Tag Archives: New England Patriots

Positive Preseason for Pats

After last night’s game against the Eagles, the Patriots have completed half of their preseason schedule and we are beginning to see things that bode well for the regular season. Preseason wins and losses along with statistics are numbers that usually don’t provide an accurate representation of how a team is performing, however having watched the two games as well as some practices many things have stood out.

Training camp and preseason always provide the chance to see some unknown talent step up and show what they can do. These players don’t always pan out during the regular season (Zach Sudfeld last year), but many times they prove they can be useful players.

Defensively, the player that really caught my eye early was CB Malcolm Butler. The first time I watched him practice I saw a physical player who wasn’t afraid to compete. He hasn’t only impressed me, but he has impressed the coaching staff. Butler received the start in yesterday’s game and played more snaps than any other corner. He has played well and made plays when given the chance, taking advantage of any opportunity he has received. The question becomes if there is room for him on a team deep at his position. At this point I would be shocked not to see him make the 53 man roster. Kyle Arrington has been seeing time at safety, a position the team is not as deep at, plus Brandon Browner will be suspended the first four games of the season. If he continues to shine, these factors should help him make the week one roster.

Offensively, anyone who has watched a preseason game has noticed WR Brian Tyms. Granted he is playing against second and third team players, but he has shown the ability to get open downfield and the ability to make some circus catches. He too has had a very good camp and has forced the coaching staff to give him more reps, but like Butler he plays a position the team has a lot of depth at. However, I think he will survive cut down day for a reason one usually is not happy about. Tyms will be suspended due to Adderall use for the start of the season, so keeping him would not take up a roster spot. This gives the team more time to decide if he can play and provides insurance should a receiver get injured. Don’t be surprised if Tyms finds his way onto the roster.

While Tyms has been a bright spot for the second and third team offense, the team’s starters, specifically in the passing game, really stood out this week. Last year, Tom Brady and his receivers not named Julian Edelman had trouble getting on the same page for most of the season. While it was frustrating to watch, it is important to realize that most of them were thrown into the fire before they were ready. With a year under their belts, players like Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson should be more consistent and in sync with Brady. Against the Eagles starters in practice and the game, timing with all receivers was there that hadn’t been present all of last year. Look no further than the touchdown to Thompkins last night, as he turned around in the right position at the right time and was waiting for a perfect pass. Add in a healthy Rob Gronkowski and this has the potential to be a Patriot offense more accustomed to years past.

Overall it has been a very productive and positive camp, but there are still some concerns I have that haven’t been answered. One is the depth at tight end. The team has tried several different players out but so far none have produced. Right now the team has the injury prone Gronkowski along with Michael Hoomanawanui, but the team needs at least two more reliable options at the position before I am satisfied. James Develin has the potential to fill in, but the team likely won’t move him from his fullback position. I would also like to see the linebacker depth improve. The team’s defense is poised for a big year, however should Jerrod Mayo or Jamie Collins go down, the linebacker depth could be exposed. This isn’t a major concern, but I haven’t been impressed with the backups at the position.

So far this has been an exciting preseason with lots of surprises and anticipation. With Brady leading the offense and a top defense fully healthy, it should be a season to remember in New England.

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Patriots Broncos Preview

Another year, another AFC Championship game for the New England Patriots. For the 8th time in 13 years the Pats will be playing for the AFC title and for the third time the team will have to face Peyton Manning to advance. In this Brady-Manning rivalry the winner of that game also went on to win the Super Bowl, however this will be the first playoff bout between them since Manning signed with the Broncos. The last time these two teams met, the Patriots had one of the greatest comebacks in team history beating the Broncos 34-31 in OT.

Amongst the biggest takeaways from that game from a defensive standpoint was Denver running wild on New England. They rushed for an unbelievable 280 yards on 48 carries. This was part of the chess match being played as the Patriots had at least 5 defensive backs in every play to make sure Manning wouldn’t be the one to beat them. When Manning saw that he had a favorable run look, he audibled out of the pass to the run and was content to move the ball that way. The Patriots basically dared the Broncos to run it, and that’s just what they did. Stopping the run has been a problem much of the year for this defense, but it would seem likely that this is the strategy again. I still expect the Broncos to be able to run effectively, but not for 280 yards. The Broncos’ offensive line manhandled the Patriots defensive line most of the game, but since then the Patriots have had better play from this group. Sealver Siliga has stabilized that position since his arrival on December 1st and has really played well for the team. Chris Jones (90 snaps) and Joe Vellano (70 snaps), were not effective despite being on the field most of that game, so adding Siliga to that mix will certainly help stop the run. One thing to note is that Siliga has not played more than 55 snaps in any game this year, so it will be interesting to see the playing time each defensive tackle gets.

