Patriots

Patriots midseason awards: Part Two

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Patriots midseason awards: Part Two

The season is halfway over and the Patriots are on their bye week, so what better time for midseason superlatives? In the second of a three-part series, Phil Perry and Tom E. Curran and Mike Giardi hand out some half-year hardware.

PART ONE: Best and worst on-field happenings| PART THREE: What's worked . . . and what hasn't

MVP

PHIL PERRY: Tom Brady If you're arguably the league's MVP through eight games, you're necessarily your own team's MVP through the same span, correct? Brady's 2,541 passing yards are more than anyone else's. He's tied for third in the league in yards per attempt and touchdown passes, and he's second in quarterback rating. This is a no-doubter.  

 

TOM E. CURRAN: Tom Brady. Kinda easy. He’s got 16 touchdowns and two picks. He played out of his mind against New Orleans, did all he could in the loss against Carolina and snatched victory from defeat against the Texans. The thrashing he took for the first five games would have left any other quarterback on the sidelines.

 


BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

PHIL PERRY:  Stephon Gilmore. The early season breakdowns in the Patriots secondary oftentimes had multiple offenders involved. The highest-paid corner on the team was consistently among them. That he's now missed the last three weeks may not be his fault, but it hasn't made his first half-season with the Patriots any less disappointing.

 

TOM E. CURRAN: Stephon Gilmore. So much goes into a 60-minute game that it’s hard to lay blame at any one player’s feet for a loss, but Gilmore’s hands-to-the-face drive extender against Carolina -- and his play at other junctures in that game -- make him an exception. He’ll be better. But he’s been bad.

 

MIKE GIARDI: For a team that’s 6-2, there are more candidates than you would expect. Malcolm Butler hasn’t been himself for a better part of the year, Dont’a Hightower barely played before a season-ending surgery, Alan Branch was sloth-like prior to his benching  . . . and remember Kony Ealy? But for me, it’s obvious. It’s Stephon Gilmore. He looked like a dominant player in training camp. When he got his hands on a receiver, forgettaboutit. But for the first four weeks of the season, the $31 million dollar man was in the middle of one bad breakdown after another. And just when he gets the opportunity to go head-to-head with a wideout (Mike Evans, Tampa), an injury pops up and we haven’t seen the 27-year-old for weeks. This is -- at the very least -- a two year commitment to Gilmore. It has to work. It still can. But to this point, disappointing is exactly what this relationship/performance has been.


UNSUNG HERO

PHIL PERRY: Trey Flowers. He's out there for almost every snap (91 percent). He's been hobbled at times. Without him, the pass rush would be decimated. The numbers aren't great (3.5 sacks), but the effort is. He's probably the front seven's most indispensable player at the moment.

 

TOM E. CURRAN: James White. He’s caught 43 of the 53 passes that have come his way and he’s carried 98 times. He -- along with Danny Amendola -- is Brady's security blanket since Julian Edelman’s gone down. Nineteen of his catches have gone for first downs, and nine of those catches were on third down.

 

MIKE GIARDI: Johnson Bademosi. Who the hell saw this coming? He’s a special-teams guy. That’s really all he’s ever been. But not here, not now. Bademosi has filled in for the injured Stephon Gilmore and performed at a good, solid level. Is it a coincidence that his insertion into the lineup has helped stabilize a group that had been gashed for one big play after another through the first month of the season? Perhaps, but Bademosi deserves credit for being a good communicator, a sound technician and good tackler.  Bademosi likes to remind us that he played corner last year for Detroit. It was 253 snaps and it apparently wasn’t good enough to convince the Lions to keep him. Instead, they swapped him for a late-round pick and it’s one of the best moves Bill Belichick has made this year. 


MOST IMPROVED

PHIL PERRY: Kyle Van Noy. What a difference a year makes. After coming in from Detroit, he had to learn a new language and two different roles since he'd be coming off the edge and playing off the line if he could handle it. He's since turned himself into a full-time player who has taken on Dont'a Hightower's hybrid role, and teammates call him a leader of the defense.

 

TOM E. CURRAN: Rob Gronkowski. He looks faster. He looks more agile. He remains a potent blocker even though he’s altered his training. He was already great production-wise, but the fluid way he’s moving as opposed to the bound-up, robotic Gronk we’d seen is worth noting.

 

MIKE GIARDI: I struggled with this one. I’m not sure any player has made a quality leap from last season to this season. In fact, you could argue a bunch a guys have underperformed. I did a deep roster dig and decided LaAdrian Waddle is my choice. The swing tackle got praise from Belichick during the preseason even though it didn’t appear as if he was having a good camp. But when pressed into duty this season, Waddle hasn’t been embarrassed. In fact, his work iN the second half of Sunday’s game against the Chargers was not talked about enough. Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa didn’t ruin the game and Waddle played a part in that.

