|Could Aqib Talib’s departure set stage for Patriots’ pursuit of Darrelle Revis?||03.12.14 at 1:32 am ET|
The departure of Aqib Talib for Denver — and a six-year, $57 million deal that includes $26 million in guaranteed money — leaves a hole in the Patriots secondary.
As it relates to the offseason, Talib’s decision changes the landscape for New England, namely when it comes to the possibility of Darrelle Revis in Foxboro. While the acquisition of Revis was a fantasy football-style pipe dream beforehand (just move some money around and voila!), now with Talib leaving for Denver, there’s the genuine possibility that the Patriots could acquire Revis.
The veteran corner, who apparently will be cut (or traded) by the Buccaneers on Wednesday, could be had for a little as a fifth-round pick, according to Jason LaCanfora, who tweeted Tuesday night that Revis wants to be in New England. A three-time first-team All-Pro who will turn 29 before the start of the 2014 season, the 6-foot, 205-pounder has established a well-earned reputation as one of the best defensive backs in the recent history of the game. He has 21 career picks in seven years in the league, and the only reason that number isn’t higher is because quarterbacks have almost stopped throwing in his direction entirely. According to the analytical site Pro Football Focus, quarterbacks threw in his direction just 63 times last year, the second-fewest pass attempts against any cornerback who had at least 800 snaps last year (he trailed only Seattle’s Richard Sherman).
“He covers big guys, small guys. He’s quick, he’s fast, he’s patient, he’s strong,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said of Revis prior to the Patriots-Bucs game last September. “He doesn’t have any weaknesses. I don’t think I’ve completed many balls on his side of the field very often. He’s not a guy that you want to test and see how well you’re going to do. He’s just a great all-around player.”
No one is debating the greatness of Revis, but it’s a double-edged sword when you talk about his current situation: If the Patriots decide to push their chips to the middle of the table and swing a deal for the defensive back, they’d be taking on a massive contract the likes of which they’ve rarely dealt with, as well as a player who has a history of holdouts. (For what it’s worth, the Patriots have never paid a cornerback more than $10 million annually. I know the financial landscape has changed over the years with the fluctuating cap numbers, but that’s a sizable milestone to consider when talking about a possible pickup of Revis.)
And if they wait out the process and try to pick him up if he’s cut, they almost certainly would be bidding against a series of teams like the Raiders and Browns who have a lot more cap space than New England has at this point.
If one was to read between the lines, if the Patriots would be interested in making a play for Revis, it would mean they would have to give themselves some financial flexibility. If you start to see names like Isaac Sopoaga hit the waiver wire on Wednesday, that would be a pretty fair indication that New England is doing whatever it can to create some cap room to accommodate the veteran corner.
It is worth mentioning that the Patriots do have some other options in free agency. Both Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (who recently ended talks with the Broncos) and Antonio Cromartie are on the market, as well as Charles “Peanut” Tillman and Walter Thurmond. (However, Jacksonville is considered the favorite to land Thurmond at this point, as former Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is the head coach there.) In addition, this draft class is considered excellent when it comes to cornerbacks, with as many as five potential first- or second-rounders this year in Darqueze Dennard (Michigan State), Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State), Jason Verrett (TCU), Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech) and Bradley Roby (Ohio State).
But ultimately, none of those names would bring the same sort of star power to Foxboro. History tells us that it would be rare, but if the Patriots want to break with tradition go all in on a marquee cornerback, they could have their best chance to do it Wednesday.
|Knee injury will force Aqib Talib to skip Pro Bowl||01.20.14 at 9:43 pm ET|
Talib suffered a knee injury in the first half of Sunday’s loss to the Broncos, and as a result, won’t get to make the trip to Hawaii. It was the first Pro Bowl invite for the 27-year-old, who finished the season with four picks.
The play on which the injury occurred has become a flashpoint, as New England coach Bill Belichick argued that Denver wide receiver Wes Welker made one of the “worst plays” he had ever seen when he deliberately crashed into Talib.
“It was a deliberate play by the receiver to take out Aqib. No attempt to get open,” Belichick said. “I’ll let the league handle the discipline on that play, whatever they decide. It’s one of the worst plays I’ve seen. That’s all I’ll say about that.”
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|Pats-Jets roundup: Mike DeVito says Jets are ‘loose’ heading into Thanksgiving night game||11.21.12 at 12:50 pm ET|
The Jets are 4-6 and heavy underdogs heading into Thursday night’s game against the Patriots, but one player indicated the team is feeling “loose” heading into the contest.
Jets defensive end Mike DeVito said the normal tightness associated with a matchup against the Patriots is missing this week, and he said the team is ready to go.
