Tag Archives: Chandler Jones

Tale of Two Halves

Nothing like a 52-point beatdown to get those spirits up. (patriots.com)

It was the worst of times and then it was the best of times.

For the first half and beginning of the third quarter in Sunday’s game against Buffalo the Patriots looked as if the wheels were seriously falling off and that despite all the talent on the roster, a 1-3 start was in the future. Then someone flipped on a switch and suddenly that same Patriots team that could only manage seven points in the first half erupted and laughed it’s way to a 45-point half.

All in all the game ended with the Patriots getting back to .500 with a 52-28 thumping of the Bills that included a 31-point outburst in the fourth quarter.

The usual suspects were involved in the offensive onslaught. Tom Brady looked like the Tom Brady completing 22-of-36 passes for 340 yards and three scores. He made throws all over the field. The short dumps to Woodhead and Welker. The deep throws to the outside to Brandon Llloyd and the deep seams to Gronk. He even dazzled us with his glorious mobility and speed with a whopping FOUR yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter.

Speaking of Welker, I guess all that hoopla about him being phased out was just that. In his last three games he has 22 receptions for

Only three catches, for 50 yards and a touchdown for B-Llloyd. But that was really all that was needed. (patriots.com)

366 yards including the nine-catch, 129 effort he had against the Bills. Some people will mention that his production has only gone up with Aaron Hernandez and Julian Edelman out but  it’s looney tunes to think that Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels decided to put more trust in a guy who was getting arrested for groping chicks last season than Wee Wes, the man for whom a 100-reception season is just another Thursday.

Production wise Gronk looked like his old self again as well. In fact we even got a GRONK SPIKE in this one. He caught a 28-yard pass early in the fourth for the score and with all his momentum carrying him into the end zone he just did one of the sprinting spikes. That is my second favorite type of spike he has done with the top one being when he shakes the ball a little, does some sort of stanky leg impression and then hurls it at the turf like the Hulk taking care of Loki at the end of The Avengers. In the first half though Gronk looked a little lost. He dropped a few passes including a sure touchdown (albeit he was hit during it) and fumbled. He also caught five of 11 total targets. Still it was nice to see him be a tight end and not just a very expensive decoy.

But where the offense continues to be surprising is in the running game. Really this game was won with a balanced offensive attack. GASP. Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden seemingly ran wherever and whenever theywanted all day on that expensive Bills defense. What’s that Mario Williams? Oh this undrafted free agent from Ole Miss is just going to light it up for 137 yards and a touchdown with a stunning 8.7 yards-per-carry average.  Meanwhile Ridley will punch it in twice and pick up 106 yards himself.  The production of these two has me forgetting all about the LawFirm (who by the way is averaging 3.5 yards per carry in Cincy).

Defensively fans need to get used to this team giving up too many yards and third down conversions. It just seems like the way Belichick has this team playing, where it doesn’t allow anything deep and then tightens up in the red zone is how its going to be. Getting lit up for 438 total yards (350 passing) against Ryan Fitzpatrick who couldn’t throw a 20-yard out pattern if he was playing Madden, is concerning but it seems to be more scheme than ineffectiveness.

Where the team has excelled is against the run where the Patriots currently rank eighth in the NFL. Against Buffalo the team allowed the Buffalo backs to pick up only 3.6 yards per carry while giving up only three runs of 10 or more yards and four first downs on the ground. Also a major strength has been the defense’s ability to wait for a team to make a mistake and pounce. Like when Vince Wilfork got a rare clear shot at a ball carrier when the Bills ran a screen pass. Usually Big Vince his still scrapping with an offensive linemen with his right arms while dragging a running back or whoever has the ball down with the left. On that play though he had a wide open shot and absolutely blew Donald Jones Up. Brandon Spikes also needs to get alot of credit in this game as he forced two fumbles while Devin McCourty had a 2010-type game with a pair of interceptions.

Here comes the BOOM! (patriots.com)

In rookie watch, Chandler Jones continues to be a beast. The rook had five tackles including two for a loss and a sack. Dont’a Hightower had a less impactful game (two tackles) than were used to seeing but with how well Spikes played it wasn’t as big a deal.

