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Patriots shake up coaching staff, name Bill O’Brien offensive coordinator

02.11.11 at 3:32 pm ET
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The Patriots announced several changes to the coaching staff on Friday afternoon. On offense, Bill O’Brien has been named the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach. Meanwhile, on defense there are three positional changes ‘€” Matt Patricia will now coach the Patriots’ safeties, Patrick Graham will serve as linebackers coach and Brian Flores was named defensive assistant. In addition, it was announced that Corwin Brown, who shared responsibilities with Josh Boyer as a defensive backs coach in 2010, will not return to the team in 2011.

Read More: Bill O'Brien, Brian Flores, Corwin Brown, Josh Boyer

A closer look at the impact of Mike Woicik on the Patriots franchise

02.11.11 at 2:25 pm ET
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While the possible departure of Mike Woicik probably doesn’€™t register with many casual Patriots fans, it’€™s the sort of move that will resonate in the locker room. Woicik has been part of some of the most successful teams in recent NFL history ‘€” he is the only player or coach with six Super Bowl rings (three with the Cowboys and three with the Patriots), and is one of the most well-respected strength and conditioning coaches in the NFL.

A hard-nosed, old-school guy who began his career in 1978 at Springfield College, he was one of the first major hires of the Bill Belichick/Scott Pioli team when they took over in New England in 2000. You will be hard-pressed to find a member of the Patriots or Cowboys to say a bad thing about Woicik ‘€” he was even given a shout-out in Michael Irvin‘€™s Hall of Fame acceptance speech in 2007.

While in New England, he’€™s pretty much hid behind a veil of anonymity. Players and other coaches rave about him, but he’€™s steered clear of the media. The closest thing to a definitive look at Woicik and his impact can be found in this NFL Films piece.

According to ESPN, Woicik is in talks to return to Dallas. It’€™s believed Woicik would be replaced by Harold Nash, who has served as Woicik’€™s assistant since 2005. Nash also runs the team’€™s player-development program, which was named as the best in the NFL this past year. While Nash’€™s credentials are impressive, Woicik’€™s departure is another sign that the glory days of the early 20th century are truly a thing of the past ‘€” only Tom Brady, Matt Light, Kevin Faulk and Stephen Neal still remain as players from Super Bowl XXXVI, while Belichick, Dante Scarnecchia and Pepper Johnson are the only members of the coaching staff left.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Dante Scarnecchia, Harold Nash, Kevin Faulk

Adam Schefter on D&C: Everything is on hold until CBA is solved

02.11.11 at 10:12 am ET
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ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter made his final regularly scheduled appearance of the season on the Dennis & Callahan show Friday morning. He talked about the collective bargaining agreement, Logan Mankins and the draft. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Schefter started by talking about the one thing that is sure to dominate any and all NFL discussions for the next few months ‘€” the CBA. ‘€œThere will be no offseason because, essentially, there can be no free agent signings, there can be no comings and goings and there cannot be any trades until there’€™s a new CBA,’€ Schefter said.

‘€œI don’€™t mean to bum you out, but really, everything is on hold until then. We’€™re going to have the combine at the end of this month and the draft in April, but short of that, there’€™s nothing.’€

Schefter said the CBA negotiations change his offseason as well. ‘€œWhereas this time ordinarily I’€™d be gearing up for free agency and really digging into that to see where people could be going and talking to teams about who they want and whatnot, you’€™re not really doing that right now because teams don’€™t know what to do,” he said. “On the other hand, you have this behemoth hanging over you because you don’€™t know when it’€™s going to be solved.

‘€œWhereas ordinarily June and the first half of July would be very quiet for me, I get the sense that I’€™m going to be getting calls as I’€™m trying to take a mid-afternoon summer nap. ‘€˜Oh, they’€™re now making some progress in the CBA talks.’€™ And we’€™re trying to figure out whether or not the bus tour’€™s going to be going to training camp and where we’€™ll be going and when they’€™ll get free agency and all these unresolved questions that will just linger in the air and be there.’€

The guys asked Schefter when he thinks a new deal will be reached. ‘€œEverybody wants to know an answer to that, and I think the truth of the matter is that nobody knows. If I was going to guess ‘€¦ I would tell you this gets solved late August, early September.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adam schefter, Cam Newton, Logan Mankins, Nick Fairley

Potential Patriots: Carl Nicks

02.11.11 at 1:16 am ET
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Despite the looming labor uncertainty, as free agency approaches, WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that could be available to the Patriots in free agency this offseason.

Carl Nicks
Position: Guard
Team: New Orleans
Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 341
Age: 25

Why the Patriots would be interested: Odds are good the Patriots will lose at least one of their starting guards, either to free agency or trade (Logan Mankins) or retirement (Stephen Neal). If he isn’€™t franchised, Nicks figures to be targeted by New England as a possible replacement. According to Pro Football Focus, he yielded only four quarterback sacks in 2010, and was durable enough to play every one of New Orleans’€™ 1,216 offensive snaps over the course of the season. And while teammate and fellow guard Jahri Evans got a big payday last offseason from the Saints, Nicks could provide great value for New England at the position.

Why it would happen: As previously stated, the Patriots are likely going to lose one of their starting guards ‘€” maybe both of them ‘€” and while Dan Connolly played well in relief of both Mankins and Neal over the course of the 2010 season, there’€™s some question about his ability to be a long-term starter. (Some believe he’€™s better suited to the role of Russ Hochstein ‘€” a versatile and important backup who can play multiple positions along the offensive line.)

