|Jabaal Sheard: Familiarity with Patriots, Mike Lombardi made it easy to settle on New England as free agent||03.20.15 at 3:45 pm ET|
He signed as a free agent with the Patriots last week, but Jabaal Sheard has been on New England’s radar for a long time.
The Patriots’ interest in the edge rusher dates back to 2011 when he was coming out of college. That’s when he took a visit with New England, and in that time, he was struck by how the Patriots handled their business.
“It was real business-like, real focused; you could tell that it was going to be all business once you get there,” he said Friday on a conference call with reporters. “I mean, it was a bit nerve-wrecking, I can’t lie. I was a bit nervous.”
That previous visit — combined with Sheard’s background with former Browns GM Mike Lombardi, who is now with the Patriots — set the stage nicely for him signing with New England earlier this month as a free agent.
Sheard, who also drew interest from Seattle and Tampa Bay, said his stint with Lombardi “definitely” play a role in his new deal with the Patriots.
“I think that was huge. I think that’s what got New England interested in me right away,” Sheard said. “Obviously, he believed in me coming out as a rookie into the league and seeing what I could do. I think that’s going to translate to this year.”
One thing the Patriots hope translates is an ability to consistently get after the quarterback. Sheard’s pass rush numbers have dipped every year he’s been in the league, going from 8.5 sacks as a rookie in 2011 to two last year. Sheard pulled no punches when asked to assess his game the last few years: It wasn’t a switch in Cleveland’s scheme or injury, but his own level of execution.
“It was just me not executing, me not sticking to the game plan,” he said. “But I’m more focused; I’m hungrier than I’ve ever been. Like I said, I look forward to getting with these coaches and learning new things. Pass rushing is about learning new things, getting comfortable and coaches helping you out along the way. I just can’t wait to get started.”
The 25-year-old Sheard has played both outside linebacker and defensive end, and said Friday he feels like he “can play anywhere up front.”
He added: “I think my main strength is knocking guys back and creating penetration in the line of scrimmage, ultimately stopping the run and being a big factor there and getting after the quarterback or dropping, whatever else may come with it. Ultimately my strength, personally I think, is knocking guys back and creating penetration.”
Sheard is also looking forward to enjoying a level of consistency in New England that wasn’t necessarily there in Cleveland.
“I envision that they have some great plan for me, just knowing the system that they run,” he said of the Patriots coaching staff. “I’ve been around three different systems in my last three years so I’m ready for whatever. I’m always ready to embrace something new and something different and I’m up for the challenge, whatever it is.”
“I definitely look forward to working with Chandler [Jones] and Rob [Ninkovich]. Those guys are definitely excited, just talking to them a little bit. I think we’ll make a nice three-[man] tandem. We’ll get after guys and create a lot of [havoc] in the backfield and on quarterbacks.”
|Bill Belichick reportedly gave ‘tremendous’ talk to Indiana University basketball team prior to NFL combine||02.18.15 at 12:02 pm ET|
The NFL combine kicked off in Indianapolis Wednesday morning, but Patriots coach Bill Belichick didn’t go straight to Indianapolis when he arrived on Tuesday. Instead he visited with good friend, Indiana University basketball coach Tom Crean and spoke to his team.
According to Indiana.Scout.com, the coach gave a “tremendous” speech. Crean thought only Mike Lombardi, an assistant to the Patriots coaches, would be going, but he brought Belichick along with him.
Crean is brother-in-law’s with the Harbaugh brothers.
Belichick will now be hard at work with the rest of the organization at the combine, which runs through Monday.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|Patriots sign WRs Cole Stanford, Brian Tyms, release injured WR Greg Orton||07.27.14 at 9:51 am ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots made a pair of signings for the back end of their roster, adjusting for the loss of receiver Greg Orton on Friday.
Director of player personnel Nick Caserio announced Sunday morning during his press conference that the team signed receivers Cole Stanford and Brian Tyms. Both were in attendance Sunday morning as the team held its second straight practice in pads.
Stanford was wearing No. 14 while Tyms was assigned No. 84. Tyms was undrafted out of Florida A&M in 2012. He has spent time with the San Francisco 49ers and the Miami Dolphins. Last year, he played for the Cleveland Browns, where currently Patriots executive Mike Lombardi watched him when Lombardi served in Cleveland’s front office.
As for Stanford, he played collegiately at Cal Poly, catching 43 passes for 891 yards and four touchdowns during his four years. As a hybrid weapon, he also rushed 54 times for 314 yards with a touchdown.
The Patriots also waived (injured designation) Orton, who will go back to the Patriots on injured reserve if he clears waivers. Orton suffered a lower body injury during practice late in practice Friday and had to be carted off the field.
