|04.10.13 at 9:46 pm ET|
The Patriots unveiled the dates and times of their 2013 preseason schedule on Wednesday:
|04.10.13 at 4:49 pm ET|
After a busy morning that included the extension of an offer sheet to Emmanuel Sanders and the apparent agreement on a one-year deal between the Patriots and Julian Edelman, it’s time once again to reset the depth chart at wide receiver for New England.
As was the case when we did this last month, it’s important to remember that there is still time in the team-building process (between the end of free agency and the draft), so things can change between now and the start of the 2013 season. But as it stands right now, here’s a thumbnail look at each one of the receivers who are currently on the roster, as well as some possible additions for New England at the position between now and the start of the season.
Julian Edelman: Right now, Edelman is the only receiver on the roster who caught a pass from Tom Brady in 2012. The former college quarterback, who was a seventh-round pick of the Patriots in 2009, has spent the last four seasons with New England, and has 69 catches for 714 yards and four touchdowns as a pro. It will be interesting to see what sort of role he has in the 2013 passing game — he had a terrific offseason last year, and as a result, got off to an impressive start (10 catches in first two-plus games) before a late September injury. Right now, he likely figures as a backup to Amendola, but if he stays healthy, the 5-foot-10, 200-pounder should have an important role in the offense and on special teams.
Donald Jones: Right now, Jones figures to be in the mix for the No. 3 receiver spot, but as always, that situation remains fluid based on other possible free-agent additions as well as what the Patriots might do in the draft. The 6-foot, 208-pound Jones is a Youngstown State product who spent three seasons in the league, all with the Bills, and has 82 career receptions. His best year came in 2012 when he caught 41 passes for 443 yards and four touchdowns. Jones has some experience in the slot, as well as outside.
Danny Amendola: The big offseason addition at receiver, Amendola will likely be the closest thing the Patriots have to a traditional wide receiver in 2013. Amendola has worked in the slot and outside, and will likely be asked to do both in the New England offense. The 27-year-old, who had a career-high 85 catches for St. Louis in 2010, has followed an eerily similar career arc as Welker, who blossomed when he first arrived in New England in 2007. The Patriots hope that the 5-foot-11, 188-pounder can continue on the same path that saw Welker ‘ who was a little-used part of the Miami offense before he arrived in Foxboro ‘ catch 100 passes in five of his six seasons with the Patriots.
Mike Jenkins: The addition of Jenkins looks to be a case of the Patriots kicking the tires on a veteran to see if he has anything left in the tank. The 30-year-old, who has had knee issues the last few years, caught 40 passes for 449 yards and two touchdowns last season with the Vikings. He’s a 6-foot-4, 214-pounder out of Ohio State who has been in the league for nine seasons ‘ seven with the Falcons and the last two with Minnesota. His best seasons came in 2007 and 2008, when he caught a combined 103 passes for 1,309 yards and seven touchdowns. If he does stick, it will be for depth purposes.
Not currently on the roster, but possible additions.
Emmanuel Sanders: While Sanders isn’t technically a Patriot just yet, we will include him here for purposes of this exercise. Like Amendola (and, to a lesser extent, Jones and Edelman), Sanders does have some position experience in that he’s played both in the slot and outside. The 26-year-old, a third-round pick out of SMU in 2010 by the Steelers, caught 44 passes for 626 yards and one touchdown in 2012, starting seven games. In his three-year career, Sanders has 94 receptions for 1,290 yards and five touchdowns. For more on Sanders and his potential impact here in New England, click here.
Brandon Lloyd: With each passing day — and with each subsequent addition the team makes to its receiving corps — the chances of Lloyd’s return seem to grow faint. He was released last month, just prior to the date the team was contractually obligated to deliver a $3 million roster bonus. In his one season with the Patriots, Lloyd had 74 catches for 911 yards and four touchdowns. While he had some terrific moments ‘ including eight catches against Arizona, nine against Baltimore and 10 against the Niners ‘ he was underwhelming at times.
Deion Branch: Branch, who will be 34 before the start of the 2013 season, has to be considered a long shot to return, but it still wouldn’t be a surprise to see the 5-foot-9, 195-pounder back on an emergency basis if needed. He ended the 2012 season with 16 catches for 145 yards in 10 games for New England.
