Previous Articles

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Week 1 Report


Week 1 Patriots vs. Dolphins

The Patriots opened the 2014 season with the tough task of heading down to Miami in the sweltering heat. The Patriots always get their best from division opponents and this would be no different. On top of that, the weirdest things always seem to happen down in Miami, which leads to losses for the Patriots. The Patriots were looking to start the season off strong with a win on the road, but sadly things did not come anything close to that plan.

The game for the Patriots started with a three-and-out, which then turned into a blocked punt setting up the Dolphins in their red zone for a quick touchdown score to Lamar Miller in the flat. So before most fans in the stadium even found their seats, the Patriots were down 7-0 off of a special teams miscue. The Pats responded with a very nice 13 play, 80 yard drive highlighted by a couple flashy plays by Julian Edelman. Throughout the drive, the Patriots were in total control of the Dolphins and doing whatever they pleased. The drive was capped off with Shane Vereen punching it
in from 2 yards out to tie the game at 7. Just a mere three plays later, Jamie Collins was able to come up big for the defense by making a huge hit a forcing a fumble that was recovered by Jerod Mayo. The defense set the offense up with great field position, but sadly the offense wasn’t able to muster up anything and had to settle for a field goal giving the Patriots a 10-7 lead. The Patriots were able to control the game throughout the 1st quarter and should have been walking away with a 10-0 lead instead of 10-7 if it wasn’t for a boneheaded special team’s mistake.

The 2nd quarter opened up with the Dolphins looking to answer the Patriots, but only four plays in, Ryan Tannehill threw an errand pass intended for Mike Wallace that fell right into Alfonso Dennard’s hands. The Patriots defense had now set the offense up at their own 6 looking to build on their 10-7 lead. The Patriots offense really got the drive going when Brady found Edelman for a 44 yard gain down the seam. The pass wasn’t a perfect one, but Edelman made a great play on the ball to complete the catch. The Patriots continued marching inside their 10 yard line, where Brady then found Rob Gronkowski cutting across the end zone for a 6 yard touchdown score. Now the Patriots were up 17-7 and looking to be in complete control of the game on both sides of the football. The Dolphins got the ball back yet again looking to answer the Patriots, but yet again, the defense came up with a big play forcing another turnover on a Miller fumble. Sadly, the offense wasn’t able to do anything with the ball this time and punted it back to Miami. The following drive, Miami got off to a hot start after a horrible roughing the passer penalty call on Hightower.  Miami then was able to finish off the drive with a field goal cutting the Patriots lead to a touchdown. The Patriots hopped into the two minute offense and were able to net a field goal before half giving them a ten point lead. The Patriots played a very solid half of football to open the season with the defense forcing three turnovers and the offense controlling the game as well. It certainly looked like the Patriots were on their way to another opening day win, but Miami had other plans.

The second half opened up well for the Dolphins as they were able to put together a nice drive led by some very strong running from Knowshon Moreno. The Dolphins were able to drive all the way inside the 10, but the Patriots defense stood tough and forced a field goal, holding the lead to just seven. The Patriots offense got the ball back looking to score, but only four plays into the drive, the offensive line allowed quick pressure and Brady fumbled the ball which the Phins recovered. From this point on, you already knew how this game may be turning out. Four plays later Tannehill forced a throw into zone coverage and Darrelle Revis tipped the pass, but Wallace was still able to haul it in for the touchdown. With the game now tied, the momentum had obviously switched at this point and you could sense the Pats were in trouble. Next possession: three and out. The offense line and
Brady’s accuracy were quickly going down the drain. Moreno kept carrying Miami on his back as he was slicing through the Patriots defensive line and linebackers. The Dolphins were able to take a field goal on the drive and take back the lead 23-20 with all the momentum. The Patriots offense needed some sort of spark to get the game under control, but a holding penalty and a horrible sack ended those hopes really fast. The Patriots were again punting the ball back to Miami.

The fourth quarter started out with four consecutive three and outs combined between the two teams. On a third and nine, the Patriots really could’ve used a first down to possibly spark a drive, but Brady missed a wide open Edelman and the Pats had to settle with another three and out. The Dolphins got the ball back again and continued to push their way around the Pats front seven. The Patriots were close to holding the Phins to another field goal on a third and four, where Wilfork had Moreno dead to rights, but somehow, Moreno got away from the tackle and found pay dirt. The Dolphins now took a 30-20 lead with only six minutes remaining. That third down play that Vince missed was a huge killer as the Pats could’ve held the lead to only six. The Patriots needed a score, and fast. But, of course on third and ten, the Pats OLine let Cameron Wake almost go untouched rushing Brady. He forced a fumble which the Dolphins recovered and that all but ended the game. Miami ended up with another field goal making the score 33-20. The Pats offense got one more chance to improve the score but couldn’t even come close to scoring. The Patriots had completely fallen apart in the second half being outscored 23-0 in the second half.

