|Jamie Collins: ‘I’m going to do whatever I’m told to do’||05.08.14 at 1:46 pm ET|
FOXBORO — When the 2013 NFL Draft came around, Jamie Collins was not really paying attention except to find out where he would wind up.
When the Patriots nabbed him with their second-round pick out of Southern Mississippi, Collins was ready to do whatever he was asked to do. That would turn out to be very helpful as the Patriots selected him because of his reputation in college as one of the more versatile linebackers in college in the ’13 draft.
In his rookie season, Collins played both down and linebacker positions, showing he could get to the quarterback, play the run and drop in coverage.
Collins, asked this week to reflect on his first year in the pros, said once you have the talent, the rest is pretty elementary when you play for Bill Belichick.
“It’s pretty easy,” he said. “It’s not easy but it is easy. I don’t know if you get that or not. I’m going to do whatever I’m told to do. I’m the type of guy that is going to do what I have to do. I’m going to get it done, no matter what it is.”
In other words, Belichick has very specific plans for the linebacker, who showed up this spring in Foxboro looking bigger and stronger, all the more reason for the Patriots coaching staff to show more confidence in Collins, who began coming into his own as the 2013 regular season came to an end.
“Guys are different,” he said. “I just look at things and I just know it’s my job and I have to do what I have to do to survive. I was learning, regardless. But once a guy goes down, it’s next man up. You have to be strong. You lose a guy, the next man has to be ready to play. I’m excited to have him [back]. Read the rest of this entry »
|Jerod Mayo knows ‘Dream Teams’ don’t always ‘pan out the way you think they would’||05.06.14 at 11:07 pm ET|
FOXBORO — He may be only 28 but Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo has seen enough as an NFL player and fan of the sport to know that all the talent in the world doesn’t always translate into success.
The most recent and obvious example of this would be the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles that added the likes of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha to the back end of their secondary. Two shut down corners added to a secondary that already included Asante Samuel. Vince Young was so impressed in July Eagles camp after the lockout that he dubbed them the “Dream Team.”
What happened? They went 8-8. A year later, they allowed 33 touchdowns and intercepted just eight passes and finished 4-12. Clearly, the Patriots feel they’re a little better off than a team that had no zero team chemistry in the year that led to Andy Reid losing his job.
The Patriots this offseason have added the consensus best corner in the game over the last five years in Darrelle Revis and one of the most physical bump-and-run corners in Brandon Browner. But Mayo is a student of the game and its history. He knows well from the Eagles example since the Patriots beat them, 38-20, in November of the “Dream Team” season.
“Just as a player and as a fan of football, you kind of notice things like that, these “Dream Teams” that don’t pan out the way that you think they would,” Mayo said Tuesday. “A player would go into a different scheme and it just doesn’t fit right, it just doesn’t work out right. So, it’s all about taking it one day at a time, building a camaraderie, going out in training camp, going out there in 7-on-7, these workouts together and just getting on the same page.
“It’s always good when you can add talented football players and people who love the game. We really don’t know yet. We haven’t been out on the field and gelled together. Obviously, there have been talented teams that haven’t played well together. We’ll have to wait and see and take it one day at a time.”
Revis and Browner join a secondary that already includes Devin McCourty, Logan Ryan, Alfonzo Dennard and Duron Harmon. The defense presumably will be getting back Mayo, Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly from injuries and a more experienced tandem of Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower to go along with Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones. That’s a lot of talent.
One piece that won’t be returning is linebackers coach Pepper Johnson, who is off to Buffalo as their new defensive line coach.
“We haven’t had that many meetings,” Pep was a great coach but right now, we have our coaching staff all set. We have great coaches. These coaches have coached linebackers before so I’m sure it’ll be the same thing.
“I’m sure Coach Belichick and those guys, they evaluate all of us. All of us are evaluated on a daily basis. I’m not sure what he’s going to do. That’s a question for Coach Belichick.”
|Jerod Mayo doesn’t know how his repaired pectoral muscle will handle rigors of an NFL return||at 3:57 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Jerod Mayo wants to believe he’ll be ready for the Patriots’ 2014 season but the truth is, he just isn’t sure.
Mayo tore his pectoral muscle in the miraculous 30-27 win over the Saints on Oct. 20. He had surgery shortly thereafter and had to watch in utter frustration as his team reached the AFC championship in Denver before falling to Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
“I don’t know how it will feel when we start going out there doing different things as far as a little bit of contact drills,” Mayo told reporters inside Gillette Stadium Tuesday, where he took a break from the offseason conditioning program. “Even though there are no pads, you can still fall a certain way, so I’m just going to take it one day at a time and see how it goes.”
“I think every day, I feel like I’m getting stronger, getting better,” Mayo said. “But once again, I won’t know until I get out there and start really playing the game of football. If it was flag football, it’d be cool.”
The real test, of course, will come when the Patriots finally begin football activities, like hitting, which isn’t allowed until training camp opens on July 23.
