Patriots

Belichick, Patriots look ahead to Tebow Time

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Belichick, Patriots look ahead to Tebow Time

FOXBORO - Day 1 of Tebow Week. (The Patriots also play the Broncos on Sunday at 4:15 p.m.).

Bill Belichick? Not yet prepared to give the specific hosannas he usually trots out for the opposition on Wednesday.

Asked Monday about the prospect of dealing with the running skills of the Broncos quarterback, Belichick said, "Tim is a strong runner, good athlete, he can hurt you out of the pocket. Weve faced other quarterbacks like that. The big thing is just the whole offense: they run the ball, they have different types of running plays, running attack and then they have a lot of good receivers and they throw the ball down the field. There are a lot of challenges there. "

The fourth-quarter production of Tebow and the entire Broncos team has been remarkable. Anything different in that quarter, Belichick was asked.

"I wouldnt say its dramatically different," the head coach explained. "Yeah, its not like they run out a new whole thing. Theyve done it in different ways theyve done it throwing the ball, running the ball, driving it, making big plays. Well have to obviously study it a little bit more carefully but from what Ive seen, theyve made plays when they had to make them, critical plays. Again, whether thats the strip fumble, the field goal, a pass, a run. It hasnt just been one thing; theyve won as a team."

All the way out in the Rockies on Monday, Broncos coach John Fox talked about some of the same elements Belichick was being asked about.

He causes the defense to run around more, because he runs around a lot," Fox said when asked the implications of Tebow's ability to run. "Whether its as a runner or a scrambler on drop-back passes, it can be frustrating for a defense Ive been there many times on the other side of it. I think that causes your condition level to get taxed some as a result of the running around, and he does a good job of it.

The interesting thing about Tebow is that, because of the potency of his legs, teams are demanding they beat them with his arm.

I think, all in all, with the man coverage I spoke of earlier, I think theyre daring us to pass," explained Fox. "I think it started with us back in Detroit, and I think were improving in the pass game. I think our quarterbacks improving. I think our young receivers are improving.

"Tim, obviously, makes some things happen, even when the protection breaks down, because of his mobility. I think, at the end of the day, were getting better throwing the ball, and were going to have to be a lot better this week. We had some blips Sunday against Chicago with some drops, but talking about WR Demaryius Thomas, he came back and made some big catches at the end to overcome some of those drops.

While the Patriots usually spend Monday and Tuesday formulating their game plans for the weekend, Belichick did mention that one of the things making the Broncos offense hard to deal with is that they don't change personnel when they call for Tebow to run his option stuff.

"They have several different, Id say, concepts not really packages, because you dont know when theyre going to be in them and when theyre not because they dont change personnel. Its not like seeing a running back or a receiver come back and stand behind the center a different guy its always the same guy," he explained. "They can either be in it or not be in it at their discretion so you have to be ready for it even though thats not what theyre doing, and then you have to be ready for it and that is what theyre doing.

"It definitely has a Wildcat option element to it, no question about it. But they also run a lot of plays that I think we would say are conventional plays, if you will whatever that is, you know, plays that are more familiar to all of us.

"They do both and thats part of the problem; you dont know when youre going to get one thing or get another. They dont substitute necessarily to get into it, so you just have to figure it out. Sometimes at the line of scrimmage or sometimes after the ball is snapped you have to figure it out. They create some problems on that, no question."

Problems - and questions - that the Patriots will be dealing with all week long.

Prototypical Patriots: Hubbard, Ejiofor look like Belichick's type on the edge

Prototypical Patriots: Hubbard, Ejiofor look like Belichick's type on the edge

Breaking down the edge defender spot is one of the reasons the Prototypical Patriots series is such an interesting one to put together.

For instance, last year, Deatrich Wise was an easy fit. His height, arm length, production (when healthy), and the conference he played in made him a perfect fit. He was Chandler Jonesian.

But Derek Rivers, who was taken one round ahead of Wise? He didn't make the "Prototypical" list. At 6-foot-4 and 248 pounds at last year's combine, Rivers was nearly a full 20 pounds lighter than what Bill Belichick has typically looked for in his top-101 edge defender draft picks in New England. Not exactly the "prototype."

Jermaine Cunningham (second round, 2010) was 6-3, 266 pounds. Jones (first, 2012) was 6-5, 266. Jake Bequette (third, 2012) was 6-5, 274. Geneo Grissom (third, 2015) was 6-3, 262. Trey Flowers (fourth, 2015) was 6-2, 266. All powerfully built. All from Power-5 conferences.

