|NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: LSU DE Sam Montgomery||02.20.13 at 8:24 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
Weight: 260 pounds
Achievements: 2012 AP All-America third team, 2012 Walter Camp All-America second team, 2011-12 Coaches’ All-SEC first team, 2011 FWAA All-American first team, 2010 Coaches’ Freshman All-SEC
What he brings: Montgomery entered the draft early after two standout seasons with one of the premiere defenses in college football. However, he’s not even the best defensive end prospect from LSU in this year’s draft, with former teammate Barkevious Mingo projected to come off the board within the first 15 selections.
The phrase “high motor” is thrown around a lot when describing “Sonic” Sam, who draws inspiration for his tenacity from the video game character Sonic the Hedgehog. Montgomery, who has experience rushing the passer from a standup position in addition to his work as a 4-3 end while at LSU, shows shows a lot of versatility in his game. Regardless of the team, it’s likely he can be plugged in early on without much concern for a glaring weakness in his game.
The main issue with Montgomery is that, while he’s a prime athletic specimen who excelled at the college level, the upside doesn’t appear to be there the same way it is with some of this draft’s more intriguing prospects.
Montgomery’s 17 sacks over his last two season at LSU certainly are a boon to his draft stock, but the big question for NFL scouts is how he got those sacks and whether or not his defensive skill set matches up well against NFL-level offensive linemen. Montgomery, who has a reputation as a very basic pass-rusher who has a long way to go in terms of developing an arsenal of pass-rush moves, must prove to NFL scouts that he can make the transition.
|Bill Belichick: Jermaine Cunningham will have some ‘catching up’ to do||12.26.12 at 4:26 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Defensive end Jermaine Cunningham returned to Patriots practice on Wednesday and will be eligible to return to game action this Sunday against Miami in the regular season finale. But Bill Belichick made it clear Wednesday that his return to the starting lineup is hardly automatic.
Cunningham was suspended Nov. 26 for four games by the NFL for violation of the league’s performance enhancing drug policy. At the time of his suspension, Cunningham was coming on stronger than anyone along the defensive line not named Vince Wilfork. He had six tackles against the Jets on Thanksgiving, with 2.5 sacks and six quarterback hits in 11 games before his league-mandated break.
“I think any time a player comes back after an absence for awhile – whatever the reasons are don’t matter – that there’s a combination of catching up mentally to what’s going on but also catching up from a technique standpoint and also communication and reaction,” Belichick said.
“Really, no matter how much a player runs around a track or does situps or whatever, it’s not the same as when the other 21 guys are out there hearing plays called, reacting to what happens on the other side of the play, communicating, making adjustments with your teammates. There’s just no way to do that other than to do it. I think that’s important for any player that’s coming back after missing some time, regardless what the reasons are. That’s definitely something that they need to do and they need to do it with their teammates. It’s something their teammates need to have happen as well as the individual player who wasn’t there himself. All that is part of it.”
Certainly, the bright side of the Cunningham suspension has the increased experience of defensive ends Justin Francis and Trevor Scott, especially Francis, an undrafted rookie out of Rutgers. Francis got experience he otherwise likely would not have seen on the field.
“It’s certainly a positive for some of the players who get those opportunities,” Belichick said. “If they can take advantage of them and use that opportunity to enhance their role or show through their performance that they’re ready to handle more responsibility, it’s a good thing for them and ultimately it can be a good thing for the team to be able to actually see those guys do it, see those guys improve, watch them get more reps in practice and in the games and get more confidence in them and know that their execution level is higher from that. I’d say that’s accurate.
Cunningham’s return at Wednesday’s walk-through was part of perfect attendance inside Dana-Farber Field House as the team worked out without pads and helmets.
|Setting the scene LIVE from Gillette: Patriots-Texans||12.10.12 at 4:43 pm ET|
FOXBORO — After a week of seemingly endless hype, the Patriots and Texans will finally be ready for some football at Gillette Stadium.
