|Scouting Report: What you have to know about Rams-Patriots||12.03.16 at 12:07 pm ET|
Here’s everything you have to know about Sunday’s game between the Patriots (9-2) and the Rams (4-7) at Gillette Stadium.
WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN THE BALL
New England now features three primary backs, not counting “Brandon” and “Danny,” as part of its ground game. The between-the-tackles work will continue to be done by LeGarrette Blount (212 carries, 869 yards, 12 TDs), while Dion Lewis (11 carries, 47 yards) and James White (28 carries, 112 yards) will offer support, as well as a third-down option for Tom Brady. Blount still figures to be the man, especially if the game gets out of hand early. He’s 138 yards from tying his career-high for yards in a season, and while he probably won’t reach the milestone Sunday against Los Angeles, he’s got a good chance of at least nearing the mark. Look for the occasional two-back set of White and Lewis. We saw it occasionally last week against the Jets, and could be an intriguing combo going forward. Overall, Los Angeles is 20th against the run (112.3 rushing yards allowed per game), and has struggled as of late, allowing an average of 149 rushing yards per contest in the last three games. That includes yielding a season-high 209 rushing yards last week in a loss to the Saints.
WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS THE BALL
With no Rob Gronkowski in the lineup anymore, Brady (68 percent completion rate, 2,201 yards, 18 TDs, 1 INT, 116.7 passer rating) and the Patriots passing game will change its focus to more of a spread look with an emphasis on multiple (three and four) receiver sets. That’s not to say we won’t see plenty of work for Martellus Bennett (42 catches, 54 targets, 540 yards, 4 TDs), who will be asked to continue to produce at a high level in the wake of the loss of Gronkowski. It’s only to suggest that it’ll be the likes of Julian Edelman (64 catches, 100 targets, 617 yards, 2 TDs), Danny Amendola (20 catches, 25 targets, 213 yards, 4 TDs), Chris Hogan (23 catches, 35 targets, 461 yards, 2 TDs) and Malcolm Mitchell (16 catches, 27 targets, 235 yards, 3 TDs) will get more targets going forward. That doesn’t even begin to take into account the White/Lewis combo, which caught eight passes last week out of the backfield and will continue to account for a sizable portion of the passing game the rest of the way.
Los Angeles is actually pretty good when it comes to pass defense (seventh in the league at 227.5 yards per game). Aaron Donald is a terrifying presence along the interior, and one of the best young linemen in the league. The 6-foot-1, 285-pounder will present a sizable challenge for New England’s offensive line — he has 35 tackles (28 solo) this year, to go along with a team-high six sacks. Defensive end Robert Quinn has four sacks on the year, while ex-Patriot Dominique Easley has 2.5 sacks of his own. Los Angeles is middle of the pack when it comes to forcing turnovers (13 takeaways are tied for 19th in the league). Linebacker Mark Barron leads the team with two picks.
|5 things to know about Rams: Aaron Donald is really good and Jeff Fisher isn’t||11.29.16 at 10:03 pm ET|
Five things you have to know about the Los Angeles Rams, who will come to Foxboro to meet the Patriots Sunday at 1.
Aaron Donald is a bad man. And we mean bad in the sense that he can ruin the afternoon for an opposing offense. The 25-year-old defensive tackle has quickly become one of the best in the game at what he does. Working along the interior, the 6-foot-1, 285-pounder out of Pitt demands extra attention on every snap, and will present a sizable challenge for New England’s offense. He had 35 tackles (28 solo) this year, to go along with a team-high six sacks. Part of an impressive defensive front, the whole Los Angeles defense revolves around Donald. If you find a way to slow him down, you can go a long way towards limiting the Rams.
They are one of the better young defenses in the league. Truth be told, it’s not just Donald. The guys next to him — particularly Robert Quinn — do a good job feeding off him. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound defensive end manages to pick up some of the slack when Donald is double-teamed, and has managed to come away with four sacks on the year. Old pal Dominique Easley is also part of the rotation along the defensive line, and has chipped in with 2.5 sacks of his own. As a group, Los Angeles has allowed an average of 21.5 points per game, tied for 12th in the league. The Rams are seventh against the pass (227.5 passing yards allowed per game) and 20th against the run (112.3 rushing yards allowed per game). Los Angeles is middle of the pack when it comes to forcing turnovers (13 takeaways are tied for 19th in the league). Linebacker Mark Barron leads the team with two picks.
|Rams trade up for Tavon Austin to replace Danny Amendola||04.25.13 at 9:09 pm ET|
The Rams traded up from the 16th overall pick to the eighth pick in a trade with the Bills Thursday night to select West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin.