The world saw Jamie Collins’ coming out party in Saturday’s win against the Colts. With Brandon Spikes done for the season, Collins played all 65 defensive plays for the first time in his career, recording 6 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 interception. The young linebacker is learning on the fly but playing well for this team, showing promise every time he hits the field. As I touched on last week, Spikes is primarily a run stopper and a liability in pass defense while Collins is an upgrade in passing situations. Seeing as the team is primarily going to be focused on Manning, having Collins in the game over Spikes again should actually benefit the Patriots. Keep in mind that Collins played about 25% of the snaps in their previous match up, totaling a season high 10 tackles. He along with Dane Fletcher were effective in the game, so that bodes well for this defense.

In the secondary, this may be the healthiest the Patriots have been all year. Aqib Talib did a great job on Demaryius Thomas most of the game, but as Thomas became more physical down the stretch and the ball was forced to him, he had success against Talib. Now that Talib seems fully recovered from a hip injury, this is a match up that he must continue to take away. Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington, Logan Ryan, Devin McCourty, and Steve Gregory will all have to play well in order to stop this potent Denver passing game. This unit held Manning to a season low 150 yards passing as they keyed on taking away the pass. Arrington, who was replaced against the Colts in the second quarter, played well against Wes Welker in the slot and will likely get a chance to do it again as slot coverage is his strength. One offensive weapon that the Broncos could focus on is TE Julius Thomas, who didn’t play against the team in November. Jacob Tamme, his replacement in that game, had a solid performance against them so slowing Thomas down will be another challenge.

Offensively, the Patriots are known for changing their approach based on the opponent. They can pretty much attack this defense in any way they want. The Broncos have had a suspect defense all year long, specifically in the passing game where they were ranked only 27th. In the November 24th match up, the Bronco secondary took a hit when Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was injured and missed the second half of the game. The Patriots were able to capitalize on him being out and while he is a go for Sunday, top CB Chris Harris will be out with a torn ACL.

Its important to recognize that Rob Gronkowski will obviously be out of this game, so that gives the Broncos one less thing to prepare for. But without Harris this defense could get lit up by Tom Brady. Also, LeGarrette Blount hadn’t become the player that carried the Patriots’ offense to 355 yards rushing and 6 TDs over the last two games. The team had 116 yards rushing in a game where their running back situation was in flux, so now that they have developed this power running game it gives them many options. Pounding it with Blount and Stevan Ridley effectively sets up their pass game, and without a dominant receiver for the defense to focus in on like Gronkowski, play action should be there for the Patriots. Denver’s linebackers bit on play action last meeting and opened up the middle of the field for Brady. We saw the benefits last week when after several runs, a play action pass to Danny Amendola deep down field was wide open because the safety bit on the play. I see no reason why this can’t be a big factor in this game as well, especially if the Broncos focus on Blount. The Patriots also can get their play makers like Julian Edelman, Amendola, and Shane Vereen running room and screen passes, as quick throws should be there. If the Patriots can get receivers matched up on linebackers, that would be a huge advantage for New England.

If the Patriots are going to win this game, the defensive line and linebackers are going to have to contain the run game better than the last time. It starts with the defensive line not getting knocked back every play by Denver. They are also going to have to play as well as they did in the secondary to limit Manning, something easier said than done because of the amount of talent the Broncos have. The Patriots should be able to score on the Broncos consistently, so turnovers to me are the X factor in this game. Early turnovers put the Patriots in a deep early hole while late turnovers gave them a chance to come back. Protecting these quarterbacks is obviously important because given time they will not make bad decisions. Forcing them to make a quick throw could mean an interception and could mean the game. Without Von Miller for the Broncos, protecting Brady will be easier than protecting Manning.

The Patriots are the underdog in this game but this is going to be a great match between two all time greats. To me, the team that wins the turnover battle wins this game.

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Patriots beat Jets 13-10 in home opener

by CAMERON MERRITT

New England rookie WR Aaron Dobson catches the Pats' lone touchdown in their 13-10 win Thursday night. (Photo/AP)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass.- The New England Patriots defeated the New York Jets 13-10 Thursday night in a wet, sloppy, and at times frustrating (especially for the offense) home opener.

“I’m glad we won, but we just obviously have a lot of room for improvement. We need to try to get back to work and see if we can do better next week,” said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (19-39, 185 yds, 1 TD) during the post-game press conference.

The Patriots lone touchdown of the night came early in the first quarter, when Brady found rookie receiver Aaron Dobson (3 rec, 56 yds, 1 TD) without coverage and connected with him for a 39-yard touchdown, his first ever as a pro as well as his first reception. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski added two field goals, one from 21 yards in the first and one from 30 yards in the second, as the Patriots scored all their points of the night before the half.

Rookie quarterback Geno Smith (15-35, 214 yds, 3 INT) lead the Jets against their biggest rival, but was troubled frequently by an impressive New England defense, and was picked off three times, twice by Aqib Talib and once by Alfonzo Dennard. New York’s only touchdown came via a 3-yard run by Bilal Powell (13 car, 48 yds, 1 TD) in the third.

Before the game, the Patriots did a touching tribute to the victims and survivors of the tragic Boston Marathon bombing back in April, and brought several survivors out on the field to honor their courage and recovery efforts.

Receiving the kickoff, the Patriots marched 81 yards down the field to score with 12:54 left in the quarter and go up 7-0. On their third drive of the game, the Jets Smith found Stephen Hill down the middle of the field, but the receiver fumbled the ball after being quickly hit by Talib, then the fumble was returned 44 yards by Devin McCourty, which eventually lead to a Gostkowski field goal and an early 10-0 New England lead with 10 minutes still left in the first quarter. The Jets would score off a 37-yard field goal, moved 10 yards back because of a holding penalty on the team, by Nick Folk on the next drive.

But the Pats couldn’t keep up with this scoring pace, scoring only three more points the entire game, with Brady and his receivers not connecting as well, including two drops in a row from Dobson, and a failed slants rout that neither Dobson or Julian Edelman (13 rec, 78 yds) were prepared for, leaving a very angry Brady screaming as the team came off the field as they were forced to settle for their second field goal, making it 13-3 with 6:32 left in the half.

Both teams had touchdowns taken back after review in the first half, with passes in the end zone to the Jets’ Clyde Gates in the first quarter and the Pats’ Kembrell Thompkins in the second ruled incomplete after review.

In the second half, both teams struggled on offense, with many drives going three and out and ending in punts. The Jets, however, were able to bring themselves within three in the third quarter with 10:05 left via the Powell touchdown.

Smith was picked off by both Talib, again, and Dennard in the half, and the Patriots defense played well, also sacking Smith four times for a total loss of 25 yards.

Two Jets players, Willie Colon and D’Brickashaw Ferguson, were ejected following a fight between the two teams near the end of the fourth quarter that started when Nick Mangold laid a low hit on Talib after he picked off Smith, a tackle which Jets head coach Rex Ryan defended as non-intentional.

“Nick went down, and the guy turned his back. It wasn’t intentional by any means; he tried to make a cut tackle. [Talib] went out of bounds, and all heck broke loose. Apparently our team was the only one involved,” he commented after the game.

When the game was all said and done, the Patriots were glad to take the win and looked forward to improving in the upcoming weeks.

“Once again, this is a little bit like last week, [I’m] proud of our team. They once again stepped up, made the plays we needed to make in the fourth quarter. The conditions weren’t great out there in the second half but [we] did a better job of taking care of the ball then we did last week; that was key,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. “I thought the team fought hard today and that was good; like to see that.”

“I feel like there is definitely things we can improve on. We had a short week this week, so we got that 10 days right now, so we just got to get our timing together this week going into the next game,” said Dobson, who also added about playing in the, at times, down-pouringrain that dominated the second half, saying that it”s “tough,” but not an excuse for his dropped passes.

“The ball’s wet, but that’s not an excuse, you know. What I do is catch the ball, so I got to make the catches.”

As for the Jets, Smith shouldered the loss and lamented on missed opportunities, but said there was hope for the future

“We didn’t get it. One thing I can tell you is that we came out and competed hard and put ourselves in a position to win it late, but with the costly mistakes that were completely on me we just didn’t get it done. I take full responsibility for that and we’ll get better from this,” said the man out of West Virginia.

The Patriots, now tied with the Miami Dolphins for the AFC East lead at 2-0, return to action next Sunday as they’ll play host to the 0-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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Patriots slide past Bills 23-21 in season opener

by CAMERON MERRITT

Patriots K Stephen Gostkowski kicks the game-winning field goal. (Photo/USA Today)

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.- While it wasn’t a pretty win for the Patriots, it was a win nonetheless.

The New England Patriots narrowly defeated the Buffalo Bills 23-21 Sunday afternoon in their season opener for their 10th consecutive Week 1 win off of a 35 yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski with only 0:05 left in the game.

After the Patriots took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, the Bills started a comeback when a Stevan Ridley fumble, his final play of the game, was returned 75 yards for a touchdown by safety Da’Norris Searcy. Then, after Tom Brady (28-52, 288 yds, 2 TD) connected with Julian Edelman (7 rec, 79 yds, 2 TD) for his second touchdown, rookie quarterback EJ Manuel (18-27, 150 yds, 2 TD), in his first NFL, connected with Robert Woods to bring Buffalo within three at the half.

