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NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Alabama OLB Courtney Upshaw 03.22.12 at 7:43 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 2012 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.

COURTNEY UPSHAW

Position: Outside linebacker

School: Alabama

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 265 pounds

Achievements: Coaches’ All-SEC first team (2011), AP All-America second team (2011), BCS national championship defensive MVP (2012)

What he brings: Upshaw was one of the standout talents on an Alabama defense that was among the nation’s leaders in scoring and total defense, a skill that was evidenced when the Crimson Tide shut out LSU in the BCS national championship game. He is a top-level pass rusher who seemingly always finds his way to pressure the quarterback. Upshaw has also been repeatedly praised for his defensive and pass rushing instincts that extends well beyond his natural talent and ability.

Where the Patriots could get him: Round 1

Notes: Upshaw’s college coach, Nick Saban, said that he believes Upshaw can play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense as well as defensive end in other schemes. En route to winning the game’s defensive MVP award in a game in which Alabama didn’t allow LSU to cross midfield until the fourth quarter, Upshaw had a game-high seven tackles, including a sack, and spent much of the night in the LSU backfield.

He has also been routinely praised for having a keen ability to not only pressure opposing quarterbacks, but also in stopping screens, draws and reverses. Upshaw’s athleticism has also been noted as a strength. He participated in the NFL combine and had 22 reps with 225 pounds on the bench press, the only combine test in which he took part.

Related Articles:

SI.com: Courtney Upshaw: Why I didn’t participate in all of the combine tests

NFL.com: Upshaw draws energy from Saban, Indy visit

Video: Here’s Upshaw in his defensive MVP performance in the BCS national championship against LSU.

Read More: 2012 NFL Draft, 2012 Potential Patriots, Courtney Upshaw,
Joe Theismann on D&C: Peyton Manning ‘the right move’ for Broncos 03.21.12 at 12:09 pm ET
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Former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Joe Theismann joined the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday to discuss, among other things, the Broncos’ signing of Peyton Manning and what may become of Tim Tebow‘s future in the wake of Manning’s arrival.

When asked if the Broncos made the most sense of the teams that Manning was considering, a final list that reportedly also included the Titans and 49ers, Theismann said that while we may never know what the main deciding factors were in Manning’s decision, he feels that Manning was heavily influenced by the presence of Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway.

‘€œWell, it depends upon what Peyton wanted and what Peyton saw,” Theismann said. “We can prognosticate about a lot of different things — what he might have wanted, what he thought about things — [but] he’€™s the only one that really looked at the organizations and said, ‘€˜This is the best chance for me to do what I want to do at the end of my career.’€™ I think he connected with John Elway. You’€™re talking about two of the greatest players that ever played the game getting on the same page, having a vision.’€

With Manning now in the fold for the Broncos, Theismann said the team is unquestionably better with its high-profile addition at quarterback.

“Everyone in the organization is going to be better because of Peyton Manning,” Theismann said. “Last year in Denver, you have to understand, you had Tim Tebow learning how to play professional football. He still has to learn to be more accurate throwing the football if he wants to have a career in this league.

“So you had him learning, you had [Eric] Decker learning, you had Demaryius Thomas learning, you had John Fox learning. Now you have someone that brings a lot of experience, and I think it’€™s the right move for the Denver Broncos.’€

Manning’s arrival in Denver casts immediate doubt over Tebow’s future as the Broncos quarterback. It has been widely speculated and reported that Tebow is likely to be traded. Theismann said that Tebow, despite the success he has experienced thus far in his career, still has a long way to go before becoming a standout NFL quarterback.

‘€œHe’€™s going to have to be a more accurate thrower of the football,” Theismann said. “If Tim Tebow can approach 58-60 percent throwing the football, I think he can be a great asset to any football team, but that’€™s a big if. I think that’€™s a bigger if than Peyton Manning’€™s health is an if.’€

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Read More: Brett Favre, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Joe Theismann
NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: North Alabama CB Janoris Jenkins 03.09.12 at 8:19 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 2012 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.

JANORIS JENKINS

Position: Cornerback

School: North Alabama

Height: 5-foot-10

Weight: 191 pounds

Achievements: All-Gulf South Conference second team, Associated Press All-America Division 2 second team, D2Football.com All-America second team

What he brings: Jenkins played just one season for Terry Bowden and North Alabama, and is primarily known for his time at Florida. He was a three-year starter for the Gators and was the second true freshman in school history to start at cornerback on opening day. His most recent season with Florida in 2010, Jenkins made 43 tackles and three interceptions, both career-bests at the FBS level. However, Jenkins does not come without baggage. He was dismissed from Florida in 2011 after being arrested for misdemeanor marijuana charges, his second drug-related arrest in three months, and in June 2009, he was arrested near a Florida bar for fighting and resisting arrest.