Conclusion: The Patriots have many things that need to be improved on going forward. While both of the lines looked god-awful in the second half there are still easy improvements that can be made fundamentally. The Patriots need to find the right combination on the offensive line and stick with it to build continuity. Solder and Vollmer both played an awful game in particular as did the entire offensive line for that matter. Personally, I would like to see the offensive line look like this: Solder, Connolly, Stork (eventually), Cannon and Vollmer. I think that’s what they need to go with and stick with it. Defensively, I didn’t like the use of the 3-4. Dominque Easley is a penetrator, but was forced to play a two gapping role on Sunday, which killed his effectiveness. Vellano was pushed around all day and looks like he doesn’t belong out there. I hated the cutting of Kelly, but now I really hate it. Chandler Jones was invisible outside of his two roughing the passer penalties. Both Collins and Mayo did a terrible job in penetrating through the holes and making the tackles. The secondary looked good as they held Tannehill to under 200 yards and didn’t give up any egregious plays. Revis in particular wasn’t as good as I thought he would be, but he was still solid.

Offensively, the run game was sorry due to offensive line blocking and the pass game really couldn’t get going as the offensive line didn’t want to block and Brady missed some passes. The coaching in this game was suspect to say the least in my opinion. I didn’t like how the offense moved toward the pass so much. I also don’t like how Vereen is getting the most snaps at running back. It pretty much tells the defense that the play will be a pass. I think Ridley needs more opportunities, which can settle down the offensive line too. I also didn’t like the defensive calls. The 3-4 scheme is not a good fit for this defense. I hope we switch back to a 4-3 so the run can finally be stopped. I also hate the lack of pressure being applied to opposing offenses. I think this defense, with Revis, should man up every play and blitz at least 5-6 on most plays. That, in my opinion, would be the best way to utilize Revis in this defense. This defense needs to play aggressive and take chances instead of dropping into a zone and waiting for the quarterback to make a mistake. I think the Patriots still have all the talent in the world to win the #1 seed in this conference and be a Super Bowl contender, but they need to figure out their offensive and defensive lines quick to start winning again. I expect them to get back on track Sunday in Minnesota and pick up the first win of the season in a blowout.

Positives: Brady (1st half), Revis, Dennard, Gronk, Edelman                    

Negatives: The offensive line, Brady (2nd half), Jones, Vellano, Easley, Collins, Mayo

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Thoughts on the 2014 Patriots Season


 

What to Make of the 2014 Season

          The 2014 off season could go down as one of the more
memorable ones in Patriots’ history. Bill Belichick stepped outside of his shell a little bit by going out and signing the game’s best corner (arguably) in Darrelle Revis, a very good corner in Brandon Browner and a solid wide out in Brandon LaFell. These additions to the team on top of the talent coming back from injury last season could equal that elusive fourth ring for the Pats. All of these additions and the previous talent on the team now has for higher expectations this season than ever before. The Patriots are closing in on a decade long drought for a title and now they are primed to make it happen.

            Bill Belichick, being himself, made a couple of ballsy moves this preseason which surprised many to say the least. First he cut three veterans which many had pegged to make the team in Kelly, Smith and Anderson, and then, Bill went out and dealt Logan Mankins for a fourth rounder and TE Tim Wright. The cutting of Anderson and Smith was a smaller surprise, but the cutting of Kelly came as a real eye opener, as the Pats interior DL is very young (Siliga, Jones, Vellano, Easley) and very old (Wilfork). Trading Logan Mankins was a move made purely for money reasons. Mankins was asked to take a pay cut and denied that so, he then, in turn, was dealt off to help fill a weak TE spot and gain a draft pick.

            So even with these surprises, the 53-man roster is set and this team looks like the same old Patriots who will win the AFC East and win about 11-14 games on the year as they always do. The overall talent on this roster is the best we have seen since the 2007 season, which we all remember vividly. The Patriots are primed to have a Top 5 defense with the secondary’s additions and a Top 5 offense if Gronk can stay healthy. There is a chance that this is the Patriots most dominant team ever (remember I said chance). While some spots on the roster looks to be deep and very talented other spots are weaker and could be prone to some issues. Here’s a quick look at each position with thoughts on their expectations for the season:

·         Quarterback (2): Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo

o   When Tom Brady is around and healthy there’s nothing less you can expect than an elite QB leading the Patriots. He may be 37, but even with last season’s struggles he made some very nice things happen. He hasn’t showed signs of slowing too much just yet either. Hopefully we don’t have to see Jimmy G this year, but man this kid went and beat out Ryan Mallet for the backup spot in just 3-4 months; impressive.

