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Vereen is a ‘brilliant’ guy, according to Cal run game coordinator Ron Gould

05.13.11 at 1:09 pm ET
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The latest draft class profile we did was on Cal running back Shane Vereen, who was compared to Marshall Faulk by his position coach while a collegian, Ron Gould. One thing we didn’t include in the story was the statement from Gould about just how smart Vereen is.

“The thing that people don’t understand is that Shane has a great football IQ,” Gould said of Vereen. “He’s a brilliant guy ‘€” he graduated from Cal in three-and-a-half years, but he also has a great football IQ . There were things we would discuss, and most guys couldn’t tell you the things he can.”

Another thing about Vereen ‘€” he and college teammate Jahvid Best had an “unbelievable relationship,” according to Gould.

“They’re like brothers,” Gould said of Vereen and Best, the latter of whom is now with the Detroit Lions. “They both fed off each other and were fierce competitors. There were things that Shane did that Jahvid liked and vice-versa. They tried to one-up each other, but their relationship is second to none. If Shane scored, Jahvid wanted to score twice and vice-versa. They just fed off each other.”

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Jahvid Best, marshall faulk, Ron Gould

The McCourty Twins hang with the ‘First Take’ crew

05.12.11 at 2:03 pm ET
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Earlier this offseason, it was Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis who sat down to talk football on ESPN’s “First Take.” On Thursday morning, it was the McCourty twins, New England’s Devin and Tennessee’s Jason. The two defensive backs talked about their journey to the NFL, as well as several other topics. Check out the video:

Read More: Devin McCourty, Jason McCourty,

Free Agent Snapshot: Manny Lawson

05.11.11 at 11:59 pm ET
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Despite the labor uncertainty, will present a list of 10 possible fits for the Patriots in free agency (under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement) this offseason. For the rest of the players we have profiled as part of this feature, click here.

Manny Lawson
Position: Outside linebacker
Age: 26 (will turn 27 on July 3)
Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 240

If the free agency rules of 2010 carry over to 2011, Lawson would be a restricted free agent, which would make it pretty hard to land him. But if there are new rules in effect with a new CBA, Lawson could be one of the more attractive free agents on the market, particularly to the Patriots. He’€™s a smart, heady player who has distinguished himself as one of the better young outside linebackers in the league.

Lawson’€™s sack numbers won’€™t blow you away ‘€” he led the 49ers with 6.5 in 2009, and had just 2.5 last year. But from the midway point of the 2009 season through last year, he was used primarily on first and second downs, which caused a dip in his totals. In addition, he’€™s known as a solid presence against the run. For more evidence, check out this breakdown from the fine folks at Pro Football Focus. Regardless of what you think of their opinion of Tom Brady (and we have heard from many of you on that topic), the PFF guys present a very compelling argument that Lawson is one of the most productive pass rushers in the league.

In a recent ESPN article, Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. weighed in on Lawson, and added a very interesting side note: ‘€œEvery time I bring his name up, San Francisco fans are like, ‘€˜He is a bust, he is not good.’€™ But the rest of the league wants him. The best might be ahead of him. He is long, fluid. If he went to New England, he might all of a sudden be going to Pro Bowl after Pro Bowl. Not that the San Francisco defense is bad, but you might be careful what you wish for with him leaving town. I don’€™t think he has been a bust.’€

Regardless of the rules, San Francisco sounds ready to move on from Lawson, if not this year, than in the not-too-distant future. They took Aldon Smith ‘€” who plays the same position as Lawson ‘€” with the seventh overall pick in the draft. Which could mean that if he’€™s not available as a free agent, the 49ers might entertain the possibility of a trade sooner rather than later.

Why it might not work: As an unrestricted free agent, it would be a long shot. The asking price for Lawson would be too steep. And even if he is available, the contract would come at a hefty price ‘€” Lawson’€™s stock is on the rise seemingly everywhere outside of San Francisco. (The only red flag on that front came last year when he skipped OTA’€™s, reportedly because he was unhappy with his deal.) But at least on paper, the combination of Lawson and the Patriots appears to make a lot of sense.