In the wake of last year’s payday they delivered to Evans, the Saints seem unlikely to tie up so much money in their guards. In addition, the Saints have some other contractual questions about some other spots on their offensive line (Jermon Bushrod, Jonathan Goodwin). If New Orleans is hesitant about paying Nicks, or if it turns its focus to another one of its 27 potential free agents with three or more years of experience, that could open the door for New England.
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Read More: Carl Nicks, Damien Woody, Dan Connolly, Daryn Colledge

Devin McCourty reflects on a remarkable rookie season

02.10.11 at 4:13 pm ET
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Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty had a ‘€œgreat season,’€ but is clearly still a little perturbed about the way everything ended up.

Speaking to a group of reporters at a Rutgers basketball game earlier this week ‘€” check out the video of his Q&A with Scout.com here ‘€” the former Scarlet Knight said that he exceeded his personal expectations for his rookie season.

‘€œI’€™d be lying if I said I didn’€™t,’€ he said. ‘€œFor it to turn out the way it did ‘€” losing in the playoffs ‘€” but other than that, it was just a great season. I expected to do good, but not that good.

‘€œI have full confidence I can go out there and compete, but I think it’€™s different competing and doing a good job. I had seven interceptions, second in the league. I never really imagined I could go out there and be in the Pro Bowl my first year, so that’€™s what I mean by exceeding expectations.’€

Because of an injury to No. 1 corner Leigh Bodden and a strong training camp, McCourty found himself starting in the season opener. He said he knew it was going to be an interesting year from his first play from scrimmage.

‘€œI remember the first play I went out there, they threw a deep pass to Terrell Owens,’€ McCourty said of the season opener against the Bengals. ‘€œI realized for the rest of the year I would see all the deep shots probably my way, and then just to throw over there every once and a while to make sure they were testing the rookie.’€

There were several high points on the season for McCourty, from a Pro Bowl berth to votes for Defensive Rookie of the Year to multiple interceptions against some of the best quarterbacks in the game.

‘€œWhen I look back and I realize I got an interception on Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers … those three guys will definitely be in the Hall of Fame,’€ he said. ‘€œWhen you actually sit back and think about it, it was crazy. I remember being at the Pro Bowl and Philip Rivers coming up to me and saying, ‘€˜You just kept sinking and sinking,’€™ I’€™m like, ‘€˜Wow, I’€™m talking to Philip Rivers about the interception I had.’€™ It was just an incredible feeling to be able to pick off some of those guys that you enjoy watching growing up.’€

In the end, the stats were nice, but McCourty and the Patriots fell short of the ultimate goal.

‘€œI think the way our team was, we were all focused on winning and getting to the big show, then to lose, it was just very disappointing,’€ he said of the playoff loss to the Jets. ‘€œI think it gives us ‘€” I know me ‘€” a lot of drive for next year to try and get to that Super Bowl.’€

Read More: Brett Favre, Devin McCourty, Leigh Bodden, Peyton Manning

Potential Patriots: Pierre Thomas

02.09.11 at 5:26 pm ET
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Despite the looming labor uncertainty, as free agency approaches, WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that could be available to the Patriots in free agency this offseason.

Pierre Thomas
Position: Running back
Team: New Orleans
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 215 pounds
Age: 26

Why the Patriots would be interested: New England is likely to make some big changes at running back in the offseason, as four players ‘€” Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk and BenJarvus Green-Ellis ‘€” are free agents, and the Patriots figure to cut ties with at least two of them. That means they’€™ll be in the market for some depth at the position, and Thomas is certainly a fit from a risk/reward perspective.

Why it would happen: History tells us that even if the Patriots are in the market for a running back, they’€™re not going to go all in for a first rounder. (In his 11 years in Foxboro, Bill Belichick has picked a running back in the first round just once ‘€” Laurence Maroney in 2006 ‘€” and in hindsight, that ended up being a mistake.) At the same time, there don’€™t appear to be any potential big-time targets that could be acquired in trade or in free agency. That makes a middle-of-the-road type of pickup like Thomas a potential fit for the Patriots if they are looking to build depth with some new faces at the position. In addition, there doesn’€™t figure to be a big market for Thomas, as he ended the season on injured reserve because of an ankle problem, and recently had surgery.

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Read More: Ahmad Bradshaw, Arian Foster, BenJarvus Green Ellis, Bill Belichick

Patrick Chung: Botched fake punt is ‘behind me’

02.09.11 at 2:10 pm ET
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Patriots safety Patrick Chung told reporters this morning he’s moved past the botched fake punt in the playoff loss to the Jets, saying, “it’s behind me.”

Chung, who was reading to Mulcahey Elementary School students in Taunton Wednesday morning, said it was “my mistake, making the call” on the fake punt, but said he’s looking forward to 2011.

“You gotta bounce back,” he told reporters. “Something bad is going to happen to you in life, you gotta bounce back.”

Chung said that even with the looking labor uncertainty, he’s approaching this offseason the same was as he has in the past.

“It’s the same ‘€” gotta work hard,” he said. “We have a couple more months, have to get bigger, faster stronger, smarter. It’s up to yourself, you have to work hard on your own. You have to set aside time to work hard and stay focused.”

Read More: Patrick Chung,
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