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Chris Carter’s connection with Willie McGinest could help land him on Patriots’ radar 02.27.11 at 3:24 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS ‘€” For years, Patriots’€™ fans have been wondering how they could go about replacing Willie McGinest. The quintessential outside linebacker/defensive end, his size, speed and smarts helped create the template for what to look for when it comes to edge rushers in New England. It’€™s no surprise that since he departed following the 2005 season, the Patriots have struggled to replace him.

Now, it turns out that McGinest is helping tutor the next generation. The former Patriot is working with Fresno State’€™s Chris Carter, a 6-foot-1½, 248-pound defensive end who projects as an outside linebacker at the next level. With the Bulldogs, Carter ‘€” the 2010 WAC Defensive Player of the Year ‘€” was among the national sack leaders as a senior. In 2010, he led the WAC with 11 sacks and made 16.5 tackles for losses. He was selected first-team All-WAC each of the last two seasons, and finished his career with nearly 200 tackles and 19.5 sacks.

Projected as a mid- to late-round pick, the combination of McGinest’€™s tutelage, New England’€™s inconsistent pass rush and the fact that he plays for a former Bill Belichick assistant at Fresno in Pat Hill have likely combined to land Carter on the Patriots’€™ radar screen.

‘€œWe’€™ve been working primarily on drops,’€ Carter said Sunday at the NFL scouting combine when asked about his time with McGinest. ‘€œI know how to rush the passer. That’€™s my big thing, work on drops and perfecting that, getting the hips loose. Making sure we go over the defenses 100 percent and I know everyone’€™s assignment. When you play defensive end, you pretty much only have to know the front-seven assignments, but as a backer, one thing they emphasized is making sure we know everyone’€™s assignment.’€

While he doesn’€™t have the size that McGinest brought to the field ‘€” McGinest was 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds ‘€” Carter doesn’€™t sound worried that being ‘€œvertically challenged’€ would be a big problem at the next level.

‘€œI’€™m not too worried about that,’€ Carter said. ‘€œI don’€™t really think height makes a difference, you’€™re trying stay low, you’€™re trying to get low when you rush the end. So I don’€™t really get concerned with that.’€

Read More: Bill Belichick, Chris Carter, NFL scouting combine, Pat Hill
Florida’s Will Hill talks about recognizing Bill Belichick and hanging out with some of the Patriots at 2:36 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS ‘€” The last few years, the pipeline from Gainesville to Foxboro has been free-flowing with talent, as ex-Gators like Jermaine Cunningham, Brandon Spikes and Aaron Hernandez have all made their way from the University of Florida to New England. Before than, former Gators like Jeremy Mincey and Chad Jackson (not to mention veteran Fred Taylor) were among those who have spent time with the Patriots.

According to safety Will Hill, it’€™s hard to miss New England coach Bill Belichick when he shows up on the Gainesville campus. He’€™s best pals with the Florida coach, who recently stepped away from coaching full time.

‘€œI haven’€™t really spoken to him, [but] I’€™ve seen him around,’€ Hill said when asked about Belichick Sunday at the NFL scouting combine. ‘€œThat’€™s Urban Meyer‘s best friend.’€

And because ‘€œMeyer’€™s best friend’€ maintains an affinity for several of Meyer’€™s old players, Hill said Sunday he’€™s kept in touch with several Patriots over the last year, including Spikes and Hernandez.

‘€œWhen I first got [to Florida], nobody would talk to me,’€ Hill said. ‘€œThey took me under their wing.’€

Like Hernandez (who was hit with drug allegations last offseason) and Spikes (whose involvement in a sex tape surfaced on the Internet this past year), Hill has had been dogged by character issues ‘€” his Twitter feed read like an almost exaggerated account of a hard-partying college lifestyle.

But Hill said Sunday those days are all behind him, making sure to note with reporters that he has a wife and kids. In addition, thanks to his pals on the Patriots, he said he’€™s learned his lessons, saying the Spikes’€™ incident was a real eye-opener.

‘€œWe talked about that,’€ Hill said of the Spikes’€™ tape. ‘€œAt the end of it he was like well you learned what to do and what not to do. I learned from his mistake also.

‘€œThere’€™s rumors out here that Will Hill is a party guy. If I go out now, my wife is with me and my kids. I don’€™t go out to meet people or galavant. I sit back and just relax and enjoy my time.’€

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Bill Belichick, Brandon Spikes, Chad Jackson
Scott Pioli: This is a good draft for defensive ends and outside linebackers 02.26.11 at 1:30 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS ‘€” While no members of the Patriots’€™ braintrust are scheduled to address the media this weekend here at the NFL scouting combine, the next best thing for New England reporters who are on the scene in Indianapolis is hearing from Scott Pioli. To that end, the Chiefs GM, who made his bones working for Bill Belichick and the Patriots from 2000 through 2009 , was asked Saturday morning about the crop of defensive end/outside linebackers ‘€” an area the Patriots are expected to target ‘€” that are available in this year’€™s draft.