·         Running Back (5): Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, James White, Brandon Bolden, James Develin

o   Some fans will probably be spilt on this depending upon how you feel about Ridley’s fumbling issue and Vereen’s health issues. Personally, I think Ridley is a great RB and if he is given the carries his production could be near the top of the league. I also think he can get over the fumbling issues and it may also be a little overblown of an issue, too. RBs fumble, it happens. Ridley is a very productive back given the shot and that’s who I want carrying the load for us on Sundays. Vereen has struggled throughout his entire career to stay healthy consistently, but when he is healthy he is one of the most dynamic backs in the league. If you are an optimist on both of these players and both turn out in a positive light, then the RB situation will be looking very pretty for the Patriots. If not, they could be in some trouble at this position with White not looking too good in preseason games and Bolden being just an average player at best.

·         Tight end (3): Rob Gronkowski, Michael Hoomanawanui, Tim Wright

o   This position could be back to the dominance of 2012 if Gronk can play 16 games (huge IF) and Tim Wright can fill the Hernandez role that everyone keeps talking about. If Wright can be that mismatch in the middle of the field and Gronk can play a healthy 16 games, this positional group could be a reason for offensive dominance.

·          Wide receiver (5):  Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Aaron Dobson, Brandon LaFell, Kenbrell Thompkins

o   The addition of LaFell adds some veteran and taller presence to the WR corps. Julian Edelman will continue to be Brady’s go to WR target in this offense. If Amendola can stay healthy, he can make himself one of the go to guys as well, but again, this is a big if. The talent for Danny is there but the health isn’t. Outside of that, Dobson has a very high ceiling as a young WR, but the foot injury may have slowed him down a little bit. If Dobson can reach his potential though, he could put up some big games with Brady and maybe be that deep threat on the outside that the team has been missing since Moss. Kenbrell Thompkins could be a solid producer in this offense, but I don’t see his ceiling has being too high so I don’t expect much more than he did last season. Overall, if Amendola can stay healthy, this group is pretty diverse and talented compared to last season. Instead of causing Brady headaches, this group this season could make his life much easier.

·         Offensive line (10): Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Dan Connolly, Josh Kline, Ryan Wendell, Marcus Cannon, Jordan Devey Cameron Fleming (R), Bryan Stork (R), Chris Barker

o   The Logan Mankins trade has left the Patriots with very big questions at guard. The tackle positions should be fine with Solder, Vollmer and Cannon all very good to start there. The guard spot is open to a lot of questions since Mankins is now gone. For some reason, Cannon hasn’t turned into the guard he was supposed to be and there are rumors around that Vollmer may be used at guard. This sounds a little sketchy to say the least. Dan Connolly will be the other guard, but he really slowed last season and struggled. He was voted as team captain, so hopefully that can translate into more consistent play from him too. The center position is also scary. Ryan Wendell really struggled last season and is primed to start this season too, which I’m not a fan of. Hopefully Stork can eventually step up and win the starting job by mid-season. The biggest question still remains at left guard and who will fill the void. Will it be Cannon, Vollmer, Kline or Devey? I don’t really care who it is, but that person better be able to protect the franchise and run block effectively. The offensive line killed us at times last season and sadly, nothing really changes my mind about them this season. Hopefully they improve and are a lot better than last season.

·         Defensive linemen (9): Vince Wilfork, Sealver Siliga, Dominique Easley (R), Chris Jones, Joe Vellano, Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Michael Buchanan, Zach Moore (R)

o   Like I talked about before, the cutting of Tommy Kelly was a real surprise that still has me scratching my head. The interior line outside of Big Vince is very young and has a lot of question marks. Nobody knows the status of Siliga, Jones or Easley and Joe Vellano just isn’t that good in my opinion. I think BB could be banking a lot on a big season from Siliga and Easley for this line. Hopefully they produce because I don’t see Vince Wilfork being his old self all season long at this age.

o   Looking at the DE spot, there is a lot of potential there. Chandler Jones seems to be due for a monster season in which he could rack up a high sack total. Rob Ninkovich will most likely continue to be the solid player that he always is, making the right play consistently. From there, the depth is a little weak with only Buchanan and Moore as the DE backups. This may leave Jones and Nink gassed as they were a lot last season too. Hopefully Buchanan can make a leap in his performance and become a solid sub rusher to give Nink and Jones some rest at times. Overall the DE and DT spots are not as deep as most would like, but the front lines are still very strong. If everyone can stay healthy, I think they can be fine.

·         Linebackers (5): Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Darius Fleming, Chris White

o   This group could be the most talented on the team. Jerod Mayo is the QB on defense and one of the team’s leaders and one of the best LB’s in the league. Jamie Collins showed us all what his full potential could be as a playmaker in the playoffs last season. If he can keep that same level of play all season and grow on it, we really have a special talent on our hands at LB. Dont’a Hightower is primed for another season of getting better. He will also be playing a better suited role for himself this season as the loss of Mayo last year made things tough on the young LB. I expect both of the young LBs to have big seasons for this team.

