Front in Transition: Charting the Patriots’ Defensive Shift Beyond Rob Ninkovich vs. Dolphins

September 9th, 2014
The Patriots showcased 17 different personnel combinations along the defensive line versus the Dolphins. Rob Ninkovich was part of only four. (Brad Barr - USA Today Sports Images)

The Patriots showcased 17 different personnel combinations along the defensive front versus the Dolphins. Rob Ninkovich was part of nine. (Brad Barr – USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

Over the course of 2013, the New England Patriots defensive line altered through 58 personnel groupings.

Part of it was scheme, as some players departed to the sidelines during short yardage or passing downs. Part of it was attrition, as some stayed on the sidelines for the duration.

Rob Ninkovich was not one of them.

His No. 50 jersey was spotted on the field for 1,114 snaps last season – according to Pro Football Focus – second to only teammate Chandler Jones among the league’s 4-3 defensive ends. And by the conclusion of Week 17, there were only 54 snaps in which Ninkovich hadn’t been seen on it.

In Sunday’s 33-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins in 2014 regular-season opener, there were 39.

Ninkovich was one of the first 11 on the field for the tilt at Sun Life Stadium. But the 6’2”, 260-pound edge-rusher was not a constant across from Jones.

That wasn’t necessarily a deviation from the 2013 campaign, which saw Ninkovich step back to outside linebacker when the Patriots moved from a four-man line to a three-man line. Yet something was different on Sept. 7. Read the rest of this entry »


2014 Patriots’ Secondary: An Island Chain Has Emerged Behind Revis

September 7th, 2014

NEPD Staff Writer: Ken Vetrano

Christmas came early this year when Lovie Smith gift wrapped #24 under the tree for Patriot fans. In the span of about 48 hours New England went from losing Aqib Talib to their main AFC competition the Denver Broncos, to signing one of the hand full of players that would be considered an upgrade to him.

Read the rest of this entry »


Saturday Slate: Week 2 Matchups to Watch in College Football

September 5th, 2014

NEPD Staff Writer: CJ Sousa

Nothing quite beats opening weekend of college football. There’s no preseason, no practice runs. Week 1 as usual provided entertainment all the way through. Before I get into the Week 2 matchups you should be watching, lets recap Week 1.

What we learned: Kenny Football! Kenny Heisman! Kenny Trill! Kenny.. Sumlin? Seriously, Kenny Hill looked great.   His throws’ were accurate and on time all night long. But it’s time Kevin Sumlin gets recognized as one of the best offensive minds in football. Receivers were open… all… night… long. South Carolina’s defense had no answers, as they were too busy running sideline-to-sideline trying to catch their breath all night. Read the rest of this entry »


Film Room: Carl Davis (DT, Iowa) vs UNI

September 5th, 2014

NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken

Week one of college football has come and gone. There were a lot of great games played over the weekend and some impressive individual performances as well. One such player was Carl Davis from Iowa. 

As you may or may not know, I am an Iowa State grad and this weekend did not go as I would have hoped for the Cyclones. Add to the fact that I am scouting a Hawkeye for my first report, and you can imagine this was not an easy pill to swallow.  It did not take long though for me to forget about the uniform that Carl Davis was wearing and enjoy what I saw on film.  Let’s break this down a little further.

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2014 NFL Season Predictions and Prognostications

September 4th, 2014
Is this the year Tom Brady and the Patriots end the Super Bowl drought?

Is this the year Tom Brady and the Patriots end the Super Bowl drought?

NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko

The 2014 NFL Season finally kicks off tonight when Green Bay travels to Seattle to take on the defending Super Bowl champions. For the next five months our daily lives will be consumed by football until a champion is crowned in  Phoenix, Arizona on February 1st. Is this the year the Patriots finally clear the final hurdle and win their fourth Lombardi Trophy? Is this the year the Jacksonville Jaguars return to respectability? Well, I think we all know the answer to the last question, but there are plenty of other questions to be answered. Here are my predictions for the 2014 NFL Season.

Read the rest of this entry »


2015 NFL Draft: The Turf Report, Week 1

September 4th, 2014

NEPD Staff Writer: Ken Vetrano

Each week I’ll take a look at some of the more impressive running back performances around College football, while also previewing a player worth paying attention to the following weekend.

Week one gave us many stellar outings from backs around the country, here are the three that stood out most to me;

Read the rest of this entry »


The Quarterback Report: Week 1

September 2nd, 2014

Breaking down the biggest quarterback observations from week 1 of the college football season.

NEPD Staff Writer Jack Andrade 

 

Jameis Winston's brilliance overshadowed his struggles in Week 1.

Jameis Winston’s brilliance overshadowed his struggles in Week 1.

The Winston Conundrum

Jameis Winston is going to be picked apart for every little thing he does on and off the field at Florida State, as he’s become a college celebrity much like Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M. So when Winston’s flaws shine through, you can expect the naysayers to raise their voices higher, while the Winston supporters conveniently make their argument known after he flashes the talent that won him the Heisman Trophy last year as a freshman.

As someone who seems to fall in the middle of the Winston argument, I can objectively say that I was not impressed at all with his performance Saturday night against Oklahoma State. I think Winston made some poor decisions and didn’t have the same poise and consistency that we saw so often last season.

