Oct 022013
 

Rats RankingsAbout midway through the third quarter on Monday night, I just couldn’t help myself anymore. So I texted Country Preacher the now famous quote from Dennis Green, “They are who we thought they were,” signaling the demise of the Miami Dolphins in their road showdown with the New Orleans Saints. The truth is that the Dolphins are a much improved team over last season, but they still aren’t quite ready for prime time. Their linebackers and secondary got torched by Drew Brees, and the offensive line gave Ryan Tannehill another difficult day at the office as the Saints trounced the Fins 38-17.

Week Five still provides us with a host of unbeaten teams, including the Kansas City Chiefs, who throttled the Giants, aggravating an already tense situation in the Big Apple. Giants’s safety Antrel Rolle tried to boost morale by predicting that the G-Men would win their final twelve games, but it’s not a convincing act; the Giants aren’t just making mental mistakes. Instead, they are getting physically dominated, which is something that can’t be corrected. The plight of the Giants is being mirrored in Pittsburgh, where the proud Steelers have tumbled into anonymity in their own city now that the Pirates have made the post-season for the first time since Bill Cowher started as Head Coach of the Steelers. Unlike the Giants however, the Steelers seem to be doing themselves in, and the team appears entirely capable of coming out of their funk, even if they lack an elite roster.

As for my Patriots, they handled the Falcons on Sunday night, but lost Vince Wilfork for the season. The offense is showing signs of life while awaiting the return of both Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski, but they are winning on defense, which is a wonderful thing for a Patriots’ fan to be able to see. Wilfork’s loss places pressure on the defensive line, but as always it is simply “next man up.” The Pats face the unpredictable Bengals this Sunday in Cincinnati.

With the Dolphins’ loss, the Preacher has come back into the fold and is no longer the outlier. Here are your Week Five Power Rankings.

1. Denver Broncos (4-0, 6 first place votes) [1] – Is there a record (or a defense) that Peyton Manning hasn’t broken?
2. Seattle Seahawks (4-0) [2] – They benefited from a Texans’ collapse, but 4-0 is 4-0.
3. New Orleans Saints (4-0) [4] – Brees to Graham should be trademarked.
4. New England Patriots (4-0) [5] – Coaching and defense still wins championships.
5. Kansas City Chiefs (4-0) [7] – The Preacher’s not a believer yet, but the rest of us are.
6. Indianapolis Colts (3-1) [12] – Luck + Richardson = Dangerous.
7. Miami Dolphins (3-1) [6] – Give them a pass for running into a buzzsaw, but no so sure that was an aberration.
8. San Francisco 49ers (2-2) [8] – Still poised for big noise in January.
9. Detroit Lions (3-1) [14] – Is it just irony that the Lions are calling the Bears a bunch of thugs?
11. Tennessee Titans (3-1) [16] – This may be the peak with Locker on the shelf.
12. Houston Texans (2-2) [9] – At least Matt Schaub still looks great in his letterman jacket.
13. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2) [10] – Which team shows up to face the Patriots?
14. Green Bay Packers (1-2) [14] – Potentially dangerous, but we think flawed.
15. Atlanta Falcons (1-3) [11] – They may be better than their record, but they are still a 1-3 team.
16. Dallas Cowboys (2-2) [15] – Just like the Bengals, but with less potential upside.
17. San Diego Chargers (2-2) [22] – This sleeper team is now on our radar.
18. Carolina Panthers (1-2) [19] – Will the early bye help propel them back into the race?
19. Baltimore Ravens (2-2) [17] – Just another .500 team.
20. Cleveland Browns (2-2) [27] – Have they finally found a quarterback? Hoyer projects confidence for a surprising rise.
21. Arizona Cardinals (2-2) [23] – Any given Sunday.
22. Minnesota Vikings (1-3) [25] – Hopefully they don’t have to wait four more weeks for a second win.
23. Buffalo Bills (2-2) [24] – Solid win over the Ravens; this team is showing improvement.
24. St. Louis Rams (1-3) [18] – A visit from the Jags offers the promise of a Week Five wake-up call.
25. New York Jets (2-2) [20] – New quarterback, new butt fumble.
26. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) [21] – Still a few players away from being competitive.
27. New York Giants (0-4) [26] – First a Yankees’ collapse, and now this. Boston fans are loving this.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4) [28] – Who knew Pittsburgh was a baseball town?
29. Washington Redskins (1-3) [31] – Might still win the division, thanks to the Cowboys’ consistent mediocrity.
30. Oakland Raiders (1-3) [30] – This is actually a decent team that will surprise some people.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4) [29] – Once again the Bucs pulls defeat from the jaws of victory.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4) [32] – Hopeless.

