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Some familiar foes dominate Patriots preseason schedule

04.04.12 at 10:47 pm ET
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The Patriots revealed their preseason schedule for the 2012 season on Wednesday, and there are some familiar foes. They’ll open the preseason slate with a home date against the Saints (date to be determined), and follow that up with another home game against the Eagles on Monday, Aug, 20, at 8 p.m. New England will then hit the road for the final two preseason games — one at the Bucs (TBD) and the last preseason game at the New York Giants, reportedly on Aug. 29.

Despite the fact that they have played in the preseason fairly regularly, the biggest surprise is probably the appearance of New Orleans on the schedule. (We guessed at the other three correctly, with our fourth guess being Detroit.) The Patriots last opened the preseason at home against the Saints in 2010, when New Orleans was coming off its first Super Bowl victory. New England also engaged in some joint training camp practices that year in the days before the Patriots-Saints preseason game that year, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see that happen again. (And wouldn’t be interesting if Bill Parcells steps in for a suspended Sean Payton and returns to New England?)

Both Philadelphia and the New York Giants are fairly regular preseason opponents (this will mark the eighth year that the Patriots will meet New York in the preseason finale.) As for the Patriots and Eagles, they have been frequent preseason opponents with 19 previous preseason matchups. (The Patriots first-ever game at Gillette Stadium was on Aug. 17, 2002, a 16-15 win over the Eagles.) The last preseason meeting came in 2009 when the Patriots opened the preseason with a 27-25 win at Philadelphia on Aug. 13, 2009.

In addition, New England has frequently faced Tampa Bay in the preseason — including last year when the Patriots traveled to Florida to clash with the Bucs — and the fact that Greg Schiano (a friend of Bill Belichick) is now in charge in Tampa Bay makes that game a no-brainer. It’s also worth noting that the third preseason game is usually the one where the starters play the most, and so if you’re looking to get a handle on where the New England starters are heading into the regular season, Patriots-Bucs will be the game to circle on your calendar.

The full regular-season schedule will be announced later this month.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Greg Schiano,

Rob Gronkowski advances in Madden cover showdown

04.04.12 at 12:12 pm ET
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Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski defeated Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen in Round 2 of the voting in the Madden ’13 Cover Vote Competition, and will advance to face Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson in the third round.

Gronkowski defeated Allen, 65 percent to 35 percent, the largest margin of victory in second-round action. (Gronkowski beat his new teammate Brandon Lloyd in the first round, 85 percent to 15.)

Gronkowski and Johnson are two of the eight remaining candidates for the cover, a group that includes Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis, New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Baltimore running back Ray Rice.

For more information and to vote, click HERE.

Read More: Brandon Lloyd, Rob Gronkowski,

Resetting the complete list of the Patriots’ 17 unrestricted free agents

04.04.12 at 8:17 am ET
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Here’s a quick update on the status of the 17 unrestricted free agents on the Patriots radar at the start of free agency:

Running back Kevin Faulk: Has yet to sign. Reportedly contemplating retirement.
Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis: Signed a three-year contract with Cincinnati.
Wide receiver Deion Branch: Signed one-year deal with the Patriots.
Wide receiver/Special teamer Matt Slater: Signed three-year contract with the Patriots.
Wide receiver Wes Welker: Receiver franchise tag, has yet to sign the tender.
Offensive lineman Dan Connolly: Signed three-year contract with the Patriots.
Center Dan Koppen: Has yet to sign. Will reportedly visit with Tennessee this week.
Defensive end Mark Anderson: Signed four-year contract with Buffalo.
Defensive end Andre Carter: Has yet to sign.
Defensive end Shaun Ellis: Has yet to sign.
Defensive tackle Gerard Warren: Has yet to sign.
Linebacker Gary Guyton: Has yet to sign
Linebacker Niko Koutouvides: Signed one-year deal with the Patriots.
Linebacker Tracy White: Signed one-year deal with the Patriots.
Cornerback Nate Jones: Has yet to sign.
Cornerback Antwaun Molden: Has yet to sign. Has visited the Giants, and will reportedly visit the Seahawks Wednesday.
Safety James Ihedigbo: Has yet to sign.

