Patriots

Potential Patriots draftees: J.J. Watt

191543.jpg

Potential Patriots draftees: J.J. Watt

By TomE. Curran
CSNNE.com

Heading into the NFL draft, Tom E. Curran plans a series of looks at potential Patriots draftees. Today's player: J.J. Watt

J.J. Watt, 6-5, 290 DE, Wisconsin

The Skinny:The buzz for this kid istremendous. Mike Mayock, the highly-respected NFL Network draft analyst and aman whose opinion Bill Belichick values, thinks Watt is one of the best"5-technique" defensive ends to come along in a while. (5-technique meanshe lines up on the outside shoulder of the left tackle; 0-technique means aplayer is head-up over the center). Put together an amazing show at the NFLCombine where his measurables in short quickness drills were equal to somerunning backs. He is a 3-4 defensive end, though, not an edge rusher. ThinkRichard Seymour. Same spot, not as outstanding though.

Gotta Have Him:The Patriots werekicking Vince Wilfork out to RDE last year to take advantage of his ability outthere but clearly their preference has been to keep Vince in the middle wherehe can impact more plays and crush the pocket. Watt would be an excellentrun-stopper. Wes Bunting at the National Football Post says Watt is similar tothe Steelers 3-4 DE Aaron Smith. "He may not ever make the Pro Bowl buthe's going to make everyone around him better and be a four or five sackguy." The Patriots have always thought highly of Smith. Additionally, withthe lockout ongoing, teams need rookies who don't need a ton of hand-holdingduring this 2011 offseason. Watt is a smart, self-starter with great characterand workethic.
Don't Need Him:Watt is a possibletop 15 pick. The Patriots sit at 17 and Bunting says there's a 50-50 chancehe'll be there at that point. Do the Patriots want to move up to take him or dothey stand pat and take one of the hybrid guys who are more athletic like Cal'sCam Jordan who could probably be more versatile and drop into coverage as well,a la Willie McGinest?
Forecast: Watt will be a guy who can playvery early in his career. With Richard Seymour still not adequately replaced,Ty Warren getting up there in age (and expense), recently added Marcus Stroudat the end of the line and Mike Wright coming off a serious concussionsituation, Watt may be too good to pass up if he's sitting there at 17. Whilehe'll be best on first and second down, playing him at end on 4-3 the way thePatriots like to could also be an option. A very safe pick.

Patriots Draftability: 8

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

'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