On the field, many consider Jenkins to be the top senior cornerback in the draft. He is light on his feet with an explosive closing burst of speed on receivers, as evidenced by his low 40 time of 4.36. Jenkins also made a considerable impact as a punt returner, finishing second in Division 2 in punt returns with a 21.7 average on 18 returns. He was the only Division II player with three punt returns for touchdowns.

Where the Patriots could get him: Round 1

Notes: Even for a cornerback Jenkins is a little undersized, but it has been noted that he has a natural feel for the position. He finished the 2011 season with 53 tackles, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. In 2010, Jenkins was voted All-SEC first team by the media and All-SEC second team by the league’s coaches. Dane Bulger of NFLDraftScout.com wrote that based on pure talent and ability, removing all of the character questions surrounding him, Jenkins is a “top-10 prospect.”

Recent articles:

Detroit Free Press: CBs Janoris Jenkins, Dre Kirkpatrick have a lot to prove at NFL combine

Orlando Sentinel: Ex-Gators star Janoris Jenkins says he has ‘nothing to hide’

The Florida Times-Union: This grass is greener for ex-Gator Janoris Jenkins

Video: Here are highlights of Jenkins from 2011.

Read More: 2012 NFL Draft, 2012 Potential Patriots, Janoris Jenkins,
NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Boise State FS George Iloka 03.08.12 at 11:16 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 2012 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.

GEORGE ILOKA

Position: Free safety

School: Boise State

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 216 pounds

Achievements: All-Mountain West first team (2011), Athlon Sports Preseason All-America second team (2011), All-Western Athletic Conference first team (2010)

What he brings: Iloka (pronounced Eye-LOKE-uh) played all 13 games for the Broncos in his senior season at free safety, but he does not possess stats traditionally associated with safeties. Iloka did not record a single interception in the 2011 season, but he was second on the team in tackles with 58. His physical frame and tackling ability may lead one to think Iloka is a linebacker prospect, but the Houston native has run the 40 in as low as 4.42 seconds and possesses the kind of elite speed that is needed deep in the secondary. His man-coverage skills and technique have been a point of criticism.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 2-3

Notes: Iloka helped his stock with an impressive week of practices leading up to the Senior Bowl, although he recorded just one tackle in the game. He had a season-high 12 tackles in the Broncos’ 37-26 win over Air Force on Oct. 22. … Initially tagged as immature early in his Boise State career, Iloka was able to transform into to a team leader and a hard worker. He has also been described by teammates as an “amazing athlete.” Many have written that Iloka may be moved to cornerback in the NFL, a move he has said he would be willing to accept.

Recent articles:

Idaho Statesman: George Iloka has worked diligently to mature into a leader

Sports Illustrated: Top defensive back prospects to emerge out of Senior Bowl

Idaho Statesman: George Iloka seizes opportunity to make impact

Video: Here’s Iloka talking about his pro future and the possibility of playing corner.

Read More: 2012 NFL Draft, 2012 Potential Patriots, george iloka,
National media sounds off on Saints’ bounty system 03.05.12 at 3:35 pm ET
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Never without controversy lately regarding issues of rough play and player safety, the NFL has another scandal on its hands as a league investigation found that the Saints were guilty of a wide-reaching system of payments to defensive players from former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for knocking out star offensive players on opposing teams.

The system of bounties reportedly involved between 22 and 27 players and spanned from 2009 to 2011. With the information now at the heart of discussion surrounding the NFL, many have begun to opine on what should happen to the Saints and how player-conscious NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will punish Williams and the Saints franchise for their transgressions.

Sports Illustrated NFL writer Don Banks wrote that because of this bounty system, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton face the most trouble of anyone in this saga.

Wrote Banks: This one stinks, NFL fans, and the stench goes top to bottom in the Saints organization. New Orleans can’t realistically make everyone pay with their jobs. There will be league fines and likely suspensions. But for Loomis and Payton, the accountability should be at a level commensurate with their responsibility. They were in charge of this show, and they know what comes with being the men at the top.

You get the credit and the blame. And this time, there’s nothing but blame to go around.

While Banks wrote that Loomis and Payton will undoubtedly be in trouble and could face the threat of losing their jobs, ESPN NFL writer Ashley Fox takes it a step further — she feels that the two men should be fired for their involvement and lack of action in helping prevent Williams’ payment system.

Wrote Fox: According to the NFL’s report, when [Saints owner Tom] Benson directed Loomis earlier this season to ensure that any bounty program be discontinued immediately, Loomis did not follow Benson’s directions. “Similarly, when the initial allegations were discussed with Mr. Loomis in 2010,” the report continued, “he denied any knowledge of a bounty program and pledged he would ensure that no such program was in place. There is no evidence that Mr. Loomis took any effective action to stop these practices.”

If the NFL’s report is true, Loomis defied a direct order from his owner. That is grounds for dismissal. And Payton was no better.

