|03.27.12 at 11:37 am ET|
Patriots coach Bill Belichick‘s notoriously terse relationship with the media has been well-documented, so it was not much of a surprise when last year he was a no-show for the coaches breakfast at the NFL owners meetings. This year, however, the breakfast seemed to be more his cup of tea, as Belichick made an appearance and fielded questions from the media for about 45 minutes. Still, Belichick spoke mostly in generalities during his session with reporters.
Belichick refused to get specific when talking about expectations for wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, who reportedly restructured his contract so that he will earn $1 million in 2012 rather than $3 million.
“I think I have the same expectations for all our players, it doesn’t make a difference who they are or what year they are in — come in, work hard, be prepared, go out there and compete on the field,” Belichick told the assembled media. “There is no difference for any player ‘ first year, second year, 10th year.”
Ochocinco recorded 15 catches for 276 yards and a touchdown in his first season with New England. Those totals were the lowest by any of the team’s regular receivers, and the Patriots largely targeted receivers other than Ochocinco in most games. In the offseason, New England appears to have continued to look away from Ochocinco, as it signed receivers Brandon Lloyd, Donte’ Stallworth and Anthony Gonzalez in addition to re-signing Deion Branch for another year.
“You always try to have competition at every position,” Belichick said. “We’ve always had about that many receivers going to camp — 10, 11, somewhere in there — [and] we’ll see what the roster limit ends up being this year.”
Belichick had no update on the status of Wes Welker, whom the Patriots used a franchise tag on but have yet to negotiate a contract with. Belichick said he did not know if Welker will participate in offseason activities.
When asked about the potential for offensive linesman Matt Light‘s retirement, Belichick refused to speculate.
“If we have any announcements to make on any players, we’ll make them when appropriate,” Belichick said.
Belichick offered a brief glimpse into his thoughts on the league’s suspension of Saints coach Sean Payton. Patriots beat writer Ian Rapoport tweeted: Bill Belichick called the situation surrounding Sean Payton “unfortunate” and said the league “did what it did.”
Belichick also flashed his sense of humor. According to the Patriots Twitter account, when a reporter began a question about character by asking “How much do you weigh,” Belichick quickly responded by saying “too much.”
|03.27.12 at 9:57 am ET|
WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2012 NFL draft. Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.
Position: Outside linebacker/defensive end
School: Wake Forest
Weight: 249 pounds
Achievements: Phil Steele third-team All-ACC (2010), College Football News All-America Freshman Team honorable mention
What he brings: A tenacious defender who is great in pursuit, Wilber showcased his versatility while switching from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker at Wake Forest as the team changed defensive philosophies. Due to his size, Wilber will most likely be valued higher by teams that would plug him into a 3-4, where his speed and long frame can best be utilized.
As an edge rusher, Wilber has a lot going for him in terms of his length, quickness and tenacity. With a quick burst and good use of leverage, Wilber can be a solid speed rush guy, but he has to avoid getting washed behind quarterbacks by quicker tackles. Against the run, Wilber shows great range in run support, works well in space on the outside and shoots gaps well to get penetration. However, he is limited when taking on blockers at the point of attack and could be susceptible to teams running at him.
Wilber is functional enough in coverage, especially as a player who didn’t start playing linebacker until halfway through his college career. Wilber has received solid reviews in his zone coverage, where his speed translates quite well. However, he should not be asked to do too much in man coverage right away, especially against receivers and athletic tight ends.
Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 4-5
Notes: Wilber is a long way from being a three-down defender in the NFL, but he has the potential to contribute quickly in the right subpackages. Against more open formations, Wilber’s speed and pursuit will suit him well against spread teams. Against more smashmouth teams, though, Wilber is at a disadvantage.
Wilber’s greatest knock is his strength, which, combined with his light frame, severely limits his potential as a 4-3 defensive end in the NFL. Teams likely will wait to improve his strength and add weight to his frame before they try to use him on earlier downs. Wilber could easily add 10 pounds to his frame without losing much in terms of quickness. If he were to bulk up and improve his strength, Wilber has the potential down the road to move into a role similar to that of Mark Anderson this past season.
Video: Here’s a highlight package of Wilber playing in Wake Forest’s 2011 matchup against NC State.
|03.26.12 at 3:51 pm ET|
The Patriots have already added one fullback this offseason in Spencer Larsen, and on Monday, they reportedly agreed to a deal with Tony Fiammetta. They already have one on the roster in Lousaka Polite, and could have a fourth in Eric Kettani, who was recently activated off the reserve/military list.
