|Patriots rookie DL Vincent Valentine aims to quiet rumors about commitment, consistency||05.13.16 at 11:13 am ET|
FOXBORO — You spend a few minutes with rookie Vincent Valentine and it becomes clear that the Patriots have again filled their “Big Vince” quota.
Of course, while Vince Wilfork is destined to go down as one of the greatest players in franchise history, Valentine’s NFL career is still in its nascent stages. But after meeting the media on Thursday at Gillette Stadium, it’s clear the 6-foot-4, 329-pound Valentine has the size and at least a small part of the quotability and forthright approach that distinguished Wilfork when he was in the same stages of his development.
Known as a penetrating tackle who has played multiple spots along the defensive front, Valentine finished his college career at Nebraska with 76 tackles, including 14.5 for loss, as well as seven sacks. His best year was 2014 when he 45 tackles and three sacks.
“This guy’s a big guy,” Patriots personnel guru Nick Caserio said of Valentine shortly after he was selected by New England. “When you watch Nebraska, you’re actually watching he and Maliek Collins, who the Cowboys took there at the top of the third round. You’re talking about two NFL defensive tackles.
“They’re a little bit different. Collins is a little bit more undersized, little bit more of a two or three technique. Valentine actually played anywhere from zero all the way out to five techniques. He’s primarily an interior defensive tackle, but very strong, very physical, good run player (and) well-coached.”
On Thursday, Valentine was straight with reporters who brought up questions about his commitment level, which some believe caused his fall all the way to the third round, where the Patriots scooped him up with the 96th overall selection.
“I look at myself in the mirror and tell myself if I work hard this day, I’m fine. If not, I’ve got to get better the next day,” he said. “I just take it day by day. I just kind of tune out everybody that has opinions about me, and use it as motivation to get better.”
He added: “I had to convince everybody. That was the word on the street about me. Just trying to convince everybody that I’m ready to work, I’m ready to be a pro. I’m ready to put in all the work you need me to do. It wasn’t just the focus for New England. It was the focus for everybody, and for myself also.”
When it comes to pure strength, there doesn’t seem to be a question, especially when you check out this Instagram video of him squatting through a 745-pound lift this offseason.
“My legs have always been a strong point of (my game) — focusing on squats and being strong with my base,” he said. “I play d-line, and so that’s like one of the most important things to have. Just one of those things I focused on and tried to get better at every day.”
To this point, he certainly seems to have gotten off to a good start with the Patriots.
“It’s been amazing — this is a great organization,” he said. “I’m excited to put in work and get better each day. That’s always been the goal. I’m just excited to be around everybody and coach (Bill) Belichick and learn from the best.
“It’s a whole new world. It’s a new experience for all (the rookies),” he added. “We just want to get better and learn and grow each day. That’s the goal. That’s what we’ve been working on. The older guys are helping us along and bringing us on the right track.”
|Dolphins’ decision to extend DE Cameron Wake symbol of cap conundrum for teams with veterans||05.09.16 at 12:25 pm ET|
Team-building means different things to different franchises. But one basic difference between the way the Patriots operate and the way the Dolphins go about their business was illustrated recently when Miami decided to give 34-year-old defensive end Cameron Wake a two-year extension.
Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the deal is worth $15 million, including $10 million fully guaranteed at signing, with the possibility of the deal growing to $17 million before the end of the contract.
Wake, who is coming off a torn Achilles tendon that limited him to seven games in 2015, is accorded as one of the better pass rushers of the last five years — his 18.5 sacks since the start of the 2014 season is tied for 13th-best in the league in that span.
The former CFL star and four-time Pro Bowler offered a message for Dolphins’ fans after he agree to the new contract.
“Hey, what’s up Dolphins fans? It’s your boy Cameron Wake here,” he said. “I just finished some business up. You’ve got me for two more years. I’m really excited about what’s on the horizon for myself and the Dolphins and the whole family. I’m really excited to be a big part of this team, to go out there and make sure we win a lot of games for you guys. We appreciate the support. Keep it up, and we will do the same.”
There are some who might argue that giving Wake so much guaranteed money is a Lifetime Achievement Award for a player who has had such success the last few years with Miami. And when you throw in the fact that pass-rushing defensive ends are getting paid similar rates, you could make a case for the new deal.
