closer with Garoppolo to help fine tune his mechanics shortly before the start of training camp in July, was happy with the performance of his pupil in his first year in the NFL. “He got very few opportunities, but I think he made the most of them,” Christensen said of Garoppolo, who finished 19-for-27 for 182 yards and a touchdown in six games in 2014. “I think he did very well. Over the first two weeks of camp he didn’t look good, but I think over the third and fourth week of the preseason, he made real improvement, and that’s what Bill wants to see. Jimmy is a smart kid who just wants to learn, and he’s well aware of how good a situation he’s in right now.”

2. One more note from Christensen, who has become an acknowledged leader in the field when it comes to developing quarterbacks — he was fascinated to watch the evolution of Tom Brady over the course of the 2014 season, particularly the week between the ghastly loss to Kansas City and the thunderous win over the Bengals that really jump started New England’s Super Bowl season.

“I told Jimmy that after that bad game in Kansas City when you get back, Tom isn’t going to want to talk to you,” recalled Christensen. “You’re going to think he’s going to be in World War 6. He won’t be friendly with you. He won’t talk to you. Stay away from him and let him have his space.’ That’s what happened, he got on a roll, and he stayed that way for the next 13 or so weeks. Tom has that nasty place where he says, ‘This is my job, and don’t any of you writers or coaches or players try and take this thing away from me.'”

3. Our good friend Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders put together a really interesting look at offensive line play last season, and in his research, he discovered an astounding stat: no team in the league had the same starting five offensive linemen for all 16 regular-season games in 2014. It goes without saying that part of that was because of injury, but there was also the issue of players getting benched and shuffled in and out of the lineup over the course of the year because of scheme fit. As all of this relates to New England, there was an interesting debate on “Dennis & Callahan” on Friday morning, where Gary Tanguay argued that center Bryan Stork should get more acknowledgement than he does because of his stabilizing presence on the offensive line. And while it’s true that Stork was able to bring some stability up front, as is the case with most offensive line play, it comes down to how well the five players work together. Skill and technique and approach are obviously all key, but continuity matters when it comes to making a good offensive line, and so it’s no surprise that in 2014, the Patriots’ passing game posted far better numbers in the regular season when it was able to send the five starters out there: Nate Solder, Dan Connolly, Stork, Ryan Wendell, Sebastian Vollmer, as opposed to anyone else. The stats are courtesy of Ryan Hannable.

— Solder, Connolly, Stork, Wendell, Vollmer (7-1 record) — Weeks 5, 8-14: Brady: 214-320 (66.9 percent), 2,433 yards, 21 TDs, 6 INTs, 103.6 QB rating, 4 sacks.

— Any combination besides above (5-3 record) — Weeks 1-4, 6, 7, 15, 16: Brady: 160-263 (60.8 percent), 1,675 yards, 12 TDs, 3 INTs, 89.8 QB rating, 17 sacks.

Aaron’s story is here, and is a terrific and informative read about continuity along the offensive line. Well worth checking out.

4. While teams with new coaches have been back to football since April 6, the Patriots (and the rest of the teams with returning staffs) will open their offseason program this week — the first day they are allowed back in the facility to meet with coaches is Monday. We’ve published this before, but with New England heading back to work this week, it’s worth revisiting the regulations that each team has to abide by when they conduct their offseason programs:

According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each club’s official, voluntary nine-week offseason program is conducted in three phases:

Phase 1 consists of the first two weeks of the program with activities limited to strength and conditioning and physical rehabilitation only.

Phase 2 consists of the next three weeks of the program. On-field workouts may include individual player instruction and drills as well as team practice conducted on a “separates” basis. No live contact or team offense vs. team defense drills are permitted.

Phase 3 consists of the next four weeks of the program. Teams may conduct a total of 10 days of organized team practice activity, or “OTAs.” No live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are permitted.

Article 22 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement stipulates that clubs may hold one mandatory minicamp for veteran players. This minicamp must occur during Phase Three of the offseason program.