Jun 112013
 

Arians and Palmer7. Arizona Cardinals
Head Coach: Bruce Arians
2012 Record: 5-11
2012 Offense: 250 points scored, 32st in points, 32nd in yards (28th passing, 32nd rushing)
2012 Defense: 357 points allowed, 17th in points, 12th in yards (5th passing, 28th rushing)

Key Additions
Head Coach Bruce Arians, QB Carson Palmer, RB Rashard Mendenhall, DL Frostee Rucker, LB Karlos Dansby, LB Lorenzo Alexander, LB Jasper Brinkley, CB Javier Arenas, CB Jerraud Powers, S Yeremiah Bell, CB Antoine Cason, S Curtis Taylor, DE Matt Shaughnessy, G Jonathan Cooper, LB Kevin Minter, S Tyrann Mathieu, G Earl Watford

Key Losses
S Adrian Wilson, QB Kevin Kolb, QB Brian Hoyer, QB John Skelton, S Kerry Rhodes, S James Sanders, CB William Gay, LB Quentin Groves, LB Paris Lenon, RB Beanie Wells, WR Early Doucet, CB Greg Toler, RB LaRod Stephens-Howling, DE Vonnie Holliday, DE Nick Eason, LB Stewart Bradley

Why 2013 will be better
The Cardinals offensive line gave up 58 sacks in 2012… that’s right – 58. It’s hard to imagine the line performing that poorly again. So by default one can expect the offense to fare better than it did last season. Tackle Levi Brown spent last season on IR, so his return is good news for the Cardinals. Jonathan Cooper will start next to him, meaning the left side of the line will be a vast improvement over last season. Center Lyle Sendlein returns, flanked by another rookie in Watford. Only second year player Bobby Massie returns as a starter from all 16 games at right tackle. Carson Palmer will bring stability to the quarterback position and will love throwing to Larry Fitzgerald. That will result in huge fantasy number for the pair; it remains to be seen whether or not it will convert to wins. Despite a solid defensive last core from last year, this group also went through an off-season overhaul, particularly at linebacker and in the secondary. If Mendenhall can return from injury (and attitude) to post 1,000 rushing yards, the Cardinals could be looking at an 8 or 9 win season.

Why 2013 will be worse
I’m not sold on Mendenhall as the answer at running back, and I’m really not sold on Carson Palmer. Palmer will put up big numbers for yards and will rack up some touchdowns, but he also has a knack for interceptions and lost fumbles, and has never proven to be a quarterback who can will his team to victory. He may stop the revolving the door and increase the point totals, but he’s not a guy I would stake the franchise on. The key to 2013 will once again be the defense, and as long as Palmer and the offense don’t turn the ball over with the frequency that the Cardinals’ offense did last season, the worst the Cardinals are looking at is another five win season.

Outlook
The Arizona Cardinals started off the 2012 season with four straight victories before collapsing the rest of the way, with an offense that scored 20 or more points only once in the team’s final twelve games. So it was no wonder that the Cardinals cleaned house in the offseason, on the roster as well as on the coaching staff. Palmer is an upgrade, but he’s not the answer, at least not by himself. Mendenhall has to bounce back in a big way for the Cardinals to rack up more wins, and an offensive line with two rookie guards has to find its chemistry early. Bruce Arians proved last season with the Colts that he is a tremendous coach, and it will take no less of an effort than the one he gave last season for the Cardinals to exceed six wins.