But from this viewpoint, giving such a sizable sizable contract to a defensive lineman on the plus-side of 30 coming off a season-ending injury illustrates why the Dolphins are in the position they are in. Schefter said Miami gifted Wake with the new deal “for what he’s done and will do.” While no one is questioning the bonafides of a player like Wake, paying a 34-year-old for past performance instead of future return is the sort of move that can hinder your financial flexibility moving forward.
Contrast Wake’s situation with defensive lineman Vince Wilfork. Last offseason, the longtime Patriot ended up leaving New England and starting anew with the Texans at the age of 33. Like Wake, he also had a season-ending Achilles’ issue of his own in the not-too-distant past. Of course, Wilfork’s on-field numbers aren’t in the same ballpark as Wake, but in terms of what Wilfork delivered in terms of leadership, he was certainly in the same neighborhood as the Dolphins’ defender. (In fact, based on Schefter’s quote, you could argue that for everything Wilfork did for the Patriots’ franchise, he certainly deserved a payday similar to the one wake received from Miami.)
Whether or not Wake’s deal turns out to be a sound one remains to be seen — he could rebound at an advanced age and become a Pro Bowler once again. But from this viewpoint, the decision illustrates one of the reasons why the Dolphins have had the sort of cap and personnel issues that they’ve had over the last few years.
|Terrance Knighton: My heart told me to sign with New England||04.06.16 at 4:53 pm ET|
Washington or New England?
That was the decision defensive tackle Terrance Knighton faced last week, as initially Washington, the team he played for last year said they weren’t interested, but once the Patriots got involved the Redskins were back in the mix to sign him.
In the end Knighton signed with New England, as he himself announced the signing on his Twitter account last Thursday night. Knighton was born in Connecticut and is a self-noted Celtics fan.
“I just prayed on it,” he said on a conference call Wednesday. “I talked to a lot of my family and I followed my heart and my heart just told me to go to New England.”
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to play for a team that I loved to watch growing up,” Knighton said. “… [I’m excited] having a fresh new start and play for this great coaching staff and I am looking forward to meeting the guys.”
One of the biggest issues for Knighton in Washington last year was his weight, as he’s listed at 355 pounds. He said he spent a lot of time speaking with members of the Patriots about it and said it wouldn’t be an issue as there is a plan in place. He added there are weight clauses in his contract.
The 29-year-old has 148 tackles and 14 sacks in his seven years in the league and will only help the Patriots’ defensive line which already has solid, young players in Dominique Easley and Malcom Brown.
“I pride myself in playing many different styles. Obviously the Patriots are known for having a lot of different looks on defense,” Knighton said. “I’m just going to come in and work as hard as I can and try and get acclimated to the system. I know there is going to be a lot I have to learn — this being my fourth team. I will have to come in and learn the playbook, listen to the coaches, ask a lot of questions — that is what I usually do being a new guy. There will be a lot of different things and like I said, I am coming in open-minded and ready to learn as much as I can.”
|Half of Patriots team helps former teammate Aqib Talib celebrate wedding||03.28.16 at 1:13 pm ET|
Just because they aren’t teammates anymore doesn’t mean Aqib Talib and the Patriots players aren’t still close.
And while it wasn’t exactly half of the Patriots team, a number of current and past Patriots players attended Talib’s wedding over the weekend including Devin McCourty, Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, Duron Harmon and LeGarrette Blount.
See some of the Instagram posts for proof:
|Julian Edelman, Vince Wilfork, Tedy Bruschi latest to praise Peyton Manning following retirement||03.07.16 at 6:57 pm ET|
Two of the toughest defensive players Peyton Manning ever faced — Vince Wilfork and Tedy Bruschi — were the latest to praise the now retired quarterback.
Appearing on ESPN Monday, Bruschi relayed a story of when he himself retired, Manning sent a card to Bruschi’s home in the name Peyton Williams Manning. It stood to Bruschi as he doesn’t know Manning well, but he still managed to get his home address and send him a card.
Manning named Bruschi in his speech Monday.
“It was an honor really, to hear that from the one opponent that I respect more than all others,” Bruschi said. “And I can honestly say this about Peyton Manning, the biggest compliment I can give him, guys, is he made me a better player.”
Besides Wilfork, Julian Edelman also took to social media to praise Manning.