“I feel like we were real loose this week at practice, which is good to see,” said DeVito a Cape Cod native who played collegiately at Maine. “I think a tendency that we’ve had in the past when it’s Patriots Week is to tighten up, you naturally get a little bit tight because you recognize the importance of the game, and how physical and ratcheted up it always is. … You play this game too tight, you’re not going to be successful. You play this game loose and with swag and having fun, that’s when you’re going to do well, and I think guys are happy about that.
“I just know we play well when we feel like this.”
Added DeVito when asked if the team was ready to play its best game: “Without a doubt, yeah, without a doubt. Guys are really confident. We’re jelling as a team, we believe in each other, and I have no doubt that we’re going to be ready to go on Thursday night.”
Jets center Matt Slauson wants it to be known that the Jets are ready to fight.
“I would expect to see a high-motor, high-enthusiasm team. … We’re going to be flying around that field,” he said. “Regardless of what happens in the game, we’re going to fight until the very end of the game with everything we got.”
♦ Rex Ryan is not underestimating the talent level of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. The Jets coach hailed Brady as a “once-in-a-generation quarterback” as he prepares his team to defend the Patriots offense.
“The thing about him, he’s a machine yet he’s passionate and a fiery leader,” Ryan said Tuesday. “You wish he was just a machine. His competitive side elevates his team as well. That’s what you get from those once-in-a-generation-type quarterbacks.”
|Antonio Cromartie is not Darrelle Revis but he’s still ‘got a lot of talent’||10.18.12 at 5:24 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Most observers assumed when Darrelle Revis went down on Sept. 23 in Miami with a torn ACL that the Jets defense – and specifically their secondary – was cooked.
After all, Antonio Cromartie – the man immediately pegged as Revis’ replacement – had been good but he didn’t figure to have leadership qualities that Revis commands when he enters a defensive backs meeting.
But Cromartie has stepped up to become the defensive back the Jets thought they were getting in 2010 when he joined the team after four seasons with the Chargers. He leads the Jets with three interceptions, including one each in New York’s last two games without Revis. The Jets are allowing just 209 passing yards per game. Only four defenses in the NFL are better this year against the pass.
“He’s talented,” said Brandon Lloyd, who faced Cromartie across the line of scrimmage in 2010, when Lloyd was with the Broncos. “He’s got a lot of talent, a lot of speed and plays really well.”
Lloyd had four catches for 74 yards, including one grab for 29 yards, in that Oct. 2010 meeting.
Then there’s Tom Brady, who was called a not-so nice name by Cromartie before their playoff game in Jan. 2011.
Now? Well, it’s all about mutual respect.
“I’ve always said I think he’s a great player,” Brady said this week. “I mean, he’s one of the best corners in the league and has been for a while. I usually don’t get into it much. Wish I could help you more.”
Brady did admit it will be strange to look out to his right and not see No. 24 in “Gang Green.”
“He’s a great player – one of the best I’ve ever gone against. At the same time, I think they’ve moved on from that situation and played really well last week against Indianapolis without him. They still have a very good defense. It’s built around their team and their scheme and they have very good players: big, powerful guys that run well, very instinctive.
“They have a lot of veteran players at safety and linebacker. Cromartie is a heck of a player in his own right and he’s had a great season, so he’s really assumed the role of matching to the opponent’s No. 1 receiver – or perceived No. 1 receiver. They seem like they’re still doing what they’ve always done and playing very well.”
|Patriots Positional Playoff Preview: Tight ends||01.04.12 at 3:08 pm ET|
With the Patriots off this weekend and the postseason ready to begin, we’ve got the Patriots Positional Playoff Preview, a weeklong, position-by-position look at the Patriots and how they look heading into the postseason. We’ve already broken down the running backs and quarterback. Now, it’s the tight ends.
Depth chart: Rob Gronkowski (90 catches, 1,327 yards, 17 receiving touchdowns), Aaron Hernandez (79 catches, 910 yards, seven touchdowns).
Overview: In just over a year, the Patriots’ passing game has evolved from a system that had almost no input from the tight ends into one that has become more reliant on tight ends than any other passing game in the league. The combination of Hernandez and Gronkowski represents a matchup nightmare for almost every opposing defense in the NFL — Hernandez, who has the build of a wide receiver, can be used as an in-line blocker, in the slot or split wide, while Gronkowski’s size and catch radius make him one of the best and most dependable targets in the league.
Gronkowski set numerous marks this year: his 1,327 receiving yards were a new record for most receiving yards in a season by a tight end. In addition, he finished the season with 18 overall touchdowns (17 receiving, 1 rushing). His 17 overall touchdowns passed Curtis Martin (17 overall in 1996) for the second highest single-season total in Patriots history and the most in NFL history by a tight end. In addition, he was fourth in the league in yards after catch with 668.
