The Haphazard Blog

Tag: Patriots

Garoppolo Is Not the Heir Apparent (Yet)

by on May.10, 2014, under Football, Patriots, Sports

The common theme from the Patriots’ drafting Jimmy Garoppolo is that this is Tom Brady’s heir apparent because he was drafted so highly. Some are focusing on Bill Belichick saying “We know what Tom’s age and contract situation is.” They may want to see the whole context.

Q: When you refer to better off being early rather than late for that position, are you referring to making sure you have a backup or a successor? Because Tom Brady is signed through 2017 and Ryan Mallett’s contract is up next year.

BB: You know, all the things you just said. We know what Ryan’s contract situation is. We know what Tom’s age and contract situation is. I don’t think you want to have one quarterback on your team. I don’t think that’s responsible to the entire team or the organization.

My take is they’ve had Ryan Mallett for 3 years now and he’s not developing into someone they think can step in for Brady. His preseason performance has left a lot to be desired. So when Belichick is talking about one quarterback on the team, he’s talking about 2015 when Mallett is a free agent and the team only has Brady.

Every year Brady plays, he’s more and more likely to miss some games. The Patriots need a backup that can step in to finish games or start a couple games. A great example of this need is Aaron Rodgers last year. That player is Mallett in 2014 (unless Garoppolo leaps past him, in which case the Patriots are likely to try and trade him before cutting him) and Garoppolo in 2015. Garoppolo may eventually replace Brady, but that timeline is going to be entirely dictated by Brady’s body.

One day the Brady era will be over, but it’s too early to declare it will be ending before 2017.


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2010 Patriots Season Is Coming Up

by on Sep.12, 2010, under Football, Patriots, Sports

The 2010 New England Patriots season is kicking off today. Predictions are fairly wide for them this season. Records from 8-8 to 12-4. Missing the playoffs, wild card or division winners. I didn’t see any predictions of them winning the Super Bowl or even making it there. It seems like the Patriots like it this way. I wonder if there are people in the locker room who can really pull off the “nobody believes in us/no respect” card as well as they did a few years ago.

Getting down to actual football, I think the offense will be better this year. Brady looks like he is standing tall in the pocket to start this season. There’s a lot of hope in the revamped tight end group (fans might remember Chris Baker had a good pre-season last year and didn’t do much in the regular season) and they looked the part so far. Is the pass catching tight end finally back in New England? They are pinning their 3rd/4th WR hopes on Brandon Tate.

There still isn’t a lead running back, so the hope is Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor stay healthy (not likely). Laurence Maroney simply han’t lived up to his draft position. Watching All-Access for this week, they had some clips of Bill Belichick teaching Chris Taylor techniques for running. He was saying he was making good decisions but was revealing the too early. He needed to make his move later to ensure the blocks hold up. By revealing his move early, the defenders are able to adjust. Made me wonder if that’s what Maroney does and why it seems like the defenders get to him quickly. I always thought it was the line and he had no chance (when he wasn’t dancing).

This leads to the offensive line. It was exposed in the worst possible manner in Super Bowl XLII. Now the best lineman (Logan Mankins) is staying away in a contract dispute. Dan Koppen has reportedly gotten stronger. We will have to see how they play in the regular season with a player who played a backup role in the past.

The defense is much more of a mystery this year. I’m encouraged that they are finally going with youth and a trial-by-fire (they didn’t have much of a choice with the injuries mounting during traing camp and pre-season). There are big question marks on the defensive ends. The Patriots were run all over by the Ravens to end the season and they are short another top lineman this year. How will the new defensive ends hold up?

There are also questions at outside linebacker. They have to have guys who can stand up to the run and keep the running backs from getting around the corner. That was another issue last year and a guy who was a backup 4 hears ago is starting along side a career special teamer. We have yet to see the rookie Jermaine Cunningham take a snap. A lot of hope is falling to him.

The secondary is the youngest in the league. This will be a true on the job learning for 3 of the 4 guys back there. It worked way back in 2003 for Eufene Wilson, but he had Rodney Harrison and Ty Law as teammates. I could see a lot of Cover-2 played while the corner backs get their legs under them playing man-to-man and bump-and-run coverage.

Finally, special teams should be improved in the kicking game this year.

I think if everything goes to plan, the Patriots will struggle to start the season, but won’t look like they don’t belong. They’ll get better and play their best football from Thanksgiving into the play-offs. The difference between this team and the 2009 team will be there is a higher ceiling for improvement, they are just starting at a lower level. It should make for exciting games this year, but a reduced level of frustration as the team improves. The second half/fourth quarter collapses should be a thing of the past.

