Monday, January 6, 2014

Legal Tampering: Day 1 anaysis with a Patriots' bent

Breaking News: Every free agent in the NFL is rumored to be coming to the New England Patriots.

That about covers it.

Rumor and speculation are all we're allowed, though.  The NFL (No Fun while Legal tampering) issued a memorandum to all NFL teams on Friday that pretty much discouraged communications, subject to fines for violation, to the point that rumor and speculation is all there is:

TO: General Managers
Head Coaches
Player Personnel Directors
FROM: Commissioner Goodell
DATE: March 8, 2013

SUBJECT: Impermissible Activity During the Three-day Negotiating Period for Unrestricted Free Agents

Clubs were advised in PP-26-13 that during the three-day negotiating period for prospective Unrestricted Free Agents, they are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with, the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2012 Player Contracts at 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 12, and that no contract can be executed with a new club until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 12.

Clubs are further advised that prior to the beginning of the new League Year it is impermissible for a club to enter into an agreement of any kind, express or implied, oral or written, or promises, undertakings, representations, commitments, inducements, assurances of intent or understandings of any kind concerning the terms or conditions of employment offered to, or to be offered to, any prospective Unrestricted Free Agent for inclusion in a Player Contract after the start of the new League Year.

Any announcement of an agreement or an agreement in principle by a club or another party, including, but not limited to, a certified agent, player, or media organization may subject the club to a tampering investigation.

Please contact the Player Personnel department if you have any questions

Indeed, contact the Player Personnel Department, and they'll explain things to you in terms that even Mel Kiper understands:

This is like going to test drive cars in anticipation for purchasing one on Tuesday - except all you're allowed to do is talk to the salesman, but nobody can know that you did, no one can see you do it and it's probably best to not even mention what you were out doing when you get home.

And so much for Legal Tampering for the fans.  The teams are prohibited to say anything about anyone, so why even pay attention?

But stories leak, and never mind the reasons - maybe an agent leaks that a couple of teams are interested in his client, might make mention of numbers, making sure that the source understands his responsibility to the contact for complete discretion...

...or perhaps a person "with intimate knowledge" of a team's personnel office generate some excitement on behalf of the team, something that may have a direct impact on solving a case of dark ambiguity on the part of a free agent of their own - you know, helping him make up his mind if he wants to play nice or kick rocks.

And speaking of kicking rocks, it appears that Anquan Boldin, the tough as nails, Venus ball trap of a receiver currently of the Baltimore Ravens is not going to accept the team's offer to reduce his salary, which is bound to cause some hard feelings between he and the club.

Why?  He stated just a few weeks back that he was a Raven and always will be.  Said he would retire before playing for another team...and the Ravens are putting him in a position to have to put up or shut up - and since he's going to be left with no choice, perhaps he'll be looking to go to a team that could help him gain some measure of satisfaction for being backed into a corner.

Same thing is happening to Louis Delmas in Detroit, where the team is not offering what he was expecting for a cash-in contract, and are apparently planning on tracking some safety help through both free agency and in the draft - and Delmas is obviously unhappy about it, stopping just short of calling Lions' management a ho.

 "The Lions are cheating on me," he said. "They’re going to the club every damn night and staying out late night, trying to come back home to Daddy."

Sounds like his days in Motown are over.

The Dolphins must really think that Ryan Tannehill is something special, as somehow someone learned that they are Top Cat in regard to chasing wide receiver Mike Wallace, the same source citing anonymous reports that Miami is also interested in running back Rashard Mendenhall as a candidate to help replace the departing Reggie Bush.

Either the Dolphins are about to become Steelers' South or someone's agent is attempting to drive up the asking price of the hot commodity of the draft.

As for the Patriots, besides being the team most mentioned in rumors on Saturday, there has been not a peep out of Foxboro as they are knee deep in some dark intelligence gathering, both in regard to their own free agents as well as the list of players on their wish list.

Given the amount of gamesmanship occurring in the Wes Welker saga, it's clearly not worth even speculating on at this point, but by 4:00pm on Tuesday afternoon we should have a pretty clear idea of what both parties intentions are, as well as the intentions of some select free agents from other teams. 

Names like Adrian Wilson and Steven Jackson are intriguing to me, along with Delmas and Bolden and Asomugha - perhaps a few others.

