Curran: Why Kevin Faulk in the Patriots Hall is perfectly fitting


Curran: Why Kevin Faulk in the Patriots Hall is perfectly fitting

Kevin Faulk never played in a Pro Bowl. He never ran for 1,000 yards. Hell, he never ran for 700 yards. He was a third-down back, not a three-down back. He was a niche guy whose game was predicated on nuance. Yet ,Kevin Faulk will go into the Patriots Hall of Fame in August. You’re free to disagree based on Faulk’s production numbers but, like his game, his candidacy depended on people getting the nuance. 

You had to watch him every week to understand his hidden impact. If he carried seven times for 21 yards, you could bet a couple of those were third-and-4 draws on which he picked up 5. If he caught two balls for 12, at least one of them came when Tom Brady knew the only place he’d be going on that throw was to Faulk because he could trust him to make a play. 

I remember games where the entire team played as if it had a trickle going down its leg except for Faulk. And he’d rip off a spinning, juking, something-out-of-nothing run that showed everyone that at least one Patriot wasn’t mailing it in that day. A team hall of fame is precisely the place where nuance and hidden impact are to be appreciated and celebrated. And the voters got that. How much bounce did Faulk’s PHOF candidacy get because of his “Free Brady” at the draft last month? Probably a lot. What are the chances Faulk did that to curry favor with the voters? None.  

Faulk, like Troy Brown before him, was an institution. An artifact as well. Drafted by  Pete Carroll and Bobby Grier in 1999, Faulk was a leery, not-so-warm kid from Louisiana that first year. The Patriots made him their lead back in 2000 when Bill Belichick got to town and – even though he was ill-suited for the role because he wasn’t real big or blessed with breakaway speed, he grinded away. 

He made it through a spate of fumbles that had us all checking the waiver wire for a time in 2000 and settled into the third-down back role. Faulk didn’t seem to let his guard down, though, for several years. It wasn’t until around 2006 that we began to see a more open, less-wary guy in the locker room. 

Born and bred in Louisiana, it’s no surprise in hindsight that it took a while. What is surprising is the sea-change we saw in Faulk as he became a more vocal leader. He embraced the role of mentor. He warmed to the job of speaking the team’s mind with the media. His personality came out to the point where what we saw Faulk pull in Chicago made perfect sense. He takes his relationships with this team and this region seriously, but he doesn’t take himself seriously. And he’s not going to bend a knee to the league to preserve future relations with the rich and powerful. He’s authentic.

Kevin Faulk isn’t going to be the best player in the Patriots Hall of Fame. But he’ll be as good a Patriot as ever gets inducted.

Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

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Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

Johnny Manziel said 10 days ago, "I'd go to New England in a heartbeat," when asked about the Patriots as a potential landing spot.

That seemed like wishful thinking at the time, but they're taking a look at him...along with 12 other NFL teams, according to ESPN's Eric Williams. 

Tom Brady's current backup Brian Hoyer is, like Manziel, an ex-Cleveland Browns quarterback. Manziel would again be competing with Hoyer for the Pats' No. 2 job should New England take a chance on "Johnny Football", the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M, who's been out of football the past two years because of substance abuse and emotional problems.

FOX Sports' Bruce Feldman had it at 12 teams watching Manziel work out at the University of San Diego and said the Patriots gave Manziel a weigh-in.


Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

The Patriots have agreed to re-sign offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, his agent Scott Casterline confirmed on Twitter.  Waddle hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year began and made a visit to the Cowboys earlier this week. In the end, though, he chose to return to the team that claimed him off of waivers at the end of the 2015 season.

Waddle, who turns 27 in July, appeared in 12 games last season for the Patriots. He was the first right tackle the Patriots turned to when Marcus Cannon suffered an ankle injury mid-season against the Chargers. He ended up playing 51 snaps against the likes of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram without allowing a sack. He then started the next three games against the Broncos, Raiders and Dolphins and held star rushers Von Miller, Khalil Mack and Cameron Wake -- all of whom rush primarily off of the offensive right -- without a sack. 

Injuries forced Waddle (380 snaps on the season) to split the right tackle position with Cameron Fleming (543 snaps), but he was the primary backup when healthy. Waddle started the Divisional Round playoff game against the Titans but suffered a knee injury and was removed for Fleming. 

Both Fleming and Waddle visited the Cowboys this week, and the fact that Waddle has re-signed with the Patriots may impact Fleming's decision moving forward. 

The Patriots went to great lengths to build tackle depth last season, and adding Waddle to the roster helps them retain some of that depth after losing their left tackle, Nate Solder, to the Giants via free agency. Waddle could be an option on the left side, but the vast majority of his work since entering the league as an undrafted rookie in 2013 has been on the right side. 

The Patriots now have Fleming, Marcus Cannon, Cole Croston, Tony Garcia and Andrew Jelks on their depth chart at tackle. Croston, Garcia and Jelks are all headed into their second years as pros. Croston remained on the 53-man roster all season -- an indication that the Patriots liked him enough not to expose him to the waiver system -- but did not see meaningful snaps. Garcia and Jelks both missed the entirety of the 2017 season on reserve lists. 

Once the Patriots lost Solder to the Giants, it seemed to be of paramount importance that the Patriots re-sign either Waddle or Fleming. Behind Cannon, there were simply too many question marks not to have one return. The Patriots could opt to draft a tackle, but this is considered an average year at that position in that there are few ready-made NFL players and several developmental types.

Before the Super Bowl last season, I asked offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia how the team was able to manage offensively with backups at right tackle for much of the season. 

"It's not like [Fleming and Waddle are] not good players," Scarnecchia said. "They are good players. Their skill set seemed to fit that position pretty well. They have the traits that we covet. And they're both really smart guys, very willing learners, and they're both driven to be good and they want to play good. And I think all those things have manifested themselves when they've been out there playing. And we've been very, very pleased with what they've done for us this year, essentially splitting that position."

Asked about the aspects of the game the Patriots worked on with both Waddle and Fleming last year, Scarnecchia said, "For us it transcends everything. Obviously run-blocking and pass-blocking. They're both good at those things. Are they great at those things? No. But they've been able to steadily improve over the last two years to the point where we put them out there and no one's worried. And it's been that way the whole season after Marcus got hurt. Yeah they've done a nice job for us."