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Logan Mankins: ‘Always a possibility’ I’ll return to Patriots

01.26.11 at 7:56 pm ET
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Speaking at the Pro Bowl, Patriots offensive lineman Logan Mankins said Wednesday there “were 32 teams in play” for his services next season.

In an interview with the Boston Herald, Mankins, who is a free agent, said there’s “always a possibility” he could return to the Patriots, but at this point, hadn’t given much thought to it, pointing to the looming labor uncertainty. “If there was a [Collective Bargaining Agreement], I’m sure I’d be thinking about it a lot more,” he said.

Mankins, who could still be franchised by the Patriots (which would block his route to free agency), also got in a little dig at Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft ‘€” when asked if he did apologize to Kraft before returning to the team halfway through the 2010 season, he said, “Well, everyone knows I apologized to Mr. Kraft. He told everyone.”

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NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure

01.26.11 at 4:33 pm ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2011 NFL draft.

Mikel Leshoure

Position: Running back

School: Illinois

Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 230 pounds

Achievements: All-Big Ten (2010), Second-Team All-American (2010), 2010 Texas Bowl MVP, Illinois team MVP (2010)

What he brings: A classic power runner, Leshoure was a workhorse for Illinois in 2010, carrying the ball 281 times. Given his size, he has a surprisingly quick initial burst and uses his feet well to make defenders miss. Leshoure didn’t catch a lot of passes out of the backfield, but he has good hands and could develop into a solid receiving option. He has been compared to another Illinois product, Rashard Mendenhall, as well as LeGarrette Blount.

Where the Patriots could get him: No. 17

Notes: Leshoure set a single-season school record with 1,697 rushing yards in 2010, which included a 330-yard effort against Northwestern on November 20. He also set a Texas Bowl rushing record in his MVP performance, rushing for 184 yards in the 38-14 Illinois win over Baylor. By his own admission, Leshoure was overweight and immature as a freshman, but worked hard to transform himself physically and became a leader in the locker room.

Video: Here’s highlights of Leshoure’s 2009 season:

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NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Illinois DT Corey Liuget

01.26.11 at 2:30 pm ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2011 NFL draft.

COREY LIUGET

Position: Defensive tackle

School: Illinois

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 300 pounds

Achievements: All-Big Ten second team (2010)

What he brings: Liuget (pronounced “legit”) made his name as a defender who is often “unblockable” for offensive linemen. He has good versatility and could play nose tackle in passing situations. His upper-body strength and hustle are attributes, while his speed and quickness might be an issue at the NFL level. He improved his quickness by dropping about 30 pounds prior to his last season with the Illini.

Where the Patriots could get him: No. 28

Notes: Liuget’s stock shot up following his performance in the Texas Bowl last month, when he had five tackles (2.5 for loss) and a sack vs. Baylor. That spurred him to declare for the draft as a junior, following a season in which he had 63 tackles, 12.5 for loss, and 4.5 sacks. In 2009, he played in all 12 games, starting four, and recorded 36 tackles, eight for loss, and 2.5 sacks.

Illini coaches say Liuget is a leader in the locker room, although the Miami native wanted to transfer after his second year in Champaign. His mother reportedly said he would not be welcome home if he transferred.

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On 25th anniversary of Patriots’ first Super Bowl, disappointment still lingers, but so does unity

01.26.11 at 9:41 am ET
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As WEEI.com pays tribute to the Patriots’ 1986 Super Bowl team, we remember what a tremendous year 1986 was in Boston sports. Check out our LEEInks list of the most memorable moments from that year.

Twenty-five years ago Wednesday, the Patriots made their first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. The game against the Bears at the Louisiana Superdome got off to a promising start for New England when linebacker Larry McGrew recovered a Walter Payton fumble just two plays in to set up a Tony Franklin 36-year field goal that gave the Pats a 3-0 lead.

But things quickly went downhill from there. On their final six drives of the first half, the Pats turned the ball over twice and had to punt four times, including three three-and-outs. They finished the half with minus-19 total offensive yards, two pass completions and one first down.

Meanwhile, the Bears, who were set up with great field position throughout the half, scored 23 straight points to take a commanding 23-3 lead into halftime.

‘€œOnce the snowball started rolling downhill, we just couldn’€™t stop it,’€ Pro Bowl wide receiver Irving Fryar recalled Tuesday. ‘€œThey were too good of a team to make mistakes against. Once we started making mistakes and they started capitalizing on the mistakes and got a lead, there was no way we were going to stop the train from running.’€

The Pats never threatened a comeback in the second half and ultimately lost the game 46-10, making it the most lopsided Super Bowl in history at the time. They set Super Bowl records for most sacks allowed (7 ‘€” of both starter Tony Eason and Steve Grogan) and fewest rushing yards gained (7), and their 123 total yards were the second-lowest total in Super Bowl history.

Today, the loss still stings for the players on that team.