Jun 112013
 

Rob Chudzinski6. Cleveland Browns
Head Coach: Rob Chudzinski
2012 Record: 5-11
2012 Offense: 302 points scored, 24th in points, 25th in yards (19th passing, 24th rushing)
2012 Defense: 368 points allowed, 19th in points, 23rd in yards (25th passing, 19th rushing)

 

Key Additions
Head Coach Rob Chudzinski , LB Paul Kruger, CB Kevin Barnes, DE Desmond Bryant, QB Jason Campbell, QB Brian Hoyer, WR Davone Bess, WR David Nelson, TE Kellen Davis, K Shayne Graham, LB Quentin Groves, CB Chris Owens, RB Dion Lewis, DE Barkevious Mingo, CB Leon McFadden

Key Losses
WR Josh Cribbs, K Phil Dawson, LB Scott Fujita, RB Brandon Jackson, WR Mohammed Massaquoi, LB Kaluka Maiava, DB Usuma Young, DB Sheldon Brown, TE Alex Smith, S Ray Ventrone, TE Ben Watson, DE Frostee Rucker

Why 2013 will be better
The Browns placed an off-season emphasis on defense, signing free agent linebacker Paul Kruger away from Baltimore. Kruger and D’Qwell Jackson now form the backbone of a solid linebacking corps, providing no rush for the Browns to work rookie Mingo into the rotation. The switch to a 3-4 front will see Desmond Bryant, Phil Taylor, and Ahtyba Rubin playing with their hands on the ground. On offense the Browns have improved their receiving corps, where the Browns are counting on castoffs Bess and Nelson to complement Josh Gordon, who will miss the first two games of the season for a drug policy violation (and seems to be one mistake away from losing a year), and Greg Little. Both Bess and Nelson are capable receivers, with Bess catching 61 passes in 2012 and Nelson accomplishing the same in 2011 before an injury made his miss all but one game last season.

Why 2013 will be worse
The Browns have not resolved the quarterback position, with a second year starter on a short leash in Weeden, a journeyman veteran who has started seven games over the past two seasons in Campbell, and a former Tom Brady backup who has started one NFL game in Hoyer. Suddenly the decision not to trade up for RGIII begs another glance. Trent Richardson had a mixed rookie season with 950 yards all 11 touchdowns, but a net of only 3.6 yards per carry. He is a durable back, but the offense on the whole simply lacks a lot of pop, and averaging more than last year’s 18.9 points per game is going to be a challenge. On the defensive side, the secondary has seen significant change, and Joe Haden anchors a unit that probably won’t scare too many teams. Rookie corner Leon McFadden appears set to start opposite Haden, while the safeties will be second year man Tashaun Gipson and TJ Ward.

Outlook
There is something to be said for bringing in Norv Turner to be the offensive coordinator. Turner seems better suited to this role than that of head coach, and if anyone is going to get Weeden playing well enough to make the Browns compete it will be Turner. Adding weapons at receiver doesn’t hurt, and having a solid offensive line gives the Browns the potential to surprise some teams. On the other side of the ball, switching to a 3-4 with an improved linebacking corps gives defensive coordinator Ray Horton the weapons he needs to try and disrupt opposing offenses. If the Browns can apply consistent quarterback pressure, they may be able to offset any concerns that exist in the secondary. The Browns appear capable of winning anywhere from 4 to 9 games this season, but I’ll place the over/under at 7. Consider it a good first step in banishing the “Factory of Sadness” moniker that is now the team’s unofficial slogan.

Dec 312012
 

ken-whisenhuntGM Rod Graves and Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt were fired by the Arizona Cardinals today, one day after the team’s 27-13 loss to the 49ers that capped off a disappointing 5-11 season.

The Cardinals began the year 4-0, but then went into a tailspin, dropping their next ten games as their lack of quarterback play undermined the team’s stout defense. The team ended the year with Brian Hoyer starting as the team’s fourth different starter for the year.

In his six seasons at the helm, Whisenhunt posted a 45-51 record plus 4-2 in the post-season. The Cardinals reached the Super Bowl in the 2008 season, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

 

Dec 262012
 

Russell WilsonWe hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and that at least some of you get a few extra days off to relax as we head into 2013. Our Week 16 Power Rankings have the Seahawks supplanting the 49ers by virtue of the Sunday night smackdown that they laid upon them. And despite the 13-2 record of the Atlanta Falcons, they’re still not getting love here, as they are ranked fourth going into the final week of the regular season. Here is our complete set of rankings for this week:

1. Denver Broncos (12-3, W10, U) – Still not seeing them as Super Bowl bound, but all they do is win

2. Seattle Seahawks (10-5, W4, +5) – The idea of this team with a potent offense is just frightening

3. New England Patriots (11-4, W1, U) – So which Patriots team shows up for the playoffs? The one that pasted the Texans or the one that barely beat the Jaguars? Perhaps only Gronk knows…

4. Atlanta Falcons (13-2, W2, U) – There is only one question where the Falcons are concerned, and we will start getting our answers in three weeks

5. San Francisco 49ers (10-4-1, L1, -3) – Any points they got for winning in Foxboro just got wiped away in Seattle

6. Green Bay Packers (11-4, W4, U) – The offense is clicking at the right time, but will their defense stop anyone in the playoffs?

