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4 things we learned from combine Tuesday

02.26.14 at 12:31 am ET
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Four things we learned from the combine Tuesday:

1. Daniel Sorensen could be this year’s Nate Ebner

On Tuesday, Sorensen — a safety out of BYU — put up some impressive numbers in the on-field workouts, and one thing that could help grab the eye of the Patriots is the fact that he posted a 6.47 in the 3-cone drill — the fifth-fastest of any position since 2006, and the best performance of anyone at the combine this year. He was second in the 60-yard shuttle (10.8) and fifth in the 20-yard shuttle (3.95). The 6-foot-1, 205-pound strong safety (a former linebacker who moved into the secondary after he lost weight on his mission trip) also had a 32-inch vertical and 9-foot-6 broad jump, both impressive numbers. Considered a special teams ace while at BYU, he could be a late-round pickup or undrafted free agent for a team like New England in need of secondary depth and special teams assistance.

2. Shane Vereen‘s brother Brock knocked it out of the park

The safety out of Minnesota finished in the top 5 in the 40 (4.47, best among all safeties), 3-cone (6.9) and short shuttle (4.07). The 6-foot, 199-pounder also bench pressed 225 pounds 25 times (best for all safeties and cornerbacks) and posted a 34-inch vertical and 117 inches in the broad jump. Considered anywhere from a mid-round to a late-round pick entering the combine, he may have solidified his status as a second-day pick based on his work this weekend in Indy. (For what it’s worth, he semi-jokingly talked about wanting to play against his brother instead of on the same team. But at the same time, he noted that he did have a meeting with the Patriots while at the combine.)

3. Justin Glibert is the best corner in the draft, but Darqueze Dennard isn’t far behind

We had Gilbert available to the Chargers at 25 in our first mock draft, but his performance this weekend will likely push him up the draft boards around the league and make him a legitimate top 15 candidate. On Tuesday, the 6-foot, 202-pound Gilbert recorded the fastest time of the day in the 40 (4.37) while also showing impressive explosiveness with a 35.5-inch vertical and 10-foot-6 broad jump. Meanwhile, Dennard (the cousin of Patriots corner Alfonzo Dennard) was also equally as impressive, showing fluidity and good range, running a 4.51. The 5-foot-11, 199-pound Dennard (who we had at No. 14 overall to the Bears) also solidified his first-round status with a really good weekend. (Ohio State’s Bradley Roby and TCU’s Jason Verrett are also likely late first-round possibilities.)

4. It’s going to be a mixed market for bigger corners

For teams looking to replicate the Seattle defensive blueprint of a super-sized secondary, there are a few intriguing possibilities out there, with one big corner doing well on Tuesday (Utah’s Keith McGill) and another struggling a little (Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste). McGill is a 6-foot-3, 212-pounder who moved from safety to corner as a collegian, but really flashed some nice speed (a 4.51 40), as well as some good performances when it came to the rest of the measureables (39-inch vertical leap and 10-foot-9 broad jump). As for Jean-Baptiste, he was a little underwhelming — another big guy who was converted to corner as a collegian, he was relatively slow when compared to the rest of the corners (4.61). He did do well in the vertical (41.5, best among defensive backs and tied for second overall) and the broad (10 feet, 8 inches), but his speed may be a factor when determining where he ultimately ends up in the draft.

Read More: 2014 combine, Bradley Roby, Brock Vereen, Daniel Sorensen

Report: Aaron Hernandez attacked fellow inmate

02.25.14 at 6:12 pm ET
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Aaron Hernandez allegedly attacked a fellow inmate at the Bristol County jail on Tuesday, according to TMZ.

While Hernandez is usually relegated to solitary confinement, he apparently came in contact with the other prisoner in a hallway. According to TMZ, Hernandez recognized the other man — who had been harassing Hernandez “nonstop” throughout the day — and “beat the guy up pretty good.”

Hernandez has been behind bars since June — he’s facing murder charges stemming from the 2013 shooting death of Odin Lloyd.

