Patriots

Could Pats absorb troubled CB Jenkins?

684080.jpg

Could Pats absorb troubled CB Jenkins?

Last April, the troubled son of the NFL Draft was Ryan Mallett.

Attitude concerns and rumors of drug use sent his stock freefalling and -- in a draft where more than a quarter of the league was shopping for quarterbacks -- Mallett fell to the team with the best quarterback in the league, the Patriots.

(Read this feature by one of the best writers out there, ESPN's Elizabeth Merrill).

This year's Mallett is North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins.

Chased out of Florida, the lanky corner ended up in Division II. Now, he's trying to put a buff-and-shine on his reputation with the NFL Draft less than a month away.

Jeffri Chadiha spent time with Jenkins and laid out the issues and concerns in this piece.

Some team is going to roll the dice on Jenkins the same way the Patriots did on Mallett. It has to be a team with a strong program in place. It has to be a team with a no BS locker room and solid leadership and workers in the secondary group to ensure Jenkins sees what being a pro is about. It has to be a team where the head coach and personnel man is empowered to turn in a card with Jenkins' name on it and not worry about how his job security will be affected if Jenkins goes South.

A team like the Patriots is the kind of team that will most likely draft Jenkins.

Could it be the Patriots? Some experts -- including ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. -- think so. Kiper has the Patriots taking Jenkins with the 31st pick in the first round in his most recent mock draft.

The pros to Jenkins are that he's a plug-and-play corner who could walk in and play the "star" position in the Patriots defense right away. At 5-10, 192, he's got good length. During his time at Florida, he dealt with the A.J. Greens and Julio Jones' and more than held his own.

But demon weed and Gainesville's proximity to Jenkins' hometown of Pahokee conspired to make Florida coach Will Muschamp throw up his hands.

Bill Belichick is tight enough with Muschamp to get the skinny on whether Jenkins -- already a father of four children -- can overcome the obstacles he's erected for himself.

Belichick also is tight enough with former Florida coach Urban Meyer to find out if the player Meyer recruited out of high school is, at his core, a decent kid.

If it's established that Jenkins could succeed, the next most important step would be making sure he's surrounded by pros. The 2009 secondary group? Not pros. The 2012 secondary group? Pros.

Among the corners, Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Sterling Moore take their jobs with seriousness. Same with safeties Patrick Chung, James Ihedigbo and the other core players back there.

And it goes without saying that Belichick has the sway to go whichever way he wants during the draft and be above reproach from analysts who practically race to buzz in and say, "Brilliant move there by the Patriots and Bill Belichick..." as draft coverage unfolds.

The only question is whether the Patriots see all-important value in a player like Jenkins.

"Whenever you take any player you have everything that comes with them. So, whatever that is, their personality, their size, their speed their instincts, their . . . everything," Belichick said when asked about weighing conduct concerns. "You get the whole thing, so put them all together, its a mosaic of components and thats what you have and you put some kind of value on it. Whatever thats worth.

We'll find out what it's worth as it relates to Jenkins in less than a month.

'Man, why do we continue to do this?' Patriots FG block work finally pays off

'Man, why do we continue to do this?' Patriots FG block work finally pays off

FOXBORO -- Stay low. Drive off the tight end's inside shoulder. And whatever you do, keep your feet. You don't want to be falling into kicker and picking up a penalty. 

Those were the kinds of things that were bouncing around somewhere in Cassius Marsh's subconscious as he lined up to try to block Falcons kicker Matt Bryant's field-goal attempt from 37 yards away at the end of the first quarter. Swimming past his blocker off the snap, Marsh got both arms extended and into the path of Bryant's kick, knocking it down and giving his team a boost. 

MORE: 

"Guys work hard on that every week," Bill Belichick said after his team's 23-7 win. "Cassius has gotten some opportunities in practice. It’s hard to block Steve [Gostkowski]. Steve gets good height on the ball, gets the ball off quickly. I think this one with not quite as much height maybe as Steve's ball, or at least what Steve's balls were in practice, Cassius got a hand on it. 