There was a little push Saturday afternoon when a few teams signed some of their own free agents, and that will steadily build and reach a crescendo Monday night into Tuesday and in between now and then we have the rumor and speculation game to deal with - which get a bit mundane so it was important to get out of the house and enjoy just a nice day in New England to go for a walk and then watch the Bruins play...

...and, man, that Shawn Thornton is a tough bastard.  Maybe he's linked to the Patriots...and why not?  Rumors and speculation can get as out of hand as the agents and teams need them to be.

Welker, Patriots shelve talks

Talks between the New England Patriots and receiver Wes Welker have apparently hit an impasse...

...and when you hear the word "Impasse", that usually is not good news.

The reports of whom is saying what and who's rejecting and - well, the details of this volatile situation are scrambled, but one thing is clear: Both parties seem ready to move on to plan B.

One source saying that, "Talks are over".

There were reports earlier in the day that the Patriots, after months of negotiations, had not ever tendered an offer to Welker, and that the All Pro receiver was waiting for an official offer before testing the waters - which isn't a surprise given the fact that Welker has indicated he wanted to shop himself around, and being armed with an official offer from the Patriots would give him leverage in negotiations with other clubs.

According to several reports, many are questioning why Welker is waiting for an offer, knowing that the Patriots will not tender one with the knowledge that he would use it as leverage - and also that the Patriots find it hard to believe that Welker's agents don't have a general idea of what his value is on the market to begin with.

Reportedly, the Patriots have St. Louis receiver Danny Amendola "Waiting in the wings", and are "More than prepared" to move on, indicating that the Patriots are tiring of the wishy-washy nature of the Welker camp.

The situation is getting more and more volatile, and Patriots' fans perhaps should brace themselves for the probablility that they've seen Welker in a Patriots uniform for the last time.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

New England Patriots projected Depth Chart

New England Patriots Depth Charts


Projected starters (L-R) Amendola, Brady and Thompkins
WR1:  Danny Amendola  
           Julian Edelman    
           Josh Boyce      
WR2:  Kenbrell Thompkins   
           Aaron Dobson    
           Matthew Slater
TE1:    Rob Gronkowski   (On schedule to return mid-September)      
           Jake Ballard
TE2:    Zach Sudfeld          
           Michael Hoomanwanui        
LT:      Nate Solder            
           Will Svitek          
           Marcus Cannon
LG:     Logan Mankins       
           Chris McDonald
C:       Ryan Wendell          
           Dan Connolly           
RG:    Dan Connolly          
          Marcus Cannon        
RT:     Sebastian Vollmer          
          Will Svitek           
          Marcus Cannon
RB1:  Stevan Ridley           
          LeGarrette Blount
RB2:  Shane Vereen (Third down back)               
          Brandon Bolden        
QB:   Tom Brady               
          Ryan Mallett              


P:      Zoltan Mesko
K:     Stephen Gostkowski
LS:   Danny Aiken


LE:    Rob Ninkovich          
         Marcus Benard    
         Michael Buchanan          
LT:    Vince Wilfork             
         Joe Vellano
RT:    Tommy Kelly             
         Marcus Forston
RE:   Chandler Jones          
         Marcus Benard     
         Michael Buchanan  
         Jermaine Cunningham        
WL:  Jerod Mayo               
         Dane Fletcher
ML:  Brandon Spikes         
         Steve Beauharnais
SL:   Dont'a Hightower          
         Jamie Collins
RC:  Aqib Talib                    
         Logan Ryan              
         Marquis Cole
LC:  Alfonzo Dennard                    
        Kyle Arrington
FS:   Devin McCourty          
         Duron Harmon  (Swing safety)
SS:   Adrian Wilson              
        Steve Gregory       
        Tavon Wilson              

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Patriots' Camp Preview: Introduction to the Defense

It has been said of the New England Patriots' epic upset of the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl 36 that the Patriots won because they hit Rams' iconic quarterback Kurt Warner when he had the ball, and they hit him when he didn't...

...they hit Marshall Faulk when he had the ball, and when he didn't.  Issac Bruce, Ricky Prohel and Torey Holt, too.  The Rams managed 427 yards of total offense in the game, but the lasting impression was the amount of punishment dished out by the violent Patriots' defense.

