Archive for the ‘NFL’ Category

Will Smith Could Bring Sub-Package Power to Patriots Defense

Monday, June 16th, 2014

After missing the 2013 season with a torn ACL, veteran pass-rusher Will Smith is vying to return to form in a new uniform. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

An ACL tear during the 2013 preseason brought Will Smith’s 10-year run with the New Orleans Saints to an unceremonious end. But the former Pro Bowl pass-rusher is looking to start anew with the New England Patriots in 2014.

He just may not start.

It’s an understandable reality for the 32-year-old, released by New Orleans in early February. Despite the 120 starts and 139 regular-season contests under his belt, expectations for the five-time defensive captain are as tempered as the one-year, $855,000 contract he signed in May.

A stark contrast from the $3 million in base salary he was due in 2013, Smith is no longer the player who amassed 33.5 sacks over his first four NFL campaigns. He is no longer the player who forged through left tackles for 13 sacks along the way to a Super Bowl victory in 2009.

Yet for head coach Bill Belichick, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and Patriots defensive front, what Smith currently is could be enough to make a difference.

Situated behind defensive ends Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, and their Pro Football Focus-leading 2,256 snaps in 2013, the 2004 first-round pick has an opportunity to excel under a lesser capacity than the one he’s accustomed to. He has an opportunity to earn a title unlike the one’s he’s earned before.

Sub-package rusher. (more…)


Patriots Tight End Breakdown: Six Deep in Final Week of OTAs

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Asa Watson is one of five Patriots tight ends vying for a roster spot behind Rob Gronkowski. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

The New England Patriots entered the final week of organized team activities with five tight ends on the 90-man roster. But by the time Monday’s session drew to a close, so did the tenure of undrafted rookie wide receiver Derrick Johnson.

A sixth tight end was signed in his place.

It’s unknown how long the untested group will carry that allotment. What is known is that two OTAs separate the Patriots from mandatory minicamp, and three minicamp practices separate the Patriots from a month-long summer break.

Between now and then, moves will be made on the back end of the roster. Many will depart from Gillette Stadium on June 19 without the surety that they’ll return for training camp on July 16.

Yet within that uncertainty lies competition. And at tight end, where the average age is just 24 years old, there’s no shortage of opportunity for it. (more…)


58 Defensive Line Combinations: A 2013 Patriots Personnel Study

Friday, June 6th, 2014

The defensive line of the 2013 Patriots shifted in waves. Its components changed by the week, and in some cases, by the snap. (NFL Game Rewind)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

The 2013 New England Patriots defensive line was one of adaptation.

It was one of many faces and many alignments. And it was one composed of 15 players, forged by attrition.

For the collection of former draft picks and undrafted free agents, waiver claims and veteran free agents, it was about being greater than the sum of their parts. For head coach Bill Belichick, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and position coach Patrick Graham, on the other hand, it was about being interchangeable.

From Week 1 through Week 17, the New England’s defensive line was just that. But its identity remained unknown. There was no true first-team. There was no true base defense.

Its contributors and alignments shifted with each opponent, with each snap. (more…)


Patriots Wide Receiver Breakdown: Volume in Numbers at OTAs

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

The Patriots’ wide receiving corps was highlighted during the summer of 2013, and it is once again in 2014. (Photo: Oliver Thomas)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

As organized team activities opened up on Tuesday, May 27, the New England Patriots filled the 90-man roster to maximum capacity by signing two wide receivers. In doing so, one of the positions which grew scarce with attrition and inexperience last season now stands among the squad’s deepest in volume.

It stands at 13.

In a numbers game, though, less than half of that baker’s dozen will ultimately make the 53-man roster. And if the past serves as an indicator of the future, the process will remain a fluid one until then.

That was illustrated last June, as the Patriots stocked OTAs with 10 wideouts. The pool included three incumbents – who combined 21 receptions for the year prior – along with four veteran signings, two rookie draft picks and two undrafted rookies.

The average age of the nucleus was 25 years old.

But by the time OTAs turned into training camp and the preseason, the landscape shifted. Rookie Mark Harrison was never activated from the non-football injury list, incumbent Kamar Aiken and veterans Michael Jenkins, Donald Jones and Lavelle Hawkins were let go. Several more joined only to meet the same fate.

The fate of New England’s 2014 collection is not yet known. Even so, there are some elements that are. (more…)


Patriots Found Upside in Georgia Tech Do-It-All Jemea Thomas

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Jemea Thomas was selected in the sixth round of May’s NFL Draft, but the do-it-all defensive back proved to be more than a flier over his five seasons with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

It was the summer of 2009, and Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson had his share of decisions to make.

One of which regarded three-star recruit Jemea Thomas, an incoming freshman A-back who had rushed for 8.8 yards per carry and seven touchdowns during his senior season at nearby Fitzgerald High School.

Johnson could have kept the Queensland, Ga., native on the offensive side of the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option attack. Or, the ACC Coach of the Year could have moved Thomas to defense full-time, where he amassed 140 tackles, three blocked field goals and four interceptions for the Purple Hurricanes in 2008.

The latter was elected. (more…)


Patriots’ Rookie Running Backs Carry Some Earth, Wind and Fire

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

The vision and balance of Patriots fourth-round pick James White headlines a rookie running back trio. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

The New England Patriots’ offseason roster delves eight deep at the running back position. But even after Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden, fullback James Develin and first-year player Jonas Gray, viable competition remains.

It comes in the form of rookies Stephen Houston, James White and Roy Finch.

Only one of whom was selected in May’s draft, yet each of whom carries the serviceability to warrant a 53-man roster selection.

The reality, though, is that not all of whom will. There are only 11 offensive players on the field at a time, and there’s only one football to go around. And given the sheer volume of candidates in New England’s wide-open rushing committee, taking part in both will be a tall order this summer.

Each will have to carve a role.

Based on the ways in which the trio was utilized in college, however, doing so won’t be far outside the realm of possibility. (more…)


2014 AFC East Rankings: Changes After the 2014 NFL Draft?

Friday, May 16th, 2014

NEPD Staff Writer: Ken Vetrano

How does the AFC East stack up after the 2014 NFL Draft?

(more…)







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