NFL draft

This might explain the Patriots-Michigan draft connection the past two years

This might explain the Patriots-Michigan draft connection the past two years

Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown has seen nine members of his defense get drafted into the NFL in the past two years, including two to the Patriots - Josh Uche about two weeks ago and Chase Winovich in 2019.

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Brown, a native of Spencer, Mass., whose coaching career includes stops at UMass (as head coach), Boston College and UConn, talked to Phil Perry on the latest edition of the Next Pats Podcast not only about how those two players fit with the Patriots but also about the influence Bill Belichick's defense has on his own coaching. 

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When he was drafted, Uche had talked about how he had studied the Patriots defense. That's because Brown has taken plenty from it. 

"That's the first place we go, Phil, in the offseason to study," Brown told Perry. "Because Coach Belichick makes such great utilization of guys and gives them the opportunity to play in different roles in different places. That's the first place we go in the offseason to evaluate, especially on third down."

Speaking of emulating the Patriots, Brown said there's a linebacker New England lost in free agency whose game is reminiscent of Uche's. 

"He reminds me a little of [Kyle] Van Noy [who left after four successful seasons with the Pats to sign with the Miami Dolphins]. I kind of see Josh in that similar type of scenario."

And are his two recent Patriots draftees similar?

"They're carbon copies of each other in terms of playing hard and doing it the right way," Brown said of Uche and Winovich.

Perry also talked to Uche himself in this episode of the Next Pats Podcast, which you can watch on YouTube below:

 

Next Pats Podcast: What are Patriots getting in LB Josh Uche from Michigan?

Next Pats Podcast: What are Patriots getting in LB Josh Uche from Michigan?

To say new Patriots linebacker Josh Uche is a quick study doesn't quite cover it.

The newly drafted linebacker from Michigan, selected in the second round, 60th overall, joined our Phil Perry via video conference on the latest edition of the Next Pats Podcast and revealed how quickly he picked up the basics of the Patriots defense and the nearly instant rapport he developed with his new position coach, former Pats linebacker Jerod Mayo.

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"The first WebEx meeting I had with the Patriots was with Coach Mayo and he taught me the defense in, I'd want to say, two minutes," Uche told Perry. "And he taught it to me so well that I was able to recite it to him after when he started asked questions, 'OK, what do you do when this happens, this, this and this?" That's just a testament how good a coach he is just in a short amount of time he could teach me the basics of the defense. I definitely feel like Coach Mayo is the best in the business."

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Perry also talked with Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown about the versatile Uche and how he'll fit with the Patriots. 

"They're getting a gym rat. A guy who just loves ball," Brown said. "He's around the building all the time, around the coaches all the time. Guys who get drafted as high as Josh have an elite quality and his ability to rush certainly jumps off the screen when you watch his tape. It's no accident because he really works hard at his craft."

Uche, 6-foot-1, 245 pounds, appeared to quickly grasp New England's "Do Your Job" philosophy when he told reporters the night he was drafted that he's perfect for the Pats because he's "a hard-ass worker." 

It's his versatility that added to his appeal to the Patriots. Still, Uche leaves little doubt about his favorite thing to do on the football field: 

"If I had to pick one, definitely it'd be pass rushing. I love pass rushing. I've been doing it since I was a kid. And it's just something I'm constantly trying to perfect."

For the complete discussion with Uche and Brown, listen to the Next Pats Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network or watch on YouTube below:

 

Tattoo controversy wears on new Patriots kicker Justin Rohrwasser

Tattoo controversy wears on new Patriots kicker Justin Rohrwasser

The emotional toll that the controversy over his tattoo has taken on Patriots draft pick Justin Rohrwasser led to the kicker breaking down and crying last weekend, his high school coach told the Boston Globe. 

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“He just broke down crying in the car,” John Barber, Rohrwasser’s coach at Central Catholic in Troy, N.Y., told the Globe's Ben Volin. “My first reaction was, ‘Where are you? I’ll come get you.’ He said, ‘No, I’m fine, I’m driving home.’”

Rohrwasser was selected in the fifth round of the NFL Draft last Saturday and almost immediately controversy ensued about the tattoo on his left arm of the logo of the Three Percenters, a right-wing paramilitary group that had a connection to the deadly "Unite The Right" rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017. 

After initially telling the media on his post-draft conference call Saturday that he got the tattoo as an expression of military support and that he'll cover it up - "Obviously, it evolved into something that I did not want to represent," he said - Rohrwasser the next day said he would completely remove the tattoo.

It didn't stop the controversy. Former ESPN host Jemele Hill, now a writer with The Atlantic, called him out:

His Twitter and Instagram feeds, which included "likes" of President Donald Trump and right-wing-connected figures Ayn Rand and Jordan Peterson, drew scrutiny.  

Rohrwasser began his college career at the University of Rhode Island before transferring to Marshall. Characterizing the kicker as a white supremacist doesn't square with what URI coach Jim Fleming encountered. 

“I thought he was an intelligent, well-spoken, good dude," Fleming told the Globe. "Kids liked him. He wasn’t a normal introverted kicker. He had some personality to him.”

Fleming said Rohrwasser made no secret of his conservative political beliefs and often wore the red "Make America Great Again" hat of Trump supporters. 

"I was not concerned whatsoever about him dividing the team," Fleming said. "So I feel bad for the kid right now. He’ll weather the storm, hopefully.”

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Rohrwasser's teammate at Marshall, long snapper Matt Beardall, said those critical of the Patriots new kicker have jumped to the wrong conclusion. 

“He’s not an extremist like everyone is calling him to be, and it’s really sad that some people who don’t know him are calling him names and making judgments,” Beardall told the Globe. 

It's been only a week, and he hasn't set foot in Foxboro, but the NFL career of the apparent heir to longtime New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski is off to a tempestuous start.