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QUICK SLANTS THE PODCAST: Should Patriots draft Lamar Jackson at pick #32?

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QUICK SLANTS THE PODCAST: Should Patriots draft Lamar Jackson at pick #32?

(3:00) Phil Perry and Tom E. Curran discuss what their priorities are for Patriots offseason moves. Is bringing back Nate Solder the first move that needs to happen?

(7:00) Does the linebacker position need to be addressed this offseason?

(10:00) Phil Perry explains why he thinks the Patriots absolutely must get a QB this offseason.

(16:00) Dane Brugler from NFLDraftScout.com joins the podcast to break down the QBs in this draft..and the upside and downside of each player.

(21:00) Are Josh Allen or Lamar Jackson QBs that are worthy of being drafted in the first round?

(25:30) Are there any other QBs going after the 1st round that could fit the Patriots needs?

(28:00) What linebackers could the Patriots target in the draft, and in what round?

(34:00) Should the Patriots look to draft a left tackle?

Young, talented safeties available for Patriots entering 2018

Young, talented safeties available for Patriots entering 2018

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 put the safety position in focus keeping in mind that this is one position that’s morphing as quickly as any in the NFL.

OTHER ENTRIES IN THE SERIES

HOW THEY PERFORMED


Fine. OK. Pretty good sometimes. But certainly nothing that can be confused with dynamic. In a league stocked with playmaking safeties. They are in the right place and – aside from Jordan Richards - are sure tacklers. They communicate well. They get the concepts of the defense and do their bit on special teams. But the safety group combined for six picks and four of those came from Duron Harmon. Patrick Chung was murder on tight ends in coverage but the third-down performances in some of the team’s biggest games was abysmal. The Steelers and Eagles were both 10 for 16 on third down and the Jags were 4 for 6 in the first half of the AFCCG. Devin McCourty played with an injured shoulder down the stretch that has since been surgically repaired but he just didn’t have a lot of impact plays in 2017. Richards, after three seasons in the league, has a handful of nice tackles as a box safety. Other than that, he’s got a very long way to go in a very short amount of time to approach the level of play expected from a second-round pick. 

WHO IS UNDER CONTRACT FOR 2018?
Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards, Devin McCourty, David Jones, Damarius Travis

WHO ISN'T?
Nate Ebner

HOW DIRE IS THE NEED?


Not dire at all. But looming. McCourty is signed through 2019 and has a $13.4M cap hit next season when he’ll be 31. Chung is 30 and entering the last year of his deal. Harmon is signed through 2020 and is just 27. Unless the team thinks Richards is the heir apparent to Chung – which would be alarming – they need to get back in the draft pool to find someone at what I believe is one of the NFL’s most important positions. The team puts so much on both Chung and McCourty that it will take years for a new player to gain the depth of knowledge and nuance at the spot. And then there’s the versatility and kicking game expectations they deal with. Whether its in the draft or in free agency, spending needs to be done. But for this year, the need is a 5.

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN FREE AGENCY


This is a position stocked with talented young players. Here are some of them: Green Bay’s Morgan Burnett, the Rams’ LaMarcus Joyner, Kenny Vaccaro from the Saints, San Fran’s Eric Reid and Tre Boston from the Chargers. Vaccaro’s coming off an injury. Burnett and Joyner are both going to be high-cost options. Reid is already anticipating some teams steering clear of him because of his outspoken support for Colin Kaepernick.  Further down the free agent chain are players like Boston who was outstanding in 2017. Reid, Vaccaro and Boston are players the Patriots could target. Boston is the youngest and healthiest of the group and already theorizes that he will probably move on from the Chargers.

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN THE DRAFT?


Alabama has a pair of safeties who’ll be coveted, the first being Minkah Fitzpatrick who is a top-10 prospect. The other is Ronnie Harrison. Stuck in between those two as a top-20 prospect is Derwin James from Florida State. The reason I could see the Patriots taking a safety in the first two rounds is because the right one can address myriad needs – coverage at the linebacker level, run-support and playmaking. Stanford’s Justin Reid (6-1, 204 pounds) and Va. Tech’s Terrell Edmunds (6-2, 220) are bookends to the type of safety builds the Patriots could use. 

HOW CAN THE PATRIOTS CAN ADDRESS IT?


Make a run at Tre Boston. If the price is too high, settle on Edmunds or Reid.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE