|Patriots position-by-position breakdown: Cornerback||02.16.15 at 7:00 am ET|
With the Patriots done for the season, we’ve got an end-of-the-year position-by-position breakdown of where the Patriots stand. We’ve looked at special teams, wide receivers, running backs, tight ends, quarterback, offensive line and safety. Now, it’s the cornerback position.
Depth chart (regular-season stats via coaches film review): Darrelle Revis (49 tackles, 2 INTs, 14 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble recovery), Brandon Browner (26 tackles, 1 INT, 6 passes defensed), Kyle Arrington (33 tackles, 1 sack, 4 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles), Malcolm Butler (14 tackles, 4 passes defensed), Alfonzo Dennard (15 tackles, 1 INT, 1 pass defensed), 1 fumble recovery), Logan Ryan (36 tackles, 2 INTs, 6 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble)
Overview: In much the same fashion the Patriots underwent an Extreme Makeover at wide receiver at the end of the 2006 season, they did the same thing at cornerback this past offseason. While the overhaul at wide receiver prior to 2007 wasn’t enough to get them over the top, it was just enough this time around, as the New England secondary was a difference-maker throughout the season and into the playoffs.
While Browner was sidelined for the first four games because of a suspension for a 2013 violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy, the impact was immediate, as second level corners like Dennard were immediately pushed down the depth chart in favor of top-shelf talent like Revis and Browner, and teams that had feasted on the New England corners in previous years were shut down across the board. While there was a mixture of man and zone over the course of the season, Revis was able to lock down most of the No. 1 receivers he ended up going head-to-head with, while Browner was a versatile and feisty presence who worked equally well against bigger targets, which included receivers and tight ends.
For the most part, the rest of the corners were able to fill in nicely around Revis and Browner: Arrington was a quality presence in the slot for most of the season, while Butler provided nice depth, eventually emerging on the biggest stage against the Seahawks in the title game. (More on that shortly.) Ryan occasionally struggled in coverage, and teams started to understand that if you had a deep passing game and wanted to test the Patriots, you stayed as far away as possible from Revis and Browner. Meanwhile, Dennard was an afterthought, struggling with injury for most of the year before going on season-ending injured reserve in December.
Going forward, the whole offseason starts with Revis: he is technically under contract for 2015, but his cap hit is so enormous it’s debatable as to whether or not the Patriots can think about bringing him back at that total. Presuming he finds a way to stick around – from this viewpoint, he’ll be around for at least one more season – that would allow the rest of the corners to slot neatly into place for another season. Browner, Butler, Ryan and Arrington are all under contract for 2015, while Dennard now likely faces an uphill battle for playing time against a Super Bowl hero in Butler. He could end up being cut somewhere down the line if the roster numbers don’t add up or if the Patriots try and add to their depth at the position either in free agency or the draft.
Best moment: Prior to Super Bowl XLIX, there were a ton of memorable performances by the New England cornerbacks, including the work that Revis did against a several of high-profile receivers, including A.J. Green and Sammy Watkins. (There was also the high-energy jolt of Browner, who played with an edge and made plenty of receivers think twice when it came to going over the middle.) But you’d be foolish not to pinpoint the performance of Butler at the end of the Super Bowl, jumping the route and picking off the Russell Wilson pass for Ricardo Lockette. It was a great play on several levels, but maybe the most impressive things about Butler’s execution was the fact that he was beaten on the play the week before in practice by the scout team duo of Jimmy Garoppolo and Josh Boyce. When the play happened in the Super Bowl, he was able to recognize what happened and make the biggest play of his career.
|Patriots using San Diego trip earlier this year to prepare for weeklong stay in Arizona||01.25.15 at 7:00 am ET|
FOXBORO — This coming week’s trip to Arizona won’t be the first time the Patriots have spent a week preparing for a game away from their usual confines of Gillette Stadium, as the team spent a week in San Diego in December prior to their game with the Chargers.
New England played Green Bay in Green Bay on Nov. 30 and then the Chargers the following Sunday night. Instead of traveling back to New England and then across the country again a few days later, the team instead went right to San Diego and spent the the week there.
Fullback James Develin said the experience could help the team a bit for what is to come this week in Arizona.