(In addition, the Patriots depth chart also includes Kamar Aiken, Jeremy Ebert and Andre Holmes. Ebert was a seventh-round pick of the Patriots last season who spent some time on the practice squad, while Aiken ended the season on the practice squad and Holmes was added to the roster in January after spending part of the 2012 season with the Cowboys. And while Matthew Slater is technically listed as a wide receiver, he’s more of a special teamer.)
|04.10.13 at 12:04 pm ET|
The Patriots will sign Julian Edelman to a one-year contract on Wednesday, according to Mike Garafolo of USA Today. The receiver, who was a seventh-round pick of the Patriots in 2009, has spent the last four seasons with New England. The former collegiate quarterback, who caught 37 passes as a rookie, has 69 catches for 714 yards and four touchdowns over his career with the Patriots. In addition, the 5-foot-10, 200-pounder has shown special teams value, having returned three punts for touchdowns in four seasons.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|04.10.13 at 11:26 am ET|
Five thoughts on the possible acquisition of Emmanuel Sanders:
1. Sanders would bring a variety of skills to the Patriots’ passing game, but one of the things that really sticks out when you are talking about the former SMU product is his footwork. The Patriots obviously look for fast receivers, but they also put a priority on being able to get in and out of cuts quickly and display the needed agility to thrive in the New England offense. To that point, most of the receivers they have acquired over the last decade or so all flashed great agility in skills like the 20-yard shuttle and 3-cone drill. To that point, as a collegian, Sanders not only displayed the requisite straight-line speed ‘ he had a 4.4 40-yard dash ‘ but also flashed great agility, posting a 6.6 time in the 3-cone drill, the second-best time that year among the receivers. (By way of comparison, that would have placed him third overall at this year’s combine.) There was also his 4.1 in the 20-yard shuttle (third-best among wide receivers), another drill that measures footwork and agility. (For more on Sanders and his agility, click my story here.)
2. There are short-term and long-term, considerations in play here. One, the one-year deal — which is for $2.5 million, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN — is a short-term way to pry Sanders from a conference competitor that has cap issues. (The Steelers depth chart at receiver would include a top three of Antonio Brown, Jerricho Cotchery and Plaxico Burress. Yikes.) Two, with Sanders in the fold — and if he shows any sort of proficiency in the Patriots’ passing game — it’s likely New England would try and work on a longer-term deal with him sometime over the course of the 2013 season.
3. If the Patriots do land Sanders (and, perhaps, bring back either Brandon Lloyd or Julian Edelman), this could change some of the conventional wisdom regarding New England possibly going after a wide receiver in this month’s draft — they would effectively be spending a third-round pick on Sanders. Considering the Patriots’ recent run when it comes to drafting and developing wide receivers, history tells us this is the smart play. In the last 10 years — starting with the 2003 draft — the Patriots have selected eight receivers that have a combined 165 career receptions in the NFL, with 69 of them coming from Edelman, a converted college quarterback. Bethel Johnson with 39 career receptions and Brandon Tate with 37 career catches are the only others who have topped 30. Meanwhile, Wes Welker had 118 of his own last season.
4. The combination of Sanders and Danny Amendola would give the Patriots two receivers who have played both in the slot and on the outside, and could give New England some versatility when it comes to deploying what would likely be its two top receivers in the passing game. You would then possibly have Donald Jones, Michael Jenkins and (perhaps) Edelman or Lloyd filling out the depth chart at wide receiver, as well as a handful of younger possibilities like Kamar Aiken, Jeremy Ebert and Andre Holmes.
5. The whole situation involving Sanders and the Patriots is vaguely reminiscent of the scenario that played out in the spring of 2007 when New England landed Welker. In that case, the Patriots were initially planning on signing Welker — who was a restricted free agent — to an offer sheet worth (you guessed it) $1.3 million, the same price as the Sanders offer. However, both teams decided to avoid the usual red-tape that goes along with the RFA process and work out a trade instead — the Patriots sent a second- and seventh-round pick to Miami in exchange for Welker. The receiver got a five-year, $18.1 million deal and the Patriots got Welker, who would then proceed to run off one of the greatest six-year stretches for any receiver in the history of the game.
|04.10.13 at 10:41 am ET|
The Patriots have submitted a one-year offer sheet to restricted free agent Emmanuel Sanders, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports.