The Pats struggled more in the second half, as the Bills scored on their first drive of the third quarter when Manuel found Stevie Johnson for an 18 yard touchdown to take the lead. The Bills defense stepped up and shut down the still high-powered New England offense, even though missing several of it’s key pieces from last season, limiting them to only six points in the half. Gostkowski made his second field goal attempt (his first from 48 yards out in the first quarter) from 33 yards with 10:48 left in the game.

Then, Brady lead his team on a late-game surge on their final drive, with six consecutive completions, including a couple of great catches by new receiver Danny Amendola (10 rec, 104 yds), showing potential after coming back from a groin injury before the half, and set his team up in good field goal position, then let Gostkowski put on the finishing touch. With the Bills unable to pull off a miracle on the preceding kickoff or play following it, the Pats sealed a win and a 1-0 start against a division rival.

“It looked like we were going to let it slip away for a little bit, but we battled back and won, and it’s just a great experience,” said the veteran kicker following the game.

“I was proud of our team today. I thought they made the plays at the end of the game that they needed to win. That’s what it’s about. Obviously it wasn’t perfect. There’s a lot of things we can do better. We played the last few minutes of the game the way we need to play it, and we were able to execute and make the plays. It’s always tough to win in the division, on the road,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

Brady also agreed with his coach, and said that while his team “didn’t execute great,” they did step up when they needed to.

“[T]he boys made some clutch plays when they needed to and it was an all around team effort.”

“I feel like we made a lot of good plays out there on offense. Every game in this league is close, and it’s going to come down to making plays at the end. I felt like we fought hard and got the job done,” said Amendola, who may miss the next game to give him more time to recover from his pulled groin.

Another player who will be missing time is Shane Vereen (14 att, 101 yds), the running back having broken his wrist during his first play of the game, yet went on to have one of the best performances for either side of the game. He underwent successful surgery on Monday, and was placed on the IR with a designation to return, with Fox Sports 1 believing he won’t be ready again until Week 11 at Carolina.

But for now, the Pats set their focus on another divisional showoff for their home opener as they’ll take on arch-rivals the New York Jets, lead by rookie QB Geno Smith, on Thursday night.

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Blount shines and Tebow time as Pats beat Eagles 31-22 in preseason opener

by CAMERON MERRITT

PHILADELPHIA- The New England Patriots opened up their preseason in winning fashion on Friday night, beating the Philadelphia Eagles 31-22 at Lincoln Financial Field, capping off a week of  combined team practices for the two teams that once faced off in Super Bowl XXXIX.

The Pats running game was on full display as both Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount, who was acquired earlier this year from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, combined for three of the team’s four touchdowns, the other being scored by fellow back Shane Vereen via a 13-yd pass from Tom Brady in the first quarter, while rushing for 193 yards on 19 attempts.

“We’re special. We’re off to a really good start. You can’t really ask for more,” said Ridley of his team following the game.

It didn’t take too long for a team to get on the board, as New England scored on the first drive of the game, and after only six plays, one of which was a long 62-yd run by Ridley, who capped off the drive off when Brady handed it off to in for a short punch-in run at the goal line to take the early lead.

But it didn’t take long for the Eagles to respond, as new coach Chip Kelly, after much speculation, handed the ball to last year’s starting QB, Michael Vick, and while he’s been up and down the past few years, the veteran from Virginia Tech did not disappoint. On their fifth play, Vick found reciever DeSean Jackson, who faked out Pats corner Aqib Talib, for a 47-yd touchdown.

Tom Brady & Co. would answer right back on the next drive, however, as the veteran drove his team down field and connected with Shane Vereen in the back corner of the end zone, which turned out to be Brady and much of the New England offensive’s starters final play for the night.

Both teams employed their coaches’ preferred style of a fast-paced offense, new to the Eagles as something Kelly brought with him from Oregon, a style which he first developed as an assistant at UNH. Turning to their backups, third year Ryan Mallett hoped to further establish himself at the quarterback position and as the eventual heir apparent to Brady. While struggling at first, Mallett began to find more of a groove, being helped especially by the running game, but had to leave following a head injury late in the second quarter, his condition still unknown.

Nick Foles, while technically the backup on the game’s depth chart, is still very much in the race for the starting position with Vick. He lead the Eagles on one TD drive, which ended with an eight yard run by Bryce Brown, and an Alex Henery PAT attempt tied it all up early in the second quarter.

While not in any race for a starting job, one of the player’s whose debuts made the most buzz was Tim Tebow, the QB known more for his devout faith and running abilities than his arm. Coming on earlier than expected following Mallett’s injury, the third year man from Florida struggled with his arm and was sacked three times, but did something he hasn’t done in over a year; leading his team on a TD drive, handing the ball off to Blount who ran for a spectacular 51-yd TD, zig-zagging across the field to deke out Eagles defenders and definitely increase his stock the eyes of his new team.