When they do kick off at 8:30, it will be unseasonably mild, with the forecast calling for cloudy skies and 56 degrees. Not exactly the weather that was anticipated for Dec. 10 in Foxboro when the schedule was released back in April. The rain that fell earlier is not expected to be a factor since the field was covered by a tarp.
The game features top-ranked offense in the NFL in the Patriots (426.3 yards/game) and the fourth-ranked offense in the Texans (389.6). While most know Arian Foster leads a rushing attack (142.5 yards/game) that sets up a dangerous play-action offense, the Patriots have quietly moved themselves into the top 10 among rushing teams in the NFL. The Patriots rank eighth at 140.8 yards per game.
The Patriots offensive and defensive lines figure to each get a big boost with the return of a key starter.
After missing three games with a left ankle injury, Logan Mankins is expected to return to his customary starting spot at left guard while Chandler Jones – and his six sacks – are expected back at right defensive end for the Patriots.
The only Patriots player ruled out for tonight due to injury is Rob Gronkowski, missing his third straight game with a broken left forearm. Julian Edelman was placed on injured reserve and is done for the season after injuring his foot in the AFC East-clinching win over the Dolphins in South Florida on Dec. 2.
Jermaine Cunningham is missing his second straight game after being hit with an NFL-mandated four-game suspension for violation of the league’s PED policy.
In addition to Mankins and Jones, 11 Patriots are listed as questionable, including tight end Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, Dan Connolly, Sebastian Vollmer and Brandon Spikes. All are expected to play, barring any last-second setbacks in pre-game warmups.
Injuries could play a much bigger role for the Texans as they are without starting right tackle Derek Newton (knee), outside linebacker Brooks Reed and tight end Garrett Graham (concussion).
Tonight will be a night to honor one of the most decorated offensive linemen in Patriots history as Matt Light (inset), who retired last spring, will become the fifth Patriots player since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002 to retire as a career Patriot and receive the honor of addressing the fans during a halftime ceremony. He joins former teammates Kevin Faulk (2012), Tedy Bruschi (2010), Troy Brown (2008) and Ted Johnson (2005) to receive the honor.
|Justin Francis: ‘I like getting after the quarterback’||11.29.12 at 2:02 pm ET|
FOXBORO — In the wake of the four-game suspension for Patriots defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, the first name mentioned as a possible replacement was veteran Trevor Scott. And for good reason. The 28-year-old Scott has NFL experience and was brought in to provide the just the kind of depth the Patriots need right now.
But do not overlook Justin Francis.
He is yet another product of the Greg Schiano Rutgers program on the roster. The 23-year-old possesses the type of explosive speed (4.9 in the 40) – if undersized (6-foot-4, 270 lbs.) – the Patriots were looking for when they signed him as an undrafted free agent in the spring. The Patriots projected Francis as a depth guy on the outside and he has made big strides in his rookie year.
He has moved ahead of third-round pick Jake Bequette on the depth chart, as Bequette has played in just two games this season while Francis has appeared in five, including five of the last six games for the Patriots.
What makes him such an attractive option to the Patriots as a potential replacement to the pass-rushing Cunningham?
“I like getting after the quarterback,” Francis said. “Wherever coach wants me to play, I’m going play. If it’s quarterback, it’s quarterback. If it’s cornerback, it’s cornerback but I don’t think I’ll be playing any of those positions. Whatever coach wants me to play, and however I can get to the quarterback is all that matters to me.”
Francis was activated for the Denver game on Oct. 7 but did not play. He made his NFL debut the next week and played in four straight games for the Patriots, as the team looked to give Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love and Chandler Jones rest.
“It’s somewhat of a climbing [process], been working pretty hard this whole time and trying to take it a day at a time and follow after the guys I have to follow after. I’m just trying to do the best thing for me and the team.”
“Every day is an opportunity to get better and anything can happen. The way I take it is you have to be prepared, prepared for whatever happens. By being prepared, you’re going to help the team. That’s all I’m doing right now, listening to Vince, listening to coach and listen to my position coach and listen to all the older guys who are guiding me along the way.”
