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Has former Patriots assistant Brian Daboll already gotten the Dolphins into trouble?

03.01.11 at 4:20 pm ET
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Interesting goings on down in Miami ‘€” Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne talked to the media about new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, and sounded excited about the new direction that they plan on taking down in Miami. Daboll, a former Patriots assistant, is installing a new system with the Dolphins, one that Henne describes as ‘€œsimilar to what I was used to at Michigan. It’€™s a New England offense ‘€” New England with a little Jets in it. It’€™s a good offense for a quarterback.’€

No shock there, as Daboll made his bones as an assistant under Bill Belichick in New England. Daboll served as the Patriots’€™ defensive coaching assistant from 2000 to 2001, and then was the wide receivers’€™ coach from 2002 until 2006. (He was one of the assistants who left with Eric Mangini, becoming the Jets’€™ quarterbacks coach in 2007 and 2008, and later, serving as Mangini’s offensive coordinator with the Browns in 2009 and 2010.)

However, the voluntary meetings between Henne and Daboll ‘€” get-togethers that are apparently designed to have Henne help install the offense with the other Dolphins in case of a lockout ‘€” appear to be in violation of the collective bargaining agreement, as interpreted by a recent NFL memo to each team that said players are not to meet with coaches and receive playbooks during this time in the offseason. Henne’s declaration could put Miami coach Tony Sparano in jeopardy of an NFL fine. (UPDATE: It appears that the Dolphins will not be punished, according to Jeff Darlington of the Miami Herald.)

Of course, many former New England players and executives probably aren’€™t surprised that something like this has happened to Daboll. When Daboll was initially hired by Miami, former Patriots fullback Heath Evans took a shot at the hiring, saying, ‘€œThe Dolphins probably just got worse. ‘€¦ When he was in New England, he was never a guy that I would have considered the brains of the operation.’€ And at the NFL scouting combine over the weekend, former Patriots’€™ GM Scott Pioli was asked by Miami reporters what his memories of Daboll were when they were together in New England.

‘€œI remember that [Daboll] was a part of a great deal of success there,’€ Pioli said, simply. Whoa.

For their part, the Dolphins are backing Daboll. This past weekend at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, GM Jeff Ireland said Daboll’€™s track record was what sold him on Miami.

‘€œHis history with quarterbacks, his history being a defensive coach and offensive coach. Coach Sparano and myself were really impressed with the way he put a plan together for our offensive players on the football team,’€ Ireland said. ‘€œI wasn’€™t necessarily looking at what his production was with Cleveland. I know there were some things there that were different, but we’€™ve got different personnel and the way he presented his play with us with our personnel was very impressive.’€

In addition, quarterback Chad Pennington ‘€” who played for Daboll in New York and was in Miami the last three seasons in Miami ‘€” said Daboll was a tremendous teacher.

‘€œA lot of the coverage knowledge that I have and understanding defenses comes from Brian,’€ Pennington recently told the Palm Beach Post. ‘€œThe year I spent with him, I just learned so much about how defenses attack offenses and all of the nuances of coverage that I didn’€™t understand before.’€

Read More: Brian Daboll, Chad Henne, Chad Pennington, Eric Mangini

Are the Patriots going to target a ‘Conehead’ at wide receiver?

03.01.11 at 1:39 pm ET
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One of the things the Patriots love to look at isn’€™t necessarily speed, but quickness. That’€™s why New England football fans should pay particular attention to what prospects ‘€” particularly wide receivers and defensive backs ‘€” do in the 3-cone drills this week. The Patriots have traditionally put a lot of stock ‘€” maybe more than most teams ‘€” in shuttle/cone drills in their pre-draft workouts. That’€™s not to say they would select a player based solely on what he did in one of the drills, but it would certainly cause New England to take notice.

(For a complete look at what the 3-cone drill entails, check out this exhaustive definition courtesy of NFL.com.)