Austin is a logical option for the Rams, who lost Danny Amendola to the Patriots in free agency. The 5-foot-8 4/8, 250-pounder ran a 4.30 second 40-yard dash at the Combine and projects to be a dangerous slot receiver in the NFL.
The Rams became the first team to select a skill position player, as offensive and defensive linemen went with the first seven picks.
The 2013 NFL draft generally is considered to lack the talent of the past few years, and that could lead to more teams offering up their picks for future selections. It also could lead to teams looking to find talent that already is in the league and might be available in a trade.
Enter Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett. The former Arkansas star has had two years learning under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, and with the lack of elite quarterbacks in this year’s draft, he is an appealing option (as WEEI.com’s Chris Price covered here last month).
According to multiple reports Thursday, the Patriots have received numerous calls about Mallet’s availability. New England picked up Mallett in the third round in 2011 and reportedly wouldn’t take less than a second-rounder for him.
According to Greg Bedard of The Boston Globe, one team that might have interest is the Browns. New general manager Mike Lombardi raved about Mallett when Lombardi worked for NFL Network, and Lombardi’s son, Mick, was a coaching/scouting assistant with the Patriots and got a first-hand look at Mallett in practices.
(The Browns also reportedly are considering trading up from No. 6 in an effort to land West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith.)
The other quarterback on the Patriots roster is Mike Kafka, although the team reportedly has been heavily scouting QBs in this year’s draft.
In 2012, Mallet completed 1-of-4 passes for 17 yards and was intercepted once.
‘¢ The 22nd overall pick that the Rams received from the Redskins last year is said to be for sale. ESPN’s Adam Schefter made the Rams’ intentions clear on Twitter.
The team also has the 16th overall pick and likely would attempt to trade down to obtain more picks. Last season, coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead had a good draft, picking up Michael Brockers, Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, among others.
‘¢ ESPN’s John Clayton reports that the Vikings “would like to find a way to take Manti Te’o” in the first round. The Notre Dame linebacker’s future is uncertain following his fake-girlfriend issue and his disappointing in the national championship game.
|Do Patriots still need to look to draft after signing Danny Amendola?||03.13.13 at 9:47 pm ET|
That could be dicey, as drafting receivers has obviously been a dicey affair for Bill Belichick and the Patriots in recent years. The Pats have swung and missed in the second round with guys like Chad Jackson and Bethel Johnson, while third-rounders Taylor Price and Brandon Tate also failed to stick around. The best receiver they’ve drafted in the last five years is 2009 seventh-rounder Julian Edelman, a college quarterback.
While there are options in free agency, the Pats may have to turn to the draft to replace Welker. Here are a few guys who could fill his role:
Tavon Austin, West Viriginia, 5-foot-8 4/8, 174 pounds
Austin is the most electric receiver in the draft and his 4.34 40-time turned heads at the combine. Drops are believed to be a potential concern at the next level and he had some hiccups in pass-catching drills in Indianapolis. Still, his overall skill-set would make him a dynamic asset in the slot and a dangerous presence in the return game.
Additionally, Austin models his game after Welker’s.
‘Wes Welker, that’s the No. 1 guy,’ he said at the combine. ‘I see how Wes does it, I watch a lot of tape of him, and I think I move a little quicker and faster than Wes, so if he can do it, I know I can do it too.’
The issue with Austin is what it would take to get him. Austin’s stock has risen so much of late that he could potentially be the first receiver off the board, and if the Pats want him, they can’t just sit back and assume that he’ll be there at No. 29. You can argue whether it would be worth it to spend a first-round pick on a slot receiver, but what about moving up for one in the first round when the team doesn’t have many picks (1, 2, 3, 7, 7) to begin with?
Markus Wheaton, Oregon State, 5-foot-11, 189 pounds
A projected second-rounder, Wheaton played both in the slot and outside in college, where he was Oregon State’s all-time leader in receptions with 224. As a senior, he had 91 catches and 11 touchdowns.
Wheaton had a good showing at the combine with a 4.45 40-yard dash. He’s far less executing a prospect as Austin is, but he wouldn’t need to be the focal point of the Patriots’ draft, which is worth considering because they have greater needs than receiver. That could change if they fix their secondary in free agency, but for now, receiver shouldn’t be a first-round priority of theirs. If they want to wait a round and go for someone in the next tier, Wheaton would make sense.
Stedman Bailey, West Virginia, 5-foot-10 2/8, 193 pounds
He flies under the radar because of his teammate in Austin, but Bailey led the nation with 25 touchdowns and was a very productive player in his time at West Virginia. He doesn’t have elite speed like Austin and plays the game of someone with better size, but he’d be a logical slot receiver in the NFL.
