Patriots vs Bucs: Year Two Crew

Devin McCourty Patriots

Devin McCourty heads up the list of Patriots second-year players.

NEPD Staff Writer: Doug Kyed

With the Patriots playing their second preseason game Thursday night, I figured there’s no better time to look at all of the second year players on the Patriots roster and where they might stand coming into this game.

Last year’s draft was one of the best Patriots drafts of all time, so there’s a lot of exciting players on this list.

Devin McCourty – It could be argued that McCourty was the most important player on the Patriots defense last season considering the lack of talent and depth surrounding him. With Leigh Bodden back, it takes some pressure off McCourty. McCourty should continue to give opposing Quarterbacks fits starting on the left side.

Rob Gronkowski – The fact that we didn’t see him at all in the Patriots first preseason game actually speaks volumes to how highly he’s thought of in the organization. He’s been one of the most impressive players in training camp this summer and should continue to build off an extraordinary rookie season.

Jermaine Cunningham – Cunningham hasn’t looked as though he’s progressed as much this off-season as was expected. He had a very solid game against the Jaguars, but it’s very telling how many veteran defensive ends were brought in this season to compete with Cunningham for a starting role. After an up and down rookie campaign, Patriots fans are expecting big things from the former Gator in 2011.

Brandon Spikes – Spikes has been out of practice for almost two weeks now with an ankle injury. Before the injury Spikes was expected to be the starting MLB in rushing downs in the Patriots 4-3 alignment. With Spikes talent, I wouldn’t expect that to change, but if Dane Fletcher continues to turn some heads it could mean less playing time for Spikes. Spikes might also take a lesson from new teammate Ochocinco on tweeting: Quality > quantity.

Taylor Price – Price was the breakout star from Thursday’s game against the Jaguars. He was finally able to show why he was a such a highly regarded WR coming out of Ohio. While the skills are obviously there, I’d caution fans to not get too riled up about performance during preseason action. Let’s not forget Michael Bishop, shall we?

Price has missed practice this week and will most likely not be playing against the Bucs Thursday night. There’s going to be a battle for roster spots at WR this year. As long as Price can get past his injury, I’d expect him to contribute this season for the Patriots.

Aaron Hernandez – Hernandez is one of my favorite players on the Patriots, so sometimes it’s hard for me to write and discuss him rationally. Though he had some fumbling issues in game one, he still showed off his elite athleticism for his size and his precise route running.

With Hernandez on the roster, I can’t see why the Patriots would need to keep 7 WRs. Hernandez was basically a wide receiver last year and it seems as if his transition to that position is continuing this year. During training camp, he’s more prone to break off into pass catching drills with the WRs than he is to block with the TEs. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the team keep 4 TEs and only 6 WRs which might mean the end for Brandon Tate.

Zoltan Mesko – The punter has no competition in training camp which shows how much confidence the team has in him. If Mesko sticks around for a long time I’ll have no problem with the 5th round pick they used on him.

Brandon Deaderick – Deaderick started four games for the Patriots last season and looked impressive at times for a late 7th round pick before his four game suspension. He’s been out for all of training camp after having shoulder surgery in January. I’d expect Deaderick to be kept on the PUP list to start the season for depth purposes.

Kade Weston – Weston missed all of last season on injured reserve. The second year pro didn’t stand out in the Patriots first preseason game and might be a candidate for the practice squad if he can clear waivers.

Thomas Austin – Austin struggled against the Jaguars after coming in at center. I wouldn’t expect him to be kept for the 53 man roster

Buddy Farnham – An interesting player because he saw time at Wide Receiver and Safety last Thursday. I would expect him to be a practice squad player in 2011.

Steve Maneri –
The college tight end showed a lot of promise last Thursday playing at RT. His athleticism really showed on a couple of runs pulling from the tackle position. At 6’6” and only 290 lbs. he, like Nate Solder, could afford to gain some mass. (Editor’s note – some reports have him tipping the scales at over 300 now) He’s a prospect worth keeping around as I doubt he would make it through waivers onto the practice squad.

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10 Responses to “Patriots vs Bucs: Year Two Crew”

  1. John Courtney says:

    Pats fan since 1960 living now near Tampa. Great picks in Fletcher and Love. Draft this year is A- with very good picks including Marcus Cannon I think was a steal at 5th round and will be a starter in a year or 2. Happy for Ted Larson who made starting left guard for Bucs when didn’t fit in Pats line. He lives and grew up in Palm Harbor 12 miles from Tampa. Good local guy. Game tonight and Pats 27 to 14 win.

  2. TD says:

    I don’t think they can just kick Tate to the curb, there’s no gaurantee that Price will be better until #12 can gain trust w/him.

    Also, it’s tough for some reason for Vet’s to come in and learn the WR position on this team.

    Cunningham & Spikes will need to make big strides since BB seems to find guys at those positions from FA’s and UFA’s almost every year.

  3. cc says:

    Cunningham, let him shine at a more suitable possition. He should be looked to simply play straight OLB and loose the hybrid olb/de tag.

    & Thank god Price is now in play, B.Tate just simply isnt worth the continued wait and need’s the boot!

    • Liam says:

      There’s 53 roster spots. We can carry a pure kick returner.

    • Ratzalot says:

      Jermaine Cunningham is naturally a 4-3 defensive end not a 3-4 rush outside linebacker. The big challenge has always been taking a 4-3 DE and trying to convert the player into a 3-4 rush OLB. If the Patriots are truly converting to a base 4-3 defense, Cunningham will have no place as an OLB. Logic and history suggest he will be more successful as a 4-3 DE than 3-4 rush OLB.

  4. Dan says:

    A nice draft with room to grow…meaning, if Spikes, Cunningham and a few others reach some of their potential it will be unbelievable.
    If there were a re-draft tomorrow I would say without hesitation that McCourty, Gronk & Hernandez are all 1st rounders, and high ones at that. All 3 are simply special players, and they all have room to improve; which should be fun to watch.

  5. Liam says:

    You missed Dane Fletcher and Kyle Love, two guys who are punching far above their undrafted weight. Also, 6th rounder Ted Larsen will make an appearance… for the Bucs. He’s been solid if unspectacular as a starting guard for them. Would be nice to have as a backup if we hadn’t let him go, but he would never crack the starting lineup for the Pats, so I’m sure he’s happy to be with the Bucs.

    • Dan says:

      Good point, Fletcher looks like a nice player, same with Love…guys that can contribute and eventually play many snaps in this league.

    • Doug Kyed says:

      Damn, you’re totally right about Fletcher and Love. If I have time today I may edit this and throw thoes guys in. Thanks Liam!

      • AP says:

        Wow – when you really lay it all out like that – it really was an amazing draft last year.

        Last year the Patriots were on the cusp of trading D. Butler to New Orleans for P. Thomas. The deal went bust when the Patriots asked for an additional draft pick in the deal.

        I could see that trade being revisited – only for a different player on the Saints (since we don’t really need P. Thomas anymore.)

        So, does anyone know of any Saints players on the bubble that may be a better fit?

        (Side note: I would take Arrington any day of the week over Butler!)

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