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Final Day of the 2010 NFL Draft

by on Apr.25, 2010, under Football, Patriots, Sports

After making six trades in the first 3 rounds, the Patriots made only one trade over the last 4 rounds. That meant they ended up making seven more selections (they had 8 picks and had to make 4 of them).

I’m not Todd McShay or Mike Mayock here, so I really know very little about how many of these guys will fare with the Patriots or in the NFL in general.

They took another TE (and another Florida Gator), Aaron Hernandez, with their 4th Rd pick. From what I gather this guy can line up anywhere (backfield, in-line or split out) so he seems more like a pass catching tight end but they said he should also be able to block. I think that is an expectation from all of New England’s TEs and RBs. So they couple him with Rob Gronkowski who is supposed to be a better blocker than receiver and Alge Crumpler who seems to be primarily a blocker at this stage of his career and there is a diverse group.

Next up was Zoltan Mesko, a punter. This is the first time the Patriots have drafted a punter under Bill Belichick. I also assume as long this guy is competent (he at least is pretty funny) he will be the Patriots punter, which means this will also be the first time under Belichick they have a young/rookie punter. One interesting fact is that Belichick seems to prefer left-footed punters.

Their next 2 picks were for offensive lineman (Ted Larsen and Thomas Welch) that the experts called projects followed by two more picks to take defensive lineman (Brandon Deaderick and Kade Weston). They closed out the draft with a QB, Zac Robinson who I can only assume is someone they believe they can develop. It’s good business, especially if you’re able to trade them later for a high draft pick or a good player.

Overall, it looks like a good draft for New England except for maybe addressing the right defensive end position long term. They traded Richard Seymour away before last season and lost Jarvis Green in the off season this year. My biggest hope is they got a really good CB in Rd 1 and they have finally stocked the LB position with enough depth to one day rival the 2001-2004 rotation. Almost 5 more months until the 2010 season begins…

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The Picture Looks Better After Day 2 of the Draft

by on Apr.24, 2010, under Football, Patriots, Sports

The Patriots headed into the draft with 4 picks on the first 2 days (one in the 1st Rd (22nd) and three in the 2nd Rd (44, 47 and 53)) and finished the first 2 days with five selections (one in the 1st Rd (27), three in the 2nd Rd (42, 53, 62) and one in the 3rd Rd (90)) and Carolina’s 2011 2nd Rd pick.

As usual they moved around and were able to get something for 2011. They now have 2 picks in the 1st and 2nd rounds in 2011. It was nice to see them trade up to go after Rob Gronkowski. Sounds like he is expected to be a player like Daniel Graham: great blocker, good hands. I think it’s hard to really figure out how a TE will fit into the passing game in New England because it has been so long since they had a tight end with big receiving numbers. Since no one has really left New England and turned into a star pass catching tight end, I don’t know if it’s the system or all the picks weren’t all that good.

They were able to pick up two more linebackers. The first was Jermaine Cunningham who should be an OLB and the second was Brandon Spikes who should be an ILB, both from Florida. OLB is a position that badly needs a 3 down player who can set the edge on the run and rush the passer. It seemed the analysts all had similar opinions on Brandon Spikes. Slow 40-yd dash time but good instincts. Belichick says he plays faster than the times say. It’s a tall order for a second rounder to become a starter, but the Patriots linebackers were at their best when they had a rotation of 3 OLBs and 3 ILBs. If these guys can become part of the rotation at some point, New England will have gone a long way toward rebuilding their LB corps.

The last player they selected was Taylor Price. Seems like a guy who was taken more for his potential than production. The Patriots have a murky situation at WR this year and long term. Wes Welker is rehabbing a knee injury that many expect to keep him out of the beginning of the season. Julian Edelman is most likely to take his place. Randy Moss returns for what he believes is his last season. The #3 WR is just as big a question mark as it was when the season ended last year. They will have David Patten, Torry Holt, Brandon Tate and now Taylor Price all competing for the job. They should be able to find a #3 WR for this year from the group, but I wonder what happens if Moss is gone in 2011? Can Tate or Price develop into a #1 WR?

The Patriots head into today with 8 more picks to make today. They have to use their 4 compensatory selections. I came into this draft expecting them not to use all of the 12 picks and now they could use 13. We’ll see how this pans out.

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At Least It Was a Defensive Pick

by on Apr.23, 2010, under Football, Patriots, Sports

A lot of Patriots aren’t too happy this morning. Likely talking themselves into this being a good pick. I gave up a long time ago trying to determine if the pick is good or not. They have more information and insight than the rest of us, but I still feel like I wasted the whole night. Might as well read a recap of what happens because I’m never excited after they finally pick.

With that said, I had dreams of having Dez Bryant playing WR. To keep it in perspective, the Patriots have drafted Deion Branch and Chad Jackson, so even if they took him, they have made mistakes in the past. They had two chances to get him and passed. Denver did as well. I’d say he wasn’t seriously considered as a good fit.

Sergio Kindle was another guy that many expected New England to take and they had three chances to get him and he’s still available to start the second round. Today some people are now saying he has knee concerns.

So the Patriots took Devin McCourty, a defensive back with their pick. This is a position that was listed as an area with little need. They have been drafting young corners the last three years (Terrence Wheatley, 2nd Rd 2008; Jonathan Wilhite, 4th Rd 2008; Darius Butler, 2nd Rd 2009) and signed Leigh Bodden to a long term contract this offseason.

My thoughts are that last season, we saw game after game lost because of the defense when the Patriots had the lead. Any pick on defense for a better player than they had last year helps. Bill Belichick constantly emphasized that pass rush is two-fold: coverage and pressure. Hopefully he addressed the coverage aspect here with this guy. They are in search of a shut down corner. No one is saying McCourty is one, but the Patriots developed Asante Samuel into one. If they can do this with McCourty (it won’t be immediate) and take away the other team’s best WR, it helps the entire defense.

They have 12 more picks and I don’t see them using them all. I expect a lot of movement tomorrow, but not sure which way. I like to see them move up because it seems to indicate there is a specific player they really want. I don’t like to hear them move back to later say there were a few players they liked, simply wanted better value and were willing to take whoever was left. Real enthusiasm and desire there! They have 4 picks tonight. We’ll see if they get an OLB and RDE.

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Patriots Off Season Thoughts

by on Apr.19, 2010, under Football, Patriots, Sports

With the NFL draft coming up later this week I thought now would be a good time to share my thoughts on where they are at this point and throw out some wild guesses on what happens during the draft.

The Patriots made some small signings since the second day of free agency. They brought back old friend David Patten. He is certainly a guy Tom Brady can work with, but given his age (and he was out of the NFL last year) I don’t know how much production you can expect from him. I would be surprised if he made the roster. The Patriots could’ve picked him up last year when they badly needed a receiver but didn’t. I believe he was brought in to help teach the younger players good habits. Troy Brown is long gone, Wes Welker is rehabbing his knee and I don’t see Randy Moss as a workout warrior.

The Patriots worked out a deal for Kevin Faulk. Looks like he is now going to finish up his career similarly to Troy Brown, one year at a time until he retires as a Patriot. I’m hoping Faulk can teach Laurence Maroney how to better protect the ball. Long time Patriots fans will remember that Faulk had a fumbling problem earlier in his career and now he is counted on for his sure hands.

They also signed Alge Crumpler who was not nearly as good in Tennessee as he was in Atlanta. He reminds me of Kyle Brady now. Just a big guy who would likely be best suited (and used) as a blocking tight end. Seems fine to me though. The Patriots just don’t seem to use a tight end to catch passes. It’s like their last responsibility. The best group of tight ends that Bill Belichick has had in training camp are all gone. They cut Alex Smith, traded David Thomas, let Ben Watson walk and cut Chris Baker. Doesn’t speak to well about the quality they had last year. Not to mention that Thomas went on to catch more passes in New Orleans in one year than his first three years with the Patriots combined. I don’t think the main problem is the players.

So the early free agency didn’t really get them any new playmakers for the many holes they have. That leaves the draft, roster cut downs during training camp and trades. Since the draft is coming up, that’s a good place to start.

A lot of the talk has been centered around the Patriots having 4 of the first 53 picks in what is supposed to be a very deep draft. Just going by prior years, I would be shocked if they used all 4 as they have them right now.

I really have no guesses on who they will take. There are many needs (OLB, RDE, ILB, TE) plus many other positions they could use help/upgrades. I think the Patriots draft in a procedure like this:

  1. Determine all the players who potentially fit
  2. Assign a value to each player so they know when they are “overpaying” or have a “steal”
  3. Create a short list of the players they would like to have at the end of the draft
  4. Draft the best player available

I think part of the last two steps are the trading the Patriots do. If there is a player they covet and the value is there, they will trade up to get them. Conversely, if their pick is coming and they don’t have any players they want (or the best player available is “overpriced”) they will try and trade down to select a player that was assigned the same value. If someone wants to “overpay” (based on their assigned value), so be it.