“OTAs, mini-camp, training camp, preseason games, it’s all a step-by-step process,” Mayo added. “All different milestones you have to get to to really gain that confidence after the injury. For now, it’s just about taking it one day at a time.”
“It’s hard to sit in a room with other injured teammates and watch as the team battles,” Mayo said.
Mayo confirmed he has been working out at Gillette Stadium for a while, extending well beyond the team’s three weeks of the offseason program, so he feels pretty good after tearing his pectoral muscle last October.
|Dont’a Hightower: It’ll be ‘real fun’ being a part of this group of linebackers||05.01.14 at 4:11 pm ET|
FOXBORO — There have been a lot of changes at linebacker for the Patriots to this point in the offseason. Dane Fletcher and Brandon Spikes have departed via free agency, while linebacker coach Pepper Johnson left for a new challenge in Buffalo. Meanwhile, the team awaits the return of veteran Jerod Mayo, who was out for the bulk of the 2013 season because of a torn pectoral muscle
But Dont’a Hightower said Thursday that even with all the changes, there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the state of the linebacker group in New England heading into a new year. The return of Mayo and the emergence of Jamie Collins — as well as his own strong finish in 2013 — all bode well for 2014, according to Hightower.
“Definitely with those guys — myself, Mayo, a longtime vet, and Jamie Collins coming up and playing the way he did last year, he definitely stepped up,” Hightower said. “I feel like that’s another thing that’s going to be real fun this year, having that linebacking corps right there. We have guys in that room who can also step up and play much like Dane did, but I feel like it’s going to be real fun with those three.
“Spikes was a big heart on the defense. (He) played with a lot of emotion,” Hightower said. “Dane was a great special teams guy as well as a guy to come in and play as well as he did. He did a great job. But we’re building right now. We’re all kind of getting back to what we’re doing, watching a little film, talking about things. I think it will be interesting to see how things (unfold). As a unit, we’ve been watching a lot of film together, learning the basic stuff right now so we’re not coming in to OTAs with too much on our plate. We’re teaching some of the younger guys and getting in with that.”
Hightower also pointed out that youngsters Steve Beauharnais, Ja’Gared Davis and Chris White are working hard, but has been particularly impressed by the work of Mayo.
“Working out now with him, he looks great,” Hightower said. “He’s a hard worker, always been a hard worker, always going to do what’s best for the team and what’s best for himself. I’m not sure how long he’s been up here or what he’s been doing, but he looks great.”
|What does history tell us about Patriots and pre-draft contact with elite prospects?||04.16.14 at 3:14 pm ET|
With the pre-draft process longer now than it’s been in years past, there’s more time for speculation, and official visits, workouts and attendance at Pro Days are all ways fans and the media try and gauge a team’s interest in a prospect. Some of the pre-draft work can be a smokescreen, some of it can be done for intel down the road and some of can be for practical scouting purposes. With that in mind, here’s a look at the pre-draft connections the Patriots have made with some of their top draft picks over the last few years.
Linebacker Jamie Collins (taken with New England’s first pick in 2013, a second-round selection at No. 52 overall): Bill Belichick flew South to work out Collins before the draft, but the linebacker later indicated that he did not have much pre-draft contact with New England when compared to other teams.
Defensive end Chandler Jones (first-round pick 2012, 21st overall): Jones recalled a conversation with the Patriots at the combine in Indy the year he was drafted. “I talked to the Patriots — I talked with them at the combine,” he said. “That was the most formal thing we did. That’s basically it — we talked at the combine.”
Linebacker Dont’a Hightower (first-round pick 2012, 25th overall): He didn’t work out for Patriots, but he said he “had a small (idea)” the Patriots were interested. “I met with those guys at the combine and I met them at one of the Pro Days,” Hightower recalled, “so I knew that they were kind of interested in some of the defensive players that we had at Alabama.”
Tackle Nate Solder (first-round pick 2011, 17th overall): Solder had what he called “fairly limited contact” with the Patriots throughout the pre-draft process. He met with offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia the Monday before the draft in Colorado, but also had a scheduled visit to Foxboro cancelled at the last minute. “I don’t know exactly what happened,” Solder later explained. “I was scheduled to visit (but) the minute before I left it was cancelled. That’s all I know.”
Defensive back Devin McCourty (first-round pick 2010, 27th overall): McCourty met with Belichick prior to the draft, where the two had a film session on campus at Rutgers. “Bill Belichick had come to my school for a coaches’ clinic, and he was going to fly right out after the clinic to see his son play in a lacrosse game,” McCourty recalled. “But we had an hour, we watched some film and we spoke for a little while. We had a real generic conversation, but he showed me some things on film, just watching and helping me out as far as being a player.”