Rivers, who went to Youngstown State, was a bit of an anomaly. What did it mean? Did the Patriots see him as a player who could pack on pounds and look like his edge predecessors? Did they see him as a more versatile weapon who could play both on the line and off? Did they simply look at his outstanding athletic testing numbers (6.94-second three-cone, 35-inch vertical, 4.61-second 40 time), and say to themselves that they could work with him?

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Because Rivers suffered a season-ending injury in training camp last year, it's hard to know exactly what their plan was for him. In camp we saw him both rush the passer and play in coverage. He aligned in both two-point and three-point stances, on the ball and off.

The Rivers pick may show that the Patriots prototype is adjusting. And it may continue to adjust if the team is going to shift back to more 3-4 looks now that Matt Patricia -- who favored a 4-3 and helped change the Patriots' front in 2011, one year before he was given the coordinator's title -- is in Detroit.

Still, we generally know what a Patriots defensive end looks like. He stands between 6-2 and 6-5. He's in the 260-pound range. His arms are between 33 and 36 inches. His hands are about 10 inches. He runs the three-cone in less than 7.3 seconds. His vertical is at least 33 inches. His broad jump is about 120 inches. His 40 time is under 4.9 seconds, usually.

There's obviously much more than a list of physical benchmarks a prospect has to possess in order to be considered by the Patriots -- skill set, college production, durability and character all play a role -- but it's not a bad place to start.

Who fits that bill in this year's class? Let's take a look. They one player who likely isn't within range for the Patriots, unless he slides, would be NC State's Bradley Chubb. He's expected to go in the top-five picks and could hear his name called as early as No. 2 overall to the Giants. 

PROTOTYPES IN RANGE

MARCUS DAVENPORT, UTSA, 6-6, 264 POUNDS

There are plenty of knocks on Davenport. He's raw. He played against lower-level competition and was able dominate because of his superior physical gifts. His hands are small (9 1/8 inches). But he checks just about every other marker from a size and athletic testing perspective, and he's thought to be a hard worker with a high ceiling as a 4-3 defensive end. He may go as early as the teens. My hunch is that, while gifted, he isn't so off-the-charts special (4.58 40, 7.2-second three-cone, 124-inch broad, 33.5-inch vertical) that he'd be worth the Patriots trading up for. 

SAM HUBBARD, OHIO STATE, 6-5, 270 POUNDS

Again, let's go ahead and start with the negatives. He ran a 4.95-second 40-yard dash at his pro day, which was a full tenth of a second slower than what Trey Flowers ran in 2015. Not good. But his 10-yard time was 1.69 seconds, which was much more in range for the Patriots. Jones ran the same 10-yard time in 2012. Wise ran a 1.68. Otherwise, Hubbard is what the Patriots want. He was productive in Urban Meyer's defense, recording 13.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks and two forced fumbles. A high school safety -- who was headed to Notre Dame on a lacrosse scholarship! -- Hubbard is quick and explosive for his size. He jumped 35 inches in the vertical and clocked a ridiculous 6.84-second three-cone drill. On paper, Hubbard is one of the best fits for the Patriots in this class, and he could be had at the top of the second round. If his 40 time drops him into the bottom of the second or top of the third round, he'd be a steal. 

RASHEEM GREEN, USC, 6-4, 275 POUNDS

Another physically-impressive defensive end, Green offers some versatility. He looks like a base end on first and second downs who could kick inside to generate pressure in obvious passing situations. He has nearly 34-inch arms and 10-inch hands, and if the Patriots do shift to more 3-4 looks, he could potentially play as an end in those formations -- particularly if he improves his functional strength. He's a little raw and a little less athletic than the parameters set above, but he's also heavier than many Patriots ends. His 4.73-second 40 time, 32.5-inch vertical, 118-inch broad and 7.24-second three-cone are impressive for his frame, and he could be a boom-or-bust second-rounder for New England. 

DUKE EJIOFOR, WAKE FOREST, 6-3, 265 POUNDS

Making comparisons this time of year can be a little dangerous, but when it comes to Ejiofor, it's hard not to be reminded of Flowers (6-2, 265 at the combine in 2015). Ejiofor has 35-inch arms and 10-inch hands, while Flowers had 34-inch arms and 10-inch hands. NFL.com's scouting report for Flowers three years ago? "Consistent with hand placement and is technically sound." NFL.com on Ejiofor? "Possesses a mature approach as a pass rusher." Neither player would be described as incredibly "quick-twitch," but Flowers has had great success as an interior rusher and Ejiofor projects similarly because of his length and power. One question mark about Ejiofor is his motor, but he dealt with an injury last season, and late in the second round he'd be worth a roll of the dice. The Patriots reportedly hosted Ejiofor on a pre-draft visit. 

