Five thoughts from Patriots-Chargers: Patriots prevent Bosa, Ingram from taking over

Five thoughts from Patriots-Chargers: Patriots prevent Bosa, Ingram from taking over

FOXBORO -- Here are five quick-hitting thoughts from what transpired between the Patriots and Chargers on Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium . . . 

1) The Patriots were not going to let Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram beat them. When they threw, Tom Brady got the football out of his hands quickly. Fifteen of his 26 first-half pass attempts went to running backs and tight ends. Even when the wideouts were involved, they were mostly quick-hitters. Brandin Cooks was targeted seven times in the first half with several throws sent his way on slants and crossing routes. Cooks even had a screen set his way...which went for a two-yard loss on New England's first drive. Brady had plenty of time on a flea-flicker and went to Cooks deep down the middle of the field in double-coverage instead of Chris Hogan, who was wide open going across the field. 


2) Keeping Bosa and Ingram in check got a lot tougher in te second quarter when Marcus Cannon left the game with an ankle injury. LaAdrian Waddle replaced the 2016 All-Pro and seemed to handle himself well during his team's two-minute drill at the end of the first half. That continued into the second half as Waddle seemed to deal relatively well with two of the game's top-10 pass-rushers. Ingram did good work attacking the middle of the line, while Bosa seemed to have the majority of his hurries come from the left side. 

3) The Patriots came onto the field for their two-minute drill with two tight ends, and neither was named Dwayne Allen. With Brady set to throw, Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels went with Rob Gronkowski and Jacob Hollister. Brady targeted Hollister on the first throw of the drive, picking up 13 yards. Allen still doesn't have a catch this season. 

4) Malcolm Butler seemed to be confused on the coverage when Travis Benjamin got behind him in the fourth quarter to make the score 18-13. The Patriots appeared to be playing zone, and Butler made it look like he was under the impression he had the hook-flat area. When Benjamin ran by him, Butler read Philip Rivers' throw and tried to catch up, but he was too late. Should it have been Devin McCourty in that deep half of the field? Or did Butler play it incorrectly? Hard to tell, but the communication issues in the secondary -- though fewer and farther between -- haven't been totally eradicated. 

5) The Patriots rotated through their linebacker group with Dont'a Hightower out. Everyone got a shot. Some more than others. Elandon Roberts and Kyle Van Noy got the start at the second level, while David Harris was relied upon more than Trevor Reilly and Marquis Flowers. Harris was used at times coming up the field on pressures, and he flushed Rivers from the pocket when Rivers inexplicably fumbled in the third quarter and lost 20 yards. Harris also seemed to help blow up a Chargers screen late in the third. Two solid weeks in a row for the veteran linebacker.


Would WWE outbid Patriots for Gronkowski?

Would WWE outbid Patriots for Gronkowski?

If Rob Gronkowski is serious about leaving football to become a wrestler, it probably won't be for the kind of money the Patriots are paying him, Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer tells WEEI.

“I think that is more of a Gronkowski is going to make the call himself and I don’t think it is WWE is trying to — they are not going to outbid him," Meltzer told WEEI "Dale and Holley with Keefe" show on Thursday. "They are not going to spend $10 million a year on him. But, if he’s done with football, are they interested in him? Yeah, it is pretty clear they are."

Meltzer reported last week that World Wrestling Entertainment was interested in signing Gronk to a "similar style" deal to that of Ronda Rousey, who left UFC to join WWE for a reported $5 million a year. Gronkowski is scheduled to make $8.6 million from the Patriots in 2018. 

Meltzer cited NFL-turned-wrestling examples of James Laurinaitis, Kevin Greene and Brock Lesnar as the footsteps Gronk could follow. 

"Now, can you do it on a Brock Lesnar schedule of 10 matches a year? Yeah, probably. Lesnar was a unique type of character. He made probably $5 million-plus a year in wrestling the last couple of years.

Gronkowski is also said to be contemplating a career as an action movie star. 

Here's more on Gronk from NBC Sports Boston Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran. 


Not many needs for young interior offensive line of Patriots

Not many needs for young interior offensive line of Patriots

Before free agency kicks off, and before we dissect the top college prospects entering this year's draft, we're taking a look at the Patriots on a position-by-position basis to provide you with an offseason primer of sorts. We'll be analyzing how the Patriots performed in 2017 at the position in question, who's under contract, how badly the team needs to add talent to that area, and how exactly Bill Belichick might go about adding that talent. Today we're looking at a spot where the Patriots are completely set . . . we think: interior offensive line. 


