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NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: USC WR Ronald Johnson

01.31.11 at 2:24 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.

Ronald Johnson

Position: Wide Receiver

School: USC

Height: 5-foot-11

Weight: 186

What he brings: Johnson’€™s excellent speed (he has clocked as low as 4.38 in the 40) benefits him not only in getting a quick start off the line but on kick returns as well. He has the characteristics of a slot receiver: good hands (though he has suffered some criticism for catching the ball too close to his body), quickness and the ability to get open — although some have criticized his route running as being, at times, imprecise. If the Bristol, Conn., native were to join the Patriots, he could benefit from proximity to one of the best in the game in the slot, Wes Welker.

Where the Patriots could get him: 4th or 5th round

Notes: Johnson battled back from an injury plagued junior season with a respectable 64 receptions, 694 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2010.  He was especially effective in the beginning of the season with three touchdowns in the season opener against Hawaii, including a thrilling 89 yard punt return. His career was characterized by significant turnover, both of his starting quarterbacks (he played with three different ones) and in the coaching staff, as he remained with the program even after the departure of former head coach Pete Carroll. While he doesn’t have the same statistics as some of the other wide receivers, his speed, willingness to pursue balls in the middle of the field and potential upside make him an interesting gamble for the late rounds.

Video: Highlights from Johnson’€™s senior season at USC

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Potential Patriots, ronald johnson, USC

Boomer Esiason on D&C: Pro Bowl ‘was a joke’

01.31.11 at 10:16 am ET
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Boomer Esiason of CBS Sports made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to talk about the disappointment of the Pro Bowl and the excitement of the Super Bowl. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Esiason said he didn’€™t watch much of Sunday night’€™s Pro Bowl but that he was disappointed with what he did see. ‘€œI watched basically three minutes of it,” he said. “After I watched the defensive line and how they were not pursuing the quarterback, I decided I had to change because when I played, they wanted to kill us. They wanted to be the MVP and there was a pass rush. It was a joke yesterday. There’€™s no question about it. It was very disappointing, to be honest with you.

‘€œI just can’€™t believe that it’€™s gotten to the point now where it’€™s almost flag football. As Brian Billick said yesterday, they brother-in-law it, meaning that you take care of me and I take care of you, and at the end of the day, let’€™s just walk off this field and hope nobody’€™s hurt.’€

That said, Esiason doesn’€™t expect the Pro Bowl to go away any time soon. ‘€œI don’€™t know what it’€™s going to be,” he said. “It’€™s all going to be dictated by whether or not there was a healthy viewership. Last year when it was on ESPN down in Florida, the game received its highest ratings ever and everybody was all jacked up about that. It’€™ll be interesting to see what the Fox ratings are. If they’€™re as popular as we all think they’€™re going to be, then they’€™re going to keep the game and they’€™re going to play the game and they’€™re going to extract as much money as they can possibly can.’€

Esiason talked about his experience leading up to Super Bowl XXIII in 1989, a game the Bengals lost to the 49ers, 20-16. Esiason told the story of how Bengals coach Sam Wyche made the morally correct decision to suspend running back Stanley Wilson after finding him high in a bathtub instead of at a team meeting on the eve of the game. Esiason questioned whether Bill Parcells, known for allowing more latitude with Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor, would have made the same decision.

‘€œWe had kind of an interesting Super Bowl,” Esiason said. “If you remember, Overtown, which is a suburb of Miami, was on fire. There were riots going on. We had our own teammate, Stanley Wilson, with his own issues with cocaine the night before the Super Bowl. We were I think either 8½- or nine-point underdogs going into the game. So there was a lot of stuff surrounding our football team. Quite frankly, we put forth a great effort against a great team led by Bill Walsh and Joe Montana and just came up short.’€

Esiason then talked about what he expects this week, beginning with whether or not he expects the media to challenge Ben Roethlisberger with questions about his past.