So the Patriots are now 2-2 and tied for the top spot in the East (with the circus that is the New York Jets and the same Bills team they just ripped to shreds). Hopefully this begins a period of best of times that lasts until early February. The next step for that involves some guy named Peyton and the Denver Broncos.

-Phil

Relieved to see the Patriots look so dominant, even it was for just one half? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.

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Seeing (Cardinal) Red

Could not better illustrate a picture being worth a thousand words. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Is it ever possible for the Patriots to lose a game that doesn’t leave me feeling the need to kick through my TV screen and toss it into oncoming traffic while my body deals with an elevated blood pressure than rivals the Hulk?

Sunday tells me  not. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want the Patriots to lose. At all. Ever. But when they do does it always have to be so soul crushing? I realize this was only week two of the regular season but in this game I went from optimism (first few minutes), to concern (second and early third), to begrudging acceptance of a loss (Down 20-9 in fourth quarter), to maybe there’s a chance (Gronk’s TD with a little over two minutes left), to HOLY S*** THEY FUMBLED IT! (pretty self explanatory), to HELL YEAH WOODHEAD, followed quickly by several expletives about replacement officials (When Gronk was called for holding on what would have been the game winning touchdown), to calming down and realizing a field goal wins in (next couple plays) until we finally arrived at soul-crushed when Stephen Gostkowski missed a 42-yarder effectively ending the game.

At the end of it all the Patriots lost their first home opener at Gillette and fell to 1-1.

But that wasn’t the only horrendously terrible thing to happen in the game. Early in the first quarter the second member of the Patriots’ unbelievable tight end tandem, Aaron Hernandez, suffered an ankle injury and was taken out of the game. Now he is going to miss ‘a few weeks’. And there is no way we will know how long that is until he is on the field in whatever week he returns. Seriously, the Patriots should be giving the White House and CIA lessons on how to protect confidential information with how open they are about personnel and injury updates.

So all in all Sunday was a pretty terrible day for Bill Belichick and Company that left Patriots fans with more concerns than the previous week.

It’s not as awesome when wide left happens to your team (patriots.com)

Primary among those is on offense. With the return of Josh McDaniels to offensive coordinator (the same guy that coordinated the record crushing 2007 squad) to an already Heisenberg-blue-crystal level potency and the addition of Brandon Llloyd going into this season it seemed like the Patriots were set to have one of the best passing offenses ever or at least in the NFL this season.

So far the results have been less than spectacular. The Patriots are ranked eighth in the NFL so far this season in passing yards and on Sunday yet again looked out of sync. Tom Brady just doesn’t look as sharp as we’re used to seeing. He’s missing passes he usually hits and although he threw for 316 yards, in the first half he didn’t look like he would get to 200. Brady also seems to be trying too hard to spread the ball around, especially to Llloyd who he consistently threw to even when No. 85 wasn’t exactly open.

Wes Welker finally got into the game after not starting once Hernandez went down which is also a concern. I am not one to believe it has anything to do with his contract situation but is it possible that Wes has lost a step? That the squad liked what they saw from Julian Edelman more in the preseason? I am not sure but I am honestly expecting a 12-catch 140-yard effort from Wes in one of the next few weeks causing us all to do a complete 180. Until that happens though I’d be lying if his lack of playing time wasn’t concerning.

Then there is the Patriots suddenly ardent reliance on the run. The game against Arizona was one of the more conservatively called games by the offense I’ve seen in a long time. Stevan Ridley erupted in week one and suddenly Belichick’s handing him the keys to the offense? Quite often it seemed like the Patriots would get a good drive going and then just stall on third down because they would run a draw out of the shotgun on third and eight. That kind of play calling was a major contributor to why the Patriots lost despite out gaining Arizona (387-245) and picking up more first down (25-16) as the team went just 1-for-3 in the red zone.

I just don’t understand it. As the team’s one touchdown drive showed this team can be positively unstoppable on offense when it wants to be. Even though he hasn’t looked as stellar until proven otherwise Tom Brady is one of, if not the best quarterbacks in the NFL. But the Patriots don’t even have to worry about that because he is unquestionably the best player on the Patriots.  Why then is he not allowed to chuck the ball around the field like he did on that last drive while using the run as a compliment? Now some people might be confused because Brady threw the ball 46 times in the game while the Patriots ran it 28 times. However 20 of those pass attempts came in the fourth quarter which just happened to be the only quarter the Patriots offense scored a touchdown.