7. Houston Texans (12-3, L1, -2) – This could be the most potent team to go one and done in the playoffs

8. Indianapolis Colts (10-5, W1, +1) – Is there a better success story in the NFL this season?

9. Washington Redskins (9-6, W6, +2) – Not bad for a team written off by their own coach just six weeks ago

10. Cincinnati Bengals (9-6, W2, +1) – They don’t match up well with the Patriots, so they are hoping for the Pats to go up or down in the seedings

11. Baltimore Ravens (10-5, W1, +1) – Not so potent, and also facing a possible one and done

12. Minnesota Vikings (9-6, W3, +3) – Are the Vikings the Colts of the NFC? We’ll know in one more week…

13. New York Giants (8-7, L2, -5) – The fat lady hasn’t sung yet, but she’s warming up

14. Dallas Cowboys (8-7, L1, U) – The teasing reached a new low against the Saints

15. Chicago Bears (9-6, W1, +1) – One more chance to salvage Lovie’s job…

16. New Orleans Saints (7-8, W2, +2) – Truth be told, this team got the 2012 it deserved; can it rebound for a more successful 2013?

17. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8, L3, -4) – This team has some serious off-season questions to answer

18. St. Louis Rams (7-7-1, W1, +1) – The fact that this team was alive through 14 games is a testament to the coaching of Jeff Fisher

19. Miami Dolphins (7-8, W2, +2) – Ryan Tannehill is not going to be Rookie of the Year, but he may be the answer to Miami’s quarterback woes

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-9, L5, -3) – Perhaps the Bucs were over-performing, but this is a disappointing ending to what was a promising first season for Greg Schiano

21. Cleveland Browns (5-10, L2, -1) – The house-cleaning will likely clear away both GM and Head Coach, but Tom Heckert has done right by the Browns

22. San Diego Chargers (6-9, W1, +1) – Philip Rivers will survive the post-season changes coming, but should he?

23. Carolina Panthers (6-9, W3, +1) – The Panthers are showing some character by finishing strong, and likely saving Ron Rivera in the process

24. Detroit Lions (4-11, L7, +2) – They moved up because they can beat the teams below them, but this team needs to fix a defense that is built on hype

25. Buffalo Bills (5-10, L3, U) – Speaking of defenses built on hype…

26. New York Jets (6-9, L2, -4) – The only way to fix what’s wrong is to blow it up; it’s that bad – of course the Jets won’t, and 2013 is already looking bleak

27. Arizona Cardinals (5-10, L1, +1) – Is Brian Hoyer the 2013 starter?

28. Philadelphia Eagles (4-11, L2, +1) – Michael Vick starts his last game as an Eagle

29. Tennessee Titans (5-10, L1, -2) – Titans on pace to give up franchise record number of points, and their offense isn’t very good either

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13, L4, U) – Gutsy performance against New England, but this is a very bad team

31. Oakland Raiders (4-11, L1, U) – Will Carson Palmer be back?

32. Kansas City Chiefs (2-13, L3, U) – Romeo Crennel won’t be…

Dec 122012
 

This week the New England Patriots reinforced why we moved them into the top spot two weeks ago, with a solid 42-14 thrashing of the Houston Texans. Coupled with the Falcons falling to the Panthers, and there is some shifting at the top of our rankings this week. With three weeks to go, some teams appear to be emerging from the pack, and the AFC is faring surprisingly well, given the dominance of the NFC in inter-conference play this season.

Here are our rankings through Week 14.

