|Joe Thuney sees himself ‘more of an interior guy’ on Patriots O-Line, looks forward to Dante Scarnecchia||04.30.16 at 1:20 am ET|
FOXBORO — As the Patriots learned last season, versatility along the offensive line can come in real handy.
In an effort to stockpile depth along the offensive line and to stay younger, the Patriots took one of the more versatile quality offensive linemen available with their second pick of the night on Friday. They selected Joe Thuney out of North Carolina State.
How versatile was the talent worked out by Dante Scarnecchia before the draft? He started four of the five positions on the offensive line, with center being the only position missing from his impressive resume. The Patriots covered that angle by having Thuney snap some balls for Scarnecchia during the workout.
Where does Thuney (silent ‘H’) see himself fitting in?
“I think I see myself as more of an interior guy: more as guard, center. If it gets to a pinch in the game, I can go at tackle but it’s really wherever coach wants me to play. And I have experience at all five so wherever he sees me best, I think that’s the best fit for me,” Thuney said.
“Just on the interior, I feel more comfortable. I don’t have the typical length of a typical NFL tackle but I feel like I move and pull and have the leverage on the interior”
“Throughout college I’ve always been open to whatever position the coaches needed. I’ve never had a set position in mind. As the process has gone on further and further, I’ve kind of realized where my strengths lie as a player and I think that the interior probably is where the coaches see that.”
Thuney, who said he hasn’t been told where he’ll play exactly, enters an environment where he’ll be competing against the likes of Shaq Mason and Tre’ Jackson for playing time along the interior line.
|Can ‘very confident’ Steven Daniels follow in the footsteps of Luke Kuechly in the NFL?||03.18.16 at 2:19 pm ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — Steven Daniels has a good deal in common with Luke Kuechly.
They both played at Cincinnati St. Xavier High School, a football powerhouse program in the Midwest. They were recruited and starred at Boston College. And they both played inside linebacker.
The question now for scouts and NFL personnel evaluators to determine, could Daniels make the same type of impact at the next level that Kuechly has in his career?
While that question alone implies extraordinary expectations, Daniels feels very confident he can make it on Sundays.
“Oh yeah, for sure. I’m a very confident person,” Daniels said. “Just the work that I’ve put in makes me this confident.”
Daniels is listed at 5-foot-11 and that has prompted some concern among NFL evaluators. But the three-year starter for the Eagles is a big-time thumper in the middle. The NFL.com evaluation calls Daniels a “Downhill daddy,” a linebacker that can apply force up the middle as a solid run-stopper. As a freshman, he made 25 tackles and one start at Will linebacker.
As a sophomore, he graduated to the first team (88 tackles, 6.5 for loss, three sacks, three pass breakups). Daniels had 72 tackles, 1.5 for loss, as a junior before really catching scouts’ eyes as a senior in 2015. The first-team All-ACC selection led B.C. with 82 stops, 16 for loss, and six sacks as the Eagles ranked first in the FBS in total defense. It was last year that some started to see a BC comparison between Kuechly and Daniels.
Kuechly made a huge impact with not just his tackling but his ball skills with the NFL’s Panthers, becoming the first player in NFL history with interception returns for scores in consecutive playoff games against Seattle and Arizona. On Wednesday, at BC’s Pro Day, Daniels was busy showing off his ball skills during pass coverage drills.
|Jonathan Cooper out to show his ‘nasty’ side with Dante Scarnecchia, Patriots O-Line||03.17.16 at 4:01 pm ET|
Jonathan Cooper is out to prove he is not just a thinking man’s offensive lineman – he’s a nasty one, too.
The 6-foot-2, 312-pounder came into the NFL with high expectations as a first-round (seventh overall) selection of the Arizona Cardinals in 2013 out of North Carolina.
A broken leg in his rookie year slowed his development but there was something else slowing his growth, at least in the eyes of some NFL talent evaluators. He lacked a nasty side that all interior offensive linemen need to cope in the trenches.