Chandler Jones is the Truth…wait someone already has that nickname. (patriots.com)

It makes no sense. The 90s Bulls weren’t pounding the ball in the low post to Luc Longley and waiting until the fourth quarter to let MJ  start shooting jump shots and dunking on fools. To me a simple way to win is to give the ball to your best player.

The head-scratching offense took away what should have been another week of praising the retooled defense. Hernandez’s injury, Welker’s playing time and Brady’s slow start have all been much more prominent than a Patriots defense that is currently ranked second in the NFL in total defense. Granted the Patriots have played the Titans and Cardinals (who despite being 2-0 I still think aren’t very good) but that is still a marked improvement from last season. Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower have been as good as advertised and Jerod Mayo continues to just pile up tackles while the return of Brandon Spikes has been a welcome sight.  The secondary is still a bit suspect but Patrick Chung and surprisingly Tavon Wilson have played well at safety and it needs to be reiterated that the Patriots gave up 20 points to the Cardinals with one touchdown drive coming from two yards out and it still took the Cardinals three plays to get in.

Normally I don’t mention special teams but that was really what lost the game but also what kept the Patriots within striking distance. Gostkowski’s missed field goal hurts but he nailed 4-of-4 before that including a 53-yarder. Should he have been able to knock in that last one? Yes but without him the Patriots aren’t close in that game. The blocked punt though was inexcusable. It led to a the touchdown that was the difference in the game. That blocked punt doesn’t happen and the Patriots win this game, in ugly fashion, but still win it.

So while this loss hurt and certainly didn’t make New England fans feel great some perspective helps. This loss was an ugly one where the Patriots played pretty terribly, at least offensively, and a big part of that might have been the loss of Hernandez messing up the original game plan. Even with all the errors and bad play the Patriots still probably should have won this game. Losing sucks but remember that you lose four times in a season you still end up having a great year. This to me just seems like one of those four.

-Phil

What’s your level of concern for the Patriots? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.

 

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Who Are You and What Did You Do With The New England Patriots?

Ridley’s believe or not, where the Patriots rely on the running game.

Defense and pounding the ball on the ground? What’s that? Do football teams actually do that?

I can imagine that’s what most Patriots fans were thinking on Sunday when the Pats put a 34-13 beatdown on the Tennessee Titans. Was that ever in doubt. I still can’t believe how low that line (-6) was for that game. After week one I’m sure Vegas will be back to putting the Pats up as -17.5 points favorites all season.

So is this new fangled running game part of football? I guess so and for Patriots fans, all kidding aside, it is a welcome sight. The gaudy passing numbers and huge offensive point totals are awesome but the team has been missing a real running threat since that one good season from Corey Dillon. With the LawFirm gone I firmly believed that the Patriots would just ignore the run entirely and throw the ball 98 times a game.

Enter Stevan Ridley who might have had the best day on the ground of any player in the league on Sunday. At least that’s what the fantasy owner that I played this week seemed to think. Ridley had 125 yards on 21 carries and also punched the ball into the end zone once. Now it’s tough to say how much this success will continue after one week against a lousy Tennessee team but getting more production from the ground game would certainly make the Patriots a better team overall.

While Ridley was a nice sign the best sign of the day was the defense. Specifically the rookies. I knew Dont’a Hightower and Chandler Jones were going to be good but hot damn I didn’t think I’d be seeing it week one. Jones absolutely abused whatever schlub was

My excitement for the draft pick of Dont’a Hightower just keeps getting higher.

playing on the outside for Tennessee and had a sack and a forced fumble.( He would have had two sacks if it weren’t for a bogus offsides penalty). Meanwhile Hightower recovered that fumble and brought it back to the house and was just all over the field putting his hat on the ball carrier. I’m not saying that one of them already has the Defensive Rookie of the Year locked up but they have to be No. 1 and No. 2 in the early season rankings right?