So what’s with all the fullbacks?
In the Bill Belichick era, the Patriots have occasionally employed a regular fullback, but they’ve never had this many on the roster at one time. Polite, who signed at the end of the regular season, was the first regular fullback New England utilized since Heath Evans departed following the 2008 season. (Patrick Pass had the longest career of any fullback with the Patriots under Belichick, playing in New England from 2000 until 2006.)
If you’re putting together a depth chart at this point, Polite is probably the No. 1 back, based on talent level and basic knowledge of the system. He’d be followed by Larsen, who also has extensive special teams value (as well as on defense). Fiammetta is still an unknown quantity at this point, but on paper, appears to be more of a traditional blocking fullback. Kettani remains a question mark — he’s been around the franchise since he was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2009, but has little on-field action.
Some of it could be due to the fact that the Patriots have lost veteran back BenJarvus Green-Ellis in free agency, with the understanding that the two young running backs — Steven Ridley and Shane Vereen — might fare better with a lead blocker in front of them. It’s a theory that analyst Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus agrees with.
‘If I was guessing, I’d say they want to use more of a fullback next season,’ Monson wrote in an e-mail to WEEI.com, ‘perhaps figuring the current running back stable would run better with a lead-blocker than BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and are loading up on guys to pick from when they get into the analysis of the roster.’
|03.26.12 at 2:54 pm ET|
Former Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis recently joined ESPN 1530 in Cincinnati with Mo Egger to discuss his decision to sign with the Bengals, his thoughts on Cincinnati when he was with the Patriots and not being able to bring a Super Bowl to Robert Kraft in his last season with New England.
What attracted you to Cincinnati? ‘I was just intrigued by the fact that to just go play with a young football team that never ever won. It seemed like they are working hard all trying to obtain one goal and that’s play winning football. Coach [Marvin] Lewis and his staff and coach [Jay] Gruden and Mr. [Mike] Brown and all those people with the Bengals when I went there and I really enjoyed myself and I felt like there was no place else where I could fit in and hopefully I go in and work hard and all that.’
As you played for the Patriots were the Bengals a team you paid attention to all the time? ‘Well, being an NFL player I see all the teams play each and every year through film study. Obviously I’ve seen Cincinnati on film before, but I’ve obviously watched them and seen the way they have been working hard as a team and everyone seems like they are trying to obtain one goal and that’s winning, so that’s the only thing I am here for to help the Cincinnati Bengals win some more football games.’
Can you talk about your emotions in the Super Bowl loss and the days following it? ‘It was a hard fought and competitive game that we just didn’t come out on top of. I congratulate the New York football Giants on winning a Super Bowl this year and being a champion. I felt like they were the one team that were champions and there were 31 losers and we were one of them this year, but we worked hard to get to where we were and we just didn’t come away with everything we wanted. That’s the only one regret that I have in all my years in the league was this past season and not being able to bring home that Super Bowl to Mr. Kraft. I felt like that was one of the things to help ease his pain going through everything with his wife, so that was one of my only regrets about leaving New England and not bringing Mr. Kraft that Super Bowl this past season.’
|03.26.12 at 1:34 pm ET|
The Patriots are close to signing fullback Tony Fiammetta, according to Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe. The 6-foot, 242-pound Fiammetta, a fourth-round choice of Carolina out of Syracuse in 2009, had seven starts in 2010 with the Panthers and finished with 22 yards rushing and 34 yards receiving.
Fiammetta would be the second fullback the Patriots have added this offseason. They recently came to terms with Spencer Larsen on a two-year deal. They would join fullback Lousaka Polite in an interesting positional battle in 2012.
|03.26.12 at 11:32 am ET|
There’s a line in “All the President’s Men” that captures the Jets perfectly. Bob Woodward is running dry on sources. It looks like he and Carl Bernstein aren’t going to crack the Watergate story after all. He’s worn out, pissed off and finally ready to give up, surrender to Mitchell and Nixon and Hunt and Haldeman and Erlichman.
Woodward meets up with Deep Throat — the source, not the film Tim Tebow would never watch — and tells him exactly that. It’s basically over.
Deep Throat — we now know is Mark Felt, who comes to think of it looked a hell of a lot like Hal Holbrook — gives the closest version of a pep talk you’ll ever get from a CIA operative in the basement of a garage. And it ends with this:
“Look, forget the myths the media’s created about the White House- the truth is, these are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand. ”
Change “White House” to “NFL” and you’ve got the Jets and the addition of Tim Tebow.
