|Countdown to Patriots Camp: Quarterback||07.22.12 at 8:55 pm ET|
In the days leading up to the start of Patriots training camp, we’ll take a quick look at how each position shakes out. We start our previews with a breakdown of the quarterback position.
THREE THINGS WE KNOW
1. Barring injury, Brady will start every game, and take at least 95 percent of the possible snaps. Per Pro Football Focus, no other quarterback in the league took more snaps than Brady in 2011, and that should be the case again in 2012.
2. Even with Brady set to turn 35 before the start of the 2012 season, considering the wealth of talent he’s been surrounded with, he has to be on the short list when it comes to preseason picks for MVP.
3. The Patriots offense won’t look dramatically different under Josh McDaniels as opposed to Bill O’Brien. The change in offensive coordinators is a change, but it won’t make for a colossal difference. Let’s be honest: while OC’s have come and gone over the years, the ultimate decision maker is Brady: If you get open, he’ll throw you the ball.
1. What’s the limit for Brady and the offense? The passing game won’t likely reach 2007 levels (50 touchdown passes, 69 percent completion percentage and a quarterback rating of 117, all career highs for Brady, all while averaging 41 points per game), but they might not be that far off. Brady has Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney, Deion Branch and others at receiver, while Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez remain the best young tight end duo in the league.
2. Who backs up Brady? At this point, it’s Hoyer. Mallett is coming off what is essentially a rookie redshirt season, as he spent the year acclimating himself to life in the NFL. In the spring, he certainly showed improvement in some areas (particularly his footwork, a major offseason point of emphasis), but right now, Hoyer is still the No. 2.
3. Will this be Hoyer’s final year in New England? The Michigan State product will be a free agent after the 2012 season, and while he’s tough to read because he’s never taken a truly meaningful snap during the regular season, many NFL people believe he’s farther along at this stage of his career than Matt Cassel was. With that in mind — and taking into account the market for quarterbacks, as well as Brady’s desire to play until he’s 40 — it’s reasonable to think Hoyer will be elsewhere next season.
|Report: Dont’a Hightower’s contract worth $7.7M, with roughly $6.3M guaranteed||07.19.12 at 7:51 pm ET|
While there’s no information yet on his base salaries, information has started to leak out about the four-year contract that was signed by Patriots rookie linebacker Dont’a Hightower. According to Aaron Wilson of scout.com, Hightower’s contract is worth $7.7 million, with nearly $6.3 million fully guaranteed.
By way of comparison, last year’s No. 25 pick — right tackle James Carpenter, taken by the Seahawks — signed a four-year, $7.641 million contract prior to the start of last season, a deal that contained $6.224 million guaranteed, including a $4.057 million signing bonus, per Rotoworld.
|Source: All Patriots rookies present and accounted for at Gillette Thursday morning||07.19.12 at 12:51 pm ET|
While the veterans still have a few more days of summer vacation, the Patriots rookies reported Thursday morning to the Gillette Stadium facility, and a source indicated that every one of New England’s rookie class was in attendance. (This morning, the Patriots tweeted out the photo to the right of some of the rookies at the training table.)
The rookies have traditionally reported a few days early as the team hopes to get them acclimated as fast as possible before the before the veterans arrive and full-squad camp begins next week.
|Patriots officially announce signing of Dont’a Hightower||07.19.12 at 12:26 pm ET|
The Patriots officially announced the signing of first-round pick Dont’a Hightower on Thursday. Here’s the complete transcript of the release from the team:
The New England Patriots announced the signing of first-round draft choice LB Dont’a Hightower today. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Hightower, 22, was selected by the Patriots with the 25th pick overall in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-3 inch, 270-pound linebacker from Alabama was a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik, Butkus and Lombardi Awards as well as a consensus All-American and a unanimous All-SEC first-team selection in 2011. Hightower started 42 of 44 games at Alabama and registered 234 total tackles, five sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumbles recovered, seven passes defensed, one interception and one blocked field goal.