Plus Tevin Wilson, the safety drafted out of Illinois 17 rounds to high, had an interception in the game. I’d say this past draft was one of the best in Belichick’s history. Maybe the best since taking a scrawny backup quarterback out of Michigan.

It was also great to see the secondary look healthy, albeit not particularly outstanding. Getting sliced up for 264 yards by Jake Locker and Matt Hasselbeck isn’t exactly dominant. Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung were both back. Chung helped on one of the more violent (still legal) hits in the game that may or may not have left six members of the Titans dead. McCourty had seven tackles and looked pretty good.

And now almost 500 words into this post  it’s time to discuss what is supposed to be the team’s strength; passing the ball.  The offense didn’t really need to put up inhuman numbers this week especially with Ridley running well so Tom Brady’s line (23-for-31, 236 yards, 2 TDs) wasn’t as eye-popping as some might have hoped. (You know like fantasy owners that may have taken him No. 2 overall only to have Matt Ryan outscore him in week one. Guys like that might be a little upset. But I’m not one of those guys. Okay I am that guy.) Even though the numbers look solid Brady didn’t look super sharp for the entirety of the game with a few under throws that were head-scratching. Still he’s Tom Brady so there’s no need to worry, at least not yet.

With Brady having a pretty average day the multitude of weapons he was throwing to had to contend with each other to have a good day. As you might have noticed no receiver was in the Like a Boss discussion and really that was because there wasn’t enough to go around with Ridley running so well. Rob Gronkowski had the best day I suppose (except for the whole messed up spike thing. The next time he gets in the end zone the richter scale might need to be adjusted) with six catches for 60 yards and a touchdown. Aaron Hernandez (six receptions, 59 yards, TD) and Brandon Llloyd (5 receptions, 69 yards) also had solid games. But those guys are all getting paid.

The guy that still wants a long-term deal, Wes Welker, did not have much of a day with only three receptions for 14 yards. That’s normally the opening drive for Wes. Everyone around the Pats, including Welker, are saying it was just how the gameplan went and not anything else but maybe there is more to this contract issue than we think.

With all this said we as sports fans need to remember this is just week one. The positives we saw can’t be blown out of proportion (except Jones and Hightower those guys are legit) and the new-look offense will certainly resemble last years much more often than this reiteration. Overall it’s just nice to get the first win and do so in convincing fashion.

-Phil

How did the Pats look in week one? Is there a change of philosophy occurring in New England? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.

 

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The First Like A Boss Award of 2012

One of our most popular features has finally returned as week one of the NFL season wrapped up last night. Each week we select a player or players from the Giants, Jets, Bills and Patriots who were the most boss-like men on the field. This award recognizes the man who went out on Sunday and took charge of the game like a boss. This week the Giants and Bills were received a solid beat down, but the Jets and Pats looked to be in mid-season form.

Here are this week’s nominees for the prestigious LAB.

1- Jeremy Kerley: In the off-season it was Antonio Cromarti who came out and boasted that he was the second best receiver on this Jets roster and many wondered if he was right. You know who didn’t even consider it to be true? Jeremy Kerley, who went out on Sunday and had a monster first half. Kerley nabbed all six passes that came his way including an arrant throw from Sanchez and a touchdown. However, four catches and one TD does not make a man a boss. Oh he took a Brian Moorman punt to the house? Yup that’s how a boss handles his business.

2- Stephen Hill: What? Another Jets receiver not named Santonio or Cromarti? To be fair Cromarti did have a receiving touchdown, but it was thrown by Ryan Fitzpatrick. The 6’4″ 215 lbs. receiver out of Georgia Tech made an impact fitting of his stature in his first NFL game. Hill led Gang Green with five catches, 89 yards and, most importantly, two scores. He looked like those kids who started shaving in sixth grade, but are still on the same field as the kids who still haven’t even hit a growth spurt. He treated the middle of the field like his office and the Bills secondary were interns fetching him coffee.

3- Stevan Ridley: That can’t be right. The Patriots don’t have a running game. Or do they? Last year New England found themselves in entirely too many close games for a team that averaged 32 points per game, but with Ridley’s 125 clock-eating yards, this year could be different. The second year man averaged six yards a carry and punched in touchdown that almost made fans forget about Gronk’s misfired spike. Almost. Ridley commanded the ground game in a way Pats fans haven’t seen since Curtis Martin left for the Jets and many wondered if they would ever see again.