·         Defensive Backs (10): Darrelle Revis, Logan Ryan, Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington, Malcolm Butler (R), Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Patrick Chung, Nate Ebner, Tavon Wilson

o   This group is easily without a doubt the deepest position on the team. BB went out and signed Revis and Browner to anchor the position with talent while we still have a solid player in Arrington and a couple growing young players in Dennard and Ryan. McCourty is primed for a huge season as he will be benefitting a lot from Revis’ presence. The other safety spot is still a big question mark though. Chung looks to be the starter Week 1 but hopefully Harmon can further develop and win the job or even the seldom talked about Tavon Wilson. Outside of the other safety spot, this defensive backfield has few weaknesses. This group of CBs will be able to match up vs. any team in the league.

Overall, I believe that both the offense and the defense can be Top 5 units in the league. Obviously health will play the biggest factor here. If this team can stay relatively healthy, then they will be looking at 12+ wins on the season. The talent this team has is insane and could be the most talented team BB has ever fielded depending upon how some players develop. The raw talent on the defensive side of the ball just makes me starry eyed. There has been rumor of the defense obviously dropping into a 3-4 most of the time which sounds amazing since this puts all players in the front 7 in positions suited for them. Chandler Jones as a stand-up OLB could mean a monster season from him add that onto one of the league’s best secondary’s and line backing corps and you have a Top 5 defense. The offense will be fine as long as Brady is around. If Gronk is healthy, they can be lethal. Obviously he just makes things so much easier for Brady and the other WRs and makes the offense go. If Gronk is healthy and the other weapons (Dobson, LaFell and KT) can develop then there is no reason why the offense can’t be a Top 5 unit again.

            The expectation for this season, for me, is a Super Bowl victory. It sounds greedy, but I think this team has more talent than some of the previous Super Bowl teams. The league’s best QB and CB are in NE, what else would you want? This defense could be as good as the 2004 squad while the offense could get back to putting up the number they did in 2011-12. This season is definitely Super Bowl or bust for our lovely Pats. The talent that BB put together leaves us no other option but to expect to be in the thick of it again in January. Hopefully this is the season we get over the hump.
 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Preseason Game 1 Thoughts


Patriots 6         Redskins 23
Preseason Game 1 Thoughts

            First off, this game was pretty tough to watch. The team looked flat the entire night and never really found themselves. The legit starters for the Patriots didn’t get to play either so while the team didn’t look too good the best players didn’t even touch the field for the Patriots. The list of players who didn’t play Thursday night includes Brady, Mayo, Revis, Gronk, Edelman, Mankins, McCourty, Hightower, Collins, and Amendola. Thursday night was a showcase night for many of the depth players on the roster to earn their place on this team. While it was tough to watch most of the night, there were certainly some bright spots in there as well. I’m going to take a look at this through positives and negatives even though the negatives will outweigh the positives after this dismal performance by the Patriots.

Negatives:

·         The Offensive Line

o   This mainly applies to the first half, but could be applied to the entire game too. The pass protection for Mallet throughout was suspect. Early on, Mallet made a nice throw to LaFell to convert a 3rd down only to see it taken back because of a Solder holding penalty. The rest of the half Solder struggled. Mallet’s struggles could be directed toward the OL play in front of him. They struggled to contain the Skins pass rush all night.

o   The run blocking was rough as well. On the first attempt of the day, Ridley saw at least 4 Redskins in the backfield the moment he took the handoff, luckily he found a way to gain 2 yards somehow. As a team that Patriots had 24 carries for 63 yards and a really crappy 2.6 YPC average and a lot of that falls on the offensive line for not opening up holes for the runners.

·         Ryan Mallet

o   Yes, I know the OL play was bad, which could be a reason for Mallet’s struggles but still he did not look very good. He didn’t look comfortable in the pocket and rushed his movements and progressions. The easy play to look at with a magnifying glass is the quick slant to LaFell that was thrown at his feet killing the chance at a first down. The offense didn’t do anything when Mallet was at the helm, which sucks because this was sort of a showcase game for him.

·         The Front 7 (Anderson, Beauharnais and Fleming in particular)

o   Didn’t come close to hitting the quarterback and did a really poor job penetrating the LOS on run plays. All of the LBs took really bad angles all night and looked to be caught out of place a lot. The defensive line rarely set the edge well, too. Granted, the team did not have the entire starting LB core and the starting DL only played a couple series, but still these depth players did not do their jobs very well out there.