“What I see is an instinctive, smart receiver that catches [the ball]; he’s a natural hands-catcher, and because Austin and Geno Smith get all of the attention, he kind of fell into the background,” Mike Mayock said of Bailey at the combine. “But if you watch him in the red zone on tape and his understanding and knowledge of route running and defenses, he’s one of the more smarter and instinctive receivers in this draft. I’d be surprised if he gets out of the third round.’
Denard Robinson, Michigan, 5-foot-10 4/8, 199 pounds
This would be a bit of a project and a guy the Pats could roll the dice on if he’s there in the later rounds. Robinson played quarterback for the vast majority of his college college career (much like Edelman) before being moved to receiver/running back late in his senior season, and his great athleticism and speed make for a pretty intriguing prospect as a slot receiver. His 4.42 40-yard dash was fifth among wide receiver prospects in Indianapolis, but that shouldn’t be a surprise when considering he was also a sprinter for the track and field team at Michigan.
Robinson is planning on throwing at his Pro Day this week, but it is to show how well he’s healed from an elbow injury. His intention is to play receiver at the next level, but how well he adjusts to a still relatively new position at a new level remains to be seen. He’d definitely be a risk/reward pick.
|NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: West Virginia WR Tavon Austin||03.01.13 at 12:25 pm 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: Wide receiver
School: West Virginia
Weight: 174 pounds
Achievements: 2012 Paul Hornung Award Winner (most versatile player), 2012 All-America first team (all-purpose player), tied for second in FBS in receptions (114) and all-purpose yards (230 per game) in 2012
What he brings: If Austin falls to the Patriots, he has the potential to be an absolute demon in their offense. The speedster, who NFL Network’s Marshall Faulk referred to as ‘Percy Harvin and Wes Welker wrapped into one,’ enters the draft coming out of one of college football’s premiere spread offenses and has everything NFL teams are looking for — except prototypical height, something that will lead some teams to balk at him early in the draft.
However, NFL teams have seen enough players like Carolina’s Steve Smith, Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson and Welker providing great examples players 5-foot-10 or under that are worth a look in the first round. Add to that Austin’s abilities in the return game, and you have exactly what the Patriots have been looking for in one player — again, except for size.
Austin has been vocal about how Welker’s play has inspired him as a player so much that he models much of his game after his and has watched hours of tape on him. However, the West Virginia product is faster — much faster — clocking in with a 4.34-second 40 time at the scouting combine.
What Austin lacks in size, he definitely makes up in confidence, claiming that was “the all-around best player in the draft” during the combine. He also has shown that he can take the hits for a player his size, never missing a game during his time at West Virginia.
Where the Patriots could get him: Round 1
Notes: It’s important to really understand what Austin’s height limits, which is his ability to go vertical down the sideline, battle for jump balls, beat press coverage and block larger opponents. What it does not affect is his versatility, which was on display during his historic performance against then-No. 12 Oklahoma this past season.
When injuries left the Mountaineers depleted at running back, Austin filled the role. Initially recruited as a running back before settling into his role as a receiver, Austin racked up 344 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the night. He added 82 receiving yards and 146 kick return yards to give him a total of 572 all purpose yards, which is the second most in NCAA history.
Austin blew away scouts on Sunday with his 40-yard dash. However, he did not participate in the 3-cone drill, in which he was expected to have a stellar performance. While the Patriots are known to put great emphasis on that particular drill, they still can use Austin’s pro day and hours of tape to establish whether his agility is as good as advertised.
Related articles: Charleston Daily Mail: WVU’s Austin a triple threat as WR, returner
Video: Here’s a compilation of highlights from Austin’s senior season at West Virginia.
|40-yard dash times for wide receivers||02.24.13 at 10:02 am ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — Everyone loves them some 40-yard dash times, so we’ll update this post throughout the day with the results of some guys the Patriots could potentially look at. Click on the players’ names for stories we’ve written about them at the combine. Times are unofficial.
Tavon Austin, West Virginia: 4.25, 4.31
– Austin’s an explosive guy who models his game after Wes Welker. Could be intriguing at 29th overall if he’s there. His first time is one-tenth of a second slower than Chris Johnson‘s record.
Stedman Bailey, West Virginia: 4.50
– One of the WEEI.com draft binkies this year, I’d like Bailey in the middle rounds over Austin. That time isn’t great for his size, so maybe this drops him to the third round. Had 25 touchdowns last year.
Justin Hunter, Tennessee: 4.41, 4.44
– Good time for the 6-foot-4 Hunter. A possible first-rounder.
Da’Rick Rogers, Tennessee Tech: 4.52
DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson: 4.50
Terrance Williams, Baylor: 4.52
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