‘€œWithout question,” he said. “I’€™m sure that’€™s going to be on the tip of everybody’€™s tongue. The media is always looking for some story, some angle. I’€™m surprised that ESPN or somebody hasn’€™t gone back to Georgia to find the woman he was supposedly with down there last year and get her take on all of this. The rehabilitation and the mentoring of Merril Hoge and all this other stuff unfortunately are going to be falling on deaf ears for people who are on the other side of this story, and I’€™m surprised that story hasn’€™t been brought out yet.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: aaron rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Bill Parcells, boomer esiason

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Allen Bailey

01.31.11 at 8:57 am 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.

Allen Bailey

Position: Defensive line

School: Miami (Fla.)

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 278 pounds

Achievements: All-ACC second team (2010); All-ACC first team (2009); Miami Strength Training Athlete of the Year (2009, 2010); Nagurski Trophy Watch List (2010)

What he brings: Though he is somewhat undersized for the defensive line, Bailey features tremendous strength, speed (he has been timed as low as 4.65 in the 40) and athleticism. While he spent his senior season lining up primarily as a defensive end, he also has experience as an interior lineman, having played defensive tackle through the first half of his junior year. Bailey admitted in a recent interview that he is still working to improve his technique and hands so that he can shed blocks. He recorded 19 sacks in his college career, including seven as a senior. He recorded 31 tackles for a loss in his career, including 11 in 2010.

Where the Patriots could get him: Bailey projects as a possible late-first round or second round pick, so he could be available to the Patriots with either the No. 28 or No. 33 pick.

Notes: His time in the weight room has turned him into a physical specimen who once measured as having just 8 percent body fat. His vertical leap has been measured in excess of 36 inches. … He stayed at Miami for all four years, playing 50 games, just two shy of Brandon Meriweather for most in school history. … Though he spent most of 2010 as a defensive end, he moved to the interior line on some third-down plays. … Comes from a small town called Hog Hammock on Sapelo Island in Georgia. Once killed an alligator with a shovel.

Video:

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, allen bailey, Brandon Meriweather, hurricanes

Bill Belichick’s AFC squad on losing end at Pro Bowl

01.31.11 at 1:21 am ET
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In a Pro Bowl shootout Sunday afternoon in Hawaii, Patriots coach Bill Belichick and the rest of the AFC came up on the short end of a 55-41 score.

In addition to the coaching staff, the Patriots were well represented in the NFL’s annual all-star game, with the statistical standouts being Wes Welker, Devin McCourty and Jerod Mayo. Welker had five catches for 34 yards, but he lost a fumble to NFC defensive back DeAngelo Hall after a short gain in the early going. Meanwhile, McCourty, in the starting lineup after Nnamdi Asomugha pulled out of the game with an injury, had three tackles and two passes defensed in his inaugural Pro Bowl experience, while Mayo, also in his first Pro Bowl, had seven tackles.

As for the rest of the group, safety Brandon Meriweather made three tackles, defensive lineman Vince Wilfork had a tackle, and offensive linemen Logan Mankins and Matt Light contributed a stop after interceptions.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Brandon Meriweather, Devin McCourty, Jerod Mayo

Patriots by position: Offensive line

01.30.11 at 9:04 pm ET
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As the Patriots offseason gets underway, we’€™ve presented a snapshot of the team by position ‘€” we’€™ve already examined the defensive backs, the linebackers, the defensive line, special teams, quarterbacks, running backs, tight end and wide receivers. We’€™ll wrap things up with the offensive line:

On the roster: Dan Connolly, Dan Koppen, Mark LeVoir, Matt Light, Logan Mankins, Rich Ohrnberger, Quinn Ojinnaka, Sebastian Vollmer and Ryan Wendell. (Thomas Austin and Steve Maneri ended the year on the practice squad.)