‘€œIt was sad,’€ said Hall of Fame offensive guard John Hannah, who played his final game in that Super Bowl. ‘€œIt was a really long day and it was very embarrassing. ‘€¦ Just the frustration of getting there and performing so, so poorly, it just really hurt.’€

But the 1985 squad still has a special place in Patriots history. It was the first team in franchise history to reach the Super Bowl and it posted the best regular-season record (11-5) since 1978.

‘€œThat experience to be able to get to the Super Bowl was great, being the first team in the history of the Patriots to make it there,’€ said safety Fred Marion, who was also a Pro Bowler that year. ‘€œNo one expected us to be there but ourselves.’€

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Read More: 1986 Super Bowl, Fred Marion, Irving Fryar, John Hannah

Patriots by position: Defensive line

01.26.11 at 12:38 am ET
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Over the next week as the Patriots offseason gets underway, we’€™ll present a snapshot of the team by position. We’€™ve already examined the defensive backs and the linebackers. Here’€™s a look at the defensive line:

On the roster: Landon Cohen, Brandon Deaderick, Kyle Love, Eric Moore, Myron Pryor, Gerard Warren, Vince Wilfork. (Ron Brace, Darryl Richard, Ty Warren, Kade Weston and Mike Wright ended the season on injured reserve, while Marlon Favorite is on the practice squad.)

Stat standouts: Leading tackler (according to coaches film review): Wilfork, 87; Gerard Warren, 36. Sacks: Wright, 5.5; Gerard Warren, 3.5. Best single game: Against Indianapolis, Wilfork ‘€” going almost wire-to-wire because of injuries to some of his teammates ‘€” the Pro Bowler was immense. He had six tackles, including four stops (according to Pro Football Focus, it’€™s a solo tackle that constitutes an offensive failure). Wright also gets points for his effort against the Steelers, a game where he had two sacks of Ben Roethlisberger and five quarterback pressures.

2010, in three sentences: More than any other position, this one was hit hardest by injury, as Brace, Warren and Wright were all key losses. Of those who remained, there was consistently great play up front from Wilfork, while Gerard Warren exceeded all expectations and (when healthy) Wright also played very well. However, past that, it was a mixed bag, with some youngsters playing well when given the chance (like Brace), but others weren’€™t able to rise to the occasion when called upon.
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Read More: Brandon Deaderick, Darryl Richard, defensive line, Eric Moore

Chad Ochocinco changing his name back to Chad Johnson

01.25.11 at 8:07 pm ET
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Chad Ochocinco said Tuesday that he’s changing his name back to Chad Johnson. Appearing on ESPN’s “NFL Live,” the receiver said the name change was fun, but it’s time to switch back to his original moniker. “I don’t have a choice right now,” Ochocinco said. “I’ve done enough with the Ocho thing.” The receiver initially changed his name from Johnson to Ochocinco before the 2008 season in order to wear his nickname on his jersey.

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Patriots by position: Linebackers

01.25.11 at 7:40 pm ET
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Over the next week, as the Patriots’ offseason gets underway, we’€™ll present a snapshot of the team by position. We’€™ve already examined the defensive backs ‘€” now, we focus on the linebackers:

On the roster: Tully Banta-Cain, Jermaine Cunningham, Dane Fletcher, Gary Guyton, Jerod Mayo, Marques Murrell, Rob Ninkovich, Brandon Spikes, Tracy White.

Stat standouts: Leading tackler (according to coaches film review): Mayo, 193; Spikes, 71. Sacks: Banta-Cain, 5; Ninkovich, 4. Interceptions: Ninkovich, 2; Guyton, 2. Best single game: There were a few quality performances from other players (Ninkovich’€™s two-interception game against the Dolphins comes to mind), but this was Mayo’€™s category by a long shot. The third-year inside linebacker out of Tennessee had a couple of really impressive outings to choose from. Our favorite was the 19-tackle game he had against the Ravens on Oct. 17 ‘€” against a team known for world-class linebackers, Mayo was the best one on the field that afternoon.

2010, in three sentences: About what was expected. You had a Pro Bowl year from Mayo, some guys like Ninkovich, Fletcher and Guyton who exceeded expectations, while rookies Cunningham and Spikes got quality snaps in their first year in the system. It was a bit of a disappointment for Banta-Cain, who was New England’€™s best pass rusher in 2009 but slipped to just five sacks in 2010.

By the numbers ‘€” tie (courtesy of Nuggetpalooza): 2.10. Among linebackers with at least 80 tackle opportunities in 2010, Mayo’€™s 2.10 miss percentage ‘€” that is, where he had a ballcarrier lined up and he whiffed on the tackle attempt ‘€” was second best in the league. (Takeo Spikes of San Francisco was first with a 1.92 percentage, while Buffalo’€™s Paul Posluszny was third at 2.94 percent.) 296: According to Pro Football Focus, Patriots linebackers made 296 tackles in 2010, second in the league to the 49ers (320). What’€™s more, they missed only 23 tackles or 5.82 percent of their opportunities, the third-lowest miss percentage in the league. (The Giants were first at 5.33 percent, the Cowboys were second at 5.73 percent, the Bills third at 5.81 percent and the Patriots fourth.)

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher, Gary Guyton
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