·         Logan Ryan

o   This is mainly because I have very high expectations for Ryan heading into this season to develop into a better player. Two plays in particular stick out from Ryan’s play the other night. One was in the first half I believe and the Pats had the Skins backed up on their own 1 and Ryan let Robinson slant right in front of his face for an easy 15 yard pickup getting them out of trouble. Then, a second play Ryan got beat down the sideline on a nice throw and catch. Overall I thought he looked subpar. Hopefully he can turn it around and become the player we all expect him to be.

Positives:

·         Jimmy Garoppolo

o   Yes, he was playing vs. vanilla defense against Washington’s 2s and 3s but still this kid looked good. He looked to be very comfortable in the pocket and made a lot of very good decisions. He throws a beautiful deep ball, that’s for certain. He had 3 throws that beyond impressed me; all of them were thrown toward Tyms. The first was the deep ball in the third which was incomplete, the second was the first play of the 4th quarter where Jimmy sent a beauty down the sideline to Tyms for a huge gain, and the 3rd impressive throw was the TD toss to Tyms, yet another perfectly placed pass over the shoulder. IF Garoppolo can continue to make throws like that in these situations Mallet may be on the chopping block.

·         Brandon LaFell/ Josh Boyce and Brian Tyms

o   LaFell didn’t do much, but he looked good when he was out there and did do something. I thought he looked smooth running routes and seems to have a lot of length to offer on the field which Brady will use to an advantage. Boyce made a couple catches but again just looked electric to me once he touches the ball. This kid is certainly talented, but he can’t seem to fully put it together yet. Hopefully he does, because he is dangerous with the ball in his hands. The obvious positive here was Tyms as he put up 120 yards and the lone Patriot score of the game off of a beauty pass from Jimmy G. Tyms may have been playing vs. vanilla defense and not much contact at the line, but he still went out and produced in the stage that demanded it. It will be interesting to follow him the rest of preseason and see how he and Garoppolo develop together.

·         Malcom Butler

o   Effort is the first word that comes to mind when I think of his performance. Butler was all over the field all night. He should’ve had at least 2 interceptions as well which really would’ve helped his chances at a roster spot. He is a smaller corner but his effort makes up for that. He showed very well on Thursday night and with Brandon Browner suspended the first 4 games of the season Butler could find his way onto the roster if this type of play keeps up.

·         Tavon Wilson and Patrick Chung

o    BB was pretty obvious in his attempt to give Harmon, Wilson and Chung all equal reps on Thursday and I think Wilson did the most with his. He was the most active out there making a lot of tackles looking pretty big but not slow. He didn’t make any glaring mental mistakes, which shows growth on his part. He looked pretty good in my opinion coming up and playing the run game. Chung didn’t rack up the same tackle number as Wilson but he still looked smooth out there. He didn’t impress me as much as Wilson, but he looked better than I thought he would for some reason. I am rooting for Wilson to win out in the safety competition and take the starting role but I also like Harmon a lot too and wouldn’t mind seeing him take it either. We also can’t rule out Jemea Thomas making a push in the coming weeks for the spot either. The competition at the second safety spot is the most interesting to me at this point in the season.

Overall the game wasn’t pretty for the Patriots, but there were the bright spots that I outlined above. The team heads back to Gillette to joint practice with the Eagles before their game on Friday night. Friday night should see more action from the starters and it should also answer more questions about position competition and who will stick on the roster.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Patriots Training Camp!!!




Patriots Training Camp Important Questions and Projecting the 53

            Well, the NFL season is finally here. Obviously, the regular season hasn’t arrived yet and won’t for another six weeks or so. But, Training Camp and preseason is the most anticipated time of the year because the lull of the offseason is just too long. Training Camp is very fun to follow because we get to find out what players are shining in practice and what players could be on the bubble. Young players are fighting for NFL careers and veterans are just trying to not get cut during this time of year. It’s always a fun time and here are the biggest questions/thoughts for the Patriots heading into Training Camp.
·         How have the rookie wide receivers progressed heading into their ‘Jump Year’?

o   In New England, the Year 2 Jump always seems to be important for a young player. We saw the jump from Collins in the playoffs last season. While the rookies had their highs and lows during the season, overall they did a very good job for being thrust into the roles they were. Of course there will be growing pains with young guys in a
tough offensive system with a QB who demands excellence. Now, it’s time to find out how these guys have progressed. Dobson, Boyce and Thompkins all could be very big pieces for the offense this year if they are able to make the jump in their sophomore season. The biggest expectations are on Dobson since he was picked very high and showed the most promise last season. He hasn’t fully recovered from the foot injury yet, but hopefully that hasn’t hampered him. We didn’t see a lot from Josh Boyce last year, but the few times we did see him he showed explosiveness. Thompkins had a very good start to the season with some big games (the GW TD vs. the Saints comes to mind), but down the stretch and into the playoffs he disappeared on us. Hopefully all three of these guys can get on the same page with Brady and learn the offense inside and out to be the most productive players they can be. The addition of LaFell could be a big one. Some are high on him, while others are down on him. He put up a consistent 600 yards a season in a conservative offense as the third option. This system can get the most out of some WRs and I think LaFell could be one of those guys. Danny Amendola had a tough first season in New England as he did not meet hefty expectations. Hopefully he can stay healthy this season and have great production in this offense. The wide receivers as a group have a lot of room for improvement and hopefully they reach full potential this season.

