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Potential Patriots: Carl Nicks

02.11.11 at 1:16 am ET
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Despite the looming labor uncertainty, as free agency approaches, will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that could be available to the Patriots in free agency this offseason.

Carl Nicks
Position: Guard
Team: New Orleans
Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 341
Age: 25

Why the Patriots would be interested: Odds are good the Patriots will lose at least one of their starting guards, either to free agency or trade (Logan Mankins) or retirement (Stephen Neal). If he isn’€™t franchised, Nicks figures to be targeted by New England as a possible replacement. According to Pro Football Focus, he yielded only four quarterback sacks in 2010, and was durable enough to play every one of New Orleans’€™ 1,216 offensive snaps over the course of the season. And while teammate and fellow guard Jahri Evans got a big payday last offseason from the Saints, Nicks could provide great value for New England at the position.

Why it would happen: As previously stated, the Patriots are likely going to lose one of their starting guards ‘€” maybe both of them ‘€” and while Dan Connolly played well in relief of both Mankins and Neal over the course of the 2010 season, there’€™s some question about his ability to be a long-term starter. (Some believe he’€™s better suited to the role of Russ Hochstein ‘€” a versatile and important backup who can play multiple positions along the offensive line.)

In the wake of last year’s payday they delivered to Evans, the Saints seem unlikely to tie up so much money in their guards. In addition, the Saints have some other contractual questions about some other spots on their offensive line (Jermon Bushrod, Jonathan Goodwin). If New Orleans is hesitant about paying Nicks, or if it turns its focus to another one of its 27 potential free agents with three or more years of experience, that could open the door for New England.
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Read More: Carl Nicks, Damien Woody, Dan Connolly, Daryn Colledge

Devin McCourty reflects on a remarkable rookie season

02.10.11 at 4:13 pm ET
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Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty had a ‘€œgreat season,’€ but is clearly still a little perturbed about the way everything ended up.

Speaking to a group of reporters at a Rutgers basketball game earlier this week ‘€” check out the video of his Q&A with here ‘€” the former Scarlet Knight said that he exceeded his personal expectations for his rookie season.

‘€œI’€™d be lying if I said I didn’€™t,’€ he said. ‘€œFor it to turn out the way it did ‘€” losing in the playoffs ‘€” but other than that, it was just a great season. I expected to do good, but not that good.

‘€œI have full confidence I can go out there and compete, but I think it’€™s different competing and doing a good job. I had seven interceptions, second in the league. I never really imagined I could go out there and be in the Pro Bowl my first year, so that’€™s what I mean by exceeding expectations.’€

Because of an injury to No. 1 corner Leigh Bodden and a strong training camp, McCourty found himself starting in the season opener. He said he knew it was going to be an interesting year from his first play from scrimmage.

‘€œI remember the first play I went out there, they threw a deep pass to Terrell Owens,’€ McCourty said of the season opener against the Bengals. ‘€œI realized for the rest of the year I would see all the deep shots probably my way, and then just to throw over there every once and a while to make sure they were testing the rookie.’€

There were several high points on the season for McCourty, from a Pro Bowl berth to votes for Defensive Rookie of the Year to multiple interceptions against some of the best quarterbacks in the game.

‘€œWhen I look back and I realize I got an interception on Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers … those three guys will definitely be in the Hall of Fame,’€ he said. ‘€œWhen you actually sit back and think about it, it was crazy. I remember being at the Pro Bowl and Philip Rivers coming up to me and saying, ‘€˜You just kept sinking and sinking,’€™ I’€™m like, ‘€˜Wow, I’€™m talking to Philip Rivers about the interception I had.’€™ It was just an incredible feeling to be able to pick off some of those guys that you enjoy watching growing up.’€

In the end, the stats were nice, but McCourty and the Patriots fell short of the ultimate goal.

‘€œI think the way our team was, we were all focused on winning and getting to the big show, then to lose, it was just very disappointing,’€ he said of the playoff loss to the Jets. ‘€œI think it gives us ‘€” I know me ‘€” a lot of drive for next year to try and get to that Super Bowl.’€

Read More: Brett Favre, Devin McCourty, Leigh Bodden, Peyton Manning

Potential Patriots: Pierre Thomas

02.09.11 at 5:26 pm ET
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Despite the looming labor uncertainty, as free agency approaches, will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that could be available to the Patriots in free agency this offseason.

Pierre Thomas
Position: Running back
Team: New Orleans
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 215 pounds
Age: 26

Why the Patriots would be interested: New England is likely to make some big changes at running back in the offseason, as four players ‘€” Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk and BenJarvus Green-Ellis ‘€” are free agents, and the Patriots figure to cut ties with at least two of them. That means they’€™ll be in the market for some depth at the position, and Thomas is certainly a fit from a risk/reward perspective.

Why it would happen: History tells us that even if the Patriots are in the market for a running back, they’€™re not going to go all in for a first rounder. (In his 11 years in Foxboro, Bill Belichick has picked a running back in the first round just once ‘€” Laurence Maroney in 2006 ‘€” and in hindsight, that ended up being a mistake.) At the same time, there don’€™t appear to be any potential big-time targets that could be acquired in trade or in free agency. That makes a middle-of-the-road type of pickup like Thomas a potential fit for the Patriots if they are looking to build depth with some new faces at the position. In addition, there doesn’€™t figure to be a big market for Thomas, as he ended the season on injured reserve because of an ankle problem, and recently had surgery.