1. New England Patriots (10-3, U, W7) – First #2 Houston and now #3 San Francisco; can the Pats hang on to the top spot?

2. Denver Broncos (10-3, +3, W8) – They look ready for the post-season, but face a tough test against the Ravens this week

3. San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1, +1, W1) – The Patriots offer some challenges for the new 49ers phenom

4. Houston Texans (11-2, -2, L1) – So how did those letterman jackets work out?

5. Atlanta Falcons (11-2, -2, L1) – Matt Ryan wasn’t telling anyone to get the $#%$ off the field in Charlotte

6. New York Giants (8-5, U, W1) – Osi thinks they are the best, but had to qualify it with “if we play the way we are capable of playing”; Talk is cheap, Osi… consistency is better

7. Green Bay Packers (9-4, +1, W2) – The Packers have a running game? Who knew?

8. Indianapolis Colts (9-4, +1, W3) – They don’t have to win pretty as long as they keep winning

9. Baltimore Ravens (9-4, -2, L2) – Jim Caldwell has never called plays; is he really the answer for the struggling offense?

10. Seattle Seahawks (8-5, +2, W2) – Let me get this right… the Seahawks ran up the score? The Seahawks?

11. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6, -1, L1) – So they get Ben back and lose? Quarterback controversy! (just kidding)

12. Washington Redskins (7-6, +3, W4) – Now we know why they drafted Kirk Cousins too

13. Cincinnati Bengals (7-6, -2, L1) – That wasted opportunity may come back to bite them in Week 16

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7, -1, L3) – We wanted to believe, but three straight losses has this team on the outside looking in

15. Chicago Bears (8-5, -1, L2) – You knew it was just a matter of time before Jay Cutler stated getting beat like a drum again

16. Dallas Cowboys (7-6, U, W2) – Emotional win doesn’t make up for the Cowboys weaknesses

17. Minnesota Vikings (7-6, +1, W1) – Just when we thought they were done, they find a way to become relevant again

18. St. Louis Rams (6-6-1, +1, W3) – Jeff Fisher has his team believing; if they win out that tie could be the deciding factor

19. New Orleans Saints (5-8, -2, L3) – It took about twenty minutes for Brees to come out with a snarky statement about the bounty decision as he continues to defend the indefensible; just shut up already, Drew

20. New York Jets (6-7, +4, W2) – Beating the Jaguars doesn’t exactly cure their ills, but it gives Rex another week to pretend that they don’t exist

21. Cleveland Browns (5-8, +2, W3) – Any more wins this season, and Fat Jesus is going to have to write a retraction piece about Pat Shurmer

22. Buffalo Bills (5-8, -2, L1) – Remember when some of us thought the Bills might be a playoff contender? Yeah, we’re trying to forget that too…

23. San Diego Chargers (5-8, +2, W1) – If Norv sells that game ball, he might get enough to cover his moving expenses

24. Miami Dolphins (5-8, -2, L2) – The Dolphins find it ‘disrespectful’ when a team successfully runs the same play over and over; this isn’t Madden – if you don’t like it…. stop it

25. Detroit Lions (4-9, -4, L5) – Whether or not Ndamukong Suh is a dirty player, he certainly has exhibited punk behaviors both on and off the field

26. Carolina Panthers (4-9, +1, W1) – Greg Hardy returned the favor to the Falcons this week; this team could close at 7-9

27. Tennessee Titans (4-9, -1, L3) – Remember when some of us thought the Titans might be a playoff contender? Yeah, we’re trying to forget that too…

28. Philadelphia Eagles (4-9, +2, W1) – Is Gruden a possibility for the Eagles? And by Gruden, we mean Jay…

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11, U, L2) – So the Jags lost twice in the Timmy Sweepstakes

30. Kansas City Chiefs (2-11, +1, L1) – Anyone else think that Dwayne Bowe is excited to be headed to the IR?

31. Arizona Cardinals (4-9, -3, L9) – And suddenly Brian Hoyer is the best quarterback on the roster

32. Oakland Raiders (3-10, U, L6) – Can a visit from the Chiefs help them escape from our basement?

Aug 312012
 

The NFL is a pass happy league, and there are fewer teams more pass happy than the New England Patriots. Yet the Patriots will enter the 2012 season with only four wide receivers on the active roster. Of course, this is deceptive because the Patriots will also carry four tight ends into the new season, two of whom (Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez) caught a combined 169 passes in the 2011 season. Additionally, Hernandez lined up as a wide receiver in 71.6% of his offensive plays last season. So while the Patriots are not spending many roster spots on wide receivers, their passing attack will be just as potent in 2012, if not more so with the addition of Brandon Lloyd.

