|Patriots go big at wide receiver this offseason||05.21.13 at 7:15 am ET|
This offseason, the Patriots lost wide receivers Wes Welker (5-foot-9, 185 pounds), Deion Branch (5-9, 195) and Brandon Lloyd (6-0, 200). They also lost Danny Woodhead (5-8, 200), who in 2012 became the first New England running back to finish with at 40 catches and 40 carries since Kevin Faulk turned the trick in 2008. In their place, the Patriots picked up several new faces, most of whom are considerably bigger guys than the ones who departed in the offseason.
Free agent signings
Mike Jenkins (6-4, 214)
Donald Jones (6-0, 208)
Danny Amendola (5-11, 188)
Lavelle Hawkins (5-11, 194)
Aaron Dobson (6-3, 210)
Josh Boyce (5-11, 206)
Rookie/undrafted free agents
Mark Harrison (6-3, 235)
TJ Moe (6-0, 200)
Kenbrell Thompkins (6-0, 196)
This is not to suggest that the Patriots have made a concerted effort to go bigger at the receiver position, but the differentiation in size is interesting contrast, especially if you go back and take a look at the receivers New England has built around over the last decade. Prior to the pickup of Jenkins, the only other 6-foot-4 receiver on the roster the last decade was Randy Moss, who spent three-plus seasons with the Patriots from 2007-2010. (Going back to 2002, Donald Hayes also stood 6-4. In addition, J.J. Stokes, who spent part of the 2003 season in New England, stood 6-4.) And at 6-3, Dobson and P.K. Sam are the two tallest receivers the Patriots have drafted since Bill Belichick took over the team prior to the 2000 season.
But this current group not only has size, but speed to go with it. Boyce, Harrison and Moe all popped favorably at the combine when it came to both speed and quickness (Moe and Boyce were both in the top five in the 3-cone drill for all players, while Boyce and Harrison were in the top 12 in the 40 for wide receivers). According to alert Tweeter Mike Loyko, all of the receivers the Patriots picked up with the exception of Jenkins ran sub 4.5 40s as part of the pre-draft process. It appears that finding a combination of size and speed — particularly on the perimeter — was a priority for New England this offseason.
(The acquisitions certainly would be in line with what one opposing scout told us when it came to offseason priorities for the Patriots in late January: “The Patriots need to add a vertical speed player with some size to the offense. … The Patriots do have fast wide receivers, but they are small, and require [Tom] Brady to be more accurate on his deeper throws. And because of their size, they aren’t consistent vertical threats. What they need is a wide receiver who is a vertical threat, but is also big enough to be physical in press coverage.”)
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|NFC scout on Patriots draft: 4 players could contribute immediately||05.08.13 at 1:49 pm ET|
While the grades are starting to trickle in on how the Patriots fared last month in the NFL draft, one NFC scout said he was impressed by what New England was able to do, saying the Patriots picked up at least four players who will be able to contribute as rookies.
“The Patriots seemed to have a solid draft,” he told WEEI.com on Wednesday. “They went out and picked potential playmakers that have the ability to contribute immediately.”
On offense, the selection of wide receivers — Aaron Dobson in the second round and Josh Boyce in the fourth round — defined New England’s draft, as far as he was concerned. While his team had some questions about Dobson as a collegian, he feels that the Patriots will be able to develop Dobson into a “solid player.”
“Dobson is a size/speed wide receiver that has tools to develop into a solid pro,” he said. “However, he does have some motor and contested-catch inconsistency in college but if Patriots can get it out of him, he can be a solid player. Boyce could also be a solid contributor as a developmental wide receiver and special teams player in his first year in the league.”
