Patriots

Bademosi rises to the occasion in Patriots' defensive backfield

Bademosi rises to the occasion in Patriots' defensive backfield

FOXBORO -- “It’s not a coincidence,” said an AFC scout. “Bill found someone who will do what he’s asking, will play it the way he’s asking and -- as an aside -- let Malcolm [Butler] play like Malcolm.”

The scout reached out to me. He watched what we watched Sunday night (or tried to watch through that damn fog). The Patriots defense against the Falcons was unrecognizable from the first six weeks of the season . . . which is to say it was good. No receivers running free with the closest defender in a different area code. No defensive backs gesturing “what the hell?” to other members of the secondary after yet another chunk play. After surrendering 26 of those chunk plays (20 yards or more) through the first half-dozen games, the Pats coughed up just two against a Falcons offense that was historically good just a year ago and returned basically the same personnel.

And Johnson Bademosi has been a central figure it the Pats revitialization.

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“Hey man, he’s been doing amazing, man,” Duron Harmon said Sunday night. “For him to fill in the role he’s been filling in -- covering Julio [Jones], covering everybody -- like he’s been playing phenomenal. I’m really excited for him. This guy just got here and is playing really good football for us.”

We detailed last week where Bademosi came from and the daunting assignment he had in front of him this weekend. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Julio Jones is the perfect weapon. As Bademosi told me after the game, Jones has it all: Speed, strength, run after catch, smarts. So how could an undrafted player who done his best work as a special teamer match up with that?

Well, for starters, the Pats were wise not to isolate Bademosi on Jones without help. There was always a safety tilted in that direction. The staff also didn’t make it a 1-on-1 affair from start to finish. Bademosi and Butler played sides mostly, meaning sometimes the former Stanford product got Jones but other times, it was Mohammad Sanu or Taylor Gabriel. Not exactly a walk in the park, but a little less stressful.

“I mean he’s one of the biggest threats on offense, and in order to stop the offense, you have to limit him,” said Bademosi of Jones, before adding, “They’re a familiar opponent. We studied what they do, prepared like it was the most important game of our lives and so that’s how it happened.”

Point is though, it was never suppose to happen with Bademosi as a central figure. This was suppose be a Stephon Gilmore game. The Pats paid him boatload of guaranteed cash for nights like this, to match up against the physical freaks like Julio Jones, or Mike Evans a couple weeks prior. But with Gilmore out the last two weeks, Bademosi is playing corner full-time and excelling.

“He’s their unsung hero right now,” said the AFC scout. “No ifs, ands or buts about it. It’s going to be very interesting when Stephon comes back.”

At worst, Bill Belichick and the defensive staff have found an added layer of competent depth for their secondary, a physical corner unfazed by his new role. At best, they’ve found a player who will fight to keep the spot that belonged to Gilmore, forcing the former Buffalo Bill to raise his level to get on the field and stay there.

Bademosi knows better than to focus on that. All he’s doing now is what he can do.

“We’re all just taking advantage of our opportunities,” said Bademosi. Are you enjoying those opportunities? “A lot.”

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Gronk question now makes tight end a position of need

Gronk question now makes tight end a position of need

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 at that spot, and how exactly Bill Belichick might go about adding that talent. Today. we're looking at a position where the Patriots have arguably the best player that’s ever manned it in his presumed prime. But tight end is suddenly a tenuous spot for New England.

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HOW THEY PERFORMED


This became – contrary to the Patriots hopes – a one-man position. Rob Gronkowski had 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns in 13 games. The rest of the tight ends – Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister and Martellus Bennett – combined for 20 catches and six of those came from Bennett who played just two games before heading to injured reserve. Gronk was – and is – the best tight end in the game and one of its most dominating offensive weapons. After losing Julian Edelman in the preseason, the Patriots offense became tremendously Gronk-reliant. They got away with it. But they clearly wanted more from Dwayne Allen than what they got or they wouldn’t have gone after Bennett when he became available.

WHO IS UNDER CONTRACT FOR 2018?
Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Martellus Bennett, Will Tye, Jacob Hollister

WHO IS NOT?
All tight ends on the roster are under contract.