The Steelers now have five days to match the offer to Sanders — a one-year contract — and keep the receiver, or decide to pass and allow Sanders to join New England. If the Patriots do acquire Sanders, it would cost them their third-round pick in this year’s draft, which is 91st overall.
Sanders, a 5-foot-11, 180-pounder out of SMU, has 94 receptions for 1,290 yards and five touchdowns in his three-year career with the Steelers.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|04.10.13 at 7:12 am ET|
WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that might be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2013 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: Defensive end/outside linebacker
School: Ohio State
Weight: 263 pounds
Achievements: 2012 Big Ten Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year, 2012 Big Ten Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year, 2012, 2011 All-Big Ten (media, coaches), 2012 All-America third team (AP), 2012 Walter Camp All-America second team, 2011 Bill Willis Trophy (nation’s most outstanding defensive lineman), 2010 All-Big Ten honorable mention (2010)
What he brings: Simon was recognized as one of the great leaders in college football and has both great physical and mental strength. He has good agility and outstanding upper-body strength that helps him consistently make tackles. He’s very good with his hands, batting down arms of linemen attempting to block him. Simon reportedly is a great teammate and leader who is extremely dedicated and motivated. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer constantly referred to Simon as the “heart and soul” of the 2012 Buckeyes.
Where the Patriots could get him: Round 3 or later
Notes: Simon is only the eighth two-time captain in Ohio State history. He led the Big Ten in sacks (9.0) and ranked second in tackles for loss (14.5) in 2012. In his senior season, Simon tied a school record with 5.0 tackles for loss against Nebraska. Simon has been compared to Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich.
Video: Here’s a look at Simon in action vs. Penn State last season.
|04.09.13 at 1:37 pm ET|
The Patriots have been looking for coverage linebackers for the last year-plus. Veteran Bobby Carpenter had a brief audition last season but didn’t click. Jeff Tarpinian has been on and off the roster the last couple of years, and while Rob Ninkovich can still drop into coverage — he has four career picks — he’s transitioned more into a pass-rusher at this point in his career.
While Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and Dont’a Hightower have shown an ability to run with tight ends and running backs in coverage the last few years, the Patriots still could use a linebacker who could work in coverage in space, specifically in nickel packages on passing downs. (Going back and rewatching the AFC title game, while the injury to cornerback Aqib Talib affected New England’s pass defense, it’s clear the Patriots also struggled to defend the middle of the field against the Ravens passing game.)
As prep work for the 2013 season begins this month, here are four possibilities for the Patriots to keep in mind when it comes to coverage linebackers.
1. One player who wasn’t available in 2012 but could provide a boost in 2013 is Dane Fletcher. The 6-foot-2, 242-pound linebacker went down with a season-ending knee injury in August, but in the past he has shown an occasional ability to be someone who could contribute on passing downs. At the end of the 2011, he fundamentally took over the coverage job that was held for a few seasons by Gary Guyton — he averaged more than half the defensive snaps played over the final four games of the 2011 regular season — and while he didn’t reinvent the position, he certainly showed enough to be considered when you’re talking about coverage linebackers in New England in 2013.
2. For what it’s worth, Spikes did improve over the course of the season — remarkably, he finished with seven passes defensed, although that could be because opposing offenses threw in his direction so much because they believed he was a liability in coverage. Regardless, seven passes defensed is pretty impressive, particularly when you consider the fact that he was tied for third on the team with starting cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. He is never going to be confused with Ty Law when it comes to working in pass defense, but if he continues to show improvement, he could become a legitimate three-down linebacker in 2013.
(One other thing to remember about Spikes — the linebacker is entering the final year of his rookie deal, and if he continues to trend upward — particularly when it comes to working in coverage — and stay healthy, he could end up costing the Patriots more money than they may have initially anticipated.)
While Mayo has consistently shown an ability to work well in coverage over the course of his career (he had three passes defensed and a pick in 2012), the one to really watch this year could be Hightower. Although he had his rookie moments, he did show enough over the course of his first season in the NFL that could lead you to believe that he can contribute on a regular basis. To that point, Pro Football Focus had him at +3.1 in pass coverage as a rookie — that was second-best among all New England linebackers in 2012, trailing only Mayo’s +5.6.