To that end, lots of the relatively under-the-radar receivers (non first-rounders) they’€™ve targeted in recent years have all excelled in the agility drills. Julian Edelman had a 6.62 second time in the 3-cone drill as a collegian. Deion Branch was 6.71 (at the 2002 combine), Chad Jackson (at the 2006 combine) was 6.74 and Wes Welker was 7.06. (To give you some perspective, all of those performances would have put them near or in the Top 10 at this year’€™s combine.) That also translates to the defensive side of the football, as Devin McCourty‘€™s 6.7 in the 3-cone drill at last year’€™s combine put him second among all corners.

Here are the Top 10 performances among all the wide receivers in the 3-cone drill. (The times for the defensive backs have not yet been posted.) It’€™s worth noting that many of these guys are not billed as potential first-round picks, so as a result, they could have drawn New England’€™s interest because of their performance this week.

1. Oregon’€™s Jeffrey Maehl (6.42)
2. Ohio State’€™s Dane Sanzenbacher (6.46)
3. LSU’€™s Terrence Toliver (6.48)
4. Mount Union’€™s Cecil Shorts (6.50)
5. Wake Forest’€™s Marshall Williams (6.61)
6. San Diego State’€™s Vincent Brown (6.64)
7. SMU’€™s Aldrick Robinson (6.65)
8. Hawaii’€™s Greg Salas (6.65)
9. Alabama’€™s Julio Jones (6.66)
10. Stanford’€™s Ryan Whalen (6.67)

(For what it’s worth, WEEI.com has already profiled Maehl as a “Potential Patriot.” Check out his information here.)

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Aldrick Robinson, Cecil Shorts, Chad Jackson

Report: Patriots sign DE Marcus Stroud to two-year deal

03.01.11 at 12:33 pm ET
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The Patriots have signed 32-year-old defensive end Marcus Stroud to a two-year contract, according to ESPN’€™s Adam Schefter. Stroud, who was drafted by Jacksonville out of Georgia in 2001, has been in the league for 10 seasons, the last three with Buffalo. His best season came in 2002 with the Jaguars, when he had 45 tackles and 6.5 sacks.

Read More: Marcus Stroud,

Report: Jets to release Woody, Taylor, Jenkins, Gholston

02.28.11 at 6:26 pm ET
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According to a report from Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, the Jets will release defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, defensive end Jason Taylor, offensive lineman Damien Woody and defensive end Vernon Gholston.

Sources told Mehta that there is a possibility the Jets could sign all four to reduced salaries after being released.

Read More: Damien Woody, Jason Taylor, Kris Jenkins,

Akeem Ayers on the Patriots: ‘I think I would be a great fit for their defense’

02.28.11 at 1:18 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — When it comes to edge rushers, New England traditionally goes after longer players more in the mold of Willie McGinest than Elvis Dumervil or James Harrison. And at 6-foot-3, 254 pounds, UCLA’s Akeem Ayers might need to add 10 to 15 pounds, but could still be one of the closest defenders in this draft size-wise to the traditional edge rusher the Patriots have usually targeted.

Ayers certainly believes this. This weekend at the NFL scouting combine, he was asked about the Patriots. He said he hadn’t met with them, but sounded like someone who would welcome the opportunity.

“I think I would be a great fit for their defense,” he said of New England.

Ayers was a defensive end in college, but is expected to make the transition to outside linebacker at the next level. Considered a polished pass rusher — he had 14 sacks in three seasons at UCLA — there are questions as to whether or not he’d be a better fit on the outside in the 3-4 or 4-3. However, like many of the players this weekend in Indianapolis, Ayers believes he’d be a good fit in either system.

“I feel like I can adapt to any kind of defense, whether it’s 4-3 or 3-4, because of my versatility playing defensive end in college [and] being a pass-rush linebacker,” he said. “As far as my pass-rush ability, I know I’m nowhere near reaching my peak. I’ve done a pretty good job rushing the passer these last two seasons and I’m only going to get better.”

Read More: Akeem Ayers, Elvis Dumervil, James Harrison, Willie McGinest

Taking a closer look at the possible release of Nick Kaczur

02.27.11 at 11:17 pm ET
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The news that the Patriots are going to cut ties with veteran right tackle Nick Kaczur is the latest incident in an already uncertain offseason for the New England offensive line.