For others, though, the issue of the Saints’ bounty system extends far beyond a single team. Greg Couch of Fox Sports believes that those behind the bounty system in New Orleans should undoubtedly be punished, but that the culture of the NFL is also to blame in all of this.

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Read More: Brett Favre, Charles Barkley, Damien Woody, Dave Duerson
National media reflects on what won, lost Super Bowl XLVI 02.06.12 at 12:18 pm ET
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In the immediate aftermath of the Giants‘ 21-17 victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI Sunday night, several major national publications and outlets tried to dissect and figure out what happened at Lucas Oil Stadium, as well as the long-lasting effects of this game moving forward.

Sports Illustrated senior NFL writer Peter King, in his weekly Monday Morning Quarterback piece, wrote that there is no quarterback he would rather have in the final two minutes with the game on the line than Eli Manning.

Wrote King: I still can’t get over that throw from Eli Manning to Mario Manningham. As much as I respect the catch (it will be the greatest of Manningham’s career, no matter how long he plays), I am in awe of the throw. How did Manning make that throw? Why make that throw? Why did he pick the target of the guy with a corner in coverage and a safety flying over to crush Manningham? The 38-yard throw — which began an 88-yard, Super Bowl-winning touchdown drive that Bill Belichick will see in his nightmares — is just one more reason to never, ever question how good Eli Manning is. He will have some crappy games the rest of his career, because two or three times a year he stinks. But I ask you: What quarterback alive do you want with the ball in his hands in the last two minutes of a big game?

Thought so. Eli Manning.

Despite the three Super Bowl rings and the five Super Bowl appearances that Belichick and Tom Brady have amassed in their time together, Mike Freeman of CBS Sports feels that the legacies of both men will suffer as a result of the Patriots’ second loss to the Giants in a Super Bowl.

Wrote Freeman: This was both Brady’s finest moment and his worst. The same could be said for Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Both are among the best in history. Both have forgotten more about their craft than most will ever know but there is no question about the following: their impressive legacies take a hit. A pretty good sized one, too.

There are some already reassessing the Patriots legacy. Noting that the Patriots haven’t won a Super Bowl since the Spygate scandal, Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison tweeted just minutes after the game: “Told you, cheaters never win!!!!!!!!!”

Brady has been beaten twice now by Eli Manning in the biggest of spots and Belichick has lost to Coughlin the same. That’s not great for legacies. That’s what you call rebuttal material.

With otherwise sterling legacies and reputations now under question, some observers, like Bill Reiter of Fox Sports, wonders whether Sunday night’s loss may have signaled the end of the Patriots’ run as title contenders.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, boomer esiason, Eli Manning, James Harrison
New York media basks in Giants Super Bowl victory 02.06.12 at 11:26 am ET
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With the Giants completing their full transformation from 7-7 and on life support Dec. 17 to Super Bowl champions Sunday night, the New York media reflected on what the game meant for the teams and players involved in the win.

For several New York writers, individual legacies were forged last night, at least for the Giants.

Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post writes that, now with his second career Super Bowl notched, Giants coach Tom Coughlin should now be a lock for the Hall of Fame.

Wrote Vaccaro: He’€™s been up and down and over and out, time and again, yet now, after this, after these two improbable championships, there is little question that whenever Coughlin decides he is done ‘€” and that will be entirely his decision now, make no mistake ‘€” he will take the passing lane to Canton, to the Hall of Fame, to a bronze bust and immortality. In so many ways, this was the season he came as close as he ever has to channeling his hero, John Wooden, the old UCLA basketball coach. As late as Saturday night, gathering his team for one last meeting, Coughlin preached an old football psalm.

One last time, he told them, ‘€œChampionships are won by teams who love one another. Just like this team does.’€

Continuing with the praise for Coughlin, Hank Gola of the New York Daily News feels that Coughlin and the Giants coaching staff, for a second time in two Super Bowls, managed to outcoach Bill Belichick and the Patriots staff.

Wrote Gola: Bill Belichick played rope a dope Sunday, nearly sending another game plan to the Hall of Fame. But all it took was for Eli Manning and Mario Manningham to land one late punch, an example of that perseverance that carried the Giants to another Super Bowl championship.

‘€œThey were going to play it very conservatively defensively,’€ offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said after watching another game-winning drive. ‘€œThey were going to see if we had the patience and discipline to throw the ball underneath and run quite frankly, we had some chances but we shot ourselves in the foot. We thought if we could stay close, we’€™ve been very good in the fourth quarter.’€

After causing a stir in the postgame Sunday night by declaring that the Giants “decapitated” the Patriots, Brandon Jacobs made another bold proclamation when he said that Manning, now with his second career Super Bowl victory, is the best quarterback in the NFL in an article by Steve Serby of the Post.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Brandon Jacobs, Eli Manning, Kevin Gilbride
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