·         How the interior Defensive Line is shaping up and the health of the vets

o   Last season the Pats interior D-Line was decimated not even halfway through year. Big Vince was lost with the achilles injury in Week 4 and Kelly the week later to an ACL. From there we saw Jones, Vellano, Siliga and Sopoaga try to patch up the middle but in reality it wasn’t great. While all did a valiant job being thrust into starting roles, the defensive line was a huge weakness on the team. Bill Belichick went out and helped secure the middle by drafting Dominque Easley in the 1st round. So the biggest question for the DL is how Kelly and Wilfork are looking out there and how is Easley looking too? If all three can play a healthy season to their fullest the interior DL looks very solid, but that’s asking a lot especially from two big boys who are in the latter stages of their careers. Outside of those 3, Siliga, Jones and Vellano will be battling it out for spots up on the depth chart and the roster. For this position, the key is health. If Kelly, Wilfork and Easley are all 100% I don’t think we will see any signs of weakness up the middle and teams will struggle to run the ball on the Pats.

·         Who will take the starting spots on the interior Offensive Line?

o   Starting off, I think it’s safe to say Mankins will have his starting spot, but from there everything else is up in the air. Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly are coming off of really tough seasons in which both struggled greatly. BB went out and drafted three offensive linemen to create some depth and competition at the position. I think Bryan Stork could really compete for Wendell’s job at center if he really impresses at camp. Both Wendell and Connolly have contract numbers that help the team out if they are cut. Connolly will have to battle with Jon Halapio and Josh Kline at the guard spot and even Marcus Cannon maybe if he kicks back inside with the return of Vollmer. I think when it’s all said and done Wendell and Connolly could both be gone or both be here depending upon how the rookies play in TC and preseason. The interior OL was a huge weakness last season and some new faces in there may improve the situation.

·         How is the secondary going to gel (specifically the slot CB and SS)?

o   This is the most improved part of the team and is now undeniably the strength of the team, at least if these guys all can put it together. BB went out and signed Revis, arguably the best CB in the league, and Brandon Browner who was a Pro Bowler in 2012. This secondary is now loaded with talent and now it’s a question of where everyone will fall on the depth chart. Obviously Revis is the number 1 CB, but from there it’s all up to competition. Dennard and Ryan are young budding players that will need to beat out the vets if they want to see legitimate
playing time. The only weakness in the secondary is the strong safety spot. Duron Harmon showed some promise last season that he can fill the void but he still had a lot to prove. The team also signed Patrick Chung so we shall see what he can bring to the table. I don’t see Chung making the team, but a healthy competition for Harmon would be nice. Maybe this is the season the Tavon Wilson steps up and plays like we expected? That would be very nice. Hopefully whoever wins out the SS spot steps up and plays very well in this already strong secondary.

·         What other players can make a leap or prove themselves?

o   Jamie Collins, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon are all candidates to make a leap heading into their second season. Collins and Ryan in particular showed a lot of promise as rookies and hopefully they build a lot off of it.

o   Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Dont’a Hightower, Tavon Wilson, and Danny Amendola. Vereen and Amendola would both be very productive players if they could only stay healthy. They need to play a full season healthy to prove they can be important contributors to the team. Stevan Ridley needs to prove that he can hold onto the football and be a horse as the lead back. He did a great job as the lead back in 2012, but had issues last season with fumbles. If he can get past this setback, he can be a beast for the Pats in the run game. Dont’a Hightower and Tavon Wilson need to prove their talent on this team. Hightower had a very good rookie season and regressed a little after being pushed into a tough spot last season when Mayo went down. He has been good but still needs to prove how good he can be as a high selection. He has a lot of talent and now that he will be playing a better suited role for himself I expect a big year from him. Tavon Wilson has shown pretty much nothing over two years. He forced a couple turnovers in his rookie season, but barely saw the field last season. Wilson was a reach as a second round pick and hasn’t proved his worth for that selection. Hopefully he turns it around.