Orton, 28, was originally signed to the Patriots practice squad on Dec. 31, 2013, released by the team on May 22, 2014, and re-signed on July 23. The 6-foot-3, 199-pounder spent part of 2011 and all of 2012 on the Denver practice squad and went to training camp with Denver in 2013. He originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with the Cincinnati Bengals out of Purdue in 2009. Orton had stints with the Arena Football League’s Spokane Shock and the United Football League’s Omaha Knights before joining the Denver practice squad.
|Four thoughts on potential reunion between Bill Belichick and Mike Lombardi||02.13.14 at 9:19 pm ET|
It sounds more and more like Bill Belichick and Mike Lombardi are going to be working together again. Here are four thoughts on what that reunion would mean for both sides:
1. Belichick and Lombardi are like-minded individuals when it comes to running a football team — Lombardi has a deep and abiding relationship with Belichick that goes back to 1991, when Lombardi was working with Belichick in Cleveland. And while there have been several stops for Lombardi in the last 20-plus years, if there’s anyone left in the organization who could serve as a true counterpoint to Belichick on personnel matters, it would be Lombardi.
The Patriots coach has spoken glowingly of Lombardi in the past, including this statement in December:
‘He’s thorough, he’s smart, he’s thorough, he understands football,’ Belichick said of Lombardi last December in the days leading up to the Browns-Patriots game. ‘He understands not just personnel, but schemes and how certain players fit into certain schemes better than others because of the responsibilities in those schemes; the type of plays or the type of system that coaches run, different coaches run.
‘There are obviously a lot of different coaches in this league, different coaches in college, so that affects the performance of the players — some good, some bad, depending on how they fit into that particular system. I think he has a very good understanding of that, which is important for personnel people to understand, just like it is for coaches to understand personnel.
‘Mike is a hard working guy that won’t leave a stone unturned. He’ll find players, the Tony Joneses of the world, the Wally Williams of the world, the guys like that that played very well for us at Cleveland that nobody ever heard of that came out of nowhere that were good football players. He has a way of finding those guys.’
The relationship between Belichick and Lombardi was so close, in fact, that after Lombardi left the Raiders (he was there in various capacities from 1998 until 2007), then-owner Al Davis accused Lombardi of helping New England to the detriment of Oakland, pointing to the 2007 deal that brought Randy Moss to the Patriots. ‘What’s his name knew he could run, he’s a friend of Belichick’s. Mike Lombardi. Mike sold what’s his name, Belichick, on the idea that [Moss] could run. They tampered with him. I remember Bob Kraft saying that he had to look him in the eye and all that. They went down and worked him out, he could run.’ Lombardi later denied the charges. ‘I was trying to do the best thing for the Raiders, always have,’ he said. ‘In this situation, Bill Belichick is not going to always rely on my opinion for information. He is going to look at what he sees on the tape.’
2. Lombardi would serve as what might best be termed ‘Nick Caserio Insurance.’ The Patriots current personnel chief suddenly became a man in demand this offseason, as he took two interviews for the vacant Miami GM job, and while it’s debatable how open Caserio would be to leaving Foxboro, the fact that he put himself out there is a sign he could be interested in moving on sooner rather than later, and if/when he did, Lombardi would offer another personnel voice. As it stands right now, it’s unclear what sort of role or title Lombardi would have in the organization, but he’d likely be part of an inner circle of personnel men, a group that includes Belichick, Caserio and college scouting director Jon Robinson.
3. Belichick has had veteran voices in his corner on several occasions, with the latest being Floyd Reese, who served as ‘senior football advisor’ in New England from 200 through 2012. (According to several people close to the organization, Reese was the one who negotiated contracts.) It’s unlikely that Lombardi would fill that role, as he’s more of a personnel man, but it’s not out of the realm that he could have multiple responsibilities if needed.
4. It’s also worth mentioning that despite the fact he was never officially on the Patriots payroll, he continued to keep an interest in New England. His son Mick worked for the Patriots in 2012 before moving on to take a job with the Niners, and then, last year, with the Browns. In addition, Shalise Manza-Young of the Boston Globe reports that Lombardi served as an unofficial advisor/consultant with the Patriots when it came to the 2010 and 2012 drafts.
|Updates on Josh Cribbs, Danny Amendola and how their situations might affect the Wes Welker sweepstakes||03.13.13 at 12:44 am ET|
Three more notes before the end of the night:
‘¢ The Josh Cribbs saga continues. After a report from the Cleveland Plain-Dealer at the start of the day that linked the return man to New England, a Fox Sports report later dismissed the idea, and said that Cribbs could be ticketed to the Cardinals. But late Tuesday evening, another report from Mary-Kay Cabot of the P-D indicates that Cribbs has narrowed it down to New England and Arizona. (She reports the Niners were in the mix for a bit, but have since dropped out.) Cabot is also reporting that there is interest in both sides in a trade that would send Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett to the Browns. Cleveland’s new personnel chief Mike Lombardi is tight with Bill Belichick, and Lombardi has expressed his admiration for Mallett in the past on more than one occasion.
