Much ado about nothing?

March 8, 2011 Leave a comment

As NFL fans around the world hope for a resolution to the CBA discussions this week, most NFL players and coaches for the still maintain their offseason routine.

Coach Bill Belichick may be toiling away in the office at Gillette Stadium or at home. If he is taking the time to be traveling and fishing with Jimmy Johnson, I am sure football is on his mind as free agency has been postponed and when/if it returns before the upcoming draft is still out of his control.

So the CBA will have an impact what the Patriots and other teams may do or have to do without for the next month and a half. Free agents will not be signed to fill team needs and many teams may use the draft as the main way to bring in talent. What will Belichick do? He has to wait like the otehrs, but will he still tap into the free agent market when again available?

Meanwhile, Patriots owner Robert Kraft is busy between the CBA negotiations, his other businesses and now helping the Commonwealth of Massachusetts increasing business opportunities in Israel. Kraft-y as Robert is in negotiations, let’s hope Massachusetts elected officials will find ways to benefit from this trip with more business and job creation.

Tom Brady has been seen enjoying the carnivale in Rio sporting a European style football  look complete with haircut and jersey. A few NFL fans are in an uproar, but who cares? He has the life, the wife and everything else people are covet. So fans are jealous – let him enjoy his time – his way!

Other players from the team are doing their own various activities and to be honest the best way to find out is via twitter.

It is good to see how many players are involved in charity events and helping out with commmunity activities. Keep up the good work!

So while fans hope for a resolution in the CBA discussions, the coaches still need to prepare for the draft, most players can recover the 2010 season and spend time with family and friends while other players and team owners need to finish the job they was started two years ago. Get the deal done!

IN BILL WE TRUST!!

Pats O-line takes a hit

March 3, 2011 Leave a comment

With the retirement of Stephen Neal announced yesterday, the Patriots now face losing 4 starting offensive linemen from 2009. Logan Mankins has been franchised and could possibly sit out the first half of the season if a long term deal is not agreed, Matt Light is a free agent and recent rumors have Nick Kaczur most likely being cut as he seems to be unwilling to take a paycut.

So now the offensive line may have the biggest question mark and highest priority leading into the draft, rather then the pass rushing outside linebacker or defensive end the Patriots have been missing the past three seasons.

The next few weeks could be very interesting in Foxboro.

IN BILL WE TRUST!!

Categories: New England Patriots

2010 biggest surprises for the New England Patriots

January 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Perhaps like some people of Patriot Nation waking up each day since the Patriots lost to the Jets and seeing all the snow it seems like ground hogs day. Nothing to get you past the emptiness and still like shoveling snow – something you don’t want to have to think about…

But there is therapy in writing… so let’s start way back to the beginning of 2010 and consider some of the biggest surprises for the Pats eh? Grab your coffee or hot chocolate and stay warm.

The team had a surprising defeat in the first round of the 2009 playoffs against the Baltimore Ravens being steamrolled 33-14. (a bit of irony there after the Jets game)The Patriots defense could not stop a running attack driven to protect an injured Joe Flacco giving up an 83 yards touchdown on the first play and within 5 minutes the Patriots were down 14-0 and never recovering after that.

Offensively, the Patriots also could not protect Tom Brady with Brady also turning the ball over four times with three interceptions and a passer rating of 49.1. An embarrassing way to lose against a team they should have beaten. the game showed many weaknesses that needed to be addressed in the offseason.

The Patriots not addressing the needs of a pass rushing outside linebacker with a free agent signing or first round pick. In 2009, the Patriots needed a pass rusher as Tully Banta-Cain was the seasons sack leader and in 2010 the Patriots dropped Adalius Thomas and did not resign Derrick Burgess in the off season (Burgess was later signed by the team in training camp and released early in the 2010 season). The Patriots are still missing that dominate edge rusher and have had decent results from Rob Ninkovich and rookie Jermaine Cunningham, while Banta-Cain is no longer starting….

Cornerback as a first round pick. The Patriots has many needs on defense on the line, inside and outside linebacker, but with new contract for Leigh Bodden, no one believed a cornerback would be the first choice for the team. Belichick seems to know more than us fans, as pick Devin McCourty has been the most impressive rookie since Belichick took over the Patriots. Sorry to 2008 DROY Jerod Mayo, but McCourty is a playmaker!

