Patriots

Why Malcom Brown is crucial piece for Patriots against Eagles

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Why Malcom Brown is crucial piece for Patriots against Eagles

MINNEAPOLIS -- Malcom Brown began his career with impossible-to-reach expectations in New England. 

The Patriots declined their team option on Vince Wilfork's contract in March 2015. Less than two months later, Brown was drafted in the first round. 

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Brown, like Wilfork, came out of college as a 320-pound defensive tackle. Like Wilfork, Brown fell to the Patriots in the back half of the first round despite projections that he'd go higher.  The presumption was that Brown would be Wilfork 2.0.

But through two seasons in a two-gapping system that differed vastly from the style he played at the University of Texas, Brown hadn't quite lived up to that reputation. He was good. Very good at times. But he wasn't Vince. 

See? Impossible. 

But now, three seasons in, people know what to expect from Brown. While he may not be Wilfork in his prime, he's an excellent run defender who has the ability to occasionally flash as a pass-rusher. In 15 games this season, including playoffs, he has 30 run-stuffs to go along with three sacks, a quarterback hit and 14 hurries, per Pro Football Focus. Despite dealing with an ankle injury mid-season, this was likely Brown's best and most consistent year as a pro. 

Brown represents one half of his team's top defensive tackle duo, along with Lawrence Guy. As a first- and second-down player mostly, he's been relied upon to take on heavy workloads when the plan is to snuff out opposing running backs. Against the Jaguars and Leonard Fournette in the AFC title game, for instance, Brown played 57 of a possible 73 snaps and helped hold the Jags to 3.2 yards per carry.

He'll have an opportunity to further create a name for himself among Patriots fans in Super Bowl LII, as the Eagles have a bruising running game that features LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi. Brown was listed with a foot injury last week and missed practices on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. He returned to practice on Sunday, however, and has explained that he was not at all concerned about his availability for the Super Bowl. 

Brown indicated to NBC Sports Boston last week that his absences could be explained by the fact that he needed to receive some extra treatment. The Super Bowl was always in play, though, he believed. 

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Why might Brown factor in as a crucial piece in the matchup with Philadelphia? Under coach Doug Pederson, the Eagles run many of the same type of horizontal-stretching plays featured in Kansas City under Pederson's mentor, Andy Reid. The reason Philly power backs have had success in that scheme is due in part to the fact that the offense can get defenders spread thin across the field, limiting the bodies to crowd the box and smother big-bodied runners. 

Against the Eagles, then, it will be critical to have Brown (and Guy, and Ricky Jean Francois, and maybe even Alan Branch . . . ) available to them. Those players are adept at taking on double-teams and covering for their teammates at the second level if there is a motion or an offensive alignment that has taken them away from the middle of the field. 

Former Patriots coaching assistant and Ringer analyst Mike Lombardi said last week that he's picking the Eagles to beat the Patriots because "What the Eagles do is they make you defend the width of the field and they can attack you inside with their power, whether it's Blount, Ajayi, whoever they have as their back."

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"They can attack you inside," Lombardi added. "Those run-pass options become a problem. They're Kansas City with more skill players."

Fortunately for the Patriots, it looks like they won't have to plan for that style without Brown. He may not be Wilfork, but no one is. He's one of the two best they have at that position, and if he can help his team with another ring -- his second in as many seasons -- he'll have carved out a place in Patriots lore all his own. 

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Belichick the G.O.A.T.? He's got this ex-Steeler's vote

Belichick the G.O.A.T.? He's got this ex-Steeler's vote

A Pittsburgh Steelers great sticking up for Bill Belichick? When the argument is who's the greatest NFL coach of all time, sure.

Ex-Steelers Pro Bowl cornerback Ryan Clark, now an analyst for ESPN, says the Patriots coach has no peer, just as his quarterback, a fellow GOAT, said earlier this week. 

“There are things done in today’s football to create parity. Every team needs to have a chance. This is why the Super Bowl moves around now because they want every team to feel like they have an opportunity to host the Super Bowl and play in it at the same time,” Clark said on one of the network's debate shows. "Bill Belichick has totally destroyed that. Every single year when you come into the season, you think the Patriots are the favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Every single time. It’s because he can adjust each and every week to be the best team on the field.

“Bill Belichick recreates himself every single Sunday.”

Watch the full clip here: 

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Patriots' first-round pick Isaiah Wynn out for season with torn Achilles

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Patriots' first-round pick Isaiah Wynn out for season with torn Achilles

There are loads of ways for an NFL team to stock its roster. Free agency, restricted free agency, undrafted free agents, trades, practice squad poaching. Gotta try ‘em all.  

So just because the NFL Draft is the most celebrated and extensively covered avenue, it doesn’t mean drafted players are inherently better. 

Which is good, because the Patriots have been getting kicked in the head by the top of the draft over the past few years. 

The latest instance? An Achilles tendon rupture suffered by first-round offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn Thursday night against the Eagles. Wynn, the 23rd overall pick out of Georgia, is done for the year. 

The Patriots had two first round picks this year and Wynn was kind of the “safe” draft pick. His Georgia teammate, Sony Michel, taken by the team with the 31st overall pick, was supposed to be the dice roll. Both Mike Mayock and Mike Lombardi -- Patriot friendlies -- reported in the days leading up to the draft that teams were concerned about Michel being “bone on bone” in his knee.

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Voila, Michel was there at 31. The Patriots drafted him -- despite the knee forecast -- because he’s really good and the team believes that the late-first and second-round picks are good times to spend selections on talented players that may have warning flags accompanying them. 

Michel has already had a procedure to have his knee drained and may not play in this preseason. 

Some might also mention here that second-round pick Duke Dawson missed Thursday night’s game with a hamstring and cite that as evidence that furthers the head-kicking the Pats have been taking. But that would be dumb because Dawson will be back soon and he’s performed really well in camp. As has fifth-round linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley. 

So it’s not like the Patriots go 0-for-April. They just have too many swings and misses on what should be fairly flat fastballs. 

Since 2012, the team has drafted 22 players in the first three rounds. 

Twelve are still with the team (Wynn, Michel, Dawson, Derek Rivers, Cyrus Jones, Joe Thuney, Vincent Valentine, Malcom Brown, Jordan Richards, Geneo Grissom, Duron Harmon, Donta Hightower). 

Of those, Hightower and Harmon are two that you would say have been vital players to the Patriots success. To a lesser degree, Thuney and Malcom Brown. 

Among the 10 who are gone, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jamie Collins, Logan Ryan and Chandler Jones are ones who also had strong impacts. 

So that’s six out of 22. And only two of those impact guys remain. 

Unmitigated misses in the first three rounds would be Antonio Garcia (third-rounder in 2017), Dominique Easley (first-round, 2014) and Aaron Dobson (second round 2013). 

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Some guys did a little and aren’t here anymore (Jacoby Brissett, Tavon Wilson). 

More guys are still here, haven’t done diddly and don’t appear on the verge of being impact players  (Cyrus Jones, Valentine, Richards, Grissom). 

For whatever reason, the Patriots tend to kick ass later in the draft. Trey Flowers, Shaq Mason, Nate Ebner, Cam Fleming, James White, Joe Cardona, Elandon Roberts and Ted Karras have either fulfilled expectations based on their role and draft position or exceeded it (Mason, Flowers, Ebner and White in particular). 

But at the top they just can’t make the connection. And still they win. 

Why’s that? A lot of reasons. The main one being that -- in 2000 -- they got it right in the sixth round with the 199th pick. It certainly hasn’t been because of Adrian Klemm (second rounder, 2000). 

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