Patriots

Arrington returns home

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Arrington returns home

FOXBORO -- When the Patriots take to FedEx Field, Kyle Arrington will have a chance to show his hometown just how far he has come.

Born in Accokeek, Maryland, Arrington attended Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine, just a 30-minute drive from the Redskins' home stadium. He'll have 20 or more family members in the crowd on Sunday as the Pats and 'Skins square off.

Others in the stands may remember Arrington as the 150-pound high school junior who separated his shoulder twice trying to make big hits that his body couldn't withstand. Or maybe they'll remember him as the lightly-recruited senior who didn't know how to get into a proper corner back stance or backpedal in the correct manner. Maybe to them he's a kid who got lucky. With just one year of high school varsity football under his belt, Division 1-AA Hofstra took a chance on Arrington and gave him a scholarship to play college football in upstate New York.

Seven years later and 40 pounds heavier, Arrington has made a complete transformation. He's a starting corner on one of the best teams in the NFL and his seven interceptions lead the league. For those who watched him get beat up as a scrawny Gwynn Park defensive back, Arrington's first game as a pro in Washington, DC is cause for celebration.

"When Kyle wants to do something and puts his mind to it, he can do anything he wants to," said Gwynn Park coach Danny Haley. "We're very excited for him. It makes us proud to see him."

Arrington's last month has been a bit of a stroll down memory lane. In Week 12, the Patriots took on the Eagles, Arrington's first NFL team. He joined Philadelphia in 2008 as an undrafted free agent, but didn't last long. He did what he could to stick around -- he studied and tried to sleep while his friends DeSean Jackson and Quintin Demps played video games in his room -- but he got cut from the Eagles practice squad soon after training camp ended.

"I guess coming from a D1-AA, it was a little bit bigger pond," Arrington said before facing the Eagles this season. "Just a tad bit bigger. It was a little adjustment period."

Now that he's with the Patriots, the adjustment period is behind him. Arrington has become one of the rocks of a Patriots secondary that seems to change every week. With Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty going down with injuries at different points in the season, the 25-year-old Arrington has been a stabilizing presence in the Patriots' defensive backfield.

The Patriots have been statistically the worst pass defense in the NFL, but Arrington has been a pleasant surprise. He appeared in all 16 regular season games last season and made 71 tackles, but he had just one career pick before this season.

Despite the increased media attention he's received and the number of Facebook messages from old friends he's found in his inbox, he's not taking time to sit back and think about his unlikely journey.

"As far as reflecting on everything, I really haven't had time to," Arrington said. "I'm trying to stay focused. We have a long way to go as far as where we want to be as a team so when it's all said and done, and we're where we wanna be, then I'll reflect."

Arrington's drive is something he's had since his days at Gwynn Park. He wasn't always focused on football -- a score-first point guard, he fancied himself as more of a basketball player -- but he did want to make himself into the best athlete he could be. As a result, he began to spend hours upon hours in the weight room.

Even when he's back in Maryland visiting family, he'll return to his old gym at the YMCA in Fort Washington to work out.

"He eats weights. He sleeps weights," said Haley. "He hasn't forgotten. He knows exactly what he has to do and how he'll do it. He'll always out-work the guy who's going against him. He has that mindset that he was taught in high school."

Haley remembers how Arrington made himself into an All-County cornerback in Prince George's County and took Gwynn Park to within one game of the state finals in his senior year. He was a quiet kid with great athletic ability.

And though now he's looking like a Pro Bowl player, Haley says Arrington is the same guy.

During the Patriots' bye week, Arrington returned to Gwynn Park to speak to visit his old teachers and speak to their students.

"He was just being Kyle," Haley said. "Down to earth. Very mild-mannered. Very respectful. Nothing's changed."

QUICK SLANTS PODCAST: Belichick ignoring noise? Or trying to change the narrative?

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QUICK SLANTS PODCAST: Belichick ignoring noise? Or trying to change the narrative?

3:00 Why has Bill Belichick been so surprisingly positive of his team’s performance in tight wins?

6:30 Phil Perry breaks down what grades he gave the Patriots on his report card following the win over the Jets

15:00 Reaction to the Austin-Seferian Jenkins overturned touchdown, and what changes need to be made in the NFL replay system. 

23:00 Why was Patriots offensive line much more effective against Jets?

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

25:00 Patriots-Falcons preview, how did Falcons blow a 17 point lead to the Dolphins?

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

FOXBORO - We’re not quite at the point of fire and brimstone coming down from the skies, or 40 years of darkness, or even dogs and cats living together, but this Patriots season isn’t headed down the right path, despite a 4-2 record and the top spot in the AFC East. 

There are several elements that appear missing at this juncture - chief among them a defense that actually has a clue. Please don’t celebrate holding the Jets to 17 points - I’m looking at you, Dont’a Hightower. Josh McCown threw for just 194 yards against the Cleveland freakin’ Browns for goodness sake, but he got you for 354 and two scores?! Even the 2009 Patriots defense is offended by that.

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We’d be foolish to think the Pats can’t get this leaky unit fixed for reasons so obvious I won’t state them in this space so as not to waste my time or yours. We also know - long before Bill Belichick’s 6 1/2-minute explanation on the Monday conference call - that it's not supposed to be perfect right now. Actually, it’ll never be perfect. That’s not how this game works. 

Yet week after week, we see uncommon breakdowns and one defender looking at the next as if to say, “I thought you had him?” or more to the point, “what the hell were you doing?” It started Sunday at MetLife on the third play of the game. Malcolm Butler, playing 10 yards off Robby Anderson, looking as if he’s never played the position before, inexplicably turning his back on Anderson even though the wide receiver makes no real move to the post. That results in just about the easiest completion of McCown’s life, a 23-yarder on third-and-10. 

On the same series, on another third-and-long, the Pats rushed four and dropped seven into coverage. Defensive end Cassius Marsh continued his season-long trend of rushing so far upfield he ended up in Hoboken. With Deatrich Wise ridden outside on the opposite edge, McCown wisely stepped up and found prime real estate with New York City views. He wanted to throw and could have when the Pats fouled up a crossing route from the backside of the play. But with that much room to roam, McCown took off, scooting for a quick 16 yards and another first down.

Fittingly, that drive ended with a Jets touchdown on yet another dumb play, this one courtesy of Mr. Hit or Miss, Elandon Roberts. Channeling his inner Brandon Spikes, the second-year pro blew off his key and responsibility on third-and-goal from the 1, charging hard to the line. This, despite one of the most feeble play-action fakes you’ll see. In fact, I’m not even sure it was a real play-action fake. Anyway, score it as a touchdown to Austin Seferian-Jenkins and an indictment on David Harris, who apparently can’t vault past the erratic Roberts on the depth chart.

Similar to the week prior in Tampa, the Pats found better footing after that. They forced three straight three-and-outs in the second quarter and then helped turn the game when Butler intercepted an ill-advised throw by McCown just prior to the half. They got another turnover to start the third, with Butler coming off the edge on fourth-and-1 and forcing McCown into panic mode. The veteran QB fired an off-target throw to - get this - a wide open receiver who went uncovered on a drag route and Devin McCourty was gifted an interception.

But this group frowns on prosperity. It took a little-seen rule to prevent a Seferian-Jenkins touchdown in the fourth, and on the game’s final drive, the Pats allowed a 32-yard completion on fourth-and-12. Then, on what turned out to be the Jets final play, the Pats let Tavaris Cadet leak out of the backfield and run unchecked 20 yards down the field. Had McCown not soiled himself again, Gang Green would have had a first down and at least one crack at the end zone. Then, who knows what the heck happens?

It was just a season ago that the Patriots led the entire NFL in scoring defense. If you’ll recall, we spent a better part of the year wondering if that defense was championship quality. Turns out they were. Right now, we’re wondering once again if this defense is of that ilk, but through an entirely different prism. It’s on the players and staff to change the current outlook, or those cats and dogs will have to figure out their shared space.