One veteran player who decreased his stock Friday night was kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who missed two of his three field goal attempts. While not currently facing any competition for his job, that could change in the coming weeks.

The Eagles would score once more in the fourth quarter, when third-stringer Matt Barkley connected with former Pats receiver Greg Salas for a 12-yd TD, and then completed another pass to Matthew Tucker for two points to put his team within nine.

But that was as close as they would get to New England, who despite some concerns over the loss of several key offensive weapons (Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, and for now, Rob Gronkowski), have had several young receivers step up, including highly-touted rookie Aaron Dobson, with the man out of Marshall having two catches for 35 yards, and Kenbrell Thompkins out of Cincinnati received some significant attention from Brady, going 23 yards on four catches. Undrafted tight end Zach Sudfeld out of Nevada, who’s been a pleasant surprise thus far in camp, showed his inner “Gronkness” by throwing off a couple receivers on his only reception of the game, which he went 22 yards on.

The Patriots saw a lot of the same on defense, with the secondary making some errors, and while some were also made up front, the linebackers once again were the highlights.

While having played well, the Patriots still have a lot of room for improvement, as head coach Bill Belichick said following the game, and will head back to Foxboro with their next preseason showdown happening next Friday at Gillette against the Buccaneers.

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Hernandez Scandal Shows Athletes Are Not Exempt from the Pressures of the Law

BY TIM SCOTT

In the world of professional sports, athletes are looked up to near-demigod status by several admirers. Whenever an athlete makes an exceptional play or does an incredible feat to give his or her team a victory, people admire their efforts, and idolize them for their accomplishments. This admiration has been prevalent for thousands of years; when the Olympics began in Greece in 776 BC, the winners of the first event were given numerous amounts of riches and won the appreciation from the people.

This appreciation has evolved past that original phase, and has taken on a life of its own. Today, in sports arenas across the world, people are seen parading around the uniforms of their favorite players, which demonstrates their admiration for that athlete, rather than just the team as a whole. Sometimes, it becomes common for sports fans to overlook the character of that athlete, and just focus on the athletic feats that athlete can bring to the table on a game-by-game basis.

Aaron Hernandez was arrested on June 26, 2013, for his role in the murder of Odin Lloyd. (picture courtesy of NBC News)

This overlooking of an athlete’s character has hit the spotlight this past week. On June 26, 2013, Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was arrested for a crime connected to the murder of twenty-seven year old Odin Lloyd. Although no formal charges have been placed upon Hernandez, 23, yet, the magnitude of his role in the murder could dictate the prison sentence he may receive.

Lloyd and Hernandez were good friends, and on the night of Lloyd’s murder, the two men (along with other friends) were seen driving around North Attleboro. However, that same night, Lloyd’s body was found one mile away from Hernandez’s home in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. When police began investigating the crime (ruled as a homicide), Hernandez allegedly destroyed his home surveillance system and his cell phone. Eventually, as the police investigated his home and a pond outside his house, police gathered enough evidence to arrest Hernandez for his role in the crime.

Also, as the events of the crime were unfolding, Hernandez’s tenured career with the Patriots was beginning to unravel as well. After the criminal investigation began, Hernandez was barred from coming to Gillette Stadium, because the Patriots organization did not want Gillette Stadium to become the site of a media frenzy. Ultimately, on the day that Hernandez was arrested, the Patriots decided to terminate his contact, making him a free agent.

In his three seasons with the New England Patriots, Hernandez became one of the best

In his three seasons with the Patriots, Hernandez caught 175 passes and 18 touchdown passes (picture courtesy of ESPN).

tight ends in the National Football League. Since being drafted out of the University of Florida in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft, Hernandez and Ron Gronkowski formed the best tight end tandem in the NFL. During his tenure as a Patriot, Hernandez caught 175 passes for 1,956 yards and 18 touchdowns. Hernandez was also named to the Pro Bowl roster in 2012.

However, despite his performance on the field, his character off the field had a checkered past dating back to his days in Florida. Hernandez admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs during his time as a Gator, and that led his draft ranking to drop substantially. Eventually, the Patriots decided to take a chance on Hernandez, by drafting him in the fourth round of the 2010 draft.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who has gained a reputation for drafting “risky” players and making them successful on the field, seemed to have helped Hernandez for the first three years of his career. In his first few seasons with New England, Hernandez tried to stay out of trouble, and showed some signs of reform. One notable gesture he made was when he signed a contract extension with the Patriots in 2012. Immediately after signing, he donated $50,000 to owner Robert Kraft’s foundation benefiting the memory of his late wife, Myra.