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Read More: Ahmad Bradshaw, Arian Foster, BenJarvus Green Ellis, Bill Belichick

Patrick Chung: Botched fake punt is ‘behind me’

02.09.11 at 2:10 pm ET
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Patriots safety Patrick Chung told reporters this morning he’s moved past the botched fake punt in the playoff loss to the Jets, saying, “it’s behind me.”

Chung, who was reading to Mulcahey Elementary School students in Taunton Wednesday morning, said it was “my mistake, making the call” on the fake punt, but said he’s looking forward to 2011.

“You gotta bounce back,” he told reporters. “Something bad is going to happen to you in life, you gotta bounce back.”

Chung said that even with the looking labor uncertainty, he’s approaching this offseason the same was as he has in the past.

“It’s the same ‘€” gotta work hard,” he said. “We have a couple more months, have to get bigger, faster stronger, smarter. It’s up to yourself, you have to work hard on your own. You have to set aside time to work hard and stay focused.”

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Report: Patriots part ways with DB coach Corwin Brown

02.09.11 at 12:20 pm ET
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According to reports, the Patriots may be changing a couple of coaches this offseason. ESPN reports that Corwin Brown will not return after one season as secondary coach, and that strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik is interviewing Wednesday with the Cowboys.

Woicik was the Cowboys strength coach from 1990-96. He has spent the past 11 seasons with the Patriots. His contract reportedly expired after the 2010 season.

Read More: Corwin Brown, Mike Woicik,

Mock draft, Take 3: Short move for Anthony Castonzo?

02.09.11 at 7:52 am ET
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Until the combine takes place, the mock draft is at the point where it’s being fine-tuned to take different needs into consideration. The big shakeup this week starts with the Vikings going with a quarterback and the Lions opting to take the fourth cornerback off the board at pick No. 13.

1. Carolina (2-14) Da’€™Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson Nothing has changed in the top 10 picks, and with the Panthers unable to pluck a quarterback better than Jimmy Clausen, their decision will come down to taking Bowers or Nick Fairley or trading the selection. Bowers had 15.5 sacks last season for Clemson.

2. Denver (4-12) Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn The Broncos might find themselves in the same position the Buccaneers were in last year, when they simply took whichever guy the Lions passed on. Bowers and Fairley are clearly the top two players in this draft, though there remains some debate over which one will ultimately be selected first.

3. Buffalo (4-12) A.J. Green, WR, Georgia If former first-round pick Lee Evans leaves, it’€™s hard to see Green not being the pick. If he stays, the Bills can look at guys like Patrick Peterson, Prince Amukamara or Von Miller. The argument to be made for Green is that Evans is coming off his worst season and the team could cut him to avoid handing out a bonus.

4. Cincinnati (4-12) Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU This pick would make too much sense for the Bengals. Jonathan Joseph, whom the team selected in the first round of the 2006 draft, is a free agent, and Peterson is the best cornerback prospect to come out in years. To be able to land him fourth overall would actually be something of a steal, and in the event that he’€™s off the board, they could also consider Amukamara.

5. Arizona (5-11) Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M If there is no CBA and they don’€™t have the option of trading down, the Cardinals could be forced to take a quarterback too high and therefore pay him too much. Instead, they can get better value by selecting the draft’€™s top linebacker in Miller. He isn’€™t the biggest guy in the world, but he can fly when getting after the quarterback.

6. Cleveland (5-11) Cameron Jordan, DE, California The Browns would likely take A.J. Green if he were to be available, which would make him the second wide receiver the team took in the top 10 since 2005. Jordan’€™s Senior Bowl week catapulted him from a mid-first-round grade to potentially going ahead of Marcell Dareus, as we have here.

7. San Francisco (6-10) Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska Amukamara has the talent to step in as the team’€™s No. 2 corner as a rookie and the potential to be the team’€™s No. 1 corner over Nate Clements before long. After not playing in the Senior Bowl, he has only the upcoming combine to boost his stock, which already has him as a safe bet to go in the first 10 picks. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder had five picks two seasons ago. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft,

Potential Patriots: LaMarr Woodley

02.08.11 at 11:38 pm ET
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Despite the looming labor uncertainty, as free agency approaches, will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that could be available to the Patriots in free agency this offseason.

LaMarr Woodley
Position: Outside linebacker
Team: Pittsburgh
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 265 pounds
Age: 26

Why the Patriots would be interested: New England has struggled to put together a consistent pass rush since the start of the 2009 season, and the arrival of someone like Woodley would bring an instant jolt of respectability to the outside linebacker spot. When it comes to pass rushers, Woodley figures to be one of the best available options on the free agent market ‘€” he has 39 sacks the last three years, including 13.5 in 2009 and 10 this past season. (He also had a sack in the Super Bowl XLV, which extended his NFL record of seven straight postseason games with a sack.)

Why it would happen: The 26-year-old is at the peak of his abilities. When you consider the Patriots were 14th in the league in sacks this past season with 36, the arrival of someone like Woodley would instantly change the look of the defense. In addition, he’€™s durable ‘€” according to Pro Football Focus, he played 1,132 of a possible 1,220 defensive snaps this season. (He played every snap of 15 of the Steelers’€™ 20 games this past season.)
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Read More: Adalius Thomas, Bill Belichick, Brandon Meriweather, Kamerion Wimbley
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