“I do have that. It’s one of those things that you learn when you’re bigger than everybody when you’re younger, that you should be gentle, be nice,” Cooper said in a conference call Thursday. “It’s one of those things that you kind of have to learn that it’s nothing personal, it’s just business. So when you finish somebody at the whistle, at the end of a play, it’s nothing personal. It’s in the rule books. It’s just those little things that show that ‘he’s nasty, you don’t really want to mess with him,’ and I do feel like I have that.”
Helping to foster and channel that nastiness will be returning offensive line guru Dante Scarnecchia.
“I haven’t had too much interaction with him prior to this point,” Cooper said of his 68-year-old line coach. “But what I have heard is nothing but good things from him, even going in training today with other players, they say he’s such a great coach and he’s old school and he’ll get on you a little bit but guys love him, and you won’t have a better teacher.”
Cooper is a self-professed student of the game, taking pride in his classroom and thinking man’s approach to the trenches.
“As a player, I’d my strengths are literally strength. It’s one of my biggest strong points, as well as being a cerebral player and working to become more cerebral,” he said. “Working with the Cardinals, learning the playbook, got it down and now I’m looking to really become even more [cerebral], learning different things that I may not necessarily need to get my job done but it’ll make my life easier in the long run, and just become a better professional. Speed and agility are also strong points that I have, and it’s just a fact of putting it all on display on the field.”
After missing his entire rookie season in 2013 due to the broken leg, Cooper appeared in 10 games with two starts at left guard in 2014.
“It was definitely a learning experience,” Cooper said of the broken leg. “I’m a firm believer that God has a perfect plan for everybody. It happened and now I’m here. It’s one of those things it happened and it was kind of an unfortunate [thing]. But, now I’m here with the Patriots and have a great opportunity to kind of almost transcend that. It’s almost like redemption, kind of turning it all around.”
Last season, Cooper played in 14 games with nine starts at right guard. He was a reserve in both of the Arizona postseason games. Cooper started a school record of 48 games for North Carolina and was a three-time All-ACC selection and earned All-America honors as a senior.
Now a new chapter on Jonathan Cooper’s career begins thanks to the trade of Chandler Jones to the Cardinals.
“My reaction is that I’m excited,” Cooper said. “I’m coming into a great organization, a great situation and I’m just super-excited about the opportunity to play and learn so much from such a great coaching staff. I’m really excited just to take advantage of this opportunity.”
CHESTNUT HILL — The size of Mehdi Abdesmad has always intrigued NFL scouts.
Now, the question is can his body hold up?
The 6-foot-6 defensive edge rusher, weighing in at 284 pounds at the NFL Combine last month, is hoping scouts are sufficiently satisfied that his left knee can take the punishment of not just combine and pro days but NFL practices and games.
As good as his career was at Boston College, his health has been a big issue. Injuries to his left knee in 2013 and ’14, and a combine performance in Indianapolis last month that didn’t go as well as he would’ve hoped dimmed his prospects somewhat. Abdesmad is confident that he’s fully healthy and ready to prove he can handle the NFL load.
“Just show that I can do better that what I did at the combine, that I can move, that I’m healthy,” Abdesmad said Wednesday after his workout for scouts inside the bubble at Boston College. “It felt good. Came back here and had better numbers than what I had there.”
At Indy, Abdesmad ran a 5.10 40-yard dash, a 7.55 in the three-cone drill and a 4.62 in the 20-yard shuttle. But on Wednesday, he felt stronger. WEEI’s Ryan Hannable pointed out Abdesmad’s potential at the combine.
“It just shows how you move, if you can bend your knees, change of direction. That’s what they’re looking at,” he added. “That was the biggest question for me, to see if my knee was good. When I went to the combine, they did all the tests they had to do. It came back good.”
Not only were there 16 teams represented at Boston College’s pro day Wednesday, there was a representative of the Canadian Football League. It was the Canadian Football League’s Scouting Bureau that ranked Abdesmad as the fourth-best Canadian-born prospect in their list released in December.