While several people have raved about the football IQ of both Dobson and Boyce, the two receivers are unlike most receivers the Patriots have targeted in the draft the last few years in that they are bigger, more physical types: Dobson is a 6-foot-3, 203-pounder out of Marshall (tied with P.K. Sam as the tallest receiver Bill Belichick ever drafted) who ended up with 165 receptions, 2,398 receiving yards and 24 touchdown catches. Meanwhile, the 5-foot-11 Boyce electrified the combine after recording 161 catches for 2,535 yards and 22 touchdowns in his three seasons at TCU.
“The Patriots seem to view wide receivers differently,” the scout said, “as they are willing to take a chance on size/speed guys and are willing to admit mistakes and move on if they don’t fit the bill.”
|2013 NFL Power Rankings: Pre-draft edition||04.24.13 at 10:34 am ET|
It’s that rare time of year when the 32 NFL teams are graded by what they’ve done off the field just as much as what they’ve done on it. The last time we watched football, the Ravens were crowned Super Bowl champs. Since then, the champs have lost six starters on defense and their best pass-catching weapon. The Ray Lewis-less Ravens are at No. 7.
Once the joke of the NFL, the NFC West looks to be the preeminent division in the league. The Niners take the cake at No. 1, and the upgraded Seahawks, third in our rankings, will be a formidable opponent for the defending NFC champs.
The Patriots enter the draft in need of another receiver and a pass-rusher. The departure of Wes Welker has Tom Brady and company down to No. 4.
1. 49ers (11-4-1) — I’d like to hear an argument against the Niners being ranked the No. 1 team. They have a ferocious defense and an offense improved by the reliable Anquan Boldin. Right now San Francisco looks like the team to beat in 2013. (Pick 31 in Round 1 of the draft)
2. Broncos (13-3) — Barring injury to Peyton Manning, the Broncos have the AFC West wrapped up. The addition of Welker will make Denver’s offense even more unstoppable. Is there a better receiving tandem in the league than Demaryius Thomas and Welker? (28)
3. Seahawks (11-5) — After the year Seattle had followed by the offseason improvement, I’d expect nothing less than an NFC championship bid. Like many of the top teams in the NFL, Seattle is strong at defense. The D got even stronger with the addition of Cliff Avril. The Seahawks also strengthened one of their biggest weaknesses by adding Percy Harvin at receiver.
4. Patriots (12-4) — Danny Amendola replacing Welker is not an upgrade. The former Rams receiver may be younger and faster, but Welker offered consistency. He stayed on the field and worked well with Brady and the offense. There will be an adjustment period. The Patriots will go into the season with three talented receiving weapons (Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Amendola), but all three are injury-prone. (29)
5. Packers (11-5) — Injuries plagued the offensive line last season. More depth on the line is important, especially with the Packers in a division where they have to playing against pass-rushers like Ndamukong Suh, Jared Allen and Julius Peppers. (26)
|Wes Welker: Leaving New England was ‘just business’||04.03.13 at 12:28 pm ET|
Wes Welker said Wednesday morning that contract talks between his reps and the Patriots never got personal and indicated that in the end, “everything worked out really well for everybody.”
The former Patriots wide receiver who signed a free agent deal with the Broncos last month after six seasons in New England, told ESPN Radio that the whole thing was just about business.
“I think a lot of it is just business,” Welker said. “It’s kind of the unfortunate part of the business, but it is what it is. You try to find what works for you, as far as financially and as a player and everything else. I think at the end of the day — fortunately or unfortunately — it kind of just worked out the way it did.”
In the days after Welker’s new deal, there was a lot of debate about which contract was better, as representatives for the wide receiver disputed the claims put forth by the Patriots and owner Robert Kraft. But Welker, who surpassed 100 catches in five of his six seasons in New England, said he doesn’t feel underappreciated for what he did with the Patriots,
“Absolutely,” Welker said. “I think everything worked out really well for everybody. It was a good run and I look forward to keeping that run going in Denver.”
In his introductory press conference with the Broncos, Welker said the toughest thing was leaving quarterback Tom Brady — the two had built a tremendous relationship, both on and off the field, since Welker arrived in 2007.