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

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Odin Lloyd,

Lucky Seven: Taking a look at how some possible fits for Patriots did at combine

02.25.14 at 4:28 pm ET
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Earlier this month, we presented a list of seven players for Patriots fans to keep an eye on at the combine. With the combine now in the rearview mirror, here’€™s a look at how each one of them did, as well as how it all relates to New England:

Tight end Jace Amaro, Texas Tech: Amaro, regarded as one of the best tight end prospects in the draft, checked in at 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds. His arm length was 34 inches and his hand size was nine inches. He finished with a 4.74 in the 40, 28 reps in the bench press (in the top five at his position), and 118 inches in the broad jump. Amaro appeared to be a little sloppy in the pass catching drills, but there appeared to be no reason why he wouldn’€™t be a solid first-rounder as the pre-draft process kicks into high gear.

While it’€™s questionable whether or not he’€™d last until No. 29 — when the Patriots are on the board — he still met with New England while in Indianapolis:

“€œIt was good — they broke my tape down. They look like they like me a lot. They said I fit their system very well so I guess we’€™ll see how it goes,”€ he said when asked about his meeting with the Patriots. “I think that starting [with] maybe one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game would be a great start for me, especially in a system like that. Yeah, I’€™ve taken notice of teams like that. I think that would be an ideal place for me.”

Tight end Eric Ebron, North Carolina: The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Ebron ran a 4.6 40, the second highest among tight ends (behind the 4.50 of Tennessee State’€™s A.C. Leonard). He tweaked his hamstring and was unable to participate in the pass-catching drills, but still managed 10 feet in the broad jump (tied for third among TEs), as well as 24 reps on the bench (tied for sixth among TEs). He doesn’€™t lack for confidence, but that should bear itself when the draft rolls around in May, as he’€™s expected to be the first tight end picked, at least as it stands right now. That means it would be a stretch for him to last until New England’€™s first pick at No. 29.

Tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa: Fiedorowicz checked in at 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds, and will likely be a second-day pick come May. (It’€™s debatable because of Oregon’€™s Colt Lyerla, a talented prospect who has had some off-field issues that could take him off New England’€™s draft board, regardless of his numbers.) Regardless, Fiedorowicz was consistently with the combine leaders at his position across the board, as he posted a 7.1 in the 3-cone (best among TEs) and 4.26 in the 20-yard shuttle (best among TEs). In addition, he had 25 reps in the bench press (fifth-best) and a 4.76 in the 40 (sixth best) and 110 inches in the broad jump (sixth-best).

Fiedorowicz has some New England connections: one, Iowa’€™s offensive line coach the past two seasons was Brian Ferentz, who spent the previous season as the Patriots tight end coach, working with both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. And two, D.J. Hernandez –€” the brother of ex-Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez‘€” was a graduate assistant with the Hawkeyes last year.

He was asked about watching Gronkowski while in college.

“€œI was watching him on film. I always used to watch him in games, but when you see it break down as film it’€™s even more impressive,”€ Fiedorowicz said. “He plays hard every down, every play. He finishes guys. He uses his body in the passing game. He’€™s just an impressive guy. It’€™s the way he plays the game.”

Offensive lineman Zack Martin, Notre Dame: Martin was 6-foot-4 and 308 pounds. He wasn’€™t overwhelming — he was 14th among offensive linemen in the vertical jump (28 inches) and 11th in the bench press (29 reps). He also had a broad jump of 106 inches, a 3-cone time of 7.65 and a 4.59 in the 20-yard shuttle. But pedigree and versatility indicate that while he might not be a first-round pick, he’€™s probably not too far off, at least at this point. If the Patriots would be interested, they’€™d probably have to take him at No. 29.