It’s not just their pass-catching abilities that make them unique. In the case of Gronkowski, he has become one of the better blocking tight ends in the league, and over the last month, with the New England offensive line in a state of recent reconstruction, he has been utilized more as a blocker. Going forward, the Patriots will continue to face some elite pass rushers, and so it wouldn’t be a surprised to see Gronkowski used as a blocker more often. That would put more of a burden on Hernandez to step up his game, and down the stretch, he has certainly done that.
Best Moment: Both had several incredible moments over the course of the season, but our vote goes to Gronkowski’s performance in the Dec. 11 win over the Redskins in Washington, where he rumbled for an extraordinary 160 yards on six catches, including a Bavaro-esque 49-yard catch and run where he shook a handful of Redskins’ tacklers on the way to the Washington red zone.
Worst Moment: It’s almost nitpicking, but perhaps the worst of the season came late in the first half of the win over the Jets where Hernandez bobbled a Tom Brady pass on the goal line that would have given New England a touchdown. Instead, Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie snatched it out of the air and took it back to midfield at the end of the half. As for Gronkowski, he was the second-most penalized player on the team this season with six flags against him.
By the numbers, courtesy of Nuggetpalooza: A Patriots’ tight end caught at least one pass for a gain of 20+ yards in 15 of the 16 games this season. No other team’s tight end managed such a catch in more than 12.
Money quote: “The skill set of both those players really allows us to be flexible. Not only are they good blockers, but they can catch the ball, too. You can run it behind them, you can play-action pass and then they’ve become pretty efficient in the passing game also, just to spread them out and be able to run them on different run combinations. They’re very good players.” – Brady on Gronkowski and Hernandez
|Deion Branch is grateful for replay on this Sunday||10.09.11 at 10:05 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Talk about a buzz kill. Just two plays earlier, the Tom Brady finally connected on a deep post pattern to Wes Welker, a 73-yard strike to the Jets 8-yard line.
The crowd was buzzing after the opening play of the second half had the Patriots looking to add to a slim 10-7 halftime lead. Then, BenJarvus Green-Ellis went up the middle for a yard.
Then, Brady was flushed out of the pocket, running for his life like he had all afternoon and found Deion Branch at the Jets 3. Branch caught the ball with no one on him. He touched his right knee to the turf but since no one got to him, he was free to get up and advance. But before he could, Calvin Pace came over and poke the ball out from Branch’s arms.
The Jets recovered and hustled on the field but Bill Belichick immediately threw the red challenge flag. The play would be reviewed. Was Branch certain it would be overruled?
“Honestly even when I saw it on the jumbotron, I was like it’s going to be a close one, it could go either way,” Branch admitted. “It’s one of those bang-bang plays. Yeah my knee was down but it could have gone the other way as well.”
Branch had one HUGE mulligan. Instead of a momentum-killing fumble and turnover, the Patriots had new life. Branch took advantage by making Antonio Cromartie look very foolish on a curl route in the back of the end zone. Naturally, Brady found him for the quarterback’s only TD pass of the day.
“Oh that would have been big,” Branch said of the turnover that wasn’t. “That one would have been big. Because you can almost, if you think about it, we were in the red area and Wes caught a 73-yard pass play, got us down to the 10 yard line and then if that would have happened, it would have taken all the air out of us. Starting out the second half, we always preach about starting fast, both halves and we did that. That would have been bad, but I’m glad it went the other way. ”
|Devin McCourty on D&C: ‘Always a little extra energy’ vs. Jets||10.07.11 at 8:24 am ET|
Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Friday morning, as the Pats prepare for Sunday’s game against the rival Jets. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
McCourty tried to not play up the game too much, but he did acknowledge, “There’s always a little extra energy. It’s always a big game. Any divisional game, when we go in, both teams know each other well. Everybody will be coming into this game excited and ready to just get after it.”
Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie said this week that the Jets’ game plan is to “beat the hell out of their receivers.” Responded McCourty: “That’s just a guy, he has a lot of confidence. He’s a great player, and he’s just competitive. I think that’s what all that stems from. He goes out there and he wants to compete. I think that’s probably where he’s coming from with that comment.”
There has been speculation that Darrelle Revis could spend some time covering Wes Welker. McCourty said he’s defended Welker in practice, and it isn’t easy.
Said McCourty: “I’ve been on him a couple of times. It’s tough for me, just like you see those guys in the game covering him. … When you put his quickness together with his knowledge of the game of football and what’s going on, it’s tough to just cover him. Because he knows exactly where he wants to be, how long he’s going to take to get there. Sometimes you think you’re playing great coverage on him, but he’s really just setting everything up to get open maybe later in the down or something. Wes is a guy who knows what he’s doing, and he has great athletic ability.”
The Pats defense continues to put up numbers that rank it near the bottom of the league. McCourty, however, sees the group getting better.
“I think it’s going to be week by week,” he said. “We’ve already made improvements when you talk about from Week 1 until now. … We understand how we have to play defense, and each week we’re getting a little better.”
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