Archive for the ‘NFL’ Category

A Potential Move: Patriots Second-Year Wideout Mark Harrison

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Mark Harrison hasn’t played in a game since December of 2012. But the former Rutgers wide receiver has been a point of positional discussion during the Patriots’ offseason. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

The New England Patriots head into voluntary offseason workouts with a roster of 64 names.

Three of whom are listed as tight ends.

The select group is indeed headlined by two-time All-Pro Rob Gronkowski, who is on the road to recovery from ACL and MCL tears suffered in December. Second in command is 25-year-old utility man Michael Hoomanawanui, who’s back with the team on a two-year deal after making 10 starts in 2013. And rounding out the list is 6’2”, 245-pound flex target D.J. Williams, who was signed, cut and re-signed to play two Patriots games last season.

It’s a group that carries a bit of everything – a prolific seam-stretching “Y”, a versatile blocker-slash-special-teamer, and an “F” receiver on his third team in two seasons. It’s also a group surrounded by question marks, given Gronkowski’s prognosis and fact that his understudies have combined for 46 receptions in 78 regular-season games.

But it is a group head coach Bill Belichick and Co. stuck with through the height of free agency, even after veteran Owen Daniels visited, even after 2013 No. 3 option Matthew Mulligan departed for the Chicago Bears.

As the 2014 NFL draft draws near, however, the group should soon look different. New England has been widely forecasted to bolster the tight end position. And for what it’s worth, Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro, Notre Dame’s Troy Niklas, Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Iowa’s C.J. Fiedorowicz, Colorado State’s Crockett Gillmore, Fresno State’s Marcel Jensen, California’s Richard Rodgers and Virginia Tech’s D.J. Coles have all had their names linked.

Yet while all signs point towards the Patriots adding a fourth, a fifth or even a sixth name to the tight end depth chart this May, there’s an outside possibility that an in-house name could also join them.

Second-year wide receiver Mark Harrison. (more…)

2014 NFL Draft Close-Up: Penn State Defensive Tackle DaQuan Jones

Monday, April 21st, 2014

DaQuan Jones’ strength off the field has translated on it. And as May’s draft approaches, the Penn State defensive tackle is a likely day-two pick. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

In the coming weeks leading up to the 2014 NFL draft, will continue to profile college prospects that potentially fit the needs and draft seating of the New England Patriots. In this 12th installment, we will take a closer look at the film behind Penn State defensive tackle DaQuan Jones.

DaQuan Jones has lived through far more than double teams in his 22 years.

As Anna Orso powerfully detailed in The Daily Collegian last October, he’s lived through an impoverished childhood, which left him eating few warm meals and sleeping on couches while his family moved from one apartment to another. He’s lived through his mother’s addiction and incarceration, which granted his father full custody of him and his brothers even when long days at work didn’t make it easy. He’s lived through struggles in school and pressures from peers, which reminded him of the darker avenues he could have taken.

Those battles could have derailed him. They could have defined him. But with strong pillars supporting him and his internal strength to succeed, those battles brought out the best in him.

That was seen through athletics at Johnson City High School in southern New York, where Jones was captain of the basketball team and also part of the track and field team.

Measuring in at 6’3” and 302 pounds, he found an outlet on the football field as well.

He left his mark, setting an example as a captain and a standout on both sides of the ball. And after a junior year consisting of 70 tackles, three sacks and four fumble recoveries, the Wildcat found himself ranked as the No. 5 overall defensive tackle by He found himself ranked the No. 2 offensive lineman in the nation by He found himself a predominant four-star recruit.

Soon after, Jones found himself with the opportunity to go to college. His talent had drawn scholarship offers from Boston College and six other Division I programs by the summer of 2009.

Penn State was one of them. And while on a camp visit to State College that June, the soon-to-be high school senior committed. (more…)

Edge of Development: Patriots Defensive End Michael Buchanan

Monday, 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. (more…)

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

Monday, 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.


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

Thursday, 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, 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. ranked him 44th among defensive ends in the 2010 class; ranked him 127th at the position; 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. (more…)

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

Monday, 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. (more…)

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

Friday, 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, 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. (more…)

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