HOW DIRE IS THE NEED?


Publicity grab or legitimate consideration? What exactly to make of Gronk’s reported dalliance with the WWE and his idle desire to be an action movie star (also reported)? Both have the earmarks of brand-building genius. It’s a page torn from the business plans of Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Floyd Mayweather, Sugar Ray Leonard or Conor McGregor – ruminating on retirement and expressing interest in other public pursuits exponentially ratchets up public interest in both the main gig and the potential side gig. Gronk himself might not be that savvy and calculating to mildly hold the Patriots fortunes hostage but Gronk Inc. certainly is. Then again, maybe he legitimately is weighing it. The “will he or won’t he” conversation will sustain buzz and has to in some way impact the Patriots’ offseason plans. The presumption has to be that Gronk returns but this is anything but a layup. Which means the need is a Level-8

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN FREE AGENCY?


There is a nice crop of tight ends hitting the market. Virtually all of them come with the same nagging health issues that Gronk has (had). Jimmy Graham is the biggest name in the group. His tepid blocking skills may make him unattractive to the Patriots, but never let it be said the Pats don’t like to take a flier on a once-electric player who’s on the backside. At 31, Graham’s coming off a 10-touchdown season, though his yards per catch went down to 9.1. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see New England pursue. The Eagles' second tight end, Trey Burton, is 26 and stuck behind Zach Ertz. An undrafted rookie, the kid who threw the touchdown pass to Nick Foles in the Super Bowl is targeted sparingly in Philly but is a smooth player. He also plays special teams (boing!). Austin Sefarian-Jenkins finally got his stuff together with the Jets in 2017 and he’s only 25. He’s no dummy, he’s only acted like one in the past and it seems like he’s got a handle on it now. He’d need face-to-face vetting but he’s got upside. Then there’s Tyler Eifert. Still just 27, Eifert’s played in 10 games the past two seasons and had season-ending back surgery in the fall (it was performed by the same doctor who treated Gronk). He’s played 39 games in five seasons. Terrific talent. Always broken.

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN THE DRAFT?


I like this Dallas Goedert kid from South Dakota State. Also, Dalton Schultz from Stanford gets checkmarks as a blocker and competent receiver. Neither of them are first-round prospects at this point. Hayden Hurst from South Carolina and Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews are regarded as the top prospects. Hurst is a very good pass-catcher with a huge catch radius. He’s a 24-year-old former Pittsburgh Pirates draftee. Andrews is smooth as a receiver but not seen as a potent blocker. Same with Mike Gesicki from Penn State who’s the best athlete along with Hurst but doesn’t impress with his blocking.

HOW CAN THE PATRIOTS ADDRESS IT?


Assuming Gronk is returning, the Patriots can go at it a number of ways. There’s not a “can’t miss” prospect out there, so drafting Hurst or Gesicki in the first couple of rounds means they’ll have to live with the shortcomings or hope they can improve them. Given other needs, they may not want to spend on “maybes” near the top of the draft. Too many drafts have been like that, especially with second-rounders. It seems unlikely they’ll be really interested in counting on either Allen or Bennett to provide anything in 2018. If they take a run at the Eagles’ Burton and pay him a crapload, Gronk will lose his mind. Screw it. They should take Hurst. We will change our minds several times between now and April but that’s where we are now.

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Julian Edelman posts video of resistance-band training

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Julian Edelman posts video of resistance-band training

Julian Edelman is grinding.

The New England Patriots receiver, who is recovering from an ACL repair surgery that ended his 2017 season, shared a quick video from his workout on Tuesday. Edelman is shown running with a resistance band and a trainer in-tow.

Edelman has posted a few tidbits on social media to show encouraging signs during his recovery since he got surgery in October after suffering an ACL tear in a preseason game. He was spotted around the locker room a few times during the final weeks of the 2017 season.

"Rehab is a [expletive]. It sucks," Edelman said in November on Barstool Sports' "Pardon My Take podcast." "You go in and you’re feeling decent and then you warm up, you beat it up and then you get stiff again. I mean it’s just a process and you go in six days a week and you’re going into work it, work on everything — your flexion, your extension."