Wilfork is the sole remaining defender from the Title years
A Patriots' defense that was so focused and so well prepared that Faulk was reduced to that of an interested bystander in the game and, as a result, left Warner one dimensional and a sitting duck in the pocket - his receivers essentially mugged at the line of scrimmage by New England's press coverage.

So frustrated and bitter was Faulk after the beating that he and the Rams took in that loss that he still talks about how the Patriots must have been cheating in some manner because Faulk insists that the Rams installed new plays against New England and that the Patriots had them sniffed out - when actually it was the brutality and severity of the beating that reduced the Rams' to protecting themselves instead of concentrating on execution...

...which should be the exact definition of maintaining a violent defense.

Bill Belichick's game plan worked to perfection, and the Rams looked more and more gun shy as the game wore on - battering the Rams without prejudice to the point that the defense scored a touchdown themselves on a Ty Law pick-six, Law intercepting a floater from Warner, who had taken such an early beating that he flinched in the face of blitzing linebacker Mike Vrabel and badly overthrew his receiver.

The Patriots hit anything that moved on the Rams side of the ball on every play, relentlessly pursuing them, tracking them down and punishing them - but it still took the most clutch performance in the history of the big game from a very young Tom Brady for New England to pull the game out as time expired.

The turn of the century "Greatest Show on Turf" Rams' teams were the most prolific scoring machines that the league had ever witnessed, and Kurt Warner perhaps the greatest deep ball pocket passer in history and Marshall Faulk the preeminent all purpose running back - but the Patriots beat them down.

That New England defense was tough, but their style was considered bend but don't break - though they finished the season sixth overall in scoring defense, they were an anxiety producing 26th in the NFL in yardage surrendered per game - indicating that they relied heavily upon their ability to clamp down in the red zone and to cause turnovers...

...a trend that continued through a miserable and injury marred 2002 season before Belichick and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel turned things around as the Patriots enjoyed dominant defenses - just like their Super Bowl 36 defensive effort - in their back to back championship seasons of 2003 and 2004.

But when Crennel left after the team logged their third Super Bowl victory in four years, the position of defensive coordinator becoming a virtual revolving door, and while the team named a few coordinators between then and now including current title holder Matt Patricia, most people understand that all of them were little more than a mouthpiece for Belichick...

...whose signature has always been defense, but he strayed from the chosen path for a few years after Crennel left and allowed the unit to evaporate into ruin - concentrating instead on building a juggernaut offense around his brash young quarterback, something that is maintained to this day.

Yet, being a defensive mastermind, Belichick still managed to manufacture game plans to keep his defense viable - but each and every week spending more time masking his deficiencies on defense rather than being able to build an attacking plan - riding Brady's arm and the prowess of the passing game to seven AFC East Titles, three AFC Championship Game appearances and two Super Bowls...

...their lack of quality starters and, even worse, lack of adequate depth helping to prevent the Patriots from bringing home any more Lombardi trophies.  But three consecutive years of deft drafting and focused free agent acquisitions this offseason has given the Patriots a championship quality defense once again.

And this defense could be the best of them all.

Gone is the evil and wrong "Bend but don't break" mindset, and in it's place is the ability to attack and to dictate the action, much the same that his elite offense is able to do - not just with solid starters, but also with quality and versatile depth which he can bring in waves - something that Belichick was able to focus on this offseason, building upon recent drafts and completing his sinister plan by being patient and letting the players that he needed fall into his lap.

As free agency approached, Patriots' fans kept an eye on their clocks, armed with the knowledge that the team needed receivers on offense and an intimidating force in the secondary, a cover Linebacker and an interior penetrating pass rusher on defense...

...but many became frustrated as all of the big money free agents quickly came off the market, teams like the Dolphins indiscriminately throwing money into winning now, while Belichick lurked in the shadows, waiting for the proper time to pounce - which turned into nothing more than setting the market price for slot receivers and cornerbacks then waiting for the flurry of activity to die down a couple of days into the NFL's annual flea market and picking through what was left.

Because he had already made the biggest splash of his offseason by enticing Canadian Football League All Star rookie defensive tackle Armond Armstead to sign with the Patriots just days after the disappointment of the AFC Title game, then went after tenured veterans to fill the need for intimidating presence in the middle of the field and another penetrating interior puss rusher.