 

53-Man Roster Projection

With all of the young talent on this team and the additions in free agency, finalizing the 53-man roster will be very tough for BB. Here is my pre training camp projection of the 53-man roster:
QB (3) Brady, Mallett, Garoppolo
RB (5) Ridley, Vereen, Bolden, White, Develin
WR (7) Edelman, Amendola, LaFell, Boyce, Dobson, Slater, Thompkins
TE (2) Gronkowski, Hoomanawanui
C  (2) Stork, Wendell
G  (3) Mankins, Halapio, Kline
T  (4) Solder, Vollmer, Cannon, Fleming
DE (5) Jones, Ninkovich, Buchanan, Moore, Smith
DT (5) Wilfork, Kelly, Easley, Siliga, Jones
ILB(3) Mayo, Hightower, Beauharnais
OLB(2) Collins, Anderson
CB (5) Revis, Browner, Dennard, Arrington, Ryan
SS (2) Harmon, Wilson
FS (2) McCourty, Thomas
ST (3) Gostkowski, Allen, Aiken

·         My 53-man roster is pretty straight forward. I think only 2 TEs will make the roster because Gronk is saying he’s 100% healthy and ready for the season.
·         I have Patrick Chung being cut from the roster, because I don’t see him beating out anyone for a spot.
·         I also don’t have any of the UDFA RB’s making the roster because I think the current RBs have too much talent added onto the draftee James White whom I really like.
·         I also have Dan Connolly being cut. I think the drafting of Halapio put Connolly on the bubble; also the team really likes Josh Kline too which makes him expendable with his hefty contract.
·         I really like Jeremy Gallon but with all of the WRs already on the roster I don’t see him making the cut. Hopefully he can make it onto the practice squad.
·         I see Bryan Stork possibly beating out Ryan Wendell for the starting spot but I think Wendell makes the team anyway.

Monday, July 14, 2014

NBA Free Agency Thoughts


NBA Free Agency Thoughts

            Outside of the playoffs and finals, the free agency period for the NBA is most exciting to follow and this July has been one of the most exciting since the 2010 offseason which featured the Decision and the infamous formation of the Big 3 in Miami. From a Celtics perspective, they have been rather quiet after there had been talks of ‘fireworks’ from the organization. Here I’ll take a look at the recent big signings around the league. My Celtics related comments will be all the way at the bottom for the Celtic fans out there.

·         LeBron James signs a 2-year $42-million deal with Cleveland

o   This is the move of the offseason obviously. Of course, the James haters find this move a sell out by LeBron. I’ve heard people say he finds the first door after losing (which is true), he knew returning to Cleveland would make people pat him on the back (also true), or even he left to go to a better situation with a young Kyrie and Wiggins (which I disagree with). I think if he returned to Miami, he would have a better chance at a ring. Unless the Cavs get Love, they wouldn’t be as good as Miami would have been with him. Even though I am a huge James hater, I really respect this move outta him. Yes, he may have found the door and ran when the tough got going, but I’ve come to learn that that’s what kind of guy LeBron James is. He’s a front runner. But, I respect the hell out of the fact that he knew he messed up big time in 2010 and righted a wrong by returning home to the city that so badly needed a star and relevancy in it. I’m a sentimental kind of fan, and a star that turned his back on the area that raised him, then returns is a great story. I’m sorry if I’m a sucker, but it really is. If LeBron is able to deliver a title to Cleveland without getting a Kevin Love to help him that would make his story and legacy so much better. Also, I would be happy for those fans over in Cleveland because they deserve a title so much. This is a class move by LeBron to go home. For those of you who still do not respect him or hate the move, what do you expect? It’s LeBron. At this point, we all know that he just isn’t the type of guy that Jordan, Larry or Magic was that’s just fact. LeBron is just as skilled as those players, but he doesn’t have that ‘it’ factor. Anyway, all of that aside, I really respect the move by LeBron to come back home.

 

·         Carmelo Anthony signs a 5-year $129-million deal to stay in New York

o   Good for Melo for getting paid, good for NY and Phil to retain him. New York is looking up though, if you ask me. Melo will still have to carry them and most likely it will be a 7-8 seed in the East. The Knicks need to get that horrible Amare contract off the books before they become relevant again.

·         Chris Bosh signs a 5-year $118-million max deal to stay in Miami

o   WOW. Very surprised to see this happen. This move, in my opinion, shows the greatness of Pat Riley as a GM and salesman. He somehow sold Bosh on staying in Miami even after LBJ ditched town. Obviously that extra money and year helped Bosh make the decision, but let’s be honest, Bosh’s best situation was to take the max in Houston and ball with a new big 3. I am very surprised to see him change his mind; sadly, Miami will not be a title contender for at least two more seasons so Bosh will be stuck on a decent team. He will also be back to the old Bosh in the post averaging 24/11 like he did in Toronto. A good move by Riley to keep a star around to build something with, and a solid move by Bosh to stick around and take the money.