4- Chandler Jones: It is rare to see a rookie step onto the field and make an immediate impact the way Chandler Jones did on Sunday. His numbers weren’t spectacular. It was sure to be the first of many days with five tackles and one bone crushing sack, but that’s what makes it so important. It was the first. With a defense as bad as the Patriots was last season it was important for their draft picks to come in and make an immediate impact and it was palpable on Sunday. Along with Dont’a Hightower, Jones went out to show that this defense can take charge of a game.

And the award goes to…

Jeremy Kerely!!! The Jets receiver got Gang Green on the board in the first quarter and after Stephen Hill put them up by two scores, Kerley went for the jugular and scored on a second quarter punt return. He turned all the plays he was involved in into positive yards and points and in the second half he told the team, “You guys can take it from here.” Just like a boss he gets things started then delegates the work to his subordinates.

-Erik

Think we got it wrong? Let us know via our twitter (@seeuinoctober) or leave us a comment.

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P8triot Questions

The class of the AFC (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

I’ve been saying it all summer as I watched the Red Sox play one of the most embarrassing and cringe inducing seasons in recent memory.

“At least I have the Patriots to look forward to.”

Well this weekend the hope of that  distant future begins and New England sports fans can finally begin to sooth their wounds with a little Foxborough football on Sundays.  See unlike the toxic Red Sox team that I haven’t even watched play an inning in about two months, the Patriots don’t have all that egomania and ridiculousness (like sending a text to management on someone else’s phone like a 13-year old girl). Instead the Patriots montra has always been “Do your job”. Zero locker room incidents just straight wins (homie). Last season with Ochocinco, or whatever the hell he calls him self now,  Chad had no incidents and then he can’t even last through training camp without one in Miami. I don’t know how Belichick does it but he gets his guys to buy in.

So let’s get to the eight (get the headline now?) most pressing or intriguing questions facing the squad.

1. What the hell is going on with the offensive line?

Can’t say I’m one to watch a ton of preseason football. I think I tuned in to about seven minutes total, and four of that was watching the awkward and staged cutting of Ochocinco in Hard Knocks if that counts. Still all I’ve been hearing about the line is that it still has to ‘gel’. Excuse me? The season starts on Sunday isn’t gelling supposed to be going on in training camp when you’re bunking with the guy next to you watching Sportscenter repeats and complaining about the beds that wouldn’t fit a dinosaur?

The Patriots still have Logan Mankins coming back but are trying to fill spots left by Matt Light and Dan Koppen. Brian Waters still hasn’t reported and now his number has been given to someone else. I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Nate Solder and Sebastian Wollmer in the past but those two need to really show up this season. You know because if Brady goes down then we can only go 11-5 with a backup quarterback and just barely miss the playoffs. In other words have a failure of a season.

2. Will the defense really be better?

The PAtriots made it clear in the draft that improving the defense is the teams top priority and why shouldn’t it be? You mean a team that ranked near the bottom of the NFL in total defense and was 31st in pass defense (293.9 ypg) might need some help? Did you know that the 2011 defense gave up more yards than the vaunted offense gained? That the unit got sliced up by such future Hall of Famers as Chad Henne and Ryan Fitzpatrick? Yet still this defense was good enough to get within a breath of a Super Bowl title. Now the squad has added Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower and will be getting some guys like Brandon Spikes and Devin McCourty back to full strength. The defense will (and needs to be) better and not just because when you’re at the bottom all you can do is go up. This unit has the look to be at worst a Top-15 defense.

Dont’a Hightower played for Nick Saban, aka college football’s Bill Belichick last, season

3. Which defensive rookie will have the better season?

I’ll give you a hint. It’s not going to be Alfonzo Dennard or Jake Bequette. This question is more easily translated to is Chandler Jones going to turn into JPP 2.0 and rack up 17 sacks in the first four weeks or is Dont’a Hightower going to team up with Spikes and Jerod Mayo to form the best three-man line backing crew in the NFL? I really, really, really like both of these guys.  I think Jones is the one more likely to have the breakout season. Hightower is going to be competing with some established talent whereas Jones is really going to be the No. 1 guy at defensive end. The Patriots lost top pass rusher Mark Anderson in the offseason and need that hole desperately filled.  My predicted lines for the two guys are 34 tackles, nine sacks for Jones and 88 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 2 INTs for Hightower.

