Patriots

What was old is new again for Broncos with Osweiler at quarterback

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What was old is new again for Broncos with Osweiler at quarterback

"The Don”  John Elway made a mistake with his quarterbacks. Denver’s head of football operations pursued Tony Romo this offseason but Romo chose the broadcast booth instead. Elway then decided his Super Bowl-level defense would be complemented by either Trevor Siemian or 2016 first-round draft pick Paxton Lynch. So about that…

Siemian is a not a big guy to begin with and the consensus amongst the previous coaching staff was that the former Northwestern product would never be able to last for an entire season. They were right a year ago and - to a degree - right again this year. Siemian re-injured his non-throwing left shoulder early in the season and his performance - and that of the offense - suffered considerably. Just 16 points in a loss to Buffalo, 16 again in a win over Oakland, 10 versus the then-winless Giants, a whitewashing at the hands of the LA Chargers and finally, 19 against the Chiefs. At the tail end of that game, first-year coach Vance Joseph turned not to Lynch, but Brock Osweiler. What was old is new again. Actually, it was more like desperate times calling for desperate measures.

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You see Osweiler isn’t supposed to be here and he sure as hell wasn’t supposed to be starting in this past weekend’s 51-23 beatdown at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles. No, this Broncos QB job is supposed to belong to Lynch. But after being unable to get a firm grasp on the offense in year one, Lynch scuffled mightily in the preseason despite the team giving him every opportunity to win the job. Hell, they basically handed it to him and Lynch couldn’t take advantage. That, coupled with a shoulder injury, led Denver back down the Osweiler road and he rewarded them by completing just 19-of-38 for 208 yards and a pair of interceptions in Philly. Yet it’ll be Osweiler again Sunday when the Patriots come to town.  Good luck with that.

“I thought Brock had an excellent week of preparation,” said Joseph when asked about Osweiler’s work. “It felt good to our team—it was a confident week and the energy was better. It was urgent, it was detailed and the meetings were better. Brock’s experience and Brock’s personality really helped our team bounce back and gave us confidence going into this week. I think Brock’s earned it from that standpoint. In the football game, it wasn’t perfect. Again, he had two interceptions, which he can’t have, and he understands that. He had a couple of ill-advised throws.”

The Pats are quite familiar with Osweiler. They saw him twice last year when the 6’7” thrower was doing a poor job running the Houston Texans offense. The year prior, they lost to the Osweiler-led Broncos in Denver, arguably the best moment of quarterback’s professional career. Osweiler was filling in for the injured Peyton Manning on that November night and found himself in a two-touchdown hole in the 4th quarter. Against an undefeated Patriots team. In the snow. But the Idaho native put Denver ahead late in the fourth, first hitting Demaryius Thomas for a 36-yarder just prior to the 2-minute warning, then throwing a 3-yard touchdown pass to Bubba Caldwell with a little over a minute to play. The Pats would tie the game on a last-second field goal by Steven Gostkowski, but it was the Broncos who won in overtime thanks to CJ Anderson’s 48-yard touchdown jaunt. 

Bill Belichick said the Pats have looked at all of Osweiler’s work - both Denver and Houston - in preparation for Sunday.

“The most important thing is what he’s done in the offense that he's in and the reads and where he’s throwing the ball and his progression and so forth in the current offense,” said Belichick. “But yeah, we have a familiarity with players when we've played against them, how there are certain plays – I'd say maybe not every play – but there are certain plays that stick out that are worth noting because of the player’s athletic ability or his experience or, in this case, a throw that he was able to make, that type of thing. There's some relevance there, but look, we're eight games into the regular season here so there's a lot of good tape on Denver to watch including the entire team, but in his role last week.”

Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said all the right things about Osweiler despite the most recent tape showing something else.

“Certainly Brock is someone we played against a couple times and a guy who has had some success against us,” said Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. “He's a big guy, does a good job of keeping his eyes downfield, he's tough, he's strong in the pocket. We've definitely had some good hits on him and he's bounced up and really been able to stand in there and make some decent throws and read the coverage and get the ball to the right guy. So I think for a player who's moved around a little bit, been in a couple of different systems, had a couple of different coordinators, he's a guy that can step in at any time and be productive.”

Despite their improved performance prior to the bye, Patricia knows the Patriots defense can’t afford to take anything for granted, but this is almost exactly the same team from a personnel standpoint they faced a year ago in the Mile High City and held to 3 points. The only major difference: Siemian was the QB. He may be again before Sunday’s over if Osweiler’s decline - a decline that dates back to December of 2015 - continues.

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Georgia the new Rutgers? Contingent of Bulldogs growing in New England

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Georgia the new Rutgers? Contingent of Bulldogs growing in New England

FOXBORO -- David Andrews was excited. He just had a hard time showing it.

The Patriots center stayed up long enough to see his team pick at No. 23 in the first round of the NFL Draft, long enough to see his Georgia teammate Isaiah Wynn have his name called.