It seems like I spent at least once a year if not twice a year preparing for a Peyton Manning football team. Watching every game, going back watching film from couple years previous, paying attention to every detail when preparing for him. It’s a lot of work, but when u wanna beat one of the best, that’s the work u have to put in. Peyton makes u lose sleep thinking of ways to beat him and it was always tough. Nothing but the utmost respect and privilege to have played against one of NFL greatest QBs ever to lace up a pair of cleats. One of the toughest competitors I ever played against. #18 will be missed!!!!
|Vince Wilfork calls Jerod Mayo ‘my brother,’ wishes him well in retirement||02.17.16 at 10:38 am ET|
In the hours following Jerod Mayo announcing his retirement Tuesday night, a few Patriots players took to social media to pay tribute to their former teammate and captain. That continued throughout the night and on Wednesday.
Even a former teammate paid his respects in Vince Wilfork, who called Mayo “my brother.”
Fellow linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins always paid tribute as well.
|Scouting Report: What you need to know about Patriots-Texans||12.12.15 at 3:56 pm ET|
Here’s everything you need to know when the Patriots (10-2) take on the Texans (6-6) Sunday night at NRG Stadium in Houston:
WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN THE BALL
Who knows? There’s been no rhyme or reason as to how the Patriots have approached the running game the last two contests, which means it’s anybody’s guess as to how it’s going to shake out this week. For what it’s worth, LeGarrette Blount (155 carries, 650 yards, 6 TDs, 4.2 yards per carry), Brandon Bolden (19 carries, 59 yards, 3.1 ypc) and James White (15 carries, 39 yards, 1 rushing TD) will get the work on the ground, but who knows how much that will be. On paper, the ground game figured to be a relatively good matchup against both Denver and Philly, and for whatever reason, the Patriots didn’t spend much time running the ball. It’s not clear if it was an issue with the backs, or a lack of faith in the offensive line when it comes to run blocking, or a lack of faith in the overall execution across the board, but for key stretches as of late, the New England offense was fundamentally one-dimensional. On the other side of the ball, Houston is 21st in the NFL in run defense, having yielded an average of 114.1 rushing yards per contest. That suggests that the Texans might be more vulnerable than most when it comes to slowing Blount, Bolden and White, but Houston’s run defense numbers have been up and down all year long. There were four games where the Texans allowed 135 yards or more, including an astounding 187 yards on the ground in a loss to the Bills last week. Of course, there were four games where they held opponents to under 75 rushing yards. Bottom line? It’s an offense that hasn’t made a commitment to running the ball as of late against a defense that has been inconsistent when it comes to slowing the run. It’s anyone’s guess what is going to happen Sunday.
WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS THE BALL
This is the biggest and most important matchup of the evening. Can Tom Brady (64 percent completion rate, 3,912 passing yards, 31 TDs, 6 INTs, passer rating of 102.8) overcome the fact that he’ll be without Julian Edelman and (likely) Rob Gronkowski once again, as he goes up against the third-best pass defense in the league? The Texans allow just 218.3 passing yards per game, thanks in large part to the work of defensive lineman/all-star pitchman J.J. Watt and his ability to get after the quarterback. Watt leads the league with 13.5 sacks, but many of the Texans do an excellent job of playing off him and taking advantage of when he commands double teams. Guys like linebacker Whitney Mercilus (6.5 sacks) and old pal Vince Wilfork (who is coming off his best game of the season against the Bills) do well when Watt gets the bulk of attention. Meanwhile, Houston will rely on cornerbacks Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph and safeties Andre Hal and Quintin Demps on the backside to try and slow Brady. For the Patriots, it’ll be Danny Amendola 56 catches, 73 targets, 582 yards, 3 TDs), Brandon LaFell (25 catches, 56 targets, 369 yards), Scott Chandler (23 catches, 41 targets, 259 yards, 4 TDs) and White (22 catches, 32 targets, 210 yards, 2 TDs) who will be charged with getting the New England passing game through another week without its leading options. One more thing: it’ll be interesting to see what sort of role ex-Houston receiver Keshawn Martin (10 catches, 16 targets, 148 yards, 1 TD) might play on Sunday. When he’s been healthy, he’s delivered a nice dose of quickness to the Patriots’ passing attack. His working knowledge of how the Texans’ defensive backs operate could be an interesting wrinkle.
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