Francis is most appreciative of the family atmosphere he’s been brought into and is thriving in.
“It’s been good,” Francis said. “We’ve grown a pretty good bond. We’ve spent time outside the stadium and a helluva lot of time in here. The bond is growing and we’re getting tighter as a unit. That’s all you can really hope for and appreciate.”
|Bill Belichick: When it comes to replacing Jermaine Cunningham, Patriots have two options||11.27.12 at 3:52 pm ET|
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday that when it comes to replacing defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, the Patriots will “have to take a look at” their options going forward, but praised the work of Trevor Scott as a possible fill-in at the spot.
“Basically there are two options: we can bring somebody in from outside and sign them to the roster or we can do something with a player on the practice squad,” he said on a conference call on Tuesday. “We’ll see. [We’ll] take a look at our options, talk to Nick Caserio, get his thoughts and input on it relative to the personnel that’s available, like we usually do. [We’ll] handle it the same as we usually handle those type of situations and then try to make the best decision for the team that we can for this week and the remaining five games.”
Cunningham said Tuesday that when it comes to Cunningham’s situation, “it’s a league matter, so it’s really out of our hands.” As for Scott, he remains an option. He recently saw an uptick in playing time with the injury to Chandler Jones, and could realistically hold the fort until Cunningham is ready to return after his four-game suspension.
“I think Trevor has done well,” Belichick said. “Trevor is a versatile player. He’s a player that can play in coverage situations and has done that in the past. He’s played outside linebacker, similar to [Rob] Ninkovich, that type of a role. He’s played more down for us this year and played more down in his career, but he also does have that flexibility. He’s also very good in the kicking game – kickoff, punt coverage, punt return, all those things – positions where he has to run and cover space, but at the same time be physical and play in the open field and match up against other players of his size: linebackers, fullbacks, tight end types in the kicking game in those roles.
“Trevor is smart, he works hard [and] he’s in very good condition. He’s a good athlete. He can run, he’s quick and he’s long, he’s got good length at the end of the line of scrimmage to handle some of those bigger tackles or the tight ends, the 6-5, 6-6 tight ends with the long arms, that type of thing. I think he’s done a solid job when he’s had the opportunity. We’ve had a lot of competition at those positions with Rob and Chandler [Jones] of course and Jermaine [Cunningham], Justin [Francis], Jake [Bequette]. It’s been a very competitive position, but he’s done well when he’s had the opportunity. He’s contributed a lot for us in the kicking game.”
Here are a few other highlights from his Tuesday afternoon Q&A:
Read the rest of this entry »
|Trevor Scott: ‘I’ll definitely be prepared to have a more active role this week’||11.26.12 at 6:28 pm ET|
FOXBORO — In the wake of the four-game suspension for defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, Trevor Scott knows that his role will likely change.
“I really don’t know what’s going to happen in terms of depth chart or whatever, but I’ll definitely be prepared to have a more active role this week,” the 28-year-old defensive end said Monday evening. “If it does increase, I feel like I’ll be ready for it. You can’t control what goes on, but I will control what I can do on Sunday. I’ll go through preparing well this week and just ready for the game.
“You hate to see somebody like Jermaine go down like that, but it’s out of my control.”
Scott is in his first season with the Patriots, having signed with New England as a free agent on March 19. The University of Buffalo product, who spent the first four years of his career with the Raiders, had a career-high seven sacks in 2009, and finished with 13.5 sacks in four years with Oakland. But to this point in the 2012 season with the Patriots, the 6-foot-5, 265-pounder has mostly worked in relief as a defensive end, as well as a special teamer. He’s played in nine games, and has six tackles.
Asked about the lack of playing time to this point in the season, Scott shrugged.
“It’s not going to help if I get down on myself and worry about that,” he said Monday. “I really don’t have an control over that. I just have control over what happens when I do get in the game, what I’m going to do.”