‘€œI think it’€™s a really good draft [for] some of the guys are defensive ends in a 4-3 or outside linebackers or potentially outside linebackers in the 3-4 defense. This is a strong class. This is a strong group of players,’€ Pioli said. ‘€œRegardless of the defense, there’€™s players who can help every defense in the National Football League at those positions.’€

However, Pioli cautioned that you can’€™t read too much into how they’€™d succeed until you see them work out, both this week at the combine and in individual workouts.

‘€œSome of those guys who are defensive ends who have had their hands in the dirt so to speak, really, you haven’€™t seen them drop [into coverage],’€ Pioli said. ‘€œThis is why it’€™s a critical time to work those players out ‘€” not that you’€™re going to know everything about their ability to drop into coverage, but you have to be able to look at them and see what their physical skills are when you go on campus and work them out or see them work out here. And there’€™s also the other part that you can’€™t really tell until he’€™s on your football team if he has the instincts and the awareness and the spatial awareness as a coverage guy.’€

Read More: Bill Belichick, NFL scouting combine, Scott Pioli,
Cameron Jordan: ‘The Patriots are a phenomenal team. I feel like they’re one of the good teams in the NFL’ at 1:00 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS ‘€” If Cal defensive lineman Cameron Jordan has already spoken to the Patriots, he’€™s doing a good job disguising it.

It’€™s believed that the engaging Jordan, who held court with the media here at the NFL scouting combine on Saturday morning for nearly 10 minutes, could provide the New England defense with a jolt if the Patriots decide to take him with one of their first two first-round selections. Jordan’€™s versatility and body type ‘€” the 6-foot-4, 287-pounder was a defensive lineman in college who could make the transition to outside linebacker in New England’€™s 3-4 defensive scheme ‘€” could make him awfully attractive to the Patriots at either No. 17 or No. 28. (Several mock drafts have him going to New England at No. 17.)

But if Jordan has already talked with Bill Belichick and the rest of the New England braintrust, he’€™s not telling.

‘€œI’€™ve talked to a plethora of teams, and it’€™s been pleasing just having the experience of talking to them,’€ Jordan said with a knowing smile when asked about the Patriots. ‘€œThe Patriots are a phenomenal team. I feel like they’€™re one of the good teams in the NFL. I’€™d just like to be part of [any] team.’€

Jordan, who said he’€™s ‘€œalways a happy guy ‘€” I usually wear a smile around, 24/7′€ says that he hits a ‘€œswitch’€ on game days.

‘€œIf you see my film, I’m hitting people. I’€™m laying people out,’€ Jordan said with a chuckle. ‘€œActually, there’s sort of a switch because I still have the smile on my face, but it’s all for a different mode. It’ll put the biggest smile on me to hit a quarterback and hear the wind come out of his chest. That just pleases me the most.’€

Jordan appears to have the physique to be either a defensive end or outside linebacker in a 3-4, but would likely have to either gain or shed weight to make that happen at the NFL level.

‘€œIf I’€™m seen more as a three-technique, I have to add some weight. Depending on whether I’€™m a defensive end or not, I might have to add or gain or lose or stay,’€ Jordan said. ‘€œI’€™ve gained weight. I’€™ve been up around 295 at my heaviest, and then I came into college at 265. I’€™ve played through different weights.’€

The son of former Minnesota Vikings tight end Steve Jordan, a six-time Pro Bowler who played collegiately at Brown, Jordan joked Saturday about wanting to ‘€œadvance’€ the family name. He said he plans on doing that by any means necessary.

‘€œMy motto is, ‘€˜Draft me and I’€™ll play anywhere. I don’€™t care where I play. I just want to be on a team. I just want to play football.’€™ That’€™s what I love doing. That’€™s what I hope to continue doing,’€ he said. ‘€œI have shown that I can stand up. I can play the three technique. I can play the five technique. Like I said ‘€” put me anywhere, and I’€™ll play.’€

Read More: Bill Belichick, Cameron Jordan, NFL scouting combine, Steve Jordan
Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi starting to look like a Patriot 02.25.11 at 4:47 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS ‘€” If Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi is looking to get picked up by the Patriots, he’s certainly taking a good first step in his professional development ‘€” he’s decided to work with Tom Brady‘s personal quarterbacking guru, Tom Martinez.

The 6-foot-4, 223 pound Stanzi is not considered an elite prospect along the lines of Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert or Ryan Mallett, but is hoping a little extra knowledge from the man who helped develop Brady into an All-World quarterback can help him out.