·         Dirk Nowitzki agrees to a 3-year $30-million deal to stay with Dallas

o   Big Shot Dirk staying home. Not really a surprise. This guy belongs in Dallas. Of course he could have gotten more on the open market, but he has that gene of loyalty in him, which adds to his legacy. The Mavs may be a decent team that could make a surprise run in the playoffs now that they added Tyson Chandler as well. Class move by Dirk to stay for cheap, good for Dallas.

·         Kyle Lowry agrees to a 4-year $48-million deal to stay in Toronto

o   This is a big resign for the young Raptor team. The Raptors have a very good core in place with Lowry, DeRozan and Johnson to be a competitive team each season. Lowry should only get better as the years progress as well. For a guy that can down the road by a top tier PG, 12 million per season is a very good deal for the Raptors.

·         Chandler Parsons signs 3-year $46-million offer sheet to join Dallas

o   What a huge signing for Dallas. It fills a huge need as a scoring 3. Add a young Parsons to Ellis, Nowitzki and Chandler and you have a team that can make some real noise in May. The only thing is, 15 million a year for Parsons is a HUGE overpayment if you ask me. Also the other big overpayment this offseason was Gordon Hayward going back to Utah for 4/63.. Like what? I would take Bradley over him. I was upset at Avery Bradley’s 8 million per year and Jeff Green’s 9 million this season but both those deals look like steals compared to this deal. It certainly a high price, but Parsons should fit in well with Dallas and keep them youthful as well.

·         Luol Deng signs a 2-year $20-million deal to join Miami

o   This is a bargain for Riley and Miami. Deng’s rumored price going into FA was anywhere from 13-15 million but he ends up getting 10 a year. Miami has quickly rebounded from losing Bron to making a decent playoff team in the East with Bosh and Deng as the core and more cap space to make moves. Deng will be a 2nd option there so he gets to shine and Miami gets a bargain and stays a winning team. Good for both sides.

·         Pau Gasol signs a 3-year $22-million deal joining Chicago

o   If Derrick Rose can play a full season and postseason 100%, this signing is huge for Chicago. Pau can score, which Chicago needs badly. With Rose, Butler, Pau and Noah and Gibson off the bench, this Bulls team could end up being the 1-seed in the East and be a legit title contender. A great signing for Chicago and a good spot for Pau to shine.

 

Celtics Related Moves

·         Celtics sign Avery Bradley to a 4-year $32-million deal

o   I like Avery Bradley; I do, just not at this price. At least that’s what I was saying when the deal was signed. Now that the numbers for the Hayward and Parsons deal have come out, I really don’t mind the Bradley signing. He’s still very young and has upside at and at 8 million a season, looks to be a bit of a bargain. Rondo, Smart and Bradley is a good combo of guards for this Celtics team.

·         Celtics trade 10.3 TPE and conditional 2nd round pick to Cleveland as part of a 3-team deal getting Tyler Zeller, Marcus Thornton and a future protected 1st round pick.

o   Love this deal. Love it. We traded pretty much nothing and still got a solid shooter Thornton with an expiring deal, a young big man in Zeller (which the C’s desperately needed) and yet another first round pick. All of that for nothing. I think we may see Thornton traded before the season even starts or at the trade deadline. He is a good scorer that a contending team could use off the bench in the playoffs. Even if he isn’t traded, he has an expiring deal which is perfect for the Celtics through this rebuild. Zeller looks to be part of the future plans of the team. Hopefully he can develop into a solid big man who can give us 20-24 minutes a night down low. You gotta love this trade by Ainge. He gave up nothing for something.

·         EXTRA: Paul Pierce signs a MLE 2-year $10-million deal with Washington

o   When I saw this I said, “Good for Paul”. He brings veteran leadership and clutch scoring to a very young and competitive Wizards team that they need. The Wizards will make the playoffs again this season and if the Celtics drop into tankapalooza 2.0 then I will easily root for the success of Paul in the playoffs with the Wiz. Something to think about, Pierce has an opt out after one season though, so maybe if the Celtics gets some studs by 2015, Pierce will opt out and rejoin for one last run in his career. Obviously, a pipe dream, but what a great story it would be. Best of luck to my favorite player all-time Paul Pierce.    

The Celtics have been relatively quiet in this free agency a little to my surprise after the “fireworks” were supposed to be coming. There are still rumors of Kevin Love, which I’m holding out hope for, but that seems very unlikely too. I think the C’s can still offer the best package IF Cleveland doesn’t give up Wiggins and Golden State won’t give up Thompson. If the Celtics cannot get Love, they should just sit back the rest of the offseason (as they are doing) and just play the young guys and see how the season turns out, then make a run at FA in 2015. I’m still holding out the dream that Love is coming here though, and I’m not giving up until he wears another team’s jersey.