‘¢ Multiple outlets are now reporting that the market has started to narrow for slot receiver Danny Amendola, with the Ravens and Eagles in the market. Amendola, who has had a tough run of injuries as of late, caught 63 passes in 11 games in 2012, with 666 yards and three touchdowns. He also led the NFL in all purpose yards in 2010, with 689 reception yards (on 85 receptions), 452 punt return yards and 1,142 kickoff return yards. Amendola certainly makes sense from a Baltimore perspective, as the Ravens recently dealt slot receiver Anquan Boldin to the Niners for a draft pick.
‘¢ Both the Cribbs and Amendola situations would affect Welker, as New England could potentially view the younger slot receiver as a potential replacement for Welker — if Welker signs elsewhere soon (or, at least before Amendola and maybe Cribbs), the Patriots could enter into the bidding.
|Mike Lombardi on D&C: ‘I think it’s going to be New England and Denver’ in AFC||11.30.12 at 10:29 am ET|
NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning to preview Sunday’s Patriots-Dolphins game and discuss news from around the league. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Heading into Sunday’s game with the Dolphins, Lombardi said that the Patriots have to figure out a way to run the ball against a Dolphins team that a lot of people credit as having a better defense than they actually do.
‘People say that all the time,’ Lombardi said. ‘But when you study the team, and you’re in a nickel formation, they allow five yards per carry. So, the reality of the situation is if you want to be in two backs and you want to show how tough you are, and you want to try to prove a point and you want to prove that they can stop the run, line up in two backs and run the ball at them. You won’t have any success. So, you have to solve the problem, you have to be divergent in your thinking. So, what teams have done is spread them out, get in nickel and see if they can force the run in nickel, which fits the Patriots perfectly.’
‘I think what Brady is able to do is make the right decisions almost all the time,’ Lombardi said. ‘Since the Seattle game when he threw the ball to Deion Branch and he should’ve probably thrown it to [Rob] Gronkowski or [Aaron] Hernandez on a crossing route, you rarely see Tom take a chance that’s not there. Sometimes you get upset that he doesn’t try to at least throw it up the field, but Tom always is doing what’s best for the offense. ‘¦ I think Tom plays a patient game and that really helps when you play a team like San Francisco or when you’re going to play Miami. Patience is a virtue. You’ve got to be able to continue on up the field and not always kind of try to be desperate, and I think he does a great job of that.’
Added Lombardi: ‘I think he’s having a great season. It’s swept under the carpet because of the running game of the Patriots. ‘¦ But I think now he’s throwing the deep ball better than he has pretty much in the last three or four years.’
|Mike Lombardi on D&C: Aqib Talib will have ‘significant impact’ on Sunday||11.16.12 at 10:48 am ET|
NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning to preview Sunday’s Patriots-Colts game and discuss news from around the league. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Cornerback Aqib Talib joins the Patriots this week and Lombardi said he can make an immediate impact on the struggling secondary.
‘I think he can make a significant impact on the outside,’ Lombardi said. ‘This week against the Colts, it’s a little different game because the Colts have a couple of those receivers who have quickness and vertical speed in [Donnie] Avery and T.Y. Hilton so they’re not really the matchup for Talib. But certainly I think he can help on outside. What it will allow the Patriots to do is, if you really break down Patriots tape, the middle of the defense — the ‘backers, the safeties — this is where they’re getting killed more than anything. ‘¦ Get more speed on the field at linebacker, try to create some more situations where there is more depth in the zone drops, something that didn’t happen last week.’
The Patriots play the Colts and Andrew Luck on Sunday. Lombardi said the Colts aren’t a playoff contender yet because their defense hasn’t played a full, four-quarter game.
‘[Luck] been able to control the ball, and I think [interim coach] Bruce Arians has done a wonderful job of implementing the Pittsburgh Steeler offense,’ Lombardi said. ‘I think the whole offense is tailored exactly after the Steelers when you watch them closely on tape. They’ve been able to play what I call ‘Little League games,’ their defense has only played seven innings, they only have to play like 26 minutes in a game. And so they’ve never played a full nine-inning Major League Baseball game defensively. This week, they’re going to have to play nine innings and then we’ll find out if they’re a playoff team. ‘¦ They’re a year away from me looking at them like a legitimate playoff team, but don’t underestimate Andrew Luck.’
Lombardi pointed out some of Luck’s abilities and cautioned that the Patriots need to stop him from moving in the pocket this Sunday.
‘He’s only completing slightly over 55 percent of his passes, he’s taken a pounding, but one thing about Luck, he gets back up,’ Lombardi said. ‘It doesn’t affect him whatsoever, he keeps looking down the field to take a shot down the field and that’s where he’s been so effective. ‘¦ I don’t know if he has [a weakness]. His mental ability and his mental toughness to me carries over for any slight deficiencies he might have in the game. ‘¦ His movement in the pocket is really what makes him so effective. The Patriots have to do a good job of controlling him in the pocket and not allowing him to move. Not because they’re afraid he’s going to run. ‘¦ What he typically likes to do, like Big Ben [Roethlisberger] is move in the pocket and then make plays up the field. I think Patriots have to do a really good job of protecting him, keeping him in the pocket, and forcing him to hold that ball.’
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