“I think so,” he said. “It’s always valuable to have some kind of experience like that – going away for a long period of time, but really, we’re just looking at this week and just trying to prepare for it the best we can and just try to get ready for Seattle because they’re a very good team.”
New England played one of their better games of the season after their week out West — a 23-14 win over the Chargers.
For kicker Stephen Gostkowski he doesn’t care where the Super Bowl is and where the team has to spend a week — as long as his family gets there, that is all that matters to him. He said the things will still be the same as the Patriots will still need to have their old saying, “Ignore the noise.”
“I mean, we don’t think about that stuff,” Gostkowski said. “We just worry about the game and the people who handle the logistics deal with that and we just worry about making sure our family and friends get down there safely and we enjoy the experience. At the same time we have a job to do and it’s all focus on the game, really. We could be playing in Missouri and we wouldn’t care. It’s the Super Bowl, it’s exciting, we’ve stayed at hotels before, nothing is different. There’s just going to be a big spotlight on it and we’re just going to deal with the distraction and ignore the noise.”
Cornerback Kyle Arrington joked how getting away from New England at time of the year is good no matter what, but having their families with them, unlike in December, will be a positive thing.
“Well, ideally, it’s nice to go somewhere warm this time of year and not be in Foxboro, but it was a good experience being out in San Diego for a week and being away,” Arrington said. “This time a lot of guys will have their families out there in Arizona, so it will make it less difficult.”
|Patriots locker room reaction over Deflategate flap: ‘We’re just focusing on Seattle’||01.22.15 at 3:07 pm ET|
FOXBORO — A handful of Patriots players addressed the charges of under-inflated footballs in last Sunday’s AFC title game against the Colts in the locker room Thursday morning:
Special teams captain Matthew Slater: “Certainly that is something we have addressed and will continue to address. I think it’s easy to get caught up in the hoopla. Your families are really excited but we have a job to do. This is not a vacation for us. This is not a celebration. We have a job to do and at the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to and that’s where our focus needs to be. As a team, to a man, we need to make sure we have our minds in the right place, our focus in the right place, and that’s playing football. That’s all that matters at the end of the day.”
Slater on any worries about Deflategate? “I feel pretty confident in saying we’re just focusing on Seattle. … We’re all about focusing on what’s going on inside these doors here and there’s always going to be a lot of buzz going outside these doors, and we’ve been trained to ignore that, and we have to. We can’t allow ourselves to get caught up in positive or negative things. We just have to focus on us and doing our jobs.”
Defensive end/long snapper Rob Ninkovich: “I’m not even getting into that, because really I’m focused on what I have to do, and that’s get better today. Practice for the biggest game of my life. I’m moving on from that — I have nothing to say about that. I’m going to focus in on what my job is and that’s to play good football. I’m not even thinking about anything from the past. I’m thinking about the future.
“The only time I touch a football is if I recover it or if I’m snapping it. Or intercept it. Or causing fumbles. I’m past that. I’m looking forward ti another opportunity that you don’t get often. I’m excited — very, very excited to get this week of preparation going, and get gong in the process.”
Cornerback Kyle Arrington: “Well, I’m sure like a lot of guys have said — and I’m no different — that I don’t have anything to do with that process or that nature when it comes to the footballs. I can’t really comment. … We’re only concerned about the guys in this locker room and winning the football game.”
Arrington on whether or not he can tell if its a deflated football: “Well, considering that typically, historically, we all have the worst hands of anyone on the football field, I don’t care what condition it’s in, as long as we can catch it. … I don’t really handle the ball too often. It’s not really my concern.”
Punter Ryan Allen: “I can’t really shed any further light on the whole ball situation. We’re just focused on what we need to do this week and next week to prepare for Seattle.”
Running back Jonas Gray on Deflategate: “I have no idea. I think that’s the one thing about this entire team. We really don’t know anything about the balls and inflation. I didn’t know they even checked it beforehand. It’s one of those things where we just go out and play the game.”
|Andrew Luck had ‘long day’ in worst statistical game of NFL career||01.19.15 at 1:29 pm ET|
FOXBORO — While Andrew Luck has proven he is one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, Sunday’s AFC championship proved Luck is not ready for the big stage just yet.