HOW THEY PERFORMED: It wasn't always pretty, particularly at the outset of the season when Tom Brady was being hit at a rate that rivaled years when he was most battered. And the way the season ended for this group -- with Shaq Mason allowing a sack to Philly's Brandon Graham that helped end the Super Bowl -- was obviously less than ideal. But that shouldn't overshadow how this group performed, particularly in the second half. Mason was a borderline Pro Bowl talent (Pro Football Focus' fourth-best grade at right tackle for 2017), pairing his devastating run-blocking with a vastly-improved ability to protect. David Andrews continued to play solidly and effectively make calls from his place as the line's pivot, getting through the season as PFF's No. 4-graded center. And while Joe Thuney had occasional issues with power rushers, he graded out as PFF's seventh-best left guard. Three top-10 players at their respective spots? And a reliable all-around backup in Ted Karras (three total pressures and one bad snap in two starts at center)? Plenty of teams around the league would love to be as solid up front. 


WHO IS UNDER CONTRACT FOR 2018: Thuney, Mason, Andrews, Karras, James Ferentz, Jason King

HOW DIRE IS THE NEED: Not dire. At all, really. It's a 1 out of 10. They have three young, relatively healthy, improving players who will come back in 2018 and should slot in as immediate starters. The No. 1 backup at all three interior spots, Karras, is back as well. Ferentz is veteran depth piece who spent last season on the team's practice squad and was given a future contract by the team soon after the Super Bowl. Jason King (and Cole Croston who can play both guard and tackle) will also be back with the team when offseason training begins. 

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN FREE AGENCY: The best guard on the market was one of the best guards in the league in 2017: Carolina's Andrew Norwell. Other veterans who will garner interest on the market? Colts 2014 second-round pick Jack Mewhort and former Patriots starter Josh Kline. Jonathan Cooper, briefly a Patriot, will also be back on the market this offseason. Will the Patriots be interested in any of them? My guess is no, unless the team is put in an impossible situation at left tackle and they want to try Thuney on the outside, freeing up their left guard spot . . . but that's a pretty far-fetched scenario at this point. Even though Thuney played tackle in college, the Patriots drafted him to play on the inside. 

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN THE DRAFT: Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson will be fascinating to track on draft day. The 330-pound guard is considered by some to be one of the two or three best football players in the draft. He's touted by experts as a surefire longtime starter with All-Pro potential. But he's a guard. Are teams going to be willing to spend a top-10 or top-15 pick on a position that is ably filled by late-round picks and undrafted players all over the league? Nelson's an interesting case study in that regard. It's a pretty strong draft class at the top, it seems. Georgia's Isaiah Wynn and Texas-El Paso's Will Hernandez have received first-round buzz, as have a few centers: Iowa's James Daniels, Arkansas' Frank Ragnow and Ohio State's Billy Price. Then there are the tackles-who-may-be-guards-at-the-next-level. Texas' Connor Williams, who we mentioned in our tackle assessment, is the biggest name who could end up getting kicked inside. 

HOW THE PATRIOTS CAN ADDRESS IT: There really isn't much to address, in my opinion. However, there's a little wrinkle here that's worth keeping in mind. The Patriots were reportedly interested in drafting Indiana's center/guard prospect Dan Feeney in the third round last year. They had the 72nd pick. He ended up going to the Chargers at No. 71. The Patriots traded down for a pair of picks when Feeney was gone. One was used to get defensive end Derek Rivers. The other helped them snag tackle Tony Garcia. Why the interest in Feeney? His size (6-foot-4, 305 pounds) and athletic profile (7.52-second three-cone, 101-inch broad jump) actually compared somewhat favorably to those of Logan Mankins (6-4, 307, 7.52-second three-cone, 95-inch broad jump). The idea of having him at center, between Thuney and Mason, could've been enticing. So will the Patriots jump at the chance to add a similarly-gifted player to play in the middle if the opportunity presents itself? Never say never, but I don't think so. Andrews received an extension after the draft, keeping him in New England through 2020, and he was named a captain before the 2017 season.