Read More: 2012 NFL Free Agency,

Greg Cosell: ‘The Patriots would be a better defense if they had an edge rusher that demanded attention’

04.03.12 at 2:39 pm ET
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Greg Cosell hears you, Patriots fans. Cosell, who produces the show “NFL Matchup” for ESPN, and watches more game film than just about anyone, understands the hue and cry among New England fans to draft a pass rusher.

“I think an edge rusher that would demand attention is always important,” Cosell said. “The Patriots would be a better defense if they had an edge rusher who demanded attention. That’s what it comes down to.”

Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio says this is a good draft if you’re looking at the front seven. Rush linebackers who are expected to go in the first round include Whitney Mercilus, Courtney Upshaw and Melvin Ingram. Cosell, who calls sacks a “totally overrated” statistic, says the key is finding someone who will demand attention from an offensive coordinator. From there, he explains that it’s a “domino effect.”

“Having an edge rusher, he’s not going to get 40 sacks. That won’t happen,” he said. “You want the defense, when they game plan, to have to say, ‘We need to allocate an extra body for this guy.’ So now, instead of being able to send five eligible receivers out, you can only send four. Defense then has an advantage right away. It’s a domino effect.

“Football is a numbers game. How can you get to the quarterback with the fewest number of rushers? On offense, how can you protect your quarterback with the fewest number of protectors? It’s all numbers. If you can win the numbers battle, pre-snap … because you have Randy Moss, who automatically allocates two guys. If you can win the numbers battle because you have DeMarcus Ware, who automatically dictates an extra guy somewhere along the line of scrimmage, you can do other things. That’s what it all comes down to. It doesn’t mean that he’s going to get five sacks a game.”

Read More: Courtney Upshaw, DeMarcus Ware, Greg Cosell, Melvin Ingram

NFL unveils new Nike-designed uniforms

04.03.12 at 12:23 pm ET
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The new uniforms for all 32 NFL teams, as designed by Nike, were unveiled Tuesday morning in New York City. Reebok’€™s 10-year contract with the league officially ended Sunday, as Nike took over the uniform contract (reportedly in the neighborhood of $35 million annually) and gained exclusive rights when it comes to jersey sales and uniform designs.

As for the Patriots, their new model is at right, and as you can see, features only minor changes, including the Nike logo on the pants.

When it comes to the rest of the league, the biggest changes appeared to be with the Seahawks, who now have several new aspects to their uniform, including redesigned numbers and other additional flair.

Over the history of the franchise, the Patriots have made one major uniform change, going from the Pat Patriot to Flying Elvis logo in the early 1990s.

Wes Welker will help unveil new NFL uniforms on Tuesday

04.03.12 at 10:42 am ET
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Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker will be the representative for the franchise when the new NFL uniforms are unveiled Tuesday at 11 a.m. in New York. Nike took over the uniform contract for all 32 NFL teams from Reebok, and the new looks will be debuted on Tuesday. By the sound of things, don’t expect major changes.

Read More: Wes Welker,

Report: LSU’s Morris Claiborne scores a four on Wonderlic test

04.03.12 at 9:38 am ET
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Before the NFL Draft each year, potential draft picks are put through a gauntlet of tests, including the combine, medical testing and the now famous Wonderlic exam, an intelligence test consisting of 50 multiple choice questions that must be answered in 12 minutes.

An average score on the exam is a 21, but each year, there are outliers who impress with their high scores (Harvard product Ryan Fitzpatrick scored a 48 on the test, the highest score among active players) and sometimes, their low scores (Vince Young reportedly scored a seven on the exam before retaking the test and receiving a 13).

According to multiple sources, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne set a new low this season when he scored a four on the exam, meaning in 12 minutes, he answered four of 50 questions correctly. Claiborne, a junior, has supposedly been enrolled in college classes for the past three years. According to LSU, he is majoring in general studies. He is expected by many scouts to be a top-5 pick in this year’s draft.

In order to see what players like Claiborne and Fitzpatrick had to endure while taking the Wonderlic, WEEI’s own Rob Bradford attempted the test two years ago and put former Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell to the test as well. To see how they did, check out this video:

Read More: Morris Claiborne, NFL Draft 2012,
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