Another season of injuries. Before the season could even begin starters DE Ty Warren, CB Leigh Bodden, S Brandon McGowan were out of the line-up. During the season the Patriots also lost RB Kevin Faulk, OT Nick Kaczur (he was practicing at OG to replace Logan Mankins), G Stephen Neal and K Stephen Gostkowski to IR. All these starters have been replaces and remarkably the Patriots roster has been performing well as players and in season free agent signings have provided the spark the Patriots needed to move forward. This is a little similar to the Super Bowl winning years :)

Bill Belichick not announcing an offense or defense coordinator. At first it was like WTF? But in my opinion it worked it also lead to the development of the defensive rookie class, but then it lead to…

The play calling of Bill O’Brien. One of the key areas of Patriot Nation anger from 2009 bleeding over into 2010 (and still a hot topic), the 2009 offense was considered one-dimensional, always running on first down, predictable, repetitive and boring. Where were the Charlie Weis trick plays? 2010 stymied a few naysayers as the team was winning, but of the 2 losses duing the regular season, fans still went after O’Brien and more so after the disappointing loss to the Jets. I can still see Belichick walking the sidelines in the 4th quarters saying to throw it as the Pats ran the ball killing the clock time they would need to perform a comeback….

Wes Welker returning from ACL/MCL surgery to start the first game of the season. Yes we can count on one foot with out toes how many times this has happened in the NFL.  But even as Welker noted during the season: you have to put your best foot forward, stay on your toes, be a good foot soldier and then not get benched for the start of the first playoff game.

Patriots trading RB Laurence Maroney and Randy Moss during the season. One was too late and the other one crazily enough happened just before it was too late. Both players could have a hard time making a roster in 2011.

The return of Deion Branch. It was a bit of a shock when I first read about the possibility, but in the end, I am glad it worked out for the Pats and Branch. I just wish he had never left to begin with then the 2006 season would have ended completely different, but hey that is water under the bridge. Welcome back Deion – I still kept your jersey thinking when I bought it you would be the next Troy Brown. Brown’s jersey is the only one that comes out during the season for my Patriot gear.

An impressive running game from two undrafted players in BenJarvis-GreenEllis and free agent Danny Woodhead. BJGE is a restricted free agent and should be re-signed, while Woodhead was given a modest 3 year contract extension. Are they the future of the running game? Not all by themselves and with Kevin Faulk, Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris alot older and free agents, the Patriots need to make a move to bring in some other veterans or via the draft.

Tom Brady not throwing an interception in seven games and BJGE not fumbling the ball during the entire 2010  season.  Very impressive and obviously Brady was paid well to start the season and as noted above BJGE hopefully can be re-signed. Brady did throw an INT versus the Jets in the playoffs. But for BJGE – no fumbles and over 1,000 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns improves the chacnes of a decent payday for the undrafted free agent.

Losing to the Cleveland Browns. Sure the Browns have as many as five coaches having been with the Patriots and a bye week to prepare, but the game reminded me of the Ravens playoff game and it wasn’t pretty. It seems as if the younger Patriots players (especially on defense) learned a valuable lesson the hard way. Since losing to the Browns, the Patriots went on to win the rest of their games  and going 14-2 and the #1 team in the AFC.

The disappointments in 2010? Julian Edelman and Darius Butler both not being able to follow-up on their impressive rookie year, Banta-Cain not even starting after receiving a big contract (I am sure the 49ers felt the same way), long snapper Jake Ingram being unsteady and being released.

A few of the known unknowns in 2010? Vince Wilfork would sign a new deal, Logan Mankins holding out, Maroney to be the same boney Maroney and also that Stephen Neal and Ty Warren would be injured and miss games….

OK – so that might not be everything, but share you thoughts on some of the surprises from the 2010 season.

IN BILL WE TRUST!!

Patriots: To play or not to play

January 2, 2011 Leave a comment

The New England Patriots know they are the AFC East champs, number one seed in the AFC, have a post season bye week and homefield advantage in the playoffs.

Bill Belichick is not known as a coach to rest his starters. The injury to Wes Welker in last year’s final game versus Houston is still a on the minds of Patriot Nation and many are wondering if Belichick will change his ways.

Belichick is the first to say he does what is in the best interest of the team and to be sure he will not needlessly bring in players recovered(ing) from injury or take chances on players who may be too banged up (such as Deion Branch and Aaron Hernandez).

Sure it would be great to rest Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork for all the great effort and play they have done this season, but players want to play and fans still want to see a competitive team take the field.

Then of course the current momentum the Patriots have been riding since their loss to the Cleveland Browns and a few things Belichick still needs to tweek, tinker and test before the playoffs.

I don’t think now is the time to rest or relax. The team should begin with their starters and play ‘full tilt’ and for a win. Anything less would be asking for possible trouble with injuries and the team mindset.

Belichick and the team has subscribed to the Patriot Way for far too long and with too much success this season. Today, I believe they continue to follow that path and build the faith they have in each other to not only win today, but carry them through the playoffs and Super Bowl.

IN BILL WE TRUST!!