Fiscally, Belichick was prudent, trying to get the most bang for his buck.  Brady restructured his contract via a creative extension, freeing up many dollars which most people thought would be used to give Wes Welker his asking price to keep the best slot receiver in the game on the other end of Brady's passes, but Belichick was in no mood to deal with Welker's selfish games and took the money that Welker wanted and added many moving parts...

...but a look at the offense and their questions will have to wait. 

What the Patriots' coach was able to do to stabilize his defense through a few affordable free agency moves, then use the draft to peg quality depth was nothing short of genius, but also nothing more than having a plan and sticking to it - and suddenly, the Patriots look intimidating on defense.

How intimidating?  As intimidating as they ever have.

Let's take a look...

Next: Part 2 - Defensive Line

Monday, April 29, 2013

Patriots release five, sign thrice that many undrafted free agents

Bill Belichick wasted little time in getting his his offseason roster into shape after the draft.

He started by releasing five players on Monday: wide receiver Jeremy Ebert, fullback Tony Fiammetta, tight end Brad Herman, defensive lineman Tracy Robertson and defensive back Malcolm Williams.

The cuts coincide with a scheduled mini camp for Rookies this weekend in Foxboro which is more of a getting acclimated to the team type of event - a chance for the players to familiarize themselves with the facility and playbook.

Coming out of the 2013 NFL Draft and with Monday's cuts taken into account, the New England Patriots had a projected 17 spots open on the 90 man camp roster, but moved to fill them quickly as the scouting department and Bill Belichick targeted the following players and, though their signings have not been made official, Twitter and Facebook accounts suggest that the deals are done:

 Ryan Allen, P, Louisiana Tech
A two-time Ray Guy award winner as College football's best punter that went undrafted despite being a 5th round projection.  Will provide some competition for Mesko in camp.  His punts usually go very high with a lot of natural hang, causing many fair catches.

Ben Bartholomew, FB, Tennessee
Big Back with not a lot of touches, Bartholomew is such an obscure player that he doesn't register with any scouting agencies.

Kanorris Davis, DB, Troy
A linebacker at Troy and was a second-team selection in the Sun Belt Conference.

Elvis Fisher, OL, Missouri
 Medical red flag, hasn't played at full strength since 2010 but was considered a riser before suffering nagging injuries.

Brandon Ford, TE, Clemson
More of an H-back type and light even for that, but has some pass catching abilities.

Cory Grissom, DL, South Florida
Another medical red flag due to a broken leg a year ago and was a consistent starter who was actually able to return to play the entire season.  Has the size and bulk to make a differnece along the interior.

Quentin Hines, RB, Akron
4.34 speed at an impressive pro day got him a chance.  Has size at 5-11, 194 pounds.

Brandon Jones, DB, Rutgers
Another Rutgers' defensive back, Jones is six-feet, 191-pounds.  Very quick but slightly built.

Josh Kline, G, Kent State
Small college kid with a shot to back up the line if he impresses like he did at his pro day.The 6-3, 310.

Christopher McDonald, G, Michigan State
A three year starter at Michigan State, Christopher is the kid brother of Patriots' Guard Nick McDonald.  Slightly built at 6' 5", 300 pounds and quick, he has a shot.

T.J. Moe, WR, Missouri
Returned Kicks and showed some 2 and 3 capabilities.  Built like a running back and is more quick than fast.

Stephon Morris, CB, Penn State
Tiny speed merchant with some cover strengths.  Will compete but too small for the perimeter.  Could find a niche.

Zach Sudfeld, TE, Nevada
Huge target at 6' 7", one of my choices for the undrafted free agent that makes the roster beating out Daniel Fells.  Very good receiver with 4.7 speed.

Kenbrell Thompkins, WR, Cincinnati
A 6-1, 193-lbs specimen that was also a juvenile delinquent in his free time as a youngster.

Matt Stankiewitch, C, Penn State
A first-team All-Big Ten selection, the 6-3, 302-pounder is my other choice for having a shot at sticking on the roster.  Tough

There will be much more forthcoming regarding player movement, which will get much heavier the closer we get to camp. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013


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