4. Will Wes Welker still be in New England next season?

Rob Gronkowski got paid. Aaron Hernandez got paid. Welker did not get paid. Well alright he signed a $9.5 million franchise tender but that’s a one-year deal not a long-term one he wanted. The man has only pulled in about 781 receptions a season every year (in reality he has led the league in receptions three times with New England, twice pulling in more than 120) and is definitely Brady’s favorite target. But still the Patriots don’t feel like Welker is worth signing long term and I kind of agree with them. Don’t get me wrong I love Welker. Top five Patriot of my lifetime definitely.  His jersey is my game day jersey that I wear every Sunday, so yeah I like the guy.

But I get it. Welker doesn’t do anything that you can’t get from somebody else. He hustles a ton and runs good routes but he doesn’t have size and freakish athletic ability that only comes along once every few years (i.e. Calvin Johnson). Could Julian Edelman or Jeremy Ebert eventually take over his role? Probably. Also if Welker does leave will he be exposed as just a product of a system that just worked perfectly for him. What offense, and what quarterback, really would have been more perfect for Welker over the last few seasons. The answer is none. So even if the Patriots don’t bring him back I don’t really see it coming back to haunt them.

That being said the man has given so much to this team and if the money is there why not pay him? Also got to love this exchange.

5. Is there going to be any run game?

Shane Vereen. Danny Woodhead. Stevan Ridley. Brandon Bolden. Those are the Patriots stable of running backs this season. Guess who has the most rushing yards and rushing attempts on the team? Tom Brady. While Brady is certainly one of the most mobile quarterbacks around that’s not a very awesome running game. With the LawFirm of BenJarvus Green-Ellis the Patriots lost more than just one of the ebst nicknames in sports. They lost a dependable back that never fumbled and punched it in the endzone from a yard out better than anybody. With the passing game as awesome as it is the Patriots haven’t needed a ton from the running game but I’m not sure this group can give us anything. When I play as the Patriots on Madden all I run is shotgun formations and I maybe run it three times a game so my stats at the end of the year are something like 6,981 pass yards, 154 rushing yards. Somehow I think that might be around what the Patriots have this season. My guess is that Ridley and Woodhead are the biggest contributing backs.

6. Will this offense be better than the 2011 version?

Look a number 85 that will actually be an important part of the offense!

With no run game  this question may seem ludicrous. But is it really? The Patriots 2011 squad out gained the amazing 2007 unit and that was without any real semblance of a deep threat. Gronk was the best option they had there but he wasn’t running fly patterns like Moss was in in 07. Enter Brandon Lloyd. Last season Lloyd caught 70 passes for 966 yards and five touchdowns. In 2010 he led the NFL in receiving yards with 1,448 while bringing in 11 scores. He did that all that with Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow, Brady Quinn and Sam Bradford throwing to him. Essentially the guy was an All-Pro receiver despite the lack of talent around him. Now he has the best quarterback in the league (yeah, yeah I can hear your outrage Green Bay fans) throwing to him while he’s surrounded by a ton of other targets that can’t just be forgotten like the receivers he’s played along side in the pass. Oh and remember that season when he led the league in receiving? Guess who is head coach was that year? Josh McDaniels. You know the Patriots current offensive coordinator. What I’m trying to get at is that Lloyd is going to have a monster year.

The only issue the offense may face is trying to find enough receptions for everybody. Gronk, Hernandez, Welker and Llloyd are all 80-plus reception guys and although the Patriots will certainly throw and throw and throw some more, there may be a discrepancy somewhere.

To actually answer the question posed above I think yes. Below are my predictions of the four receivers and Brady’s stat line.