ADE ARUNA, TULANE, 6-5, 262 POUNDS

It'll require some time, but if a team can find a roster spot for Aruna on special teams, and if he takes to the coaching he receivers, he could end up being a late-round find. Classic height/weight/speed prospect since he ran a 4.6-second 40 and has 34-inch arms and 10 5/8-inch hands. His three-cone was lacking (7.53 seconds), but he's explosive as all get out (38.5-inch vertical, 128-inch broad) and worth a shot some time on Day 3 since he's relatively new to the sport. From Nigeria, Aruna only found his way onto a football field as a senior in high school.

IMPERFECT BUT INTRIGUING

HAROLD LANDRY, BOSTON COLLEGE, 6-2, 252 POUNDS

Landry is one of the best pass-rush prospects in this draft class. He might be the best, which could compel a team to call his name inside the top 10. He's undersized by Patriots standards, but an exception could be made if Belichick believes Landry is athletic enough to play a variety of different roles. The question is, would the Patriots be willing to trade way up in the first round to make an exception?

JOSH SWEAT, FLORIDA STATE, 6-5, 251 POUNDS

Sweat is a little light compared to other top-100 edge picks for Belichick, but he's not all that far off from Rivers. Undersized. Great athlete. Sweat ran a 4.53-second 40 and jumped 39.5 inches in the vertical. His broad was 124 inches. There are reportedly some concerns about Sweat's durability, but he could be a second-round gamble.  

UCHENNA NWOSU, USC, 6-2, 251 POUNDS

One evaluator told me that Nwosu looks like a Patriot because he offers the kind of on-the-ball, off-the-ball versatility that Belichick appreciates. Athletically, he tested in the same range as bigger players the Patriots have taken in the past (32-inch vertical, 119-inch broad). That may not help his chances. But he's long (almost 34-inch arms) and a smooth athlete. Would the Patriots view Nwosu's instincts in the passing game -- he flashed an ability to cover on tape, and he's a good enough athlete to do it -- and make him an off-the-line type? Some may see "tweener." The Patriots may see "hybrid." And if they move to more of a 3-4 defense, he'd be an ideal outside linebacker. 

KEMEKO TURAY, RUTGERS, 6-5, 253 POUNDS

Another great athlete (4.65-second 40) with long enough arms (33 3/8 inches) and big enough hands (9 5/8 inches), Turay shows good explosiveness on tape. The Rutgers connection doesn't mean what it once did for the Patriots now that Greg Schiano has moved on, but the school fit doesn't matter much in this instance. This is a relatively rare athlete who needs some polish, but if he's athletic enough to rush and cover on the outside, he could be an outside 'backer for Belichick. 

DORANCE ARMSTRONG, KANSAS, 6-4, 257 POUNDS

Size-wise, Armstrong is right there. He has almost 35-inch arms and 10-inch hands, and his height-weight combination is within the desirable range for the Patriots. Armstrong would be even more of a fit if he was just a bit more powerful and a bit more athletic. His 40 time was fine (4.87 seconds), but his explosiveness (30-inch vertical, 118-inch broad) left a little to be desired. And he plays more like a 3-4 outside linebacker than a true end (like the majority of the players listed as "Prototypes in Range"). But on Day 3? He could be worthy of a choice and given an opportunity to make the roster this summer. 

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Tom Brady's agent expects QB will play in 2018

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Tom Brady's agent expects QB will play in 2018

Tom Brady's agent Don Yee told ESPN's Adam Schefter that he expects New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will play in 2018.

"Tom's intentions have not changed," Yee told ESPN Monday. "He's consistently said he'll play beyond this contract and into his mid 40s, or until he feels he isn't playing at a championship level. I understand the constant speculation, but this is one point he's been firm about."

Brady has been absent from the team's voluntary workouts at Gillette Stadium. He has instead elected to spend more time with his family while working with his body coach Alex Guerrero. After Brady was absent for the team's conditioning and strength program, ESPN's Schefter reported that there was some uncertainty as to whether Brady might play in 2018. Brady's contract was linked, in part, to that uncertainty, according to NFL Media.

"His objective every year is to outperform his contract and his own goals," Yee told ESPN. "And like every player, yes, he thinks about his contract -- it's a pretty natural thing to do. Every team's management knows this."

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