Patriots had a better than expected 2010

January 1, 2011 Leave a comment

The New England Patriots started 2010 losing to the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the playoffs and many unanswered questions regarding the leadership, defensive demise and concerns about the team rebuilding.

A few interesting moves in the offseason dropping defensive veterans Adalius Thomas and Shawn Springs both locker room cancers, while resigning defensive anchor Vince Wilfork to a long term deal and Leigh Bodden to a new contract to strengthen the defensive backfield. Bodden the most experienced defensive back on the Patriots roster was one of many players to go onto IR.

After a contract negotiations failed between the New England Patriots and guard Logan Mankins, Mankins held out through the beginning of the season and returned to the Patriots to help solidify a offensive line that is now without two of its 2009 starters Nick Kaczur and Stephen Neal and starter/back-up Dan Connolly fitting in nicely for Mankins and moving to replace Neal and is now injured himself and has not played since recording an NFL record for the longest kick return by an offensive lineman 71 yards.

The already young and inexperienced defense had further issues with Ty Warren and Brandon McGowan joining Bodden on IR and other defensiveline men such as Mike Wright, Ron Brace, Myron Pryor and Brandon Deadrick being banged up at various points of the season leaving Vince Wilfork to play all three line positions and having a pro bowl year doing it!

No pass rush – no problem? Last years sack leader and pass rusher Tully Bunta-Cain was expected to have  a big year after renewing his contract and actually has been pushed out of the starting lineup by rookie Dane Fletcher who joins rookie  Jermaine Cunningham and Rob Ninkovich to pressure the QB. Also a big surprise from UFL signee Eric Moore playing many reps in the game and a number of different positions in the 3-4 than his previous 4-3 experience would lead you to believe.

Youngest group at the defensive backs position proving to be most improved area of the team as rookie Devon McCourty and second year 7th round pick Kyle Arrington has moved from special teams to starter beating out 2007 2nd round pick Darius Butler. With Bodden Jonathan Wilhite on IR and looking to return in 2011, this group could be one of the best in the NFL, especially if the Pats pick up a pass rushing OLB.

During preseason, the strength and depth of the defense seemed to be at the safety postion. With McGowan going to IR, that left Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders as the starters with second year 2nd round pick Patrick Chung and a late trade to acquire Jarrad Page from the Kansas City Chiefs to round out the position. With injuries to Bodden and Wilhite – Chung Page and undrafted Sergio Brown have taken turns in nickel and dime packages. This is another young group improving.

OK – so the offense has Tom Terrific and with a high dynamic passing attack what could be better?

Hhmm – how about Randy Moss finally being Randy and forcing the team to trade him during the season. WTF? No one outside the organization (well maybe Ron Borges) could have predicted that.

For the team to then trade for the return of Deion Branch to utilize a spread attack of quick and shifty receivers like Branch and Wes Welker who seemed nearly 100% after tearing his ACL/MCL at the end of the 2009 season. Branch and Welker run great routes and can get separation from the defensive backs. This is a return of Brady’s favorite receiver – no not Branch – the open receiver! Since Branch’s return Brady has been phenomenal not throwing a single interception in his last seven games and only having four so far all season.

Noteworthy pickups in the draft, tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, under the tutelage of long time veteran and new team captain Alge Crumpler produced  beyond great expectations of a pwer and finesse combination from multiple formations, breaking tackles, moving the chains AND scoring touchdowns. A great addition and one would think this is what Coach Bill Belichick might have had in mind when signing Daniel Graham and Ben Watson so many years ago….

The offseason brought a few questions at running back, were Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor to old? Could Laurence Marony carry the franchise? And for a few media pundits – BenJarvis Green-Ellis’ days as a Patriots were sure to be over.

A trade of Maroney to the Broncos, a knee injury sending Faulk to IR and Taylor having severe cases of turf toe on each foot (a Rex Ryan pun not needed), what would the Patriots do? BJGE became the north – south runner fans wished Maroney could have been. Then the surprise jewel with the signing of Danny Woodhead to the team. The diamond in the rough was picked up before Faulk’s injury, but as luck would have it, Woody provided the Patriots just what they needed when their captain went down. Both BJGE and Woody are undrafted players and two of the 21 currently on the roster. For a team that had no identity for a running game the tunder and lightening coming at teams now are proving to be more than even the best teams can handle.

Above all else, we have Bill Belichick and his coaching staff. 2010 brought about concerns of no formal offensive and defensive coordinators and the roles and responsibilities falling on Belichick. Would the team suffer and possibly the coaching staff if coaches were not given their chance to perform?

Belichick knows his team and coaches better than anyone else and while rebuilding in 2010 has lead the team to a 13-2 record, AFC East division champions and first seed in the AFC with home field through the playoffs. Now the only thing left to do is win the Super Bowl!

IN BILL WE TRUST!!

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