But the Thursday night prime time event isn't for everyone, and so Andrews wasn't fully conscious by the time the Patriots picked a second Bulldog, Sony Michel, at No. 31.

"I was in bed. My wife stayed up and watched it," Andrews said last week. "I was in bed and I saw Isaiah get drafted, and then I passed out. She came busting in th'.;e room about Sony getting drafted, and at that point, I really didn’t care. I was just trying to get to sleep, but . . . No, I was very happy for them. It was awesome to talk to them. They were here the next day. I didn’t really get to see them, but it’s good to see them around, see some familiar faces"

Suddenly, with five Georgia players on the roster -- Andrews, Wynn, Michel, Malcolm Mitchell and undrafted free agent John Atkins -- they now make up one of the largest contingents of players from one school in Bill Belichick's locker room.

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Iowa is right there with Georgia at five players (Aidrian Clayborn, Cole Croston, James Ferentz, Riley McCarron, Matt Tobin). Vanderbilt is next on the list with four (Adam Butler, Andrew Jelks, Jordan Matthews, Ralph Webb), even with Rutgers (Devin and Jason McCourty, Duron Harmon, Kenny Britt). Arkansas follows closely behind with three (Trey Flowers, Dietrich Wise, Cody Hollister).

If you look at the coaches involved in helping certain groups of players develop, the Patriots connections become even a little more clear.

At Iowa, it's Kirk Ferentz, who served as a Belichick assistant in Cleveland back in the 90s. At Vanderbilt, Belichick thinks highly enough of Derek Mason that he gave Mason and the Vandy coaching staff a behind-the-scenes look at spring workouts in New England last year. At Rutgers, Belichick's relationship with former Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano has been well-documented.

Then there are the coaches who've bounced around a bit and impacted multiple players on the Patriots roster at different spots.

Bret Bielema, who's been helping the Patriots this offseason (and was spotted with Belichick at The Preakness this weekend), coached all three Arkansas products as well as James White during his time at Wisconsin. Bo Pellini has coached three Patriots (Vincent Valentine and Rex Burkhead at Nebraska, Derek Rivers at Youngstown State).

Then there's that Georgia connection. Kirby Smart coached all three Bulldog rookies as well as the two Alabama products on the Patriots roster (Dont'a Hightower, Cyrus Jones) when Smart was coaching defense for the Crimson Tide. Former Georgia coach and current Miami sideline boss Mark Richt recruited all five Georgia players currently on the Patriots roster, and he coached both Miami rookies now in New England (Braxton Berrios, Trent Harris).

Asked why Belichick and the Patriots front office would be so interested in acquiring so many players from the same school, Andrews replied, "That’s a psychology question. Man, I don’t know . . .  

"You know, no, I don’t think there’s really like one thing. I think those are some great guys. They all work really hard. They’ve been great teammates to me, so that’s something you can always respect, and it’s guys like that you love having in your locker room and playing with.

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No matter how you look at it, the Georgia connection in New England is as strong as ever.

"Georgia the new Rutgers? Oh, I’m going to have to talk to Dev and Du about that and all those guys," Andrews said with a smile. "We might be now. We’ll have to see."

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Johnny Manziel signing with Hamilton of the CFL

Johnny Manziel signing with Hamilton of the CFL

Johnny Manziel won't be in the Patriots' plans at quarterback anytime soon.

The former Browns QB, Heisman winner in 2012 and first-round pick in 2014 announced on Saturday morning that he had decided to sign a contract to play in the CFL in order to "further my football career after a long break."

"I believe this is the best opportunity for me moving forward and I'm eager for what the future holds," Manziel tweeted. 

Manziel also announced that he'll be co-hosting the "Comeback Szn" podcast for Barstool Sports alongside his agent Erik Burkhardt and our buddy, former "Boston Sports Tonight" and "Football Fix" co-host, Kayce Smith.

"It's just a really good fit," Burkhardt said on "Comeback Szn." "Good offense. It's a really good league. It's been around forever, we vetted it well, and at the end of the day, like Johnny said, he wants to play ball."

Manziel, who's been out of football the past two years because of substance abuse and emotional problems, has battled bipolar disorder. He will play for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats under head coach June Jones, who has also coached in the NCAA and NFL ranks. Jones served as offensive coordinator of the Falcons (1991-93) before becoming their head coach (1994-96). He was also quarterbacks coach and interim head coach for the Chargers in 1998 before heading to the college ranks. Jones coached at Hawaii then at SMU, where he was the first person to offer Manziel a college scholarship. 

CFL rookie contracts are for two years, meaning the Tiger-Cats will have his rights through the end of the 2019 CFL season. 

Earlier this year, CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie reiterated the league's stance that they're not in the business of letting players break their contracts to pursue NFL opportunities.

The Patriots took a look at him this spring, but even if they had interest, the possibility of which we discussed on Quick Slants the Podcast last month, any marriage will have to wait. 

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