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Running back Brandon Bolden ready to try and make his mark in New England

05.11.12 at 7:31 pm ET
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FOXBORO — You can’t fault the Patriots for sticking to the template. After all, the last time they plucked an undrafted free agent running back out of Ole Miss, it worked out pretty well for them in BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

So when Green-Ellis departed as a free agent this offseason, they went back to the well for another Ole Miss running back in Brandon Bolden. The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Bolden finished his collegiate career ranked second in school history in both total touchdowns scored (33) and rushing touchdowns (27), third in all-purpose yards (3,681) and fourth in rushing yards (2,604).

And while Bolden was deferential to Green-Ellis’ legacy at Ole Miss and with the Patriots, he’s clearly interested in making his own name in New England.

“Ben was at Ole Miss the [two] years before I was there; he was walking out the door as I was coming in. He’s a great guy, a great running back. I watched a lot of film on him,” Bolden said of Green Ellis, who had 2.064 rushing yards (including 1,008 in 2010) in 53 career games with the Patriots.

“[But] honestly, I haven’t paid much attention to it. Ben did what he did because that’s what Ben does. And I’m coming in trying to make it as he did.”

A 2011 captain at Ole Miss, Bolden, originally thought to be a mid- to late-round selection, dropped out of the draft altogether. One reason could be his injury history — Bolden finished with 976 rushing yard and 14 rushing touchdowns as a junior, but suffered a fractured ankle in his first game as a senior. The injury limited him to 462 yards last year.

“Just trying to get in the training room and get better every day. Every since the injury, just trying to get better each and every day. Still doing it,” he said. “I’m a guy that looks forward. The injury happened’€¦ everything happens for a reason. I’m just looking forward.”

However, some believe that it was character concerns, which stemmed from a suspension for a one-game suspension which sidelined him for a game against Alabama. He has a straightforward answer for those who might question his character.
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Read More: BenJarvus Green Ellis, Brandon Bolden, Danny Woodhead, Eric Kettani

When it comes to wide receiver spot, it’s open season in New England

05.11.12 at 1:56 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots spent last year’€™s brief offseason loading up on defensive linemen, and as things continued into the regular season they sifted through those who could play and those who couldn’€™t. By the end of the season, they appeared to have a good mix of youth and experience along their front line.

It appears New England is doing the same thing this offseason when it comes to the wide receiver spot. Since the start of free agency, the Patriots have loaded up at an already deep spot, and at the start of rookie minicamp on Friday, the Patriots have 12 receivers on the roster (including veteran Wes Welker, who has yet to sign his franchise tender).

This offseason, New England has picked up free agents Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, Donte’€™ Stallworth and Anthony Gonzalez to go along with Welker, Deion Branch, Chad Ochocinco, Julian Edelman, Matthew Slater and Britt Davis, all of whom were already on the roster. In addition, they have rookies Jeremy Ebert (a seventh-round pick) and Matt Roark (an undrafted free agent).

After hearing offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on Friday, it appears that the competition for playing time at wide receiver this year will be conducted in much the same manner as the process for the defensive line last season.

‘€œIt’€™s going to be an exciting thing for us to watch and see how it all develops, because we have some guys that can do some different things,’€ McDaniels said Friday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.

‘€œI think that makes for great competition. I know every year, we talk about having great competition at every spot, and the receiver position is certainly going to be filled with that. We have a ton of guys here, working hard and making sure they’€™re ready for [organized team activities] in the spring. We’€™re going to give them all an opportunity. I don’€™t think you want to assume too many things. Let them go back out there and demonstrate what they know, what they can do, what they can provide our team, and let the competition play out.’€
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Read More: Josh McDaniels, Wes Welker,

Patriots rookies ready to start learning curve all over again

05.11.12 at 1:35 pm ET
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FOXBORO — After a college career that included working as the defensive centerpiece on a national championship team, linebacker Dont’€™a Hightower is back to square one.

The rookie out of Alabama was one of a handful of young guys who opened up their professional football careers at rookie minicamp at Gillette Stadium. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound Hightower, who will wear No. 45, is one of several former elite college players who are starting all over again.

‘€œIt’€™s the calm before the storm,’€ Hightower said before a workout on Friday afternoon. ‘€œI know what’€™s on my plate and I know what I have to do in order to be a part of this football club. I’€™m going to do everything in my power to contribute to this team and help win.

‘€œIt just means a lot for me to have my dreams come true. [Just] being a little boy and looking up and being able to play in the NFL, and doing something you love to do with so much passion, it’s definitely something that means a lot to me. It’€™s No. 1 on my priority list right now.’€

The same is true for third-round pick Jake Bequette. A defensive lineman out of Arkansas, Bequette was one of the most important parts of the Razorbacks defense. But now, he’€™s one of the low men on the totem pole.