Defensive tackle Ra’€™Shede Hageman, Minnesota: Hageman was one of several versatile defensive lineman who worked out in Indy, a group that included Timmy Jernigan and Aaron Donald. The 6-foot-6, 310-pounder posted a 35.5 in the vertical jump (seventh-best among defensive linemen) and had 32 reps on the bench (ninth-best among the defensive linemen). He’€™s known for his high level of athleticism — he bulldozed an offensive lineman onto his back during one-on-one drills at the Senior Bowl — as well as the fact he played several spots along the defensive line over the course of his career.

“€œIt’€™s 32 teams –€” it’€™s a lot to take in,”€ he said when asked specifically about New England’€™s defense against the rest of the league. “I’€™m pretty sure they run either a 3-4 or a 4-3. I’€™m capable of playing both positions. Just the fact if I had the chance to play for New England, I’€™d be ready.”

Cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska: Jean-Baptiste could be the beneficiary of the Richard Sherman Effect — at 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds, he’€™s the biggest corner in the draft, and if teams are trying to replicate the Seattle defensive blueprint, Jean-Baptiste would allow them to super-size their secondary. Considered a second-day prospect, on Tuesday he led all defensive backs with a vertical jump of 41 1/2 inches, and his broad jump of 10-feet-8 inches was tied for third at his position. It appears unlikely that the Patriots would be in the market for a cornerback, particularly through the first two days of the draft. But it will be interesting to see if Jean-Baptiste’€™s draft stock rises simply because of the success of the Seattle secondary of if his rise is tied to his good work at the combine and Pro Day.

Defensive lineman Louis Nix III, Notre Dame: Nix had an eventful combine. He got off one of the best lines of the combine when he was asked about his recent weight loss, saying that dropping more than 20 pounds made him “€œfeel sexier.”€ He checked in at 6-foot-2 and 331 pounds, and ran a 5.42 in the 40. (He struggled to stick the landing on the broad jump, falling backwards.) Despite the drop in weight, he’€™s still considered a space eater of Wilforkian proportions, someone who is able to work consistently as a run stopper at either defensive tackle spot. With the Patriots having to thinking about the post Vince era sooner rather than later, it would be ideal to see him drop into the twenties, as his size and versatility might allow some Wilfork comparisons. But we had Nix going to the Steelers with the 15th overall pick in our first mock draft, and his performance in Indy did nothing to dissuade us from moving him off that spot.

Read More: 2014 combine, Aaron Hernandez, C.J. Fiedorowicz, Colt Lyerla

Jason Cole on M&M: Greg Schiano gets advice to pass on Patriots

02.25.14 at 12:57 pm ET
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National Football Post reporter Jason Cole joined Mut & Merloni on Tuesday to discuss NFL and Patriots news, including the team’s reported interest in former Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Cole reported earlier this week that Schiano was getting advised not to take a position with the Patriots under his friend, Bill Belichick.

“He’s got some agents and other coaches and people saying, ‘Look, if you go there, where are you going to get back on the head coach track? Because what credit are you going to get if the Patriots are good? Was it your genius that turned around the Patriots linebacking corps?’ That’s the problem that you have at this point in time with going to work for Belichick.

“Now, if he’s comfortable and he’s saying, ‘Look, I want to take a step back for a few years, maybe be an assistant for a little while, learn under Bill and then I’ll branch off and get a college job,’ yeah. But I think that most people are getting the feeling that Schiano wants to be a head coach sooner than later. And a lot of people basically told him, ‘Why don’t you just take the year off? You’re getting paid. Go learn about the NFL, look around at some college jobs. Go figure out the things that didn’t work when you were in Tampa.’

“But he’s doing what coaches normally do, which is they feel compelled, they can’t get out of the game, they have to be back in it. They get that jones, that itch to coach, they take a job.”

Added Cole: “That’s what other people are saying, they advised him not to do it. ‘€¦ Other people advised him to sit out a year, and he’s doing it over their advice. It’s an interesting decision. And for a guy who presumably wants to be a head coach, how’s he going to play this out?”

Looking at it from the Patriots’ angle, Cole said Schiano could help, especially if he’s willing to stand up to Belichick.