2010, in three sentences: While the tackle spots were relatively steady ‘€” Vollmer on the right and Light on the left for 99 percent of the season ‘€” the guard sports were a steady rotation because of injury (Connolly and Neal) or contract problems (Mankins). But no matter who was in the lineup, the offensive line was steady in its play over the bulk of the regular season in both the running and passing game. However, things ended poorly in the playoff loss to the Jets, as Brady was sacked five times by a Jets team that rarely blitzed.
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Read More: Dan Connolly, Dan Koppen, Logan Mankins, mark levoir

Patriots by position: Wide receiver

01.30.11 at 11:41 am ET
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As the Patriots offseason gets underway, we’€™ll continue to present a snapshot of the team by position. We’€™ve already examined the defensive backs, the linebackers, the defensive line, special teams, quarterbacks, running backs and tight ends. Now, here’€™s the wide receivers:

On the roster: Deion Branch, Julian Edelman, Taylor Price, Matthew Slater, Brandon Tate, Wes Welker. (Buddy Farnham ended the season on the practice squad.)

Stat standouts ‘€” Total receptions: Welker, 86; Branch (48 with Patriots, 61 overall). Total receiving yards: Welker, 848; Branch (706 with Patriots, 818 overall). Yards per catch (minimum 20 receptions): Tate, 18.0. Touchdowns: Welker, 7; Branch (5 with Patriots, 6 overall). Best single game: Two favorites for us: The first was Branch against the Lions on Thanksgiving, when he flat-out torched Detroit cornerback Alphonso Smith for three catches (two of them touchdowns) and 113 yards. The second was Welker’€™s eight-catch, 115-yard performance on Dec. 12 in the snow against the Bears in Chicago.

2010, in three sentences: Remade. The October trade of Randy Moss to Minnesota changed the look of the New England receiving corps ‘€” instead of the traditional deep threat, it was more reliant on midrange and intermediate routes. It was a success, as the Patriots’€™ passing game became one of the most difficult to defend over the second half of the season, thanks in large part to the duo of Branch and Welker.
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Read More: Brandon Tate, Buddy Farnham, Deion Branch, Julian Edelman

Observations from the Senior Bowl

01.30.11 at 6:00 am ET
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There’€™s no denying the importance of the Senior Bowl in the pre-draft process, and there is no denying that there’€™s always plenty to read into. After a week of practices, the game was finally played Saturday, with the South coming away with a 24-10 victory.

What does Saturday’€™s game mean for the Patriots, who hold four picks in the first three rounds of April’€™s draft? If recent history suggests anything, it could mean plenty.

In four of the last six years, the Patriots used their top pick on a player who participated in the Senior Bowl (Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Brandon Meriweather, Logan Mankins), so perhaps the next Patriots draftee was on display Saturday in Mobile, Ala.

Here’€™s what we learned after a week of practices and Saturday’€™s game:

Cameron Jordan might not be available when the Patriots pick at No. 17

Throughout the week, the Cal defensive end really showed that he could be gone before the Patriots can nab him at No. 17. Jordan has great speed for a guy who figures to stay on the line in a 3-4, and could cause plenty of matchup problems at the next level. At 6-foot-4 1/8 and 287 pounds, the Patriots would probably prefer he put on a little weight by the combine, but when all is said and done, it might take a move up in the draft for him to even be in the picture.

On Saturday, Jordan made his presence felt by deflecting passes and jamming his way into the backfield, forcing quarterbacks to leave the collapsed pocket. Something that should be a huge plus in the eyes of a team like the Patriots is that he has three years of experience as a 3-4 end, meaning he’€™s no stranger to playing the five-technique.

As a whole, this draft features a fair number of guys capable of stepping in and contributing on the end for 3-4 teams, something that hasn’€™t been the case in recent years. The question is whether Jordan, who boosted his stock throughout the week, is now out of reach for one of the teams that could use him.

Pass-rushers didn’€™t disappoint

Even without the impressive crop of pass-rushing underclassmen, Saturday served as further proof that there are plenty of solid options for teams who need help getting after the quarterback. Texas A&M’€™s Von Miller furthered his case for top 10 consideration by harassing Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick and holding up against the North’€™s running game. Despite the Butkus Award winner’€™s solid performance, he’€™s still tough to see as a Patriot given his tendency to be one-dimensional and lack of size at 6-foot-2 5/8. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Cameron Jordan, Von Miller,
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