Patriots

Mayo honored as 2011 Ron Burton Award winner

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Mayo honored as 2011 Ron Burton Award winner

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - This past summer, a 10-year-old in my town named Brentwas playing in a baseball tournament on the Cape. In one of the final games of the event, Brent was pitching when an opposing batter looped a short foul ball on the third base line. Breaking for the ball immediately, Brent got to the foul line and dove. At the same time, his catcher did the same thing. Brent made the catch - a remarkable one - but also broke his leg in two places in the collision. After a couple of harrowing days, Brent was back home, laid up on the family couch in the middle of the summer with a cast up to his hip. On a Saturday afternoon in the middle of the NFL lockout, Jerod Mayo calledBrent to see how he was doing. It made the kid's day. Tuesday night, Mayo was named the 2011 winner of the New England Patriots Ron Burton Community Service Award. He was presented with the honor at the Kickoff Gala held by the Patriots Charitable Foundation. "My biggest passion is just giving back to the kids; they're our future and I know it sounds cliche' but it's the truth," Mayo said after being presented with the award. "Some of them really don't have direction and things like that so anytime it has something to do with kids, I'm there."I'm sure Mayo looks at the phone call he placed to Brent as being no big deal. Just a couple of minutes to make a kid who was down feel up for a little while. But the fact I felt comfortable calling on Mayo or that favor and the fact I knew he wouldn't look at it as a big encumberance tells you all you need to know about him, There are a lot of coaches and players in the Patriots' organization willing to quietly give, beginning with the head coach Bill Belichick. Mayo, though? He's something special. He gives the impression he wants to go out of his way to help people. In his three short years in New England, Jerod has made large contributions both on and off the field, said Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft. Both in uniform and and as an active volunteer in the community, he has done everything asked of him and more. He continually makes us proud to have drafted him in 2008. He is a most deserving recipient of the Ron Burton Award.Added Andre Tippett, the Patriots Executive Director of Community, "If it helps kids, hes there. We know him to always roll up his sleeves while getting involved in creative ways, including leading art projects, serving children dinner and playing interactive games. It is clear that he wants to use his experience as a father to make a difference in the lives of each child he meets. In 2010, Mayo launched The Mayo Bowl, an annual celebrity bowling event to raise funds for Pitching in for Kids, a charity that provides earmarked grants to improve the lives of children in New England. The 2011 edition will be held at King's in Dedham on September 19.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran.

Will the real Jaguars defense please stand up?

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Will the real Jaguars defense please stand up?

FOXBORO -- Are we giving the Jaguars defense too much credit?

The numbers, on the surface, paint Jacksonville's defense as one of the best the NFL has seen in years. They finished the season as the league's top passing defense in terms of yards allowed, and they were second when it came to points allowed, total yards and sacks.

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Then there are the postseason awards that have been bestowed upon their defensive regulars. Jalen Ramsey, AJ Bouye, Calais Campbell and Malik Jackson have all been named Pro Bowlers. Ramsey and Campbell are First-Team All-Pros, while Bouye and Telvin Smith are Second-Teamers. Campbell is in the running for Defensive Player of the Year. 

So why, then, is there this lingering feeling that the Jaguars defense isn't all it's cracked up to be? They allowed Ben Roethlisberger to heave his way to 42 points in the Divisional Round. In Week 16, they gave up 44 to Jimmy Garoppolo and the Niners. Hell, Blaine Gabbert and the Cardinals put up 27 and beat them in Week 12. 

Those results don't exactly scream "all-time defense." So what is Jacksonville? Overrated? Properly rated? 

One thing is for certain: The Jags played an easy schedule. The combined winning percentage of their opponents in 2017 was a league-low 44 percent. And when it comes to the defense in particular, they had the second-easiest schedule in the league, according to Football Outsiders. It didn't hurt that they were able to play the Colts with Jacoby Brissett, the Texans before Deshaun Watson became a star and after he got hurt, and the NFL's No. 23-ranked Titans offense. Twice. Each. They also got the Ravens (No. 27 offense), Jets (No. 28), Bengals (No. 32), Browns (No. 24) and Cardinals (No. 22). Add it all up and that's nine games -- more than half their schedule -- against bottom-third NFL offenses. Two more games came against a Houston offense that featured starting quarterbacks Tom Savage and TJ Yates. 

When you dig into the analytics it's harder to find ways to poke holes in Jacksonville's credibility as a top-tier defensive unit. Pro Football Focus grades the Jags as their No. 1 defense, and it's really not close. Football Outsiders calls them their No. 1 defense in terms of DVOA. Even when you factor in some of its recent performances -- like letdowns versus the Steelers and Niners -- Jacksonville is still the league's No. 4 defense in weighted DVOA, which is adjusted so that games that were played earlier in the season are gradually less important. 

At the same time, the analytics can be occasionally unkind to the Jaguars. Football Outsiders has them ranked as one of the most inconsistent defenses in the league. According to their variance statistic, Jacksonville is the fourth most inconsistent defense in football. A deeper dive into the numbers has also located an apparent soft underbelly of the Jaguars defense. Per Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analysis, the Jaguars are dominant against three-receiver sets -- No. 1 in the league, in fact -- but they're the No. 23 defense in the NFL when it comes to defending personnel groupings that feature one or two wide receivers. That would explain, in part, why the Titans (who Sharp rated as the least-likely team to employ three-receiver sets this season) and Niners (who went with more "21" and "12" personnel looks late in the season) were able to beat the Jaguars. 

The most difficult argument against the legitimacy of the Jaguars' defensive rankings is the talent they put on the field on a weekly basis. Their roster, defensively at least, stacks up with some of the most imposing defensive units in recent memory. The Seahawks had four First and Second-Team All-Pros on their defense in 2014. The Broncos defense had five Pro Bowlers in 2015. The Jaguars have five players who were named either All-Pros or Pro Bowlers or both this year, and they probably should've had a sixth in pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue, who recorded 12 sacks (eighth in the NFL) and a league-best six forced fumbles. 

The verdict? The Jaguars defense is loaded with blue-chip players. It will be the best unit the Patriots offense has seen this year. But they have been inconsistent, they have holes -- which we touched upon in this week's Quick Slants the Podcast with Jerod Mayo -- and there remains the very real possibility that Tom Brady and his teammates will light up the Gillette Stadium scoreboard on Sunday. 

Now, is Brady healthy? Good question. Will he have enough time to throw? We'll see. But if the answer to both of those questions is "yes" (or "enough"), then the Patriots should be headed to Minnesota. This Jaguars defense is very good, but it's far from inpenetrable.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

BEST OF BST PODCAST: Tom Brady injures right hand during practice

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BEST OF BST PODCAST: Tom Brady injures right hand during practice

0:41 - Tom Brady injured his right hand during practice on Wednesday. Tom Curran, Albert Breer, Michael Holley, and Tom Giles discuss how this injury could impact Brady’s ability to throw against the Jaguars on Sunday.

6:06 - Isaiah Thomas has asked the Celtics to cancel his video tribute on Paul Pierce Night, and Pierce said that Thomas was trying to ‘punk’ Danny Ainge into a tribute video. Michael Holley, Kyle Draper, and Tom Giles debate if Isaiah Thomas or Paul Pierce is in the wrong.

11:19 - Albert Breer discusses how much credit Tom Coughlin deserves for the Jaguars great season and if Coughlin’s success against the Patriots and Bill Belichick will come into play on Sunday.

15:37 - Joe Haggerty joins BST from the TD Garden to break down the Bruins win over the Canadiens and Claude Julien’s return to Boston.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE EPISODE