Heading into the NFL draft, Tom E. Curran and Mary Paoletti will look at some of the prospects that could be targets for the Patriots. Today's player: Whitney Mercilus.
The Skinny: A 6-4, 254-pound junior from Illinois whose parents are originally from Haiti. After a pedestrian start to his college career with 26 tackles in his first two seasons, Mercilus exploded in 2011 with 57 tackles, 22 tackles for loss and 16 sacks. He also forced nine fumbles and won the Hendricks Award as the nation's best defensive lineman.
Gotta Have Him: The kind of edge playmaker the Patriots have either swung and missed on or taken for called strike three. Mercilus is malleable. His youth and the fact he's still a developing player could be seen as a liability but the Patriots could look at him as a player they can form in the fashion they want. Given the age of Andre Carter, the ceiling that Rob Ninkovich has probably already reached, and the apparent bustiness of Jermaine Cunningham, the Patriots could be in the market for an edge guy. Mercilus is most often compared to Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants, the most disruptive defender in the NFL in 2011 in my opinion. The Patriots need disruption.
Don't Need Him: The bustiness of Mercilus is pretty obvious as you have a player who did diddly for two seasons before emerging. And when we're talking "bust" we ain't talking Canton, Ohio! Additionally, it's unclear whether Mercilus has the ability to be a three-down player. While that's not a prerequisite, versatility is always a plus for the Patriots. Although Mark Anderson, who signed as a free agent with Buffalo, was a designated pass rusher and the Patriots really should do something to fill that void, Mercilus might be too big a risk.
Forecast: Pass rushers are at a premium and it will be an upset if Mercilus gets past the end of the first round. The teams interested in pass rush help include Jacksonville, the Jets and San Diego. Mercilus has been ticketed for all of them. Still, he could drop to New England which will then be faced with a choice that -- in the past -- they have passed on.
Patriots Draftability: 6
Remember how irate some of the Patriots veterans were after the first game of the season with where the team’s collective head was at? We heard it from Tom Brady. We heard it from Nate Solder. We heard it from Duron Harmon.
No one gave an example of the lack of preparation and intensity players supposedly engaged in. But the start-to-the-season mindset still rankles Solder to the point where he brought it up again this week.
When asked during Quick Slants about a Super Bowl rematch with the Falcons this Sunday, Solder visibly bristled and referred back to the start of the season.
“The first few games of the season, there was a lot of baggage drawn in from last season which really wasn’t helping anybody,” Solder said. “People are gonna bring all that stuff back up this week and it’s really just a distraction. They have different players, they have things going on that weren’t going on before, it’s a different part of the season. We really just have to work really hard to be prepared for a different team.”
We’ve beaten and re-beaten the dead horse pertaining to offseason expectations that turned into a millstone for this team.
Bu the unanswered question is why – for a team that’s had so many successful seasons and negotiated Super Bowl success prior to this year – did this year’s team fail to ignore the noise, as Solder indicates it did?
Was it the avalanche of positive pub? Other Patriots have been anointed but this year’s optimism outpaced any other defending champ’s propaganda because there wasn’t the same class of competition league-wide (it appeared) and the Patriots seemingly made moves to improve its roster. Did that get in their heads?
Was it the outflow of leadership caused by free agency, retirement and injuries? The loss of big personalities like Chris Long, LeGarrette Blount, Martellus Bennett and Julian Edelman and pro’s pros like Logan Ryan and Rob Ninkovich may have been underrated.
What is clear is that, while it still irks Solder, Bill Belichick has moved on verbally flogging the team for its entitled approach and has taken a different approach. He’s now directing his ire at the people that put that juju on the team.
The process continues Sunday night as the Patriots (and Falcons, for that matter) attempt to bury the ghosts of 2016 by confronting each other.
BOSTON – As expected, the NBA has fined Celtics guard Kyrie Irving $25,000 for using “inappropriate language” toward a fan at the Friday night game in Philadelphia.
The incident occurred at halftime as Irving and his teammates were heading to the locker room, trailing by four. Boston went on to win 102-92 for their first victory of the season.
A fan yelled, “Hey, where’s LeBron?” to which Irving replied with a lewd suggestion to the yeller.
The Celtics practiced on Saturday with Irving addressing the incident.
When asked if he had any regrets about the incident, Irving replied, “Hell no. Man enough to record it on video, that’s on him. I’m glad he got his ad name out there, and his five seconds of fame and it’s gone viral. That’s social media platform we live on.
Irving added, “I take full responsibility for what I said. You move on.”
When asked about the incident on Saturday, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he had not seen the video but was aware of it.
“People make mistakes; hopefully learn from them and move on,” Stevens said. “There’s a right and wrong. And if you’re in the wrong you have to own up to it and that’s that.”
It was the second such fine levied by the league in as many days.
New Orleans center DeMarcus Cousins was fined $25,000 for "inappropriate language" toward a fan when the Pelicans lost 103-91 at Memphis on Wednesday.