5. Strange days in San Diego, where there’s talk about the Chargers trading Philip Rivers to Tennessee for the second overall pick. When combined with the ongoing battle regarding a new football stadium for Southern California, it feels like the Chargers are approaching some sort of franchise crossroads. San Diego was one of the most up-and-down teams in the league last year, as they rolled to a 5-1 start while Rivers made his bones as a bonafide MVP candidate. Then came the fall, as the quarterback and team stumbled to a 9-7 finish, a slide that included an astoundingly ugly 37-0 road loss to the Dolphins. There is some familiarity in Tennessee for Rivers, who had Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt as his offensive coordinator in 2013, and he could be catching a Tennessee team that’s on a bit of an upswing. From a Chargers perspective, San Diego is a team that has many of its fundamental elements on the plus-side of 30, including tight end Antonio Gates (35 before the start of the 2015 season) and wide receiver Malcom Floyd (who will turn 34 before the first regular-season snap this year), as well as depth questions at a number of spots including offensive and defensive line, linebacker and running back. If the Chargers do decide to deal Rivers for multiple picks (including the No. 2 selection, which would likely be Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota), it would feel a little like the team deciding to hit the reset button, a big change from where San Diego was midway through the 2014 campaign.

Read the rest of this entry »

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NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Florida State CB Ronald Darby

04.18.15 at 5:31 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.

RONALD DARBY

Position: Cornerback

School: Florida State

Height: 5-foot-11

Weight: 195 pounds

Achievements: 2014 All-ACC third team, 2012 ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year

What he brings: Darby is a very athletic cornerback who is expected to use his speed and athleticism to his advantage in coverage. Scouts think he will be able to keep up with most NFL receivers, even in more complex routes, but are concerned about his ability to match up against larger receivers. When lined up with receivers who are not too much taller than him, Darby is able to knock down 50-50 balls but sometimes struggles to hold on to passes that should be intercepted. Scouts would like to see him get stronger to help him in run defense and in press coverage.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 1-3

Notes: Darby recorded 37 tackles in 2014. He played every game for Florida State the last two seasons. Darby was the second-fastest cornerback at the combine, running the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds. He was second in the vertical jump (41.5 inches) and seventh in the broad jump (10 feet, 9 inches).

Related articles:

NFL.com: Darby among standout corners at the combine

CBSSports.com: Darby will use athleticism to excel

Video: Here’s Darby recording three tackles against against Miami in November.

Read More: 2015 NFL Draft, 2015 Potential Patriots, Ronald Darby,

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Penn State OT Donovan Smith

04.18.15 at 1:14 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.

DONOVAN SMITH

Position: Offensive tackle

School: Penn State

Height: 6-foot-6

Weight: 338 pounds

Achievements: 2013 All-Big Ten honorable mention

What he brings: Smith “has the size, foot quickness and the high competitive nature that translates well to the next level,” according to Dane Brugler and Rob Rang of CBS Sports. He has good leg strength and a powerful base that helps “drive the defender off the spot,” Lance Zierlein of NFL.com wrote. His large frame certainly helps get in the way of defenders as well. However, he has does not have the athleticism to play tackle and has trouble changing direction against pass rushers. Zierlein also noted that Smith “can recognize stunts but is very slow to react to them” and that his “ability to recover when beaten is lacking.” Rang and Brugler cite his arm and hand technique as areas that need improvement before Smith can go pro.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 3-4

Notes: His overall frame and skill set could have teams moving him over to guard. At the combine Smith posted a 5.27-second 40-yard dash, 26 reps on the bench press, a 9-foot, 1-inch broad jump and a 4.79-second 20-yard shuttle. Smith graduated with a degree in criminology and “wanted to be a forensic scientist” but because science “is not [his] forte,” he pointed out that being an FBI agent or detective would be something he’d love doing.

Related articles:

KCChiefs.com: Meet the Penn State Offensive Tackle Who Wants to Make a Name for Himself

PennLive.com: Penn State and the NFL scouting combine: Is tackle Donovan Smith a second-round draft pick?

Video: Here is a video of Smith at 2014 media day before the start of Penn State’s most recent season.

Read More: 2015 NFL Draft, 2015 Potential Patriots, Donovan Smith,

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: FSU WR Rashad Greene

04.18.15 at 10:56 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.

Rashad Greene (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Rashad Greene is Florida State’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving yardage. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

RASHAD GREENE

Position: Wide receiver

School: Florida State

Height: 6-foot-0

Weight: 180 pounds

Achievements: AP All-America second team, 2014 Biletnikoff Award semifinalist as nation’s best wide receiver, 2014 All-ACC first team, 2013 All-ACC first team, 2012 All-ACC honorable mention

What he brings: Greene has great speed and is praised for being able to make defenders miss and gain some extra yards after the catch. The main concern among scouts is his thin frame, which could cause durability issues in the NFL. Experts want to see more physicality with blocks and fighting for 50-50 balls. He has experience both as a wideout and a slot receiver.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 2-4

Notes: Greene had a school-record 99 receptions in 2014 for 1,365 yards and seven touchdowns. He leaves Florida State as the Seminoles’ career leader in receptions (270) and receiving yards (3,830). At the scouting combine he posted 4.53-second 40, a 36.5-inch vertical jump, a 10-foot, 2-inch broad jump, a 6.88-second three-cone drill and a 4.12-second 20-yard shuttle. None of those scores ranked among the leaders at his position.

Related articles:

Fox Sports: Greene’s combine diary

SI.com: Greene FSU career overview

Video: Here’s Greene catching eight passes for 137 yards and a touchdown against NC State in 2013.

Read More: 2015 NFL Draft, 2015 Potential Patriots, Rashad Greene,

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: USC DT Leonard Williams

04.18.15 at 7:05 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.

LEONARD WILLIAMS

Position: Defensive tackle

School: USC

Height: 6-foot-5

Weight: 302 pounds

Achievements: 2014 All-America first team (AFCA, ESPN), 2014 All-Pac-12 first team, 2014 USC Most Valuable Player, 2014 Hendricks Award finalist for best defensive end in the country, 2013 All-America first team (ESPN), 2013 USC Defensive Lineman of the Year, 2012 Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year

What he brings: Williams is an impressive talent who is projected to go top three in the draft. According to Dane Brugler and Rob Rang of CBS Sports, the 6-foot-5 Williams boasts “a rare combination of size, easy athleticism and raw power to go along with a passion for the game.” He has long arms and good flexibility and balance. Williams is big, powerful and “has the look and feel of the biggest, strongest kid on the playground but hasn’t figured out how to unlock his natural gifts and consistently dominate the rest of the kids on the playground just yet,” wrote Lance Zierlein of NFL.com.

Where the Patriots could get him: Round 1

Notes: Williams, a USC captain, played through the 2014 season with an ankle injury and still managed to earn all of the above accolades. He also underwent shoulder surgery during last year’s offseason. In his career at USC, Williams had 138 tackles, 27 for losses, with 14 sacks, four deflections, three fumble recoveries and one interception. At the combine, Williams ran a 4.97 second 40-yard dash, posted an 8-foot-, 10-inch inch broad jump and recorded a 4.53 second 20-yard shuttle.

Related articles:

Washington Post: A closer look at NFL draft prospect Leonard Williams

Yahoo Sports: Greg Cosell’s Draft Preview: Leonard Williams has talent, and questions

ESPN: Versatile Leonard Williams could be NFL’s next great defensive lineman 

Video: Here is a video of Williams’ highlights.

Read More: 2015 NFL Draft, 2015 Potential Patriots, Leonard Williams,

Julian Edelman creates inspired ‘Star Wars’-Patriots mashup

04.17.15 at 11:38 pm ET
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Let’s face it — Tom Brady could post a half-million videos of him jumping off cliffs or Photoshopping his body into a full cast as an April Fools prank, but he’d never be able to come up with something like this. Julian Edelman just changed the social media game in the Patriots locker room with this little number.

Read More: because it's the offseason, Julian Edelman, Star Wars, Tom Brady

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