Luck has his worst statistical game of his career Sunday in the Colts’ 45-7 loss to the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
The 25-year-old was 12-for-33 passing for 126 yards with two interceptions and a quarterback rating of 23. The quarterback rating was by far the worst in his three-year career, as his previous low was Dec. 21 of this year in a 42-7 loss to the Cowboys, where he had a rating of 41.7.
His 36.4 completion percentage was also the worst of his career, and his 126 passing yards were second-fewest, only to the Dec. 21 game against the Cowboys.
“Long day, they obviously outplayed us and deserve to move on,” Luck said afterwards.
Luck and the Colts have struggled in his four games against the Patriots. He is 0-4, including two playoff losses, and has been outscored 189-73 in those games. Luck and the Colts have also struggled away from home against good teams. Over the last three seasons in games on the road against teams finishing .500 or better, the Colts are 2-12 and have been outscored 486-265.
The Patriots defense wasn’t necessarily surprised with the outcome Sunday night.
“Not at all,” linebacker Dont’a Hightower said. “They’re a great team, but we are a good team as well. We had a great game plan, we came out and we executed. I mean there were a couple of plays that we obviously wanted back, but I think we played really good out there.”
A major part in the Patriots’ success was their ability to take away Luck’s receivers and the passing game. T.Y. Hilton finished with just one catch for 36 yards — a spectacular catch on the sidelines — and Reggie Wayne was not even targeted. Hilton was the leading receiver with tight end Coby Fleener being the next closest with three catches for 30 yards. Hilton finished the regular season with the sixth-most receiving yards in the NFL — 1,345.
|Kyle Arrington on Gillette Stadium crowd: ‘The stadium was rocking’||01.11.15 at 2:43 pm ET|
FOXBORO — It was a special night Saturday at Gillette Stadium when the Patriots came back from two, 14-point deficits to beat the Ravens, 35-31 to advance to next Sunday’s AFC championship game.
Less than 14 hours after the game, cornerback Kyle Arrington spoke of the importance of the Gillette Stadium crowd — which at some points in the second half was so loud, the press box shook — and just how loud things were on the field.
“I’d say so, especially I can think of two huge plays specifically — when Devin [McCourty] made his interception and Duron [Harmon] made his as well at the end of the game,” Arrington said. “The crowd was, the stadium was rocking — on film today the cameras were shaking, you could barely see anything after the moment itself when it happened. The crowd definitely kept us in it. Couldn’t have asked for a better atmosphere.”
Coming back from two, 14-point deficits was the first time that has ever happened in NFL postseason history, and the 14-point comeback was the largest comeback win is Patriots playoff history.
Arrington had one word to describe what that means about this year’s team.
“Character. Character on our team,” said Arrington. “Not just defensively, but as a team as a whole. Down 14 points through two stretches of the game, to be able to overcome that obstacle speaks a lot of the character and the guys on this team. I’m proud to strap it up with these guys week in and week out, go to battle.”
It was a physical game, where the Ravens made the Patriots earn absolutely everything. With not playing their best game, Arrington said they are “fortunate” to be moving onto the next round.
“Glad to be fortunate enough to still be playing at this time of year,” Arrington said. “No, it wasn’t a perfect game by any means, but it’s a good team we played. They have us their best shot, all we can handle from those guys.”
Arrington and the rest of the team will now get an extra day off and wait to see if they will host the Broncos or Colts next Sunday.
“It was a hard fought, physical game. Guys just trying to take care of their bodies right now and I am sure we will be glued into the TV to see the winner of this next game,” he said.
|Stepping up: 5 relatively unheralded Patriots who could hold key to postseason success||01.08.15 at 12:35 am ET|
While Saturday’s matchup will be a showdown between some of the more high-profile players in the AFC, there are more than a few individuals who are under-the-radar types who will likely play a sizable role in the outcome of the contest. When it comes to New England players who could be asked to rise to the occasion on Saturday – and beyond – here are our five choices:
Cornerback Kyle Arrington: Before he went down with an injury late in the season, the slot corner had become one of the most durable defensive backs in the league — his streak of 83 consecutive regular-season games played was one of the best on the team, a mark that stretched all the way back to 2009. Because no quarterback wants to risk targeting Darrelle Revis or Brandon Browner on a regular basis, when the Patriots have faced elite passing games — as they will in the postseason – this New England pass defense is only as it as its third corner. Regardless of who has been in the game, when the Patriots have been in their sub defense, we’ve already seen several really good quarterbacks go after the third or fourth option at corner. While Arrington has demonstrated an ability as one of the better slot corners in the league, he also brings nice depth to the secondary, and could potential cover over any deficiencies that could pop up in the playoffs. Look for him to have a central role this postseason, especially with a handful of intriguing matchups possibly looming. (Denver’s Wes Welker? Indy’s Reggie Wayne? Seattle’s Doug Baldwin? Green Bay’s Randall Cobb?)
