|05.07.13 at 1:57 pm ET|
A Twitter conversation regarding safety Adrian Wilson with a few followers Tuesday afternoon sparked this question: Is Wilson the biggest safety the Patriots have ever had — or, at least, the biggest safety the Patriots have signed since Bill Belichick became coach?
The 33-year-old Wilson is a 6-foot-3, 230-pounder who is the biggest defensive back currently on the New England roster. Nicknamed “The Incredible Hulk” by his new teammates, he brings a more physical presence to the Patriots secondary. But to give you some sort of idea as to just how big a guy he is, consider the fact that he compares favorably not with the defensive backs, but with the linebackers. Dane Fletcher is 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds, while Jerod Mayo is 6-foot-1 and 250 pounds, Dont’a Hightower is 6-foot-2 and 270 pounds and Brandon Spikes is 6-foot-2 and 255 pounds.
A quick check of some old rosters reveals that, at least when it comes to defensive backs, Wilson is the biggest the Patriots have acquired since Belichick became coach before the 2000 season. However, there are a few guys who have come close. Tank Williams, who was in Foxboro for parts of two seasons (2008 and 2009) but never was 100 percent because of a knee injury, was probably closest in terms of size to Wilson, as the former Stanford product checked in at 6-foot-2 and 223 pounds. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Josh Barrett was a safety out of Arizona State who had similar struggles with injury — he played just one season with New England (2011). And safety Brandon McGowan, who spent the 2009 season with the Patriots and made a name as a fearless hitter, was 5-foot-11 and 210 pounds.
(For what it’s worth, in his playing days Rodney Harrison was 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, and Tebucky Jones, who was taken in the first round by the Patriots in 1998, was 6-foot-2, 220.)
The feeling here is that Wilson — like many of the oversized safeties who have come through Foxboro in years past — projects as something of a hybrid defender. The spot, more commonly defined as the ‘money’ position on the New England defense, works as an extra defensive back on passing downs in place of a linebacker, and is also plays close enough to the line to provide support in the running game as well as an occasional rep as a pass-rusher. (For more on the background of the “money” position and how it relates to a Belichick defense, click here.)
|05.07.13 at 12:43 pm ET|
This spring, there are several notable names on the Patriots roster who are starting an important period in their careers for one of four reasons. One, because they might be on the hot seat this year as part of a looming positional battle. Two, they’ve been on the shelf for an extended stretch and are a question mark when it comes to how much they might be able to contribute. Three, they have yet to take a snap in the Patriots system, which makes it difficult when it comes to gauging how they might fit in Foxboro. And four, they are entering a contract year and could have their fortunes down the road tied to their performance in 2013.
With that in mind, here’s our list of this spring’s 10 most intriguing veterans on the New England roster.
Cornerback Aqib Talib: Talib, who was acquired from the Bucs in a November trade, wasn’t an elite corner by any stretch, but his presence allowed the Patriots to move Devin McCourty to safety and install Kyle Arrington in the slot. With that personnel combination in the secondary, the Patriots pass defense had great improvement across the board. (The continuity of having the same five guys at the same spots in the defensive backfield also helped, and with his return, should help going forward.) Despite some injury issues — his departure in the AFC title game, combined with New England’s lack of a coverage linebacker, left the Patriots struggling to defend against Joe Flacco — Talib became a key part of the defense. He re-signed with the Patriots on a low-cost, one-year “prove it” deal that creates incentives for both him and the team. If he has a terrific year, he gets to return to the open market with a chance to really cash in, and the team gets a top-level corner for a year at relatively low cost.
Tight end Jake Ballard: The former Giant was plucked off the New York roster last June and spent the entire 2012 season on the shelf after suffering a knee injury in Super Bowl XLVI against the Patriots. A 6-foot-6, 275-pounder, he was undrafted out of Ohio State in 2010 but turned himself into an effective downfield threat in 2011 with New York (38 receptions for 604 yards and four touchdowns). Ballard is intriguing for a couple of reasons. One, he hasn’t been on the field for a year, and remains a bit of an unknown commodity because of his inactivity. And two, if Rob Gronkowski is on the shelf for any amount of time, Ballard (provided he’s healthy) should see an increase in reps, as his game has some elements of Gronkowski.
Defensive lineman Armond Armstead: One of the most intriguing veteran prospects the Patriots have brought in this spring, this CFL import — who stands 6-foot-5, 300 pounds — could provide a boost to the New England pass rush. The 22-year-old, a USC product, was a three-year star for the Trojans in college. After a junior year spent at defensive end ‘ where he had 43 tackles, six of which were for a loss (three sacks) ‘ he was set to open his senior year at defensive tackle but suffered a heart attack before his senior season and never was cleared to practice. As a result, he went undrafted last spring and ended up with Toronto of the Canadian Football League, where he led the team with 44 tackles and six sacks to help the Argonauts to a Grey Cup championship. (Armstead and Jason Vega are the two CFL imports who joined the New England roster this offseason.)
(When it comes to making the transition from the CFL to the NFL, Marc Trestman — a former CFL coach who was named coach of the Bears this offseason — thinks it can be done. “There are some players up there certainly that have shown they can play in the NFL, that’s been proven over time. There haven’t been many, but the guys who have shown up down here did a pretty good job of fitting in,” he said. “Players up there are very similar to the guys down here in terms of their character. They want to master their craft, they want to be the best they can be, and some of them have had the opportunity south of the border and have done well. These guys love football up there and have dreams of wanting to do it down here, and those who can, will give it a try. Those who can’t have experienced a lot of exciting football up there.’)
Read the rest of this entry »
|05.06.13 at 5:30 pm ET|
The Patriots announced Monday they have released rookie free agents Quentin Hines and linebacker Ian Sluss.
Hines, 22, began his college career at Cincinnati in 2008 and appeared in one game in 2009 after redshirting in 2008. The 5-11, 190-pounder missed the 2010 and 2011 seasons before finishing his career in 2012 at Akron.
Sluss, 23, earned All-Big Sky Conference honors in 2012 and was also selected as the Portland State team MVP after leading the team with 104 tackles, with four interceptions and four fumble recoveries. The 6-foot, 225-pounder played two seasons at the University of Redlands before transferring to Portland State and redshirting in 2010.
|05.06.13 at 12:19 pm ET|
Terrell Owens spent some time this offseason working out with Tom Brady, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to be signing with the Patriots anytime soon — although he certainly wouldn’t pass up the chance.
Speaking with BlindsideFootball.com, the occasionally controversial wide receiver talked about his recent sessions with Brady, as well as the possibility of him signing with New England.
‘I think that’s a no-brainer,’ Owens said. ‘You look at what they’ve done over the years. Under the tutelage of Tom and Coach [Bill] Belichick, I think the sky would be the limit in terms of what I’d be able to do, considering my body of work and my history of playing the game.’
But Owens said his connection with Brady was more happenstance than the result of an actual planned get-together.
‘We happened to be on the same field at the same time and it obviously created a big buzz with the two of us being on the field throwing the football around,’ Owens said. ‘There was really nothing organized about it as far as me trying to get with the Patriots or him pursuing me or anything like that. It just happened to be us being out there on the same field at the same time.’
Owens, 39, last caught a regular-season pass while with the Bengals in 2010, but has 1,078 receptions over the course of his career.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|05.04.13 at 11:51 pm ET|
While it’s still early on in their careers — and they can always pick new numbers — the newest members of the 2013 Patriots were assigned numbers for rookie camp over the weekend. Here’s a look at who received which number, as well as a look at the history of some of the more notable numbers.
Wide receiver Aaron Dobson: 17. Oh, no. How bad has it been? Put it this way … one of the best players to wear No. 17 was Greg Salas, and he didn’t have a catch with the Patriots last season before being swiped off the New England practice squad by the Eagles. Chad Jackson, Taylor Price and Dedric Ward also have worn the number.
Cornerback Logan Ryan: 26. Sort of a nondescript number the last few seasons. Defensive backs Derrick Martin, Phillip Adams and Eugene Wilson were the last three players to wear No. 26 with New England.
Defensive back Duron Harmon 30. The number that’s frequently been given to oversized defensive backs the last few seasons, including Josh Barrett (6-foot-2, 225 pounds) and Brandon McGowan (5-foot-11, 210 pounds). For what it’s worth, Harmon checks in at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds.
Linebacker Steve Beauharnais: 45. The number that initially was given to Dont’a Hightower last spring (he ended up switching to No. 54 after it became clear Brian Waters wasn’t coming back to reclaim it), but no one of any note has worn it over the last decade.