However, after three clean years of no crime, Hernandez relapsed in February, when Hernandez allegedly shot a Connecticut man named Alexander Bradley in the eye after the two left a strip club in Miami. A civil lawsuit is currently being brought against Hernandez involving this matter. Then, four months later, Hernandez was apparently involved in the murder of Odin Lloyd, and he was brought to police custody for that crime.

This isn’t the first time that an NFL player has been connected to a homicide during his playing career. In 1999, Carolina Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth hired a hit-man to murder his pregnant girlfriend. His girlfriend was murdered, but her son survived despite a long time of oxygen deprivation (which led to a severe form of cerebral palsy). Carruth was convicted for conspiring to commit first-degree murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle, and using an instrument to destroy an unborn child. In 2001, Carruth was sentenced to seventeen years in prison, and is expected to be released in 2018.

The cases of both Carruth and Hernandez prove that athletes are not immune from the effects of the legal system. Athletes, like normal people, are still subject to facing criminal charges for their wrongdoing, and are leveled to the same playing field when it comes to the legal system. If a person commits a crime or an illegal act, their social status does not exempt them from facing a trial for their wrongdoing. The same rules apply to professional athletes, politicians, celebrities, and other individuals.

In effect, the character of a professional athlete should not be overlooked, because issues

Odin Lloyd's body was found one mile away from the home of Aaron Hernandez (picture courtesy of EveryJoe.com)

with that character could be exposed, and could potentially ruin lives. Aaron Hernandez is the latest example of how a troubled athlete could try to change for the better, but falls back into an old pattern of crime and trouble. Hernandez tried to change, but his past caught up to him, leading to him shooting two men (one fatally), and potentially facing a lifetime in prison.

The moral of the story is not only aspire to do great things in the world, but handle that greatness with responsibility and care. If one messes up at the top of his or her field, then they will face severe scrutiny and could lose credibility and their well-being as a whole.

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Pats sign Tim Tebow

By CAMERON MERRITT

FOXBOROUGH, Mass.- According to a report from ESPN, the New England Patriots have signed free agent quarterback Tim Tebow and he will report to the team’s minicamp on Tuesday. No further details on the contract have been released at the time of publication.

Tebow was taken in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos, then coached by current Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, after a very successful college career at Florida, where he was teammates with Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Spikes, and won the Heisman Trophy in his senior year.

Famous for his devout Christian beliefs and his celebratory prayer pose that inspired the incredibly popular “Tebowing” craze, the 25 year old made his biggest impact on the NFL in the 2011 season, where he took over the starting job in Denver from Kyle Orton and had several famous fourth quarter comebacks, including against the favored Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional round, but would be soundly defeated in a 45-3 blowout at the hands of the New England Patriots a week later, Tebow’s last game as a Bronco and a starter.

In March 2012, the New York Jets sent their 4th and 6th round draft picks to the Broncos in exchange for Tebow and a 7th round pick, a trade that would be seen as a “flop,” as he never found a real role with the team, and also believed to be out of favor with head coach Rex Ryan, who stuck by starter Mark Sanchez through all of his struggles as the team finished 8-8. The Jets and Tebow officially parted ways on April 29.

While being signed as a quarterback, Tebow has struggled with his throwing arm, completing only 47.9% of his passes in the NFL, and heavily depended on running plays to score, and could possibly serve in multiple roles for the team. Coach Bill Belichick has praised his versatility and football intelligence, and even had dinner with the player when he visited the team prior to the 2010 draft.

Whether the Patriots have found a third string quarterback or just testing out a possible option is yet to be known. BostonSportsU18 will stay with the story and provide any and all updates on the situation as they come in.

 

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Going Pro: Looking at the Pats, New England colleges in the 2013 NFL Draft

by TAYLOR SNYDER

The New England Patriots are coming off of a disappointing AFC championship loss that was heartbreaking to most fans. But in the offseason, they made some notable moves, which included bringing in wide Danny Amendola from the Rams and drafting some players on both sides of the ball.

Here is my breakdown on each of the New England Patriots’ draft choices:

Aaron Dobson, Marshall

The Pats went with a 6’3″ wide receiver out of Marshall with their first pick. For the most part, I do like this draft selection, because with the departure of Wes Welker, you will never know when the team will need a new guy to step it up. Dobson is a very fast and athletic guy and I feel like he will be a good fit in New England. In his four years at Marshall, he lead the team in receptions and was a pivotal key to the Thundering Herd. The downside is the fact he played in Conference USA, which is not quite a “top notch” defending league, so I don’t know how he will be able to handle these tight corners in the NFL. He has been known to be slow on his cuts which will be very tough for him because Tom Brady loves quick patterns in New England. Grade: C+