‘€œFor me, it’€™s exciting. It’€™s been a lifelong dream to play in the NFL, especially for a great organization like the Patriots,’€ Bequette said. ‘€œIt’€™s just awesome — very exciting. Like I said, I can’€™t wait to get started.’€

Rookie minicamp is a little like freshman orientation. The youngsters aren’€™t so much worried with the intricacies that come with playing the game. At this point in their careers, they’€™re simply looking for someone to point them toward the locker room, the practice field and the cafeteria. One thing that does help the transition is the fact that it’€™s just rookies (and a handful of others) on the field this weekend, and so the ratio of coaches to players is pretty favorable for a young guy looking for guidance.
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Read More: Bill Belichick, Dont'a Hightower, Jake Bequette, Nick Saban

Latest ‘It Is What It Is’ podcast examines the Patriots offseason with former New England linebacker Matt Chatham

05.11.12 at 9:46 am ET
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In the latest edition of the “It Is What It Is” podcast, WEEI.com’s Christopher Price and former Patriots linebacker Matt Chatham discuss the state of the Patriots at the midpoint of the offseason, touching on what they’ve accomplished in the draft and free agency. The two also discuss the impact former teammates Willie McGinest and Matt Light had on both sides of the ball, as well as a look at why some players struggle with life after football. To listen, CLICK HERE.

Arkansas coach: Versatility and maturity make Jake Bequette a unique find for the Patriots

05.11.12 at 12:18 am ET
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There are some overriding themes in how the Patriots attacked the 2012 draft, but above all, it appears that many of the guys they went after are versatile, maybe none more so than third-round pick Jake Bequette, a defensive end/linebacker out of Arkansas.

Bequette has played all along the defensive line as a collegian, but really made his bones on the outside. With the Razorbacks, he played predominantly defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, but he also got some extended work standing out as an outside linebacker at the Senior Bowl and the combine, and that positional versatility will likely be tested this weekend at New England’€™s rookie minicamp.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said shortly after New England made the pick that the 6-foot-4 1/2-inch, 274-pound Bequette (pronounced BECK-ett) might be able to play either defensive end or linebacker in the Patriots’€™ system.

‘€œJake was a very productive guy in the SEC as a defensive end in [the Arkansas] system,’€ Belichick said of the 23-year-old. ‘€œ[He] did some linebacker stuff at the Combine and the all-star games, but he’€™s primarily been a productive pass rusher for Arkansas over his four years in a good conference.’€

Bequette has some impressive numbers. Not considered an elite athlete, the four-year starter was a first-team All-SEC selection last season after totaling 28 tackles, an SEC-best 10 sacks — the sixth-highest single-season total in school history — and five forced fumbles despite missing three games to a hamstring injury.

He finished his collegiate career with 22 sacks (third in school history) and 13th with 31 1/2 tackles for loss. Overall, he notched 140 tackles, 24 quarterback hurries, eight forced fumbles, seven pass break-ups and three fumble recoveries in four years.
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Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Bill Belichick, Jake Bequette, Nate Ebner

Details on the coaching moves the Patriots made on Thursday

05.10.12 at 9:03 pm ET
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The Patriots announced Thursday position responsibilities for six members on the current coaching staff. Matt Patricia has been named defensive coordinator, Josh Boyer will coach cornerbacks, Brian Flores will coach safeties, Patrick Graham will coach the defensive line and Pepper Johnson will coach the linebackers. On offense, George Godsey will coach the tight ends. In addition, Joe Judge has been named special teams assistant and Steve Belichick, son of the head coach, has been named a coaching assistant.

Here’s a bit more from the team on each move, directly from the press release:
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Read More: Brian Flores, George Godsey, Joe Judge, Josh Boyer

A closer look at the seven rookies the Patriots signed on Thursday

05.10.12 at 7:58 pm ET
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The Patriots announced the addition of seven rookie free agents on Thursday who will take part in rookie minicamp this weekend at Gillette Stadium. Here’s a thumbnail look at each one of them:

Running back Brandon Bolden, Mississippi: The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Bolden finished his collegiate career ranked second in school history in both total touchdowns scored (33) and rushing touchdowns (27), third in all-purpose yards (3,681) and fourth in rushing yards (2,604).

Defensive lineman Marcus Forston, Miami: The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Forston was injury-free during his freshman season at Miami, finishing with 17 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and three quarterback sacks. After that, it was all downhill. His 2009 season was cut short due to an ankle injury, while his 2011 season, which began with a four-game suspension due to NCAA infractions, ended after he underwent surgery for a torn MCL. He also had shoulder surgery prior to the start of the 2010 season, but he still played in 13 games with 12 starts that year, and registered 37 total tackles, 3.0 sacks and one interception.

Defensive lineman Justin Francis, Rutgers: The 6-foot-3, 270-pounder posted very good numbers over the course of his college career (106 tackles, 22 tackles for loss and 12 sacks), culminating with 60 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, one fumble recovery, one interception and five passes defensed as a senior.

Tight end Brad Herman, Iowa: The 6-foot-5, 253-pounder had his best season as a senior, finishing with eight catches for 92 yards and a touchdown in 12 games (including three starts). He’€™s described by Pro Football Weekly as having ‘€œintriguing measurables, good straight-line speed and outstanding leaping ability.’€
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Read More: Brad Herman, Brandon Bolden, Jeremiah Warren, Justin Francis
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