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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Patriots cut ties with Cassius Marsh, sign Eric Lee to help front-seven

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Patriots cut ties with Cassius Marsh, sign Eric Lee to help front-seven

Cassius Marsh was brought to New England to help a depleted defensive end group and play in the kicking game. The Patriots wanted him badly enough that they parted with two draft picks -- a fifth and a seventh -- to acquire him in a trade with the Seahawks just before the start of the season. 

Less than three months later, they've decided to part ways with the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder. 

Marsh played in nine games for the Patriots this season, providing the team with an edge defender and someone with special-teams experience. He blocked a kick in Week 7 against the Falcons that earned him an enthusiastic attaboy from coach Bill Belichick. 

Coming off the edge, Marsh recorded one sack and 13 hurries. Against the run, he was used more sparingly, and he was one of the Patriots on the scene for Marshawn Lynch's 25-yard run in the second quarter on Sunday. He played in just two snaps in Mexico City after missing the previous week's game in Denver due to a shoulder injury. 

Without Marsh the Patriots remain thin at defensive end. In order to help bolster that spot, the corresponding move the Patriots made to fill the open spot on their 53-man roster was to sign defensive lineman Eric Lee off of the Bills practice squad. 

Lee entered the league with the Texans last season as an undrafted rookie out of South Florida. Listed at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, Lee has bounced on and off of the Bills practice squad this season since being released by the Texans before this season.

The Patriots got a good look at Lee during joint practices last summer with the Texans at The Greenbrier in West Virginia. In the preseason game with the Texans that week, Lee played 40 snaps and according to Pro Football Focus he had two quarterback hurries. The Patriots have a history of snagging players they've practiced against, and with Lee, that trend continues

Belichick takes some heat for 'earthquake' comment

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Belichick takes some heat for 'earthquake' comment

Bill Belichick sounded less than enthused about traveling to Mexico to play a game. And his line about being "fortunate there was no volcano eruptions, earthquakes or anything else while we were down there," didn't exactly sit well with some folks south of the border.

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“Personally, I wouldn’t be in any big rush to do it again,” Belichick said on his weekly appearance on WEEI's "Dale and Holley with Keefe" show Monday. “Players did a great job dealing with all the challenges that we had to deal with. I think we’re fortunate there was no volcano eruptions, earthquakes or anything else while we were down there. I mean you have two NFL franchises in an area that I don’t know how stable the geological plates that were below us [were], but nothing happened so that was good.”

Pancho Vera of ESPN Mexico took exception to Belichick's comment on Twitter, which, translated, called out the "ignorance of the genius of the NFL." More than 200 people were killed after a quake centered near Mexico City struck in September. 

Other Twitter users said, using Belichick's reasoning, they wondered if they'd be fortunate not to be killed or wounded in a mass shooting if they were to travel to the US:

Translated, the tweets read "I also have luck in Las Vegas I was not in a shooting" and "But you are right, I apply the same when I go to the U.S. and say I was fortunate I was not in some crazy shootout."