Jamie Collins, Southern Miss

The Patriots went with Jamie Collins on their second pick. In his four years at Southern Miss, he had a really good career and put up some really good numbers. He is an overall very good athlete and has shown that he can cut quickly with fast moving feet. However, he lacks a lot of upper body strength at the moment, which will eat him up in the NFL. He also needs to work on his hand speed. Grade: C+

Duron Harmon, Rutgers

The Patriots, with their 3rd pick, got a secondary player from Rutgers by the name of Duron Harmon. It is no surprise that the secondary has been a big issue for New England in the past years and I am glad that Harmon was chosen here. As we have seen in the past with secondary players out of Rutgers, they usually have potential (i.e. Devin McCourty). I like this pick for the most part. I think that he has good height for a secondary player, and from his Combine, it shows he is a very fast and athletic guy – a key at safety. Grade: B

Logan Ryan, Rutgers

I think it is interesting how the Pats picked back-to-back secondary players out of the same college, but a good idea because of some chemistry. For the most part, Ryan is a very hard hitter and very physical when guarding, who was also known to be a great team player. However, he is one of the slower corners at the Draft, but that will not matter if he is able to use his great hitting to be physical on press coverage. Grade: B

Josh Boyce, TCU

In his high school career, Boyce had the chance to work with Robert Griffin III for four years and was a huge part of TCU. He also had the chance to be Andy Dalton’s favorite target in 2010. He is a very fast guy, has very quick hands and awesome upper body strength and he has been known to be a very aggressive player. I like the idea of trying to get another wide receiver, but there are some setbacks to him. He is a very light guy (5’10″) and only can play in the slot. He has also been known to have been easily coverable in the past. He had a lot of opportunities to play against top notch secondary in college and had handled it quite well. There are still some question marks, so this pick gets a B-.

Michael Buchanan, Illinois

In my opinion, the Patriots took a steal and a player with a lot of potential in Illinois defensive end Michael Buchanan, checking in at 6’5″ and 235 pounds. In his past, he has faced a ton of big offensive lineman and will definitely have some experience coming into the NFL. He also has quick feet and has been very good at extending his arms, getting around linemen. However, he lacks upper body strength and his speed is not necessarily the greatest. On the positive side, he has been named one of the best defensive linemen in the Big Ten and is coming off a great season. I definitely will want to see some improvement over the offseason to increase his upper body strength, but I give this pick a C, only because of how low he was picked and his lack of strength.

Steve Beauharnais, Rutgers

Inside linebacker Steve Beauharnais closed the Draft for the Pats and was the third Scarlet Knight taken. Overall, not too much is known about Beauharnais, but from the scouting report, it shows that he is 6’2″ and awesome weight. He also is known for his fast movement and quick hands, but the Big East is not exactly known for the run game, so there may be a lack of advanced preparation seen at the next level. He is also known as an average player and is not near elite in the conference. I give it a C-, but I am interested to see if he can compete with guys like Jerod Mayo.

Other notable players drafted out of New England:

64. Dwayne Gratz, CB, Connecticut: 5’11″ | 201: Very fast and athletic guy, who will benefit the struggling Jaguars a lot in these next couple of years if they use him right.

70. BliDi WrehWilson, CB, Connecticut: 6’1″ | 195: If the name didn’t scare you enough, he is known to be a huge hitter and very fast guy. He will definitely help out the Titans a lot with their defense.

124. Trevardo Wilson, DE, Connecticut: 6’1″ | 241: He is a very big and heavy guy and his scouting report is not the best, but his size and quick feet will help the Texan defense only get better.

Harvard's own Kyle Juszczyk went to the Baltimore Ravens (Photo/Boston.com).

130. Kyle Juszcyzk, FB, Harvard: 6’1″ | 241: “Juice” made the great state of Massachusetts and the Ten Thousand Men of Harvard proud when he was selected by the Baltimore Ravens. I think it is great that the Ravens picked him because he is a hardworking and underrated player who could be very useful to a unit that lost some in the offseason.

201. Ryan Griffin, TE, Connecticut: 6’7″ | 247: This was a great pick for the Texans because of Griffin’s huge size. I think the Texans can combine him and Owen Daniels together and create a huge threat in the receiving game.

241. Jared Smith, DT, New Hampshire: 6’3″ | 302: Smith is a very good pick for the Seahawks because he will help boost the Seattle defensive line.

253. Michael Cox, RB, UMass: 6’1″ | 214: The Dorchester native had an awesome career at UMass, but was under looked during the first season of FBS football for the Minutemen. I think that he will get some looks with the New York Giants, but I do not know how much. It will be interesting to see how he will fit in, joining UMass’ own Victor Cruz.

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Tyrann Mathieu, Marcus Lattimore to visit Patriots

by CAMERON MERRITT

Mathieu (left) and Lattimore (right) in action. (Photos/US Presswire)

FOXBOROUGH- Two of college football’s most popular players in the past few seasons, both of which have struggled with setbacks,one on the field and the other off, are scheduled to pay visits to Gillette Stadium in preparation of next month’s NFL Draft.