Tom Brady 441-643, 5344 yards, 42 TDs, 11 INTs

Rob Gronkowski 83 receptions, 1219 yards, 11 TDs

Aaron Hernandez 61 receptions, 812 yards, 7 TDs

Wes Welker 90 receptions 1333 yards, 6 TDs

Brandon Llloyd 74 receptions, 1198 yards, 8 TDs

7. How big is the Patriots Super Bowl window?

As long as Brady is still under center is the real answer to this question. As soon as Tom decides he needs to spend more time with the family and just being a boss in other aspects of life the Patriots will come back down to earth. Last season the Patriots almost got another Super Bowl ring, something that has been missing since 2004 and that I (along with every other New England fan) really want to see Brady get. Although I have written extensively that Paul Pierce is my favorite Boston athlete ever, Brady is a very close second. If he gets a fourth ring he will be one of three QBs all-time along with Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana to have accomplish the feat.

So how many more years does Brady have left. He’s 35 this season and although he’s only had one serious injury that doesn’t mean he

I envision a whole lot of Gronk spikes this season.

can play another five years. I think this team has to be in win now mode. If it doesn’t happen in the next two seasons I’m not so sure it will.

8. How will the Patriots ultimately fare this season?

It’s really not even a question whether or not Belichick and the boys will win the AFC East. That is a foregone conclusion as this point. The Patriots also play one of the easiest schedules I’ve seen for a defending conference winner.  There are maybe two or three games I’m slightly concerned about. At Baltimore, vs Houston and either against Denver or the 49ers. Other than that this schedule just looks like a list of wins for New England. So as far as the regular season goes I see the Patriots either repeating at 13-3 or possibly putting up a 14-2 or 15-1 type season. I’ll say 13-3 before my hubris reaches exhaustible levels. (What it already did?)

How this team will be defined is how it does in the playoffs and I’m supposed to be afraid of the ancient defense of Baltimore (minus T Suggs), the exact same team in Pittsburgh, a Texans team that lost Mario Williams and has a QB with the hairline of a 56-year old or the Broncos and Peyton Manning who has exactly one playoff win against the Patriots and that was before this injury thing. Also everyone keeps talking about all the weapons Manning has. Uh when did Eric Decker and Demarvius Thomas  become ‘weapons’? Plus if the Patriots take care of business in the regular season they will be the No. 1 seed with home field throughout.  ‘Nuff said for the second straight season I’m going to pick the Patriots to take the AFC Conference.

-Phil

How would you answer these questions? Are the Patriots the favorites in the AFC? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.

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NFL Draft Grades: New England Patriots

Getting in good with the boss-man early. Well played Mr.Jones and Mr. Hightower. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Before we start how about a quick aside? The NFL Draft is an overhyped TV event. The first round is three hours long when you basically already know what’s going to happen or if something different occurs you will be immediately notified by your smartphone or laptop. Why do people like watching it? For the awkward hugs with Goodell and the players. To see the insane suits guys where. To bask in the glow of Mel Kiper’s peak of the year?

Anyway, going into this years NFL Draft I wanted two things.  For the Patriots to stop loading up on late round picks to get value by trading away first round selections. Second for the team to stop worrying about upgrading the offense, it doesn’t need it it’s the defense that needs to improve.

Tom Brady isn’t going to play until he’s 40 whether he’d like to or not and this team has to be in a do whatever it takes to win now mode. Part of that is drafting players who can come in and immediately be contributors not guys who will develop into stars.

Well voila the Patriots did exactly what I wanted and put together the most aggressive draft I’ve seen Bill Belichick put out. In the first round the Patriots traded up not once but twice to lock in two defensive players and then continued to go defense all the way until the teams final pick. No Aaron Hernandez’ this year. No Stevan Ridley’s, even though LaMichael James and Dwayne Allen both stayed on the board for quite some time.

Yes the Patriots followed my two basic ideas, albeit without any real input from me.  (I know I can’t believe they don’t ask me for help either.) Now let’s see if they got the right guys, based on my opinions of them before they even play an NFL snap. I know super fair.