Guard Dan Connolly: When he’s been healthy, Connolly has been one of the most consistent offensive linemen on the New England roster. (Ryan Hannable had an excellent breakdown here of what it’s meant to have a healthy Connolly – as well as the other four starters — up front this season for the Patriots.) But the veteran has struggled with injury over the course of the season, and has missed three games this year with a variety of issues, including a concussion and an ankle injury. He was not in the lineup for the final two games of the year, and left tackle Nate Solder appeared to struggle at times as a result. A healthy Connolly would go a long way toward stabilizing the offensive line, and provide more time in the pocket for quarterback Tom Brady. If he’s not at 100 percent, it could make for a dicey situation for Brady’s blind side.
Defensive lineman Sealver Siliga: Siliga has performed very well as a complimentary piece along the defensive line, working alongside the likes of veterans like Vince Wilfork and Alan Branch, becoming an integral part of New England’s rotation of defensive linemen. The Utah product is versatile, and just as adept at getting after the passer as he is to two-gapping and holding up offensive linemen to allow linebackers and fellow defensive linemen to make plays. Ever since he came back from designated for return-injured reserve in Week 14 against the Chargers, he’s been a steady and consistent presence, playing 61 percent of the defensive snaps over the last three weeks. Look for that role to continue to expand going forward into the postseason.
Special teamer Matthew Slater: This isn’t so much Slater, but more of a nod to special teams as a whole. (From this viewpoint, using the special teams captain only seems fitting.) As a grouping, they’ve managed to distinguish themselves as one of the best and most impactful group of special teamers in the league. Every week, there’s some sort of momentum-changing play. Whether it’s been a blocked field-goal attempt, blocked punt, punter kick return or a big coverage tackle, they have become a sizable part of New England’s success, and a big reason the Patriots have gotten as far as they have this year. It’s not just the potential high-impact plays, but the work of grunts like Nate Ebner, Brandon Bolden and Tavon Wilson that has continued to allow New England the success that it has had on special teams.
Tight end Tim Wright: Wright has distinguished himself as the most dependable pass-catcher in recent Patriots’ history, having caught 79 percent of the passes that were sent his way over the course of the season — a high for any offensive skill position player who was targeted at least 20 times in a single season. The tight end broke the previous mark of 77 percent, set by five different pass catchers, most recently Danny Woodhead (who caught 34 of 44 passes in 2010). Of course, that sure-handed skill is nothing new for Wright, who now has a two-year total as a pro (with the Buccaneers and Patriots) of 73 percent, a remarkable total for any receiver. With the focus of opposing defenses likely to be on fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski, Wright will almost surely have his opportunities in the passing game.
|Patriots downgrade Julian Edelman, LeGarrette Blount, Kyle Arrington to out vs. Jets||12.20.14 at 9:02 pm ET|
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Patriots have downgraded three players to out for Sunday’s game against the Jets. Julian Edelman, LeGarrette Blount and Kyle Arrington did not make the trip and will not play Sunday.
Edelman (concussion/thigh) was listed as questionable Friday and practiced on a limited basis all week, but will miss his first game of the season. Blount (shoulder) was the same as Edelman, practicing all week on a limited basis and being listed as questionable, but he will miss his first game since joining the Patriots a few weeks ago. Arrington (hamstring) left last week’s game, but spoke during the week and said he felt like he wouldn’t miss anytime, but he too will miss his first game of the season. He was also limited in practice all week and listed as questionable.
It is worth noting on Arrington, he will snap a streak of 83 straight games played.
Look for Danny Amendola to take a lot of Edelman reps, while Jonas Gray, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden should expect more carries without Blount. Defensively, Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler and possibly Alfonzo Dennard will get the snaps in place of Arrington.
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