Read More: free agent snapshot, Manny Lawson,

Ravens’ GM Ozzie Newsome says he learned the art of self-scouting from Bill Belichick

05.11.11 at 4:21 pm ET
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While much is made about the success or failure of many of the members of the “Belichick Coaching Tree,” one of the most successful men who got his start under Bill Belichick doesn’t walk a sideline. Ozzie Newsome, the GM of the Ravens, said he picked up several things while working as a special assignment scout under Belichick in Cleveland, including the art of self-scouting. In a conference call with Baltimore season-ticket holders, he stressed that one of the most important things he learned about the game came as a result of him working with Belichick.

“I was taught, by Bill Belichick, at a very early age that scouting begins on Sunday,” said Newsome. “You need to know your football team. The only way you get to know your football team is you’ve got to be able to watch them at practice, I watch the practice tape, so that’s why I do that. That’s my niche. But the only way I can do it, I have to trust [director of player personnel] Eric [DeCosta] and [director of college scouting] Joe [Hortiz] and the scouts and their ability to go out and do their job.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Ozzie Newsome,

Tom Brady ranks second on Forbes’ list of most-influential athletes

05.10.11 at 4:32 pm ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is the second-most influential athlete in America, according to Forbes. Brady, who trailed only NASCAR’s Jimmie Johnson, is one of four football players to crack the Top 10: Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu is sixth overall, Indianapolis’ Peyton Manning is seventh and Denver’s Tim Tebow is 10th. In addition, Brady is one of two New England athletes on the list ‘€” Shaquille O’Neal is ranked fourth overall.

Read More: Peyton Manning, Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Tebow, Tom Brady

Getting you caught up to date on the stories of the Patriots’ 2011 draft class

05.10.11 at 9:47 am ET
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There are more stories on the way, but in the meantime, we wanted to get you caught up on the series of full-length features has done on the Patriots’ draft class of 2011:

‘€¢On the night of the draft, we tracked down Nate Solder‘s high school coach Bob Marken back in Colorado, who told us the Patriots’ first-round pick was the sort of guy “that’s easy to root for.”

‘€¢It was more of the same when it came to second-round pick Ras-I Dowling ‘€” Jim Reid, his defensive coordinator at the University of Virginia, talked to us about how versatile Dowling is, calling him “an imposing corner” who can do whatever is asked of him as a defensive back.

‘€¢Shortly after the selection of Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett in the third round, we examined the curious relationship between the quarterback and Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

‘€¢Then, there’s the story of fifth-round pick, TCU offensive lineman Marcus Cannon ‘€” perhaps the most unique draft pick in the history of the franchise.

‘€¢Fifth-round pick Lee Smith out of Marshall ‘€” whose position coach Phil Ratliff was a college teammate of Troy Brown ‘€” talked to us about how Smith was a “throwback” in every sense of the word, and believes he will make his mark in an already crowded tight end field in New England. (Our favorite quote that didn’t make it into the story? Ratliff praised the 6-foot-6, 266-pound Smith as a workout warrior, saying, “He’s the first guy you want off the bus, that’s for sure.”)

‘€¢And with lots of help from Central Arkansas defensive coordinator Matt Williamson, we tracked the evolution of sixth-round pick Markell Carter from part-time player at UCA to one of the better under-the-radar pass rushers in college football.

Whew. Like we said, there are more to come, but we’ll leave it at that for now.

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft,

Report: BC’s Mark Herzlich will forgo UFL for shot at NFL

05.09.11 at 1:41 pm ET
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Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich will bypass an opportunity to play in the United Football League for a chance to sign as an undrafted free agent in the NFL. According to Peter King of Sports Illustrated, Herzlich tweeted him on Sunday that he would not join the UFL’€™s Omaha Nighthawks (who took him 51st overall in the UFL draft last week), but instead take his chances with the NFL and hope that the lockout ends sooner rather than later.

Herzlich, the 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year, was not selected in last month’€™s NFL draft. Despite that, his story remains an inspiration to many, as he overcame Ewing’€™s sarcoma in his left leg ‘€” he had a titanium rod placed in the leg ‘€” and returned to play for BC in 2010. However, by his own admission, he wasn’€™t the same player he was before he was forced to sit out a year, which likely caused the draft weekend slide.

Read More: Mark Herzlich,
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