After starting in 12 of 14 games as a true freshman in 2008, Hightower was granted a medical redshirt year in 2009 after being limited to just four games due to injury. He started all 13 games in 2010 and again in 2011. Last season, he led the team with a career-high 85 total tackles.
|Herm Edwards gets the Patriots fired up for the 2012 season||07.18.12 at 10:47 am ET|
Former NFL coach and current ESPN analyst Herm Edwards is giving each one of the 32 NFL teams a “pep talk” before the start of the season. Here’s his take on the Patriots, which was presented Wednesday morning on SportsCenter.
|Rob Gronkowski: I’d be ‘cool’ with a gay teammate||07.18.12 at 9:52 am ET|
Two Rob Gronkowski items from the last couple of days to get your day started:
1) In a quick Q&A at the ESPY’s a few days ago in Los Angeles, Gronkowski was approached by Outsports’ Cyd Zeigler, who asked him, ‘How would you feel if one of your teammates on the Patriots came out of the closet this season?’
‘If that’s how they are, that’s how they are,’ Gronkowski said. ‘I mean, we’re teammates so, as long as he’s being a good teammate and being respectful and everything, that’s cool.’
The exchange was part of an interesting blog post Zeigler has about attitudes toward homosexuality in the NFL. It’s well worth a read.
2) Our old pal Ian Rapoport caught up with Bay State native and former NHL star Jeremy Roenick in Tahoe for a celebrity golf tournament, and Roenick was effusive in his praise of the big Patriots tight end, saying that Gronk was ‘the next best thing to Jesus Christ.’
‘I’m a Patriots fan,’ Roenick said. ‘I grew up in Boston. I’m a big Patriots fan, a big Wes Welker fan, a big Tom Brady fan. So, being from that area, the Gronk is the next best thing to Jesus Christ, in my opinion. (Laughs) So, That’s my team. Unfortunately, Indianapolis was my other team because Peyton Manning was very much a favorite of mine. And that just didn’t work well. Now he’s in Denver, but still a problem.’
He’s also digs Wes Welker.
‘I like him because he’s a crazy son of a (gun),’ Roenick added. ‘You need to be to be his size and play the game the way he plays it. I just appreciate his mentality, appreciate his personality and the way he goes after it.’
|Brandon Lloyd talks about Tom Brady, Josh McDaniels and the sense of ‘urgency’ with the Patriots||07.17.12 at 8:23 pm ET|
Patriots wide receiver Brandon Lloyd talked with the fellas from ‘NFL Total Access’ Tuesday night on the NFL Network, and discussed playing with Tom Brady, the influence Josh McDaniels has had on his career and Bill Belichick‘s fashion sense. Here’s a portion of the interview. (To check out the whole thing, click HERE.)
On how playing with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has been like after catching passes from five different quarterbacks in 2011: ‘It’s been good. I’m not going to sit here and bore you guys with comparisons, but we had a very successful OTA and minicamp process. We’re looking forward to all of the work that we’re going to have to do in training camp for us to be successful this season.’
On why he wanted to rejoin with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels: ‘His coaching style definitely resonates well with me. He gets a good response out of the way he coaches and I think that a lot of players do. I’m not the only player that has played under Josh McDaniels who has had career-highs and had extremely successful seasons. He’s done that for a lot of players. To get the opportunity to play with him again and to play in that environment is truly an honor and I definitely look forward to our future success.’
On what about Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has surprised him so far: ‘He actually wears the cut-off sweatshirts all of the time [laughing]. That’s actually the way he does his clothes, so I was definitely impressed by that.’
On if the Patriots defense feels angry from last season: ‘Just the way that the season ended, I think everybody is focused on coming back and being better this season than they were last year. I haven’t polled the defense or asked them any questions about how they feel about last season, but I know that there is a sense of urgency on both sides of the football and the team wants to improve.’
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