Of course, his touchdown scamper in the third quarter is what blew Twitter up, with national media tweeting their worship of Winston for his remarkable run.

This angers me as an evaluator because I felt that given that a) Winston had not been playing well and b) Florida State was not exactly comfortable nursing a slim second half lead all night. But, again like Manziel, Winston has the rare ability to make one incredible play that makes people lose their minds and forget about the other factors at play.

Like Manziel, Winston is brilliant. Like Manziel, Winston is going to have off the field debates raged by people who have never met the kid.

I still think Winston has the ability to be a first round pick, and I’m certainly not going to worry about one bad game on his resume. I just wish people could look at his entire body of work Saturday night instead of ogling over his moment of brilliance. It’s what I hope to do with The Quarterback Report: provide the type of objective analysis you can’t get from big national outlets.

2 of the more respected football analysts I follow were similarly perplexed with Winston’s sub-par performance.

 

A No-Win for Bryce Petty?

Baylor’s Bryce Petty had no trouble picking apart SMU’s defense in his one half of action Sunday, as the Bears blew out the Mustangs 45-0. However, the rumblings around this year’s senior QB class lead me to think Petty might be in a no-win situation.

Following his 32 TD, 3 interception campaign from last year, Petty was my top rated senior QB in this class by a decent margin based on 2013 tape. He’s got an NFL arm and is supposedly a 4.6 athlete in the 40 yard dash, and his production at Baylor has been outstanding.

It seems, however, that Petty has already made his friends and his enemies among scouts, and no amount of success this season will change many of the doubters minds. Art Briles’ spread offense does not require the QB to take snaps under center or make many complicated reads, so projecting Petty to the NFL is all based on whether his skill set will allow him to be successful in an NFL scheme that will ask a lot more of him “upstairs.”

For those evaluators who slight Petty for being a product of Briles’ system, there’s nothing Petty can do to convince everyone he’s a first round prospect. It only takes one team to fall in love, as they say, but I think without a doubt Petty will be polarizing among scouts and evaluators next spring.

 

Missed Opportunity for Keeton

Chuckie Keeton has a pretty sizable base of evaluators who think he could emerge as the top QB in the senior class, but the Utah State signal caller struggled to get much going in the opener against Tennessee.

Keeton is a dual-threat and his recovery from an ACL injury in 2013 is paramount to his success this season. While I hesitate to hold one bad game against a prospect, the reality is Utah state’s schedule likely won’t afford him a better opportunity to put good tape together against a defense as talented as Tennessee’s.

Keeton finished 18-35 for 144 yards with 1 TD and 2 interceptions. His receivers did little to help him out and Utah State was clearly outmatched on both sides of the ball in the 38-7 defeat. Here’s to hoping Keeton can rebound and lead the Aggies to a strong Mountain West Conference campaign and earn himself a bowl game against a power conference defense.

 

Kenny Football?

It didn’t take long for Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill to make his mark on the SEC, as the heir to Johnny Manziel broke Johnny Football’s single game passing record with a phenomenal debut at South Carolina on Thursday night.

Hill threw for 511 yards and 3 touchdowns on 44-60 passing in the Aggies’ surprisingly easy 52-28 dismantling of the Gamecocks. It was an awesome debut considering the hostile environment and the pressure of following in Manziel’s footsteps.

A true sophomore, it’s a tad early to start projecting Hill to the NFL game. If he continues to make the loss of Manziel insignificant for A&M, however, there’s a chance the undersized Hill (6‘1” 215) could be the third Aggies QB selected in the first round this decade in 2016 or 2017.

 

Gardner, Golson Look Sharp

Both Michigan and Notre Dame received strong debuts from their quarterbacks Saturday, and that alone makes next Saturday’s rivalry game all the more intriguing.

Gardner disappointed last season in his first full year as the starter. Garner tossed 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, and scored another 11 TDs on the ground last year, but poor performances in the second half of the season against Michigan State, Nebraska, and Iowa doomed the Wolverines’ hopes for a quality season following a 6-1 start.

Golson was ineligible to play last Fall because of his academic probation from Notre Dame. He helped the Fighting Irish reach the National Championship Game as a sophomore in 2012.

Both Gardner and Golson had fantastic individual performances Saturday, albeit against cupcake defenses (especially Gardener against FCS Appalachian State). For all the promise both showed as prep stars and underclassmen, the two seniors are now playing for a shot at NFL relevancy and if both can deliver again this coming week, Michigan/Notre Dame will be must-see.

 

Stat Stuffers

Highlighting the best box score lines among top QB prospects this week.

  • Cody Kessler, USC: 25-37 passing, 394 yards, 4 TDs in 52-13 win over Fresno State
  • Marcus Mariota, Oregon: 14-20 passing, 267 yards, 3 TDs; 6 rushes, 41 yards, 1 TD in 62-13 win over South Dakota
  • Connor Cook, Michigan State: 12-13 passing, 285 yards, 3 TDs in 45-7 win over Jacksonville State
  • Shane Carden, East Carolina: 26-37 passing, 283 yards, 3 TDs in 52-7 win over NC Central.
  • Devin Gardner, Michigan: 13-14 passing, 173 yards, 3 TDs in 52-14 win over Appalachian State.






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