First Round- Pick No. 21- Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse

Jones was the first guy the Patriots traded up to take and to be honest when I saw the name I drew a blank. Hadn’t heard of him and had no clue why the Patriots were trading up to get him. I still think they probably didn’t need to do that and I know now why I hadn’t heard of him. He played for Syracuse. The Orange may be on the map when it comes to college basketball but it’s been a long time since McNabb was under center and the Carrier Dome had a good football team to watch.

Still Jones has great size (6-5, 266 pounds) and 35.5 inch arms for the defensive end position where the Patriots haven’t had a real solid player since Richard Seymour. Getting pressure on the quarterback is something the Patriots have struggled with in recent years and getting a guy like Jones coming off the edge would be a step in the right direction. Plus his brother is Jon “Bones” Jones the UFC fighter who said of his brother “His swag can’t be touched.” Well I’m sold.

Grade: B+

First Round- Pick No. 25- Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama

This was the trade up that made my night in the first round. I watched a decent amount of Alabama football over the last two years, mainly because they were on TV all the time and also because me and my room mates adopted them as our team after purchasing a lamp that had the Alabama logo on it in a garage sale.

In watching ‘Bama I was always really impressed with Hightower. He moves quickly, hits like a ton of bricks and is versatile enough to play just about every spot in the linebacking core, regardless or whether or not the Patriots go 4-3 or return to the 3-4 next season. Another exciting aspect about Hightower is that he is definitely a guy that will come in and make an immediate impact. He played in the NFL’s minor leagues (aka the SEC) and will probably be starting come Game One.

Grade. A++++++ Roll Tide.

Second Round- Pick No. 48- Tavon Wilson, S, Illinois

Uhh okay. After a fantastic first round came this pick. Now I want Tavon to come in and be great but this seems like on of those Belichick moves where he is so busying trying to outsmart everybody else that he over thinks himself. Perhaps Tavon will be a great safety but he didn’t seem like he was in danger of being taken this high in the draft with so many other talented players left on the board.

Now that doesn’t mean there isn’t stuff to like about him. He like Hightower is versatile as hell and can play safety or corner which will be nice with the Patriots seemingly always weak in that position. See Julian Edelman getting time at cornerback last year.

Grade C-. Just didn’t like how high he was taken.

Third Round- Pick No. 90- Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas

Another SEC player and a pass rusher is a nice sight. Hopefully there will be no rubbing off from Bobby Petrino on this kid. Bequette had a great combine by putting up 6.90 in the three-cone drill and a 4.07 shuttle which is better than many running backs. So at 6-4, 275 pounds he will certainly be a quick defender. Plus he can also slide in at OLB and has been described as hard working, high football IQ and all that stuff which essentially means he won’t rely solely on being more athletic than everyone.

Grade B.

Round Six- Pick No. 197- Nate Ebner, SS, Ohio State

Coming straight out of THE Ohio State University is this former rugby star who hadn’t really been anticipated as a draft pick. Although he is listed as a strong safety he probably has a better chance making it in special teams. He is obviously tough (rugby is no joke) and should be motivated coming into camp.

Grade C+. When your ceiling is solid special teams guy it’s tough to get too high a grade even in the later rounds.

Round Seven- Pick No. 224- Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska

Everything I’ve heard about this kid is that he has second round talent but dropped due to some legal issues. He was arrested the weekend before the draft after all, not exactly showing great decision making but with his talent Dennard might end up being a big steal.  He was cutting his chops in the Big-12 and then Big 10 meaning he’s faced some big time receivers (Justin Blackmon for example) and he can play in the slot.

Grade B+ Great value pick but off-field issues can’t just be thrown aside.

Round Seven- Pick No. 235- Jeremy Ebert, WR, Northwestern

And it is with Ebert that the Patriots draft of defense ends. To be honest this is my favorite pick other than Hightower. Ebert isn’t a flashy reciever, he’s small and quick and a reliable pass catcher who holds a bunch of receiving records at a small school in a power conference., Remind you of anyone? To me Ebert can come in and work on being the same type of receiver as Wes Welker. (By the way the fact that the Patriots haven’t signed Welker is insulting and concerning.)

Maybe he won’t be a contributor right away but will definitely be a guy on the roster who will develop. Perhaps Mallett to Ebert will be the next Brady tom Welker.

Grade A.

-Phil

How did you think the Patriots’ draft went? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.

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