Scott’s best game came against the Colts on Nov. 18. In that one, he was on the field fairly regularly after Chandler Jones went down with an ankle injury. According to Pro Football Focus, he played 32 of a possible 78 defensive snaps, and had a quarterback hurry and a defensive stop (defined by PFF as a solo defensive tackle that constitutes an offensive failure).
But now, with Cunningham on the shelf for four games, his role with the Patriots will almost certainly increase.
“[My preparation] doesn’t change,” he said. “I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing all week, and we’ll see what happens.
The Patriots went through a similar situation last season when veteran defensive end Andre Carter went down with a calf injury in December. In that instance, Mark Anderson — who had been a situational pass rusher to that point in the season — saw an uptick in his snaps down the stretch after he was pressed into regular service. Anderson was able to give a boost to the New England pass rush late in the regular season and into the playoffs. (Down the stretch, Anderson went from playing roughly 50 percent of the defensive snaps to essentially 100 percent late in the year and into the postseason.)
“Every year there’s always going to be some issue you’re going to have to deal with. That’s just the way football goes. It’s another thing that we’ll just deal with,” said defensive end/outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich.
“I think everyone in this locker room is a family. We’re a tight group of guys. I think that anything that happens — just like in any family — everyone is going to come together. I think just like any other time, you come together and work through it.”
While Ninkovich and Scott will likely take on expanded roles, rookies Jake Bequette and Jones (the latter of whom is still working his way back from that ankle injury) will also be asked to do more in the wake of Cunningham’s suspension.
However, the best possible scenario for the Patriots right now may be that Scott steps in and gives them what Anderson was able to provide down the stretch in 2011.
“We have it set up so that as soon as somebody goes down, it’s the next man in,” Scott said. “You’re expected to perform just as well as anybody else. So that’s why we work hard every week, stay mentally and physically prepared.”
The four-game suspension of defensive end Jermaine Cunningham for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing substances will put more responsibility on the shoulders of veteran Trevor Scott, and perhaps rookie Jake Bequette, going forward into the final month of the season. In addition, it could hasten the return of rookie defensive end Chandler Jones, who went down with an ankle injury in a Nov. 18 win over the Colts and sat out Thursday’s victory against the Jets. Regardless, it will leave the Patriots’ pass rush thin as New England heads into an important four-game stretch.
The 6-foot-3, 255-pound Cunningham, who had been moved around some over the course of the 2012 season from defensive end to the interior, had six quarterback hits and 2.5 sacks over the first 11 games of the season. However, because of the suspension, he’ll now be sidelined for the next four games, which means he’ll sit out upcoming contests against the Dolphins (Dec. 2), Texans (Dec. 10), 49ers (Dec. 16) and Jaguars (Dec. 23). He’ll be eligible to return to the team on Dec. 24.
Here’s a look at the three who will be asked to step their game up in his absence.
•Scott is in his first season with New England, and has seen occasional work in relief of Jones and Rob Ninkovich at defensive end. According to Pro Football Focus, the 28-year-old has played 110 snaps this season, most of which came against the Colts after Jones went down with his injury. The 6-foot-5, 265-pounder, who had a career-high seven sacks in 2009 with the Raiders, will see a bump in playing time over the next four games for New England.
•Bequette was a third-round pick out of out of Arkansas who has fundamentally taken a redshirt season this year. The 6-foot-5, 265-pounder has mostly sat — he’s only gotten into two games this year and has no stats — while others like Scott, Cunningham, Francis and Jones have gotten the bulk of the reps. (He was named a Practice Player of the Week in late October.) But with Cunningham’s ban, Bequette will likely get bumped up the depth chart, and could see some situational work over the next four games as a result.
•While the Patriots don’t want to try and rush the 6-foot-5, 220-pound rookie back, they’d love to have him return to the field sooner rather than later. One of the two best pass rushers on the team, he has nine quarterback hits and six sacks through the first 11 games of the season (second only to Ninkovich).
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