In a somewhat stunning move, the Patriots released backup quarterback Brian Hoyer. This is considered a major surprise because Hoyer was tendered at the second round this off-season, and Hoyer seems to be a better fit to backup Brady in a short to medium range offense, where Mallett is considered more of a downfield attacker. It was also surprising that Hoyer was released instead of traded, since most Patriots experts concur that Hoyer had some trade value. This is a major endorsement of Mallett, and saves $1.9 milion in salary for the Patriots this season.

Center Dan Koppen is also a mildly surprising cut, mostly due to the lateness of the release. It is generally considered better bsuiness to cut established veterans earlier in order to allow them to sign on with another team, so this move may signal a late change in thinking by the coaching staff. Koppen struggled throughout the pre-season and is not versatile enough to play guard, but was thought to be a lock for a roster spot.

Deion Branch was also released by the Patriots. Branch was expected to make the roster after Jabar Gaffney and Donte Stallworth were cut, but the Patriots seemingly saw no reason to spend money on Branch when the passing game centers around Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and Wes Welker. However, Branch’s release leaves no true third wide receiver on the Patriots’ roster.

In total, the Patriots released 22 players, including Hoyer, Koppen, Branch, safety James Ihedigbo, defensive back Derrick Martin, defensive end Aaron Lavarias, defensive lineman Marcus Harrison, wide receiver Jesse Holley, safety Sergio Brown, tight end Tyler Urban, tackle Darrion Weems, fullback Eric Kettani, tackle Derek Dennis, offensive lineman Matt Kopa, linebacker Niko Koutouvides, linebacker Jeff Tarpinian, safety Malcolm Williams, tight end Alex Silvestro, wide receiver Kerry Taylor, wide receiver Jeremy Ebert, offensive lineman Dustin Waldron and offensive lineman Jeremiah Warren. Both Branch and previously released wide receiver Jabar Gaffney are candidates to return in the event of injuries.

In a disappointing move, running back Jeff Demps was placed in Injured Reserve (IR) for the 2012 season. Demps might still be activated later in the season under the new rule allowing one player from IR to be reactivated. Demps has world class speed and had shown some good flashes in his two pre-season appearances. (UPDATE: Demps is not eligible to be reactivated this season.)

We can never really call this a final roster because it will change, likely multiple times, before we get to opening day. But the Patriots have made their “final” roster moves to meet the 53 man deadline established for today, and now sit at 52 players, holding one spot open for what appears to be the inevitable return of right guard Brian Waters. The Patriots will now wait to see which of their released players are grabbed by other teams before establishing the supplemental practice roster.

As of tonight, the 53 (52) man roster includes:

OFFENSE

Quarterbacks (2)
Tom Brady
Ryan Mallett

Running Backs (4)
Stevan Ridley
Shane Vereen
Danny Woodhead
Brandon Bolden

Fullbacks (0)

Wide Receivers (4)
Brandon Lloyd
Wes Welker
Julian Edelman
Matthew Slater

Tight Ends (4)
Rob Gronkowski
Aaron Hernandez
Daniel Fells
Visanthe Shiancoe

Left Tackle (1)
Nate Solder

Left Guard (2)
Logan Mankins
Donald Thomas

Center (1)
Ryan Wendell

Right Guard (2)
Dan Connolly
Nick McDonald

Right Tackle (2)
Sebastian Vollmer
Marcus Cannon

DEFENSE

Left End (2)
Rob Ninkovich
Jermaine Cunningham

Nose Tackle (2)
Vince Wilfork
Ron Brace

Defensive Tackle (3)
Kyle Love
Brandon Deaderick
Marcus Forston

Right End (4)
Chandler Jones
Trevor Scott
Jake Bequette
Justin Francis

Strongside Linebacker (2)
Dont’a Hightower
Bobby Carpenter

Middle Linebacker (3)
Brandon Spikes
Tracy White
Mike Rivera

Weakside Linebacker (1)
Jerod Mayo

Left Cornerback (2)
Devin McCourty
Sterling Moore

Right Cornerback (4)
Kyle Arrrington
Maurice Cole
Ras-I Dowling
Alfonzo Dennard

Free Safety (2)
Steve Gregory
Tavon Wilson

Strong safety (2)
Patrick Chung
Nate Ebner

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker (1)
Stephen Gostkowski

Punter (1)
Zoltan Mesko

Long Snapper (1