Abdesmad’s play as a senior was good enough to earn honorable mention All-ACC honors from league coaches (49 tackles, 15 for loss, 5.5 sacks). It was all the more impressive given his battle with injuries the previous two years. He played a total of seven games, with five starts, (21 tackles, 3.5 for loss, two sacks) over the 2013 and 2014 seasons due to problems with his left knee.
In his first two years at Boston College, the Montreal native had made a big impression, playing in eight games (missed the final three due to injury) in 2011 and starting eight games in 2012 (25 tackles, three for loss).
|Free agent snapshot: Marvin Jones||02.20.16 at 11:55 am ET|
When free agency begins in early March, there are a handful of players across the league who could appeal to New England. With the understanding that the status of these players could change because of the franchise or transition tag, here are a few possibilities for the Patriots to consider. We have to stress that all of these guys are not necessarily considered the elite of the free agent class – instead, they’re players we think would be a good fit in New England. We started with Matt Forte, Anquan Boldin, Mohamed Sanu, Alshon Jeffery, Stevan Ridley, Danny Trevathan, Alfred Morris and Stefan Wisniewski.
Player: Marvin Jones
Position: Wide receiver
Weight: 195 pounds
Age: 25 (turns 26, March 12)
The skinny: For three years, Jones has been the forgotten cog in Cincinnati’s passing attack behind the likes of A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, Jermaine Gresham and Mohamed Sanu. But Jones has posted numbers that has him in position to be one of the top free agent receivers available. He established himself as a No. 2 receiver out of Cal behind Green that could get paid like a No. 1 this season for a team that is looking for a reliable red-zone target. Cincinnati will most certainly make a run at keeping their second-most valuable receiver but as Jones indicated to the NFL Network at the Super Bowl, he doesn’t plan on taking a discount to stay with a team that’s made the playoffs five straight years, only to lose in the first round each time. “I’d like to be back, but at the same time I am a free agent - no hometown discount, definitely not - but I’m a free agent. It wouldn’t be good for me not to test the waters a little bit. So it’s just an exciting process.”
By the numbers: Jones had the best year of his four-year career this past season in terms of catches (65) and yards (816). But he only had four touchdowns, as his red zone totals fell from 2013, when he had 10. Most of that is due to the fact that Tyler Eifert emerged as one of the best red zone targets in football this season and A.J. Green is still one of Andy Dalton‘s go-to guys inside the 20. Jones missed all of 2014 with an ankle injury.
Why it would work: As we pointed out with the likes of Alshon Jeffery and Mohamed Sanu, the Patriots are in need of a proven veteran downfield threat with speed, who can separate and get open, assuming Tom Brady has the time. Jones could definitely fit the bill in this case and he’s shown he can produce in an offense with a lot of talent around him. Certainly, the Patriots are like the Bengals in terms of their offensive weaponry and Jones has proven that he can share the wealth in a winning system.
Why it wouldn’t work: The Patriots decide they would rather give Brian Tyms, Keshawn Martin, Aaron Dobson or Brandon Gibson the chance to break loose and win the deep threat job in camp than to commit the likely $20 million it will take to sign Jones, who has been very public about his desire to test the free agent waters and see what’s out there. That’s usually language that gives the Patriots reason to pause on any serious offer.
Our take: It’s been a mixed bag for the Patriots in free agency when it comes to adding wide receivers so signing Jones might seem to be a long-shot at first glance. Brandon LaFell has had his moments and certainly was productive in 2014 but fell off drastically this season when coming back from injury this year. Danny Amendola had his contract restructured last March but is arguably the second-most reliable receiver behind Julian Edelman on the team. If the Patriots are serious about adding quality depth to their receiving corps, Jones is someone who deserves a long, hard look by the Patriots, as he is one of the best available receivers on the market. He also might not command the kind of money an Alshon Jeffery is looking for on the open market.
|Free agent snapshot: Mohamed Sanu||02.14.16 at 11:59 am ET|
When free agency begins in early March, there are a handful of players across the league who could appeal to New England. With the understanding that the status of these players could change because of the franchise or transition tag, here are a few possibilities for the Patriots to consider. We have to stress that all of these guys are not necessarily considered the elite of the free agent class – instead, they’re players we think would be a good fit in New England. We started with running back Matt Forte and Anquan Boldin. Now we move onto another receiver, Cincinnati’s Mohamed Sanu.
