Edge of Development: Patriots Defensive End Michael Buchanan

April 14th, 2014

A seventh-round selection in the 2013 NFL draft, Michael Buchanan’s first year in New England was one glimpses. But as the 2014 draft has come into focus, so has his growth. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

It requires more than two starting defensive ends for a sustainable front to unsettle quarterbacks.

It requires an assembly.

And after a year in which Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich led all 4-3 defensive ends with 1,142 and 1,114 snaps apiece, according to Pro Football Focus, that was a reality the New England Patriots understood all too well.

New England’s collection of defensive ends remained a seldom-used one for the duration of 2013. There was the 34-year-old Andre Carter, who was re-signed in October and played in 11 games to register 196 snaps. There was 2012 third-round pick Jake Bequette, who played in just five games and logged 14 defensive snaps.

Then there was rookie Michael Buchanan. Read the rest of this entry »


2014 Edge Rushers: A Look at Michael Sam’s Game

April 14th, 2014

After all the chatter, is Sam a possible fit in New England scheme wise? (Photo: US Presswire)

By Marc Sluis, Staff Writer

Most art forms take time and a diversified skill set to fully master. The art of pass rushing is no different. Just ask Bruce Smith, Reggie White or some of the current masters of disruption Jared Allen, Von Miller or DeMarcus Ware and they’ll surely tell you it takes athleticism but also technique and a natural feel to get after the passer with regularity. Like any art form it will never be distilled down to pure arithmetic or established science and with that means opinions of what it takes to be the best will differ.

Read the rest of this entry »


2014 NFL Draft Close-Up: Oregon State Defensive End Scott Crichton

April 10th, 2014

Scott Crichton treats every snap the same. And the Oregon State defensive end is in line to be a top draft pick because of it. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

In the coming weeks and months leading up to the 2014 NFL draft, NEPatriotsDraft.com will profile college prospects that potentially fit the needs and draft seating of the New England Patriots. In this 11th installment, we will take a closer look at the film behind Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton.

Scott Crichton won’t win every battle at the line, but he approaches each one the same.

Full bore.

That mentality is what turned the Tacoma, Wash., native into a three-year letterman at Henry Foss High School, where he played defensive end, linebacker and tight end. It is what netted the then-6’3”, 225-pound Falcon 78 solo tackles, 10 pass breakups, four forced fumbles and an interception during his senior season. It is what named him Narrows League Defensive MVP, a 4A first-team All-State selection and Tacoma Weekly Player of the Year.

Even so, Crichton remained concealed in recruiting circles. Rivals.com ranked him 44th among defensive ends in the 2010 class; Scout.com ranked him 127th at the position; 247Sports.com ranked him 602nd overall.

The weak-side defender was a fringe three-star prospect, but he was also a player driven by effort. And as signing day drew near, that was a something the University of Oregon, the University of Washington and Washington State University all made note of.

Yet in the end, Crichton decided to trek 226 miles southward, enrolling at Oregon State University in the fall of 2010. Read the rest of this entry »


Making Sense of Patrick Chung’s Surprise Return to the Patriots

April 7th, 2014

After an unceremonious year in Philadelphia, Patrick Chung’s return to New England was a move few saw coming. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

When a team’s former top pick logs three playoff snaps in a contract year, it sends a message.

It sends a message that the results did not equal the investment, that the player is not part of the solution, and that the organization is moving on.

In March of 2013, that appeared to be the case with Patrick Chung.

The New England Patriots allowed the 34th overall selection in the 2009 draft to walk. And the safety did, signing with the Philadelphia Eagles on a three-year, $10 million deal.

It was short-lived.

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly decided to cut ties with the Oregon Duck just 364 days after signing him. Philadelphia didn’t find the 26-year-old to be part of the solution, either, and saved $3.25 million by releasing him.

As that reunion ended, though, another one began.

The Patriots re-signed Chung on April 3. Read the rest of this entry »


2014 NFL Draft Close-Up: Notre Dame Tight End Troy Niklas

April 4th, 2014

Troy Niklas wasn’t a full-time receiver in Notre Dame’s passing attack last fall, but he seldom left the field. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

In the coming weeks and months leading up to the 2014 NFL draft, NEPatriotsDraft.com will profile college prospects that potentially fit the needs and draft seating of the New England Patriots. In this 10th installment, we will take a closer look at the film behind Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas.

Troy Niklas has football bloodlines. He has experience playing all over the field. And he also has the size, strength and athleticism to never leave the field.

But as a tight end who carries traits that cannot be taught, his development will hinge on what can be.

After all, as the nephew of Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, the cousin of current NFL linebackers Clay and Casey Matthews, and the brother of former Air Force linebacker Austin Niklas, the 6’6”, 270-pound Niklas has done more than catch passes since his days at Servite High School. Read the rest of this entry »


2014 NFL Draft: Patriots Mock Draft Version 3.0

April 1st, 2014

Will the Patriots replace one big Running Back with another big back from LSU?

NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko

We are now less than 40 days until the 2014 NFL Draft. The official draft order is set, the compensation picks are known, and we’ve gained a lot more clarity now that free agency is winding down. Although more moves will be made before the Patriots go on the clock May 8th, we now have a better understanding of areas they will and won’t target.

The draft board is still very fluid and a lot can still change, but I take my best shot at projecting what the Patriots 2014 NFL Draft will look like.

Read the rest of this entry »


Vince Wilfork, Patriots Bend But Don’t Break Future Plans

March 31st, 2014

Vince Wilfork’s restructured return to New England was a compromise on what lies ahead. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

For 14 days, it seemed imminent.

It seemed as if his success in holding the point of attack on the field and the organization’s success in doing the same off the field would be their unraveling.

For Vince Wilfork and the New England Patriots, it seemed to be about pride.

But as two weeks of uncertainty wore on, so did the semblance of hope that the 10-year NFL veteran would restructure his $11.6 million salary cap hit to return to the team that drafted him 21st overall in 2004.

In the afternoon hours of March 27, that came to fruition, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the 32-year-old defensive tackle had re-signed on a one-year, $8 million deal with $2.6 million guaranteed and a two-year option worth up to $22.5 million.

His cleaned-out locker and torn-off nameplate would not spell the end of his stay in Foxborough, Mass.; it would only catalyze a new one. Read the rest of this entry »




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