“We’€™ve been working on a lot of mechanical stuff, talking about the throwing motion, the science of it,” Stanzi said of Martinez, who has tutored Brady since the Patriots quarterback was a teenager. “The same with the footwork and getting down to the nitty gritty details, finding little tweaks or different moves that might be able to help you get a little more speed on the ball, get the ball a little bit deeper.

“At the same time, keeping what you do and fine-tuning it, finding some things you hadn’€™t known about, and now you can throw the ball with a little more power or deeper.”

Does Brady come around a lot when you guys are working?

“No, he’€™s got better things to do,” Stanzi said with a grin.

The Patriots are pretty secure with their backup quarterback situation, having gone with Brian Hoyer at the No. 2 spot the last two seasons. But New England is also one of just a few teams out there who go with two quarterbacks on their active roster, and if they wanted to add Stanzi, could almost certainly get him with a mid-round pick.

In addition to his work with Martinez, Stanzi also has another connection to the Patriots ‘€” while at Iowa, he played collegiately for former Bill Belichick assistant Kirk Ferentz, and Belichick certainly has an affinity for student-athletes who come of age while playing collegiately for an ex-assistant (Ferentz, Nick Saban, Pat Hill and Charlie Weis).

In that same vein, Stanzi said the experience he got in the pro-style offense under Ferentz will almost certainly benefit him at the next level.

“Coach Ferentz, the way he runs the program is very similar to the NFL,” Stanzi said. “The way he has his offense set up is very similar to how some other (NFL) teams do it.

“We’€™re under center a lot. It’€™s a lot of two-back sets. A tight end. A lot of traditional pro-style stuff that we do at Iowa. All that definitely gets you more familiar than a spread quarterback would be or someone who hasn’€™t had that. It doesn’€™t mean you’€™re better at it. It just means you’€™ve had more experience at it.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Blaine Gabbert, Brian Hoyer, Cam Newton
Mark Ingram talks about the Patriots and Bill Belichick at 3:41 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS ‘€” Alabama running back Mark Ingram has been linked to the Patriots by several local and national outlets, and with New England holding the No. 17 overall pick in the NFL draft, the Patriots could be interested in the former Heisman Trophy winner.

On Friday afternoon, Ingram said his knowledge of New England coach Bill Belichick is derived mostly from Belichick’s relationship with Alabama coach Nick Saban, who served as an assistant under Belichick in Cleveland.

“I know him and coach Saban and real close,” Ingram said when he was asked about Belichick. “I heard they’re kind of similar in their coaching styles and how they run things, but I haven’t talked to them yet. I have meetings coming up tonight and tomorrow ‘€” I don’t know who they’re with. But I haven’t talked to them yet.”

Saban and Belichick remain close, and as far as Ingram is concerned, anyone who is like Nick Saban is OK in his book.

“Coach Saban was great. He’s a demanding guy. He demands perfection,” Ingram said. “As long as you’re working hard and doing what you’re supposed to do, then he’s not going to bother you. But just learning from his defense and learning from him as a player has been so great. Everybody who comes from Alabama is mentally and physically prepared for the next level just because of the type of system he runs and how he runs his program.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Mark Ingram, NFL scouting combine, Nick Saban
Should the Patriots go after Mark Ingram? at 3:23 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS ‘€” There’s been lots of talk about whether or not the Patriots should use their first-round pick on a running back, specifically Mark Ingram of Alabama. New England, which would almost certainly have to use the No. 17 overall pick on Ingram if they hope to get him, has only drafted one running back in the first round since Bill Belichick took over ‘€” Laurence Maroney in 2006.

Ingram, who is scheduled to work out at the NFL scouting combine on Sunday, is considered one of the best running back talents available. NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi certainly believes that Ingram gets the yards after contact that will make him “a very effective player in the league.”

“I think Mark Ingram is kind of a unique player ‘€” he’€™s more of a power back that’€™s not as big as those power backs,” Lombardi said. “And I think that every back has his own unique style and his balance is incredible and he always gets yards after contact which makes him a very effective player in the league.”

However, Lombardi ‘€” who worked as a personnel man in Cleveland with Belichick ‘€” doesn’t sound like the kind of guy who believes in using a high pick on a running back.

“Running backs, you can find them. Look at Chris Ivory from Tiffin College. He comes in the NFL and plays very well for the Saints. Running backs can be found,” Lombardi said. “I just think you have to buy what you can’€™t find in the top 10. So that’€™s why I would focus on that. Receivers, look at Green Bay. There’€™s not a first-round pick on the field. They have two twos, a seventh round pick and a third round pick. I think you can find those guys.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Laurence Maroney, Mark Ingram, Mike Lombardi
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