“Belichick likes him a lot and I think he respects him and he likes his discipline and some of the ideas,” Cole said. “Certainly Greg did a great job at Rutgers in building that program up. So, there’s a lot to like about Greg Schiano. Certainly he’s not the first guy who was a good head coach who didn’t do so well in his first turn around the NFL — Bill Belichick comes to mind, came back, got another job, fixed some things, got a quarterback, and then all of a sudden some things worked out. So, there’s a possibility for that.

“My only concern with bringing in [Michael] Lombardi and bringing in Schiano is I just hope that they’re guys who are willing to stand in there and say to Bill, ‘That’s not such a good idea. That doesn’t really work.’ Because the thing you worry about, particularly as coaches get a little bit older — and I don’t think Belichick is like this, I think he’s smart enough to realize you have to have contrarians on your staff and people who will question what you do.

“But that’s always a danger, and I saw Don Shula go through it [with the Dolphins in the early 1990s], which is he brought too many guys who he knew through for life, they were too comfortable with each other, and they didn’t stand up and say, ‘That’s not going to work,’ or, ‘That’s not a good idea.’ ”

The big NFL story this week has been the league considering a rule banning the use of racial slurs on the field. Cole said the only way the league can make this work is by having a strict no-tolerance policy, even when players use the N-word without bad intent.

“I get that point [that many African-Americans feel they can use the N-word amongst themselves], but I also say, yeah, but you’re just telling me that it’s only OK for black people to use this, so you’re basically segregating the language,” Cole said. “The other part of it is, you’re trying to differentiate when it’s supposed to be comfortable versus when it’s supposed to be angry and it’s a slur. That’s really hard to decipher. It’s like trying to decipher when some people are deadpan sarcastic and when they’re serious. It’s up to interpretation.”

Added Cole: “Or you get the other use where you get a real lunkhead, loud idiot like Richie Incognito, who starts throwing it around because he sees how comfortable all his friends who are black are using it. And then all of a sudden it’s like, OK, Richie, you can use it because it’s all right for you. It gets all twisted.

“The bottom line is, at least how I grew up, is it’s a dreadfully painful, hurtful word. That was what I was taught. Not just by white people but by black people. And that’s what I taught my kids. Let’s have a nice open discussion about it. Policing it? Yeah, it’s hard. But I think we’re getting to a point where there’s some issues that we’ve really got to talk about culturally about the use of this word.”

Cole predicts that if referees start throwing flags, slurs won’t be thrown around during games, although it will take longer to clean up the locker room.

“I think that you can enforce it on the field, as long as the officials are going to be strict,” Cole said. “If they strictly enforce it, it will disappear in a matter of a few weeks. And it will be done with. Because people will watch their language.”

For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Greg Schiano, Jason Cole, Michael Lombardi

Tuesday’s NFL combine schedule

02.25.14 at 6:30 am ET
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Here’€™€™€™€™s what’€™€™€™€™s on tap Tuesday at the combine:

— Media availability is completed for players, coaches and GMs.

— Workouts for defensive backs highlight the last day of the combine. Nationally, the big names worth keeping an eye on are Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard (the cousin of New England cornerback Alfonzo) and Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert, as well as safeties Calvin Pryor (Louisville) and Ha-Ha Clinton Dix (Alabama). It’s not expected that the Patriots will invest heavily in a defensive back in the draft, but from a New England perspective, the biggest drill we’ll be keeping an eye on is the 3-cone, a workout that measures agility and quickness. The Patriots have often shown an affinity for defensive back prospects who pop in the 3-cone — Devin McCourty, Nate Ebner and Logan Ryan have all done well in the drill the last few years.