 

Tyrann Mathieu, the former LSU cornerback and 2011 Heisman finalist, also the MVP of the SEC Championship Game with the Tigers that year, will meet with the team in Foxborough on April 5, according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. Nicknamed the “Honey Badger”, the small (5-foot-9) but ferocious Mathieu had 136 tackles, 96 of which were unassisted, forced seven fumbles, and had four interceptions in his freshman and sophomore years, along with returning 34 punts for 421 yards, two which went for touchdowns. He was kicked off of the team prior to his junior season for violating the team’s drug policies several times, the final being after being arrested for possession of marijuana in Baton Rouge.

Mathieu later dropped out of the school, entered a drug rehabilitation program, re-enrolled, then left in October following another arrest. Despite initially wanting to return for his senior year, he decided in November to enter the 2013 NFL Draft.

Despite having not played in a competitive game for over a year, Mathieu posted some impressive numbers at the NFL Draft Combine in February, completing the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, reaching 34 inches on the verticle jump, and 117 on the broad jump. Scouts were also impressed with his attitude and willingness to prove himself at the professional level.

The Patriots talked with Mathieu at the combine, who told reporters later that they seemed “very interested” in him following his interview with head coach Bill Belichick, known for taken risks on players with troubled pasts such as Brandon Spikes, Alfonzo Dennard, and Aaron Hernandez. Needing help for a secondary considered one of the NFL’s worst last season, a fully committed and motivated Mathieu could provide the team a much needed boost on the defensive side.

On the offensive side, the Patriots have a visit scheduled from the University of South Carolina’s standout running back Marcus Lattimore, according to USA Today. As a freshman with the Gamecocks in 2010, Lattimore rushed for 1,197 yards and had 17 touchdowns. Both his sophomore and junior season were cut short by knee injuries, the most recent occurring in a game against Tennessee on October 27 when he tore his ACL, MCL and PCL in his right knee, only a year after tearing his ACL in his left knee.

Lattimore underwent successful surgery on his right knee in November. Since then, he has been training in Florida with his surgeon Dr. James Andrews, who recently praised his recovery efforts, though not yet complete, as “superhuman”, and compared him Adrian Peterson, who came close to breaking the single-season record for rushing yards last season only a year removed from tearing his ACL.

On Thursday, he participated in a drill session at the Gamecocks training facilities and Williams-Brice Stadium as a part of the school’s Pro Day for representatives of the NFL’s 32 teams and the press, showing off his skills and the progress he’s made during his recovery. Many scouts were impressed by his efforts, and along with the Patriots, he will also pay a visit to the St. Louis Rams.

Lattimore told USA Today that he wanted to be an “inspiration” to fellow athletes recovering from similar injuries. The Pats are very familiar with knee injuries and successful comebacks from them, as seen with Tom Brady and (now former Patriot) Wes Welker, both of whom have suffered tears to their ACLs and came back for very productive seasons.

The team met has also met with Lattimore at the combine in February, and while they were much better off running the ball than they were defending passes, adding him to the already potent offense once he fully recovers would further solidify a talented running game and add another weapon to Brady’s arsenal.

No official date has been set for his visit, though it’s assumed it will be the next week or two with the draft inching ever so closer. As the numbers stand right now, the Patriots have only five picks, their first being the 29th overall, so the team will examine all of its options to make sure they can get the most bang for their buck.

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WR Amendola, Patriots agree to deal

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

by DANNY JAILLET

FOXBOROUGH, Mass.— According to a report from Gregg Rosenthal from the NFL.com’s Around The League blog, the Patriots and former St Louis Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola have agreed on a five-year deal worth $31 million with $10 million guaranteed. The consensus is that Amendola will replace Wes Welker, who now of course is a Denver Bronco.

The former Texas Tech Red Raider caught 63 passes for 666 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games played last year. In four years of NFL experience, he has 196 receptions for 1,726 yards and seven touchdowns. Much like Welker, Amendola is a quick slot receiver. In that respect, he is comparable to Welker. However, he does not have the same durability that Welker possesses. As the report notes, Amendola missed the entire 2011 season and five games in the 2012 campaign for what the report calls “heal, foot, and clavicle problems.” In contrast, Welker has missed a total of three games since the 2005 season.

The $10 million in guaranteed money is the same amount that Wes Welker left New England for (two years, $10 million). That fact alone is interesting. Whatever the case may be, Amendola has some big shoes to fill. It remains to be seen whether he can put up Pro Bowl-like numbers, but there is a very good chance that he will be a solid replacement for New England come the 2013 campaign.

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