Patriots

Ten most important Pats heading into 2015: Rob Gronkowski

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Ten most important Pats heading into 2015: Rob Gronkowski

Leading up to the first day of training camp, we’re going to look at the most important Patriots, counting down from 10 to 1. I almost put this next guy at the top of the list. He’s that dominant. But I have a thing for quarterbacks in a quarterback-driven league so . . . 

NO. 2: ROB GRONKOWSKI

Why? There's no better player at his position than Ron Gronkowski. And aside from J.J. Watt in Houston, there's no other positional player who is so far ahead of the next guy you need binoculars to find him. You can’t cover him with a safety because there isn’t one big enough to handle Gronk’s size and brute strength. A cornerback? Are you kidding me? A coach should get fired for thinking such a thing. Put a linebacker on him and Gronk starts salivating like a dog with a plate of grilled steaks sitting on the countertop. They, too, surrender size in their matchup, and the Pats tight end is a much better route-runner than anyone bothers to give him credit for. In short, he’s pretty much the perfect weapon. 

Previous Performance: Coming off another injury-plagued season in 2013, Gronk wasn’t Gronk at the start of 2014: Just 13 catches for 127 yards in that 2-2 September. He was starting to get impatient. Hell, we all were. Then came the breakout performance at home versus Cincinnati: Six catches. One hundred yards. A TD. A near tearful admission that he was sick of people questioning his quarterback and that it was up to him to show everyone that Tom Brady was still Tom Brady. The beast was back, and those pedestrian early performances quickly were forgotten. Gronk finished with 82 catches, 1,124 yards and 12 TDs, then hit paydirt in all three playoff games, including his undressing of K.J. Wright in the Super Bowl. What was I was saying about being a matchup nightmare????

Questions surrounding the player: Health. That’s it. That’s all. When fully healthy during the 2011-12 regular season, he was downright Randy Mossian, with more than 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns. But then it was an ankle, a forearm, a forearm again, a torn ACL. That robbed us of the Eigth Wonder of the World for multiple seasons. But last year signaled a return to form and now the dude had a full offseason to train and ride around on his party bus. Look out world. 

Overall Outlook: I think we’re going to see a repeat of that ’11-12 season. And it’s going to be glorious. 

QUICK SLANTS THE PODCAST: Jerod Mayo breaks down the best way for Patriots to attack Jaguars defense

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QUICK SLANTS THE PODCAST: Jerod Mayo breaks down the best way for Patriots to attack Jaguars defense

Jerod Mayo talks with Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry about the Patriots AFC Championship matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

(2:00) Jerod Mayo gives his X’s and O’s breakdown of the Jaguars defensive schemes and traits.

(5:00) Jerod gives his opinion on how the Patriots offense should attack the Jaguars defense.

(8:30) Could Gronkowski be the key to the Patriots offense? What would be the best way to use him?

(15:00) Does the Jaguars defense have a weakness against vertical routes?

(17:00) Jerod Mayo explains why James White could be a key once again for the Patriots. 

(21:00) Will Jaguars change their defensive scheme after allowing 42 to the Steeler?

(23:00) Will much will the Jaguars having the ‘nothing to lose’ mindset impact the game?

Jaguars have Ramsey's back

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Jaguars have Ramsey's back

Enough has been made of Jalen Ramsey’s bold proclamation that the Jaguars are going to win the Super Bowl despite the fact that they’re aren’t even on that stage yet.

I know it’s not how the Patriots do business but other teams do. Does it generally work? Well, no one can match the Pats sustainability but that doesn’t mean that style can’t be effective in shorter windows.

Look at the Seahawks or Ravens. Even the Giants could be boisterous. That leads me back to the Jags, who have Ramsey’s back.

“We’re so close that I think it’s OK to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this,’’’ said defensive tackle Malik Jackson.

“The man has confidence in his team,” added Abry Jones, also a defensive tackle. “What’s he going to say? He knows what we’re going up there to do. It’s not like he’s saying anything that’s not true.”

“He does things very passionately,” Calais Campbell told the Rich Eisen show. “You feed off that. When you see a guy who loves the game as much as he does, you can’t help but fall into the same mentality.”

That is what makes Ramsey different from say Mike Mitchell, the Steelers safety who ran his mouth weeks ago about beating the Patriots in the AFC title game and then stood outside the Jags locker room and yapped about what a long day the visitors were in forSunday. How’s that working out for Mitchell now? He’s at home while Ramsey is about to play in his biggest game as a pro.

“He’s going to talk, but he’s going to show up,” Yannick Ngakoue said. “I just don’t like people talking all week. You talk reckless, man, and you lose. It is what it is.”

That is not an indicator to the Jags that Ramsey is looking ahead.

“He’s just happy,” noted Ngakoue. “He understands we have a giant in front of us and he’s got to pay all of his attention to this team. We don’t even know who’s going to play in the Super Bowl…We understand we have to do what we have to do or we’ll be watching the Super Bowl at home like everybody else.”

Of course, Ngakoue, the gifted edge rusher on that fearsome front 4, had some pointed words to the Steelers after that 45-42 win Sunday saying “real people don’t say nothing. Real people are quiet but then throw the first punch…they thought they were bullies today. We were the bullies. See you next year.”

That’s not Ramsey’s modus operandi however. He got under A.J. Green’s skin so much that the normally peaceful Bengals wideout threw punches at the Jags corner during the game and reportedly wanted more after the game. Then - and now - Jacksonville seems okay with it so long as the All-Pro corner continues to deliver the goods.

“Everybody has their own persona,” said Leonard Fournette. “Whatever motivates them. We aren’t worried about two weeks ahead of us. We aren’t worried about the Super Bowl. It’s the next game. It’s Sunday in New England.”

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