"It was a big play for us because, again, we worked so hard on that and that’s everybody across the board. That’s all 11 guys, not just the guy that blocks it. The other guys have to do their job and if they block Cassius and take him away then that gives somebody else an opportunity so we never know how that’s going to go. We just want everybody to come hard and do their job right and wherever the opening is it is. That was a big play for us . . . 

"You can see the whole team – we were all excited. Sideline, players, guys on the field. That was a big moment for us. Our special teams units work very hard. They take a lot of pride in their job. The return teams, the coverage teams, the field goal and the field goal block team. It’s good to see that hard work pay off in a big play like that."

It was a big enough play that it earned Marsh a high-five from his coach. Marsh laughed about his reception on the sideline, remembering that the last time he got that kind of recognition from Belichick it came after a Week 4 sack.

"That's pretty much it that I can remember," Marsh said, beaming. "He only really smiles in situations like that so you've gotta cherish those moments."

The Patriots recovered at their own 26-yard line and embarked on an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to get them on the scoreboard.

"With the defense playing as well as they were, to be able to preserve the shutout at the time was big," said special teams captain Matthew Slater. "Those are huge momentum plays when you're able to block a kick. It's not a traditional play that happens every game. Huge play. A UCLA guy stepping up, who would've thought? 

"You gotta tip your hat to those guys because they coach that, they work that and sometimes it seems like, 'Man, why do we continue to do this?' But it paid off for us tonight. You tip your cap to not only Cash but the rest of the guys on that unit." 

While Marsh's block was the highlight, it was a strong night overall for New England's special teams units. Every Falcons drive started inside their own 30-yard line, and Gostkowski had kicks returned to the 12, 19 and 18 before they were stopped.

Slater called it the most complementary game the Patriots played all season. Offense, defense, special teams. They all worked together to make Sunday perhaps their most dominating performance of the year. 

"That's the effort that we've been looking for and striving for all year," Slater said. "I think that's a good starting point for us. Lot of football left. Nine games left so we're going to have to continue to do it and be consistent week in and week out."

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Butler credits improved Patriots defense for 'playing smarter'

Butler credits improved Patriots defense for 'playing smarter'

As safety Duron Harmon emerged from the showers following the Patriots 23-7 win over the Falcons, he noticed a crowd gathered by his locker. As one of the captains of the team - and a man nicknamed by teammates as “The Voice” because of his ability to articulate the right words at the right time, the affable safety is a must listen postgame. But for a change, Harmon knew the mass gathering of media wasn’t there for him - at least not yet. We were there for Malcolm Butler, who had just played his best game of the season.

“You all want to talk to Malcolm?” Harmon sang. “I’d want to talk to Malcolm too.”

Devin McCourty got in on the act as well with some good-natured chirping in Butler’s direction. Both safeties were energized by the victory but also, it seemed, by the performance of a player they’ve come to rely on in games just like this. 

MORE: 

“Awww man, Malcolm. . . Malcolm was great for us,” said Harmon later. “We need that.”

It's hard not to draw the parallel between Butler having his best performance of the season a week after making two of the biggest plays in the game against the Jets. He did all this while the man who indirectly caused so much of the 28-year old’s troubles - Stephon Gilmore - hasn’t been able to play because of a concussion. Meanwhile, an undrafted player in his 6th year, Johnson Bademosi, has emerged opposite Butler to play very sound football.

“Communication,” said Butler of the team’s defensive improvements. “Just playing smarter and better. That’s all.”

Butler himself didn’t want to spend much time analyzing his own performance. That’s usually not his thing. And it wasn’t as if that performance was perfect. Far from it. But Butler’s energy was evident right from the jump. He stuck his nose in there on running plays to his side, including a terrific submarine tackle of Tevin Coleman in the opening quarter. Butler also got his fair share of Julio Jones over the course of the night. Even though he surrendered that late touchdown to the Falcons wideout, he showed not only a willingness to play the big dog, but to go right at him. That is - after all - a Butler trademark. 

“Just competing,” said Butler. “Great player; you just got to compete.”

It’s not just competing, but it’s playing with confidence, something Butler said was an issue for him in the aftermath of his snap reduction in New Orleans. But now? That seems long gone and hard to find.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE