Patriots

Undrafted rookie Croston knew all about 'Do Your Job' culture at Iowa

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Undrafted rookie Croston knew all about 'Do Your Job' culture at Iowa

FOXBORO -- Cole Croston had a little bit of a head start.

When he arrived at Gillette Stadium as an undrafted free agent following this year's draft, the 6-foot-5, 315-pounder already had a good idea of what to expect.

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Not necessarily in terms of the intricacies of the offense or the speed of the game. But the culture? He had some experience with the culture.

"The funny thing is, in the Iowa meeting rooms, we always heard a lot of 'Do your job,' " Croston said. "And that’s the same thing around here. And it’s really prepared me for this level because Coach Belichick says those things every single day."

Croston was perhaps the biggest surprise addition to New England's initial 53-man roster this weekend. He has the ability to play both guard and tackle and looks like the primary backup for interior starters like Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason.

“It’s kind of come full circle for me,” Croston said over the weekend. “I was a walk-on at Iowa, and I was undrafted coming out of college. I had my shot with the New England Patriots, and I was able to achieve that goal.”

Croston only received Division III offers to play college football coming out of high school as a 225-pound senior, but he made the Hawkeyes as a walk-on where he was prepared for his post-grad life as a member of the Patriots by playing under head coach Kirk Ferentz and offensive line coach Brian Ferentz.

Both members of the Ferentz family worked under Bill Belichick at different points. Kirk Ferentz served as Belichick's offensive line coach when the two were together in Cleveland, while Brian Ferentz, Kirk's son, served as Patriots assistant before making his way back to Iowa to coach under his father.

When Croston's college career came to an end and it came time to think about playing professionally, he had one landing spot in particular in mind. 

"I had contact with coach [Dante] Scarnecchia and I had heard what kind of coach he was and the legendary things he had done," Croston said. "Coming out of college, I was super interested in doing that kind of thing and being part of something bigger than me."

Now, after coming into the summer as one of the long shots on the 90-man roster in New England, he has a spot where he hoped he would. 

Croston is one of four undrafted players to make this year's initial 53-man roster out of training camp, joining tight end Jacob Hollister, linebacker Harvey Langi and defensive tackle Adam Butler. 

QUICK SLANTS PODCAST: Belichick ignoring noise? Or trying to change the narrative?

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QUICK SLANTS PODCAST: Belichick ignoring noise? Or trying to change the narrative?

3:00 Why has Bill Belichick been so surprisingly positive of his team’s performance in tight wins?

6:30 Phil Perry breaks down what grades he gave the Patriots on his report card following the win over the Jets

15:00 Reaction to the Austin-Seferian Jenkins overturned touchdown, and what changes need to be made in the NFL replay system. 

23:00 Why was Patriots offensive line much more effective against Jets?

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25:00 Patriots-Falcons preview, how did Falcons blow a 17 point lead to the Dolphins?

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

FOXBORO - We’re not quite at the point of fire and brimstone coming down from the skies, or 40 years of darkness, or even dogs and cats living together, but this Patriots season isn’t headed down the right path, despite a 4-2 record and the top spot in the AFC East. 

There are several elements that appear missing at this juncture - chief among them a defense that actually has a clue. Please don’t celebrate holding the Jets to 17 points - I’m looking at you, Dont’a Hightower. Josh McCown threw for just 194 yards against the Cleveland freakin’ Browns for goodness sake, but he got you for 354 and two scores?! Even the 2009 Patriots defense is offended by that.

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We’d be foolish to think the Pats can’t get this leaky unit fixed for reasons so obvious I won’t state them in this space so as not to waste my time or yours. We also know - long before Bill Belichick’s 6 1/2-minute explanation on the Monday conference call - that it's not supposed to be perfect right now. Actually, it’ll never be perfect. That’s not how this game works. 

Yet week after week, we see uncommon breakdowns and one defender looking at the next as if to say, “I thought you had him?” or more to the point, “what the hell were you doing?” It started Sunday at MetLife on the third play of the game. Malcolm Butler, playing 10 yards off Robby Anderson, looking as if he’s never played the position before, inexplicably turning his back on Anderson even though the wide receiver makes no real move to the post. That results in just about the easiest completion of McCown’s life, a 23-yarder on third-and-10. 

On the same series, on another third-and-long, the Pats rushed four and dropped seven into coverage. Defensive end Cassius Marsh continued his season-long trend of rushing so far upfield he ended up in Hoboken. With Deatrich Wise ridden outside on the opposite edge, McCown wisely stepped up and found prime real estate with New York City views. He wanted to throw and could have when the Pats fouled up a crossing route from the backside of the play. But with that much room to roam, McCown took off, scooting for a quick 16 yards and another first down.

Fittingly, that drive ended with a Jets touchdown on yet another dumb play, this one courtesy of Mr. Hit or Miss, Elandon Roberts. Channeling his inner Brandon Spikes, the second-year pro blew off his key and responsibility on third-and-goal from the 1, charging hard to the line. This, despite one of the most feeble play-action fakes you’ll see. In fact, I’m not even sure it was a real play-action fake. Anyway, score it as a touchdown to Austin Seferian-Jenkins and an indictment on David Harris, who apparently can’t vault past the erratic Roberts on the depth chart.

Similar to the week prior in Tampa, the Pats found better footing after that. They forced three straight three-and-outs in the second quarter and then helped turn the game when Butler intercepted an ill-advised throw by McCown just prior to the half. They got another turnover to start the third, with Butler coming off the edge on fourth-and-1 and forcing McCown into panic mode. The veteran QB fired an off-target throw to - get this - a wide open receiver who went uncovered on a drag route and Devin McCourty was gifted an interception.

But this group frowns on prosperity. It took a little-seen rule to prevent a Seferian-Jenkins touchdown in the fourth, and on the game’s final drive, the Pats allowed a 32-yard completion on fourth-and-12. Then, on what turned out to be the Jets final play, the Pats let Tavaris Cadet leak out of the backfield and run unchecked 20 yards down the field. Had McCown not soiled himself again, Gang Green would have had a first down and at least one crack at the end zone. Then, who knows what the heck happens?

It was just a season ago that the Patriots led the entire NFL in scoring defense. If you’ll recall, we spent a better part of the year wondering if that defense was championship quality. Turns out they were. Right now, we’re wondering once again if this defense is of that ilk, but through an entirely different prism. It’s on the players and staff to change the current outlook, or those cats and dogs will have to figure out their shared space.