Read More: 2014 combine, Alfonzo Dennard, Calvin Pryor, Darqueze Dennard

5 things we learned from combine Monday

02.24.14 at 7:47 pm ET
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Five things we learned from the combine Monday:

1. Jadeveon Clowney is fast

Knowing what we already know — he wanted to run a 4.4 — it wasn’t that much of a surprise. But the sight of Clowney posting a 4.47 in his first unofficial 40 (and a 4.53 as his official time) was impressive. In a video package produced by NFL Network that had video of Clowney’€™s 40 overlaid on Johnny Manziel‘€™s 40, it was astounding to see Clowney beat Manziel down the line — and Manziel has some serious speed. The 6-foot-5, 266-pound defensive lineman out of South Carolina remains the preeminent defensive player in this draft, and regardless of what Dee Ford thinks (the fellow defensive lineman reiterated his claim Monday that Clowney plays like a “dog in a meat house”€), it’€™s becoming more and more evident that he’€™s establishing himself as the first pick in the draft.

2. Aaron Donald did a lot to bolster his stock

The undersized defensive lineman (6-foot, 285 pounds) out of Pitt had a good 2013, but he continued to impress at the combine — on Monday, he posted a 4.84 in the 40, to go along with the 32-inch vertical and 35 reps on the bench. There’€™s a little bit of Vince Wilfork in Donald’€™s game, from the body type to the versatility to something of an underdog mentality. At the start of the pre-draft process, we pegged him as someone who might be available to New England at No. 29 overall, but with his performance this week, it appears he’€™s done well enough to vault himself into at least the middle of the first round.

3. Khalil Mack will be the small-school guy who makes good this year

The University of Buffalo linebacker built on an impressive season with an excellent performance on the field on Monday. The 6-foot-2, 251-pounder now can boast of some of the most impressive measureables of any defender to this point in the combine — he was among the tops at his position in the 40 (4.65), vertical jump (40 inches), broad jump (10-foot-8) and the 20-yard shuttle (4.18). While there have been some questions about where he stacks up because of the strength of UB’€™s schedule, a look at the game film reveals a player who dominated when he was given the chance to face elite-level competition. Almost a certain Top 10 pick at this point in the pre-draft process.

4. Michael Sam still has a ways to go

The Mizzou defensive end posted decent numbers in the 40 on Monday, but did not distinguish himself from the rest of the defensive linemen and linebackers. He had a 4.91 40 time (by way of comparison, it was the exact same time posted by Princeton defensive tackle Caraun Reid of Princeton, a 302-pounder), and a 25 1/2 inch vertical leap (again, for comparisons sake,  Vince Wilfork hit the 26-inch mark when he was a college at the combine). We don’€™t know how he’€™s done with the interview portion of the combine, but from an on-field perspective, the 6-foot-2, 266-pounder — who made his bones as a pass rusher in college — might not have the skill set need to make the jump to 3-4 outside/rush linebacker at the NFL level. (Especially when measured against some of his contemporaries, who looked very good on Monday.) One school of thought is that if he could shed some weight (and perhaps develop more speed as a result), he could move inside, as well as possibly provide more special teams value.

5. Boston College linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis opened some eyes

Pierre-Louis had the fastest time of any of the linebackers on Monday, finishing the 40 in 4.51. He was also second among he linebackers in the short shuttle with a time of 4.02 and third in his position grouping with a 10-foot-8 finish in the broad jump and 39 inches in the vertical leap. The 6-foot-1, 225-pounder came into the combine as a late-round possibility (or even an undrafted free agent), but he should enjoy a post-combine bump because of his performance on Monday.

Read More: 2014 combine, Aaron Donald, Caraun Reid, Jadeveon Clowney

Monday’s NFL combine schedule

02.24.14 at 6:00 am ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — Here’€™€™€™s what’€™€™€™s on tap Monday at the combine:

— Media availability is completed for players, coaches and GMs.

— Defensive linemen and linebackers are set to go through workouts. From a local perspective, we’ll be keeping an eye on a handful of possible Patriots, including Minnesota defensive lineman Ra’Shede Hageman. On a national level, expect a lot of attention on South Carolina defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney, as well as defensive end/outside linebacker Michael Sam out of Mizzou.

Read More: 2014 combine, Jadeveon Clowney, Michael Sam, Ra'Shede Hageman
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