Defensive lineman Jason Vega: 68. Andre Carter initially wore No. 68 during the 2011 preseason before switching to No. 93 for the regular season. Offensive lineman Ryan O’Callaghan also wore No. 68 when he was in New England in 2006 and 2007.
Wide receiver Josh Boyce: 82. A mixed bag over the last couple of years — mostly tight ends. Kellen Winslow Jr. wore it while spending a few weeks in New England last season, while Dan Gronkowski (2011), Alge Crumpler (2010) and Stephen Spach (2008) were among the other most recent wearers of No. 82.
Wide receiver T.J. Moe: 84. This is a good one for several reasons, including the fact that it was the favored number of longtime Tom Brady favorite Deion Branch. Tight end Ben Watson also wore it when he was with the Patriots from 2004 through 2009.
Linebacker Jamie Collins: 91. Ever since immensely popular defensive lineman Bobby Hamilton left following the 2003 season, no one has managed to make it their own. Myron Pryor had it from 2009 through last year, but he only played in 24 games in that stretch because of injuries. Marquise Hill had it from 2004 through 2006.
|05.04.13 at 8:54 pm ET|
FOXBORO — When it comes to the Patriots, there are several brotherly connections that reach throughout the NFL. Defensive end Chandler Jones has a brother (Arthur) who plays for the Ravens, while tight end Rob Gronkowski has seen brothers Chris and Dan also reach the NFL, with the latter spending a few weeks with the Patriots in 2011.
Into this picture comes the McDonald Brothers: Nick has been with the Patriots the last two seasons after breaking into the NFL as a part of the Packers in 2010, while his brother Chris was picked up last week as an undrafted free agent out of Michigan State.
When Chris was signed by the Patriots, his brother gave him a call.
“He just told me to work hard and do what I have to do. It’s about me,” he said Saturday during a break in the action at rookie minicamp. “I’m blessed to have the opportunity to be with my brother, but this time is my time. And I have to do what I have to do.”
The brothers have engaged in an amazing journey just to get to this point. As teenagers, they were adopted by separate families. Chris said Saturday he considers his brother an inspiration, but at the same time, he understands the reality of the situation that’s in front of him.
“My brother being in the NFL is not going to help me stay in the NFL,” he said. “I have to do whatever it takes for myself.”
Read the rest of this entry »
|05.04.13 at 1:34 pm ET|
FOXBORO — It’s clear that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
When he got the call from the Patriots about coming to Foxboro as an undrafted free agent, defensive back Stephon Morris said he got some advice from current Penn State coach — and former New England offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien — about what to expect with the Patriots.
“Coach O’Brien pretty much, before I came out here, just told me to keep my nose clean, keep my head down and stay off social network sites,” Morris said Saturday morning during a break between workouts at Gillette Stadium during rookie minicamp.
Morris — who has Tweeted five times from his personal account after being picked up by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent last weekend — is a 5-foot-8, 196-pound cornerback, one of 28 players who are taking part in rookie minicamp this weekend at Gillette.
Morris played in 49 games and made 24 starts for Penn State over the course of his collegiate career. He finished with 148 tackles, one pick and 13 passes defensed, which helped him capture an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection as a senior in 2012. Stats aside, he does figure to have a little better idea in terms of what to expect from Bill Belichick than some of the other rookies because of his experience with O’Brien, who took over the troubled Penn State program last year after spending five years in New England.
“You can pretty much see the way coach O’Brien ran things is the same way that coach Belichick runs it. His time with the Patriots definitely rubbed off on him,” Morris said. “[But I have] got a lot of catching up to do especially to the veteran guys who have already been here. The main thing for me is to get on board and learn the New England way, which is kind of the same way that Bill O’Brien had brought into Penn State.”
While Morris wasn’t all that expansive about his time at Penn State — when he was asked how O’Brien changed the program after he took over, he answered with, “To be honest, I’m not supposed to answer a question like that” — he understands that he and the rest of the rookies face a big challenge going forward.
“It’s pretty much a job now,” he said. “You have to be in your playbook from sunup to sundown. The coaches pretty much tell you how it is — there’s no more babysitting. It’s not like you’re on scholarship where you can pretty much stay on the team. It’s a job. You can get fired any day. You can get fined. The workouts … everything is just different. It’s just time consuming, but this is why we play the game since I was six years old for. I’m ready for it.”