Celtics

20 Under 25 Rankings: #7 - Malcom Brown

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20 Under 25 Rankings: #7 - Malcom Brown

TURNS 25: FEBRUARY 2, 2019
FINAL RATING: 6.8

There’s upside galore for the Patriots' big defensive tackle. Malcom Brown doesn’t even turn 23 until February, so the team’s first-round pick in 2015 (32nd overall) has loads of time to grow into his NFL role. And he ought to, which is why this is a good spot for him on this list.

Brown hasn’t had a tremendously consistent 2016 -- he was supplanted in the defensive-line rotation in Week 16 by rookie Vincent Valentine -- but that figures to be temporary. There are too many occasions this year and last where you see Brown manhandle the guy across from him and make a play of consequence. The 6-2, 320-pounder has 46 tackles and three sacks this year. Just take a look at this tone-setter against the Ravens that put the Patriots up 2-0 in the first quarter.

Brown’s ability to be an interior speed rusher is impressive, but in the Patriots scheme there’s still a lot of two-gapping and blocker occupying that has to go on. It’s not an easy transition. The Patriots expect Brown to follow in the footsteps of players like Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren and Richard Seymour as a beast up front. It’s a reasonable bet.

Brady enjoying "unique experience" of road trip

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Brady enjoying "unique experience" of road trip

While being away from home isn’t uncommon for the Patriots - just think about all those Super Bowl trips - Tom Brady believes each excursion takes on its own feel, its own flavor and - eventually - its own meaning.

Back in 2014, the Pats went from playing in Green Bay and losing to the Packers straight to San Diego for a week on the West Coast prior to a rousing victory over the Chargers. That week, many players said in the aftermath, helped propel the team to great heights,.  You’ll recall, that season ended in grand fashion, a triumph in Super Bowl 49 over Seattle, at the time - and maybe still - the greatest Super Bowl ever played.

“I think all these experiences are pretty unique,” Brady said Friday from Falcon Stadium at the Air Force Academy. “That was a very unique experience. This is different.”

Brady spoke about the number of stops the Pats have and will have to make on this trip - from Denver to Colorado Springs then on to Mexico City Saturday before a Sunday night return to Foxboro and their own beds for the first time in 10 nights.

“When you’re on the road like this, there’s less to do,” he said. “You know my family is not here, my kids aren’t here. There’s nobody telling me what I did wrong in the house. It’s just being at home and now it’s being here and trying to figure out a way to win a game.”

Brady quickly smoothed over any possible ill-will at home - why make Gisele mad? - smiling and saying “I didn’t mean that so I’ll take it back.”

Kidding aside, the 40-year old signal caller seemed pleased with the work the Patriots have put in during this long trip. A week of team-bonding can’t be a bad thing, especially for a group that seems to be hitting it’s stride both on and off the field. There’s the five wins in a row and also a locker room that has a better understanding of one another than it did during the first month of the season. But Brady is not ready to make any grand proclamations. That just wouldn’t be his style.

“I think it’s still work in progress,” he said of team chemistry. “You look at still adding a player like Marty (Bennett) last week. Things are always changing and evolving. We’re still trying to figure out what we’re doing well and after 8 or 9 weeks, you start to figure those things out. Now we have to work hard at those things, try to really own them, and use them going forward to try and win the most important games. We have a lot of important games coming up, starting with this one. Hopefully we can play our best football going forward.”

Brady said he’s been fired up for this game with the Raiders south of the border ever since the schedule was released all those months ago.

“I’ve never been to Mexico City,” he said. “It’s been a game you kind of look forward to. We’re playing against a really good football team in a pretty cool environment. It will be very memorable. I think everyone is excited.”