Player: Mohamed Sanu
Weight: 210 pounds
The skinny: One of the more underrated, versatile and unique receivers in the game. He’s underrated because he’s been playing behind A.J. Green in the Bengals offense. He’s versatile because he can play on the outside or in the slot, and has for both Jay Gruden and Hue Jackson. And he’s unique because he’s got a live arm which he has shown on occasion, completing his first passing attempts of his career, including two for touchdowns.
By the numbers: Sanu is coming off a very down year, catching just 33 passes for 394 yards and no touchdowns while playing in all 16 regular season games. That’s down significantly (56, 790, 5) in 2014. His best game this past season was against the Chiefs, catching four passes for 84 yards, including a season-long 52-yarder. Over his four-year career, Sanu has 152 catches for 1,793 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Why it would work: Bill Belichick can’t get enough players who can do more than one thing and do them well. Against the Broncos on Monday night in December, he showed off his speed with a run around around left end for a touchdown. He is a reliable route-runner and productive receiver and can throw the ball accurately for someone who isn’t a quarterback. He really can do it all. On top of that, Sanu went to Belichick’s favorite NFL factory, Rutgers. There’s a lot of reasons to think Sanu would easily find a home in New England and be very productive in any offensive/return game role he were asked to perform. Belichick also likes players who aren’t the traditional player in a particular position because he can use them in game plans untraditionally, forcing opposing teams to alter their approach.
Why it wouldn’t work: Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. Both already have extensive experience working with Tom Brady. Throw in Keshawn Martin, Brian Tyms, Brandon Gibson, Brandon LaFell and Aaron Dobson, and that’s a lot of depth to beat out. Assuming he starts out behind Edelman and Amendola, Sanu would have to transform himself into more of a primary receiver or “Z” receiver, something he didn’t do a lot of in Cincinnati, where Green was the “X” and Marvin Jones the “Z” receiver. Edelman and Amendola already have the true slot and “Z” spots sewn up so if Sanu were to come to New England, he’d have to learn a new system and a new role. That’s a lot to ask for somebody who would be in his first season with Tom Brady.
Our take: As Belichick noted earlier in the 2015 season when talking about notable slot receivers, Sanu is a bit of a hybrid, at 6-foot-2, giving him a size advantage over many nickel and sub defensive backs. If Sanu doesn’t ask for huge dollars, there’s always the chance Belichick could be interested in adding a very valuable and versatile piece to the offense if Cincinnati cuts him loose.
|Michael McCann on Dale & Holley: ‘Evidence suggests that [Tom Brady] has been defamed’||02.05.16 at 10:38 am ET|
Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann joined Dale & Holley with Thornton on Wednesday to discuss the latest chapter in Deflategate. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
After league commissioner Roger Goodell announced the NFL would not release PSI measurements taken over the course of the season, many have been left searching for answers.
“I would imagine one possible answer is that the results don’t corroborate some of the theories the NFL offered last year about deflated footballs,” McCann said. “There’s also the possibility that the NFL doesn’t want to share information that could be used by Tom Brady, not in the appeal, but if Tom Brady were to pursue a defamation lawsuit against the NFL.”
The possibility of a Brady defamation suit as been thrown around a lot this week after many suspect the NFL is hiding something by not releasing its data. Although it undoubtedly would drag this case out much longer than he would like it, it is certainly an option for Brady.
“The evidence suggests that he has been defamed, in the sense that there have been things said about him that basic tenets of science repudiate,” McCann said. “If you’re him, you could clearly show that you’ve been harmed. His reputation has been harmed, he’s been embarrassed, the rest of the country calls him a cheater. … Do I think he’s going to do it? No. But I would be pretty furious if I were him.”
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