“Tom is one of my good friends,” Welker said Wednesday. “We stay in contact often.”
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|Danny Amendola: Work with Tom Brady will start next week||03.29.13 at 11:57 pm ET|
One of the reasons Tom Brady and Wes Welker were able to build the sort of bond that led to Welker’s dominance over the last six years was the fact they spent a ton of time together in the offseason — outside of the offseason workout programs — working together on the quarterback-receiver relationship. The two spent plenty of time engaged in offseason throwing sessions in Southern California, working together to help understand exactly what the other one needed.
And so when the Patriots fundamentally swapped Welker for Danny Amendola earlier this month, the first job for Amendola was to make sure he join Brady for some of those offseason sessions. (Sessions that will also apparently include tight end Aaron Herandez.) And this week, Amendola said he’s already reached out to Brady to try and set up a time to get together.
“I’ve talked with Tom a couple times — just trying to get some scheduling down [figuring out when] we want to get together and throw here — starting probably next week — and go from there,” Amendola told 101ESPN St. Louis on Monday. “I’m ready to get working with him.”
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|Bill Belichick: Nothing to add on Wes Welker situation||03.19.13 at 12:20 pm ET|
Bill Belichick sidestepped any questions regarding the Wes Welker situation on Tuesday, saying that “there are changes every year on every team,” and adding that he agreed with what owner Robert Kraft said Monday regarding the negotiation.
Speaking at the AFC coaches breakfast at the annual NFL meetings, Belichick was asked if it was a tough negotiation regarding Welker. He said: “I think Wes was everything we hoped we would be when we traded for him. He was tough, competitive and very productive. I think what Robert said [Monday] covered it pretty thoroughly. I don’t have anything to add to that.
“I agree with what Robert said [Monday]. I thought he did a good job explaining the situation. I don’t have anything to add to it. It’s been covered, very thoroughly.”
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|Rex Ryan: ‘I’m just glad Wes Welker isn’t there’||at 12:00 pm ET|
Jets coach Rex Ryan, speaking to the media from the league meetings in Phoenix, said he’s pleased he won’t have to face Wes Welker in New England anymore.
“I’m just glad Wes Welker isn’t there. I hated Wes Welker. I’m kidding … kind of,” Ryan said, via NFL.com. “Actually, I’m a huge fan of Wes Welker. He had historical success. That’s some big shoes for [Danny Amendola] to fill.”
Ryan also touched on his team’s situation regarding cornerback Darrelle Revis. The Jets reportedly have been entertaining offers for Revis, who can become a free agent after the 2013 season and is asking for far more money than the Jets want to pay.
“I know for a fact that we’re not actively trying to trade Darrelle Revis,” Ryan said, via the Newark Star-Ledger. “But if somebody calls, you listen.”
Ryan is overseeing a team that has had major changes to its roster this offseason as it strives to get under the salary cap and find the right combination to get the Jets back into contention.
“I’ll coach who’s here,” Ryan said. “On opening day we’ll see who that is.”
Ryan refuted a suggestion that he’s coaching for his job, insisting his team offers great appeal to him and might be underrated.
“If anything, people should be worried about us,” Ryan said, via the New York Post. “I’m not afraid of my situation. I’m looking forward to my situation. You’re making the assumption that I’m just a short-term guy. I don’t see it that way.”
Added Ryan: “The league knows I can coach. I never said [this season] was going to be easy, but I’m excited about the challenges. You’re going to have a lot of turnover, but rebuilding? Each year in the NFL, you feel your team has a shot.”
Although he insisted he’s “not afraid of any position I’m put in,” the normally brash coach admitted he crossed the line when he predicted a championship for his team before the 2010 season.
“Guaranteeing that Super Bowl is always going to haunt me,” he said. “If I could ever have a do-over, that would be it.”
2013 PATRIOTS DRAFT PICKS
2013 NFL DRAFT
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