I think with all the extra 7th round compensatory picks they will be able to draft players who may’ve had competition for their services if they went undrafted.

Overall, they had a lot of rookies make the team last year making up almost 20% of the roster. While they didn’t gain much from their 2007 draft, I don’t think there is much room on the roster. I am expecting the Patriots to select 8 or 9 players through a combination of trades (move up, move down, get 2011 picks and players).

Some wild guesses:

  • They get another 2011 1st Rd Pick
  • A starter is traded (Matt Light? James Sanders?)
  • Their first pick will be a defensive player
  • They will draft an offensive lineman in the second round
  • They will draft only 2 of the 3 (WR, TE, RB)

Whatever happens, no one will have predicted it, that much I know.

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Patriots Free Agency

by on Mar.06, 2010, under Football, Patriots, Sports

NFL free agency is only one day in, so I won’t be jumping to any conclusions on how the 2010 Patriots will fair at this point. But I do want to talk about the Patriots some.

Looking back to the 2009 season, they had quite a few problems. Throughout the whole season, they were unable to find a third receiver in an offense that has the 3 WR offense as its base offense. They traded for Greg Lewis and they cut him. They acquired Joey Galloway and cut him. Julian Edelman emerged as a surprise, but I don’t see him as an outside receiver. Brandon Tate was there for 2 games before injury ended his already short season. Wes Welker had a horrible injury and realistically, the earliest he could be returning is Week 7. Randy Moss revealed he was dealing with multiple injuries and it is wishful thinking that was the sole reason for his below average (for him) season. Saying they need to address WR is an understatement.

At running back they went with the by committee approach they have employed since Laurence Maroney was supposed to replace Corey Dillon. With aging backs, there were a lot of games lost to injury (16 games for 4 RBs, 25%).  Statistically, they seem fine, but they failed on more critical short run plays than I’d like to  remember.

On defense, the Patriots had a hard time making the plays to close out a game. I’ve already detailed how uncharacteristic the team was in a previous post, so I’ll avoid rehashing that. They need to transform the pass rush. Bill Belichick says that it’s a combination of the secondary and pass rush, but I think this is just hos way of avoiding throwing anyone under a bus. The problem has been the linebackers for years. These guys are so important to the defensive scheme. Their heyday was when they had a rotation on the outside of Willie McGinest, Mike Vrabel and Rosevelt Colvin and Tedy Bruschi, Ted Johnson and Roman Phifer on the inside. They are all gone and the only complete guy they have now is Jerod Mayo on the inside. Adailus Thomas has been a disappointment. Tully Banta-Cain does not hold up well against the run. Gary Guyton is showing a lot of promise. They are in desperate need of two complete outside LBs. It’s a tall order to find guys who can stop the run (set the edge), rush the passer and drop back and cover when they don’t rush the passer.

So now they can start to build a better team. I think all of the news that came out yesterday was carefully (and smartly) orchestrated by the Patriots. They cut Chris Baker (another TE mistake, along with trading for Alex Smith and cutting him) early in the day and then re-signed 3 players. They made the big splash with Vince Wilfork (“highest paid NT in NFL history”) and kept Tully Banta-Cain with a 3yr/$13.5M after letting him walk away for a 3yr/$9M deal in 2007. They also kept Stephen Neal.

Banta-Cain and Neal were both unrestricted free agents. I find it hard to believe that neither checked the market to see who else was interested at that point when the Patriots had more than enough time to complete a deal. With former Patriots coaches and executives spread all over, surely someone would make a run at them. I believe all the deals were done before free agency started and they delayed signing them to end up with positive press. There were also rumors flying around that the Patriots had made an offer to Julius Peppers (it’s pretty obvious that Peppers didn’t think it was serious if they did) and they were chasing Anquan Boldin (it wasn’t a serious chase when they wanted him to play out his contract after all he has wanted the last two years is a new one and a big raise).

So the Patriots got exactly what they wanted. Not many people talking about their failure at tight end or the fact that they didn’t bring in any new players on day one. Instead the focus is on them re-sigining their players, particularly Vince Wilfork and rumors that they tried to get big name guys. The reality is that they haven’t made the team any different from last year. They still have a lot to do. I’m hopeful that maybe they can find some key veterans like they did in 2003 (Rodney Harrison, Tyrone Poole, Rosevelt Colvin) after the initial frenzy ends.

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