I thought Tebow to the Patriots made sense. I didn’t think it was going to happen but I thought it made sound football sense. Terrific athlete, a head coach willing to look at a player and see something else, all that stuff. Almost as important, the Patriots were one of three or four franchises in the NFL where Tebow would be zero distraction to the day-to-day operations of a football team.
Put it another way: For the Tim Tebow experiment to really succeed, he needed to go to a place where the quarterback was an untouchable, the coach had unimpeachable job security and the motivation to bring Tebow in was as football player only, not some ploy to steal headlines or sell tickets.
And that’s why the Jets and Tim Tebow will be an absolute disaster, a train wreck that will end with Tebow either a) being released or b) traded to Jacksonville for even less value in a year or two.
This is how a clueless organization does things. They botch any real shot at Peyton Manning and scramble to save face. Instead of taking a step back, just pause for minute and look at things from a big picture perspective, the Jets dive in and make a deal for a quarterback that isn’t as good as the guy they have. And that guy — Mark Sanchez — isn’t good enough in their eyes, or else there is no way they deal for Tebow. Desperation meets stupidity meets a desire to monopolize the front page of the New York Post for a couple of weeks in March.
(Helps when you have a Hall of Fame QB, but you would never see the Patriots do this the way the Jets are. The courtship, the huge press conference, putting his jersey on the front of the team web page. It’s just reeks of minor leagues. The Patriots would have had a conference call the day after the trade and that’s it.)
This is a pissed off little brother, plain and simple. The Jets have watched the Giants win two Super Bowls the last five years — against the team that was supposed to be their rival — and this was the best answer they could come up with. And when you start making organizational decisions based on desire to be relevant off the field you are basically screwed. There’s a reason why they don’t hand out rings or raise banners in March.
Mark Sanchez isn’t a franchise quarterback, not by the longest shot. Is there a chance he could develop into a top 10-15 guy over the next couple of years? It’s possible, sure, this is a QB with four road playoff wins, including one that saw him outplay Tom Brady. Point is, you could do worse.
|03.26.12 at 11:09 am ET|
During the 2011 season, much was made about the Patriots’ apparent decision to move from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3. With the acquisition of veteran defensive linemen like Andre Carter, Mark Anderson and Albert Haynesworth — all defenders who appeared to be a better fit in a 4-3 — it certainly appeared Bill Belichick was making a seismic shift in defensive sensibility.
But it turns out that the idea of 4-3 vs. 3-4 scheme in New England wasn’t as simple as having someone on the edge put their hand on the ground instead of stand up. Greg Cosell of NFL Films, who serves as the executive producer of ESPN’s ‘NFL Matchup,’ said that when it comes to the Patriots, the differences between a three-man front and a four-man front are more complex than you’d think.
‘You have to understand one thing — fronts are not determined by who’s in a three-point stance and who is in a two-point stance. Fronts are determined by gap concepts,’ Cosell said. ‘And I guarantee if you look at a lot of the Patriots’ ‘three-man fronts’ in the past where there’s actually two linebackers standing up on the outside, you’ll see that they’re actually in four-man front principles.’
‘With the Patriots, it’s complicated. You’ll see a three-technique. You’ll see a nose shade, not a nose tackle. Sure, there were snaps where they played a true 3-4 with a true nose tackle or a zero technique and two ends who are five techniques. But just because you have three down linemen, it doesn’t mean you are playing a 3-4.’
With the Patriots cutting Haynesworth and losing Anderson in free agency to Buffalo and the future of Carter uncertain because of injury, Cosell believes the Patriots won’t necessarily brand themselves a 3-4 or 4-3 team going forward, no matter who they might draft (or otherwise acquire), saying there’s ‘no need for them to make a delineation between 3-4 and 4-3. You don’t need to do that.’
Instead, look for them to continue to add versatile linemen and keep people guessing.
‘In Houston, Wade Phillips‘ defense is not a 3-4. It’s a 4-3. It just has the weak side defensive end — which was DeMarcus Ware in Dallas and was Mario Williams in Houston — stand up in a two-point stance. But every gap tells you it’s a 4-3,’ Cosell said. ‘People immediately assume because you see three down linemen and you see two outside linebackers standing up, that’s a 3-4. No. Belichick is smarter than that.’