Linebacker Jerod Mayo (first-round pick, 2008, 10th overall): Mayo had 11 visits with teams during the pre-draft process, and remembers his visit to Foxboro fondly. “I had a great visit when I came down there,” he said. “The coaches and I sat down and talked football for a long time. Like I said, I just had a great visit and I felt like we clicked.”
|At this point in offseason, where are Patriots personnel priorities?||04.04.14 at 9:55 pm ET|
With the offseason now one-third of the way done — and most of free agency now complete — the Patriots still have to address a few specific areas of need as part of the team-building process. Here’s a look at four personnel questions that have to be dealt with between now and the start of training camp.
Backup linebacker: Brandon Spikes and Dane Fletcher departed as free agents this offseason, with Spikes heading to Buffalo and Fletcher signing with Tampa Bay. Neither were starters, but over the last two seasons, both were called upon to play significant snaps for the Patriots. As a result, New England is a little thin when it comes to their linebacker depth. Currently on the roster, the Patriots have a few possibilities when it comes to backing up the expected starting trio of Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins, including Steve Beauharnais, who just finished his rookie season. But their pursuit of veteran free agent Wesley Woodyard was likely a sign they believe they need more help when it comes to depth at the spot.
Strong safety: Steve Gregory was cut loose earlier this offseason, and Adrian Wilson was released on Friday. And while the Patriots did bring back Patrick Chung on Thursday, there’s some uncertainty as to what New England plans on doing at the position. Two things to remember: one, the Patriots like their defensive backs to be versatile, and so shuffling DBs from one spot to another wouldn’t be a surprise. And two, on that same vein, there are some possibilities on the roster, including Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan, the latter of whom has been the subject of much speculation this offseason when it comes to a possible move to free safety. In addition, there’s Tavon Wilson, who slid down the depth chart in 2013 to more of a special teams role, one that’s also occupied by fellow safeties Kanorris Davis and Nate Ebner. (And there’s always the possibility that Gregory could return on a reworked deal — he said this week despite the fact that he was cut by New England, “it would definitely be a place I would love to go back to.”) Regardless of whether or not New England decides to address the position in the draft, right now, it’s shaping up to be one of the more intriguing camp battles this spring and summer.
Situational pass rusher: The Patriots were believed to be at least partially in the mix for Jared Allen in free agency before he signed with the Bears, and while New England does currently have youngsters Jake Bequette and Michael Buchanan on the roster as backup defensive ends, it’s a fair dropoff at this point from the starting duo of Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich. In terms of free agents who could still be on the market, Will Smith remains a possibility, but his recent injury woes leave him questionable at this stage of his career. When it comes to other in-house possibilities, Andre Carter could return for at least part of the season if New England struggles to find help — he sure sounds open to the possibility of returning. In addition, Armond Armstead could also be in the mix as an interior pass rushing presence at some point if he ever does get healthy. It’s also expected that if veteran Tommy Kelly can stay on the field, he’ll offer some support as another interior pass rushing presence in 2014.
Depth at tight end and running back: While New England appears to be set when it comes to starters at the two positions, it could really use some depth at both spots, and both will likely be addressed in some form or fashion come the second and/or third day of the draft. Despite the fact the Patriots might be more inclined to move away from the two-tight end sets they ran over the last few seasons, another tight end to compliment Rob Gronkowski could be had in this draft, especially given the fact that this year appears to be a pretty good one for tight ends. In addition, the fact that the Patriots made a serious play for veteran free agent running back Maurice Jones-Drew could be taken as a sign they feel like they need someone to replace LeGarrette Blount in the backfield.
|Brandon Spikes: I’d be ‘shocked’ if Vince Wilfork isn’t with Patriots in 2014||03.07.14 at 1:35 pm ET|
Brandon Spikes, who likely has seen his career with the Patriots come to a close, said Friday morning that he’d be “shocked” if New England decides to cut ties with veteran defensive lineman Vince Wilfork this offseason.
Wilfork has been rumored to be a salary cap casualty because of his cap hit for the upcoming season, as well as the fact that he’s going to be coming back from an Achilles injury. But Spikes would be “shocked” if Wilfork isn’t with the Patriots in 2014.
“I haven’t spoken with him, but it definitely hurt me a lot to see him go down,” Spikes told NFL Network’s “NFL AM” on Friday. “He’s definitely a big factor in the inside and the run game — he does it all. He’s very disruptive like myself, but if he hits the free-agent [market], I’ll be shocked. The Patriots love him, the organization up there, Boston loves him. He’s been there for a while. Honestly I can’t see him leaving.”
Spikes reflected on the 2013 season, a year when New England suffered through an amazing run of injuries but still managed to make the AFC title game.
“We just fought through adversity and I think every great team has to overcome some things throughout the season,” Spikes said of the Patriots defense. “Even though we were young, a lot of new guys in and out, I think we did a great job just holding it together and just keep fighting.
“We just had some guys that really cared, they wanted to step up,” he added. “I was devastated to have captains like [Jerod] Mayo and Vince go down, and guys were looking around [for] who [they were] going to look to and I think guys looked at me. I felt I played a big role in that, even though I was nicked, too. I was able to fight through that, and we just battled through adversity the entire time.’
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