Kaczur signed a four-year, $16 million contract in August 2009, a deal that included a $3.4 million payout for 2012. However, after a 2010 season where he spent the whole year on the shelf because of a back injury, the Patriots were clearly interested in reworking his deal. Kaczur was having none of it, and so here we are.

So if Kaczur is indeed gone, the Patriots could conceivably open the 2011 season with colossal turnover along the offensive line, a position that had so much stability over the last few seasons: Left tackle Matt Light is unsigned beyond the 2010 season, and right guard Stephen Neal has talked about retirement. If Kaczur is gone, it could force the Patriots to find three new offensive linemen in 2011 ‘€¦ and that doesn’€™t include a disgruntled Logan Mankins, who was franchised recently but could still be dealt before the start of the season.

Kaczur was never a world-class offensive lineman, but his knowledge of the system and his versatility could make his loss difficult to overcome. (There’€™s a reason he was named one of the starting tackles with Light on New England’€™s all-decade team from 2000 through 2010.) The big Canadian was on the shelf for the entire 2010 season, but before that, he was a fairly dependable presence, playing in 62 of 68 regular-season games in his five-year NFL career and has also starting seven career playoff contests. He played guard as well, and was originally ticketed to take over the left guard spot at the start of last season when Mankins decided to stay away because he was upset about his contract situation.

Without Kaczur in 2010, the Patriots were able to survive and even thrive at times along the offensive line, moving Sebastian Vollmer into the right tackle spot. If New England is going to part with Light, they would likely flip Vollmer to left tackle, a spot he occupied for the bulk of the 2009 season after Light suffered a knee injury. But who moves into that other tackle position if Kaczur is indeed gone? Expect the Patriots to invest a little heavier in the offensive line (particularly the tackle spot) in this year’€™s draft.

In addition, the loss of Kaczur would certainly increase Light’€™s bargaining power ‘€” New England has few options beyond the veteran, as none of the younger offensive linemen appear ready to step into a full-time starters’€™ role, while one veteran lineman who served as a backup this past season (Quinn Ojinnaka) is, like Light, an unrestricted free agent.

Read More: Logan Mankins, Matt Light, nick kaczur, Quinn Ojinnaka

Muhammad Wilkerson a logical option at end for Patriots

02.27.11 at 9:14 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — There are a lot of big-name defensive linemen in this draft, and the Pats could be looking for a five-technique defensive end in the first couple of rounds.

The Patriots could have their pick of a few guys when they pick early on (most notably with their first three picks), and one guy who could make a sense based on size and experience is Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson, who described himself Sunday as “a run-stopper, a well-charactered guy that won’t get into any trouble on and off the field.”

Wilkerson, who also could have pursued college basketball, played two years of the three-technique in the 4-3 at Temple before they changed to a base 3-4 in his junior year. There, he played the five-technique well enough to earn him a late-first-to-early-second-round grade.

“I can play both,” Wilkerson said of which scheme and psition he fits into best. “Any team that’s willing to draft me and want me to play three-technique, I can play that. If they want me to play 3-4 at the end, I can play that. I have no preference. Whatever the coach wants me to do, I’m going to be there.”

From his size (he measured at 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds), the argument could be made that he’s better off staying in a 3-4 and being a rock on the end. Though his experience in a 3-4 is a plus, the fact that he has only one year of it means he’ll continue to develop once he gets to the next level. His technique is seen as his biggest weakness, and if he can clean that up, he could be a solid starter in the NFL.

“Improvement is the main thing. There’s always room for improvement,” he said. “I feel that with my ability now, going to an organization and getting with a defensive line coach, he can help me out and improve my technique.”

Wilkerson had 10 sacks as a junior. Draft know-it-all Mike Mayock said Sunday that he feels Wilkerson (as well as Cameron Heyward) could fall to the second round of the draft. With two picks in the round (including the first of the round at No. 33 overall) the Pats can easily get him if they want him. Now, it’s just a case of whether they do want him or, like so many who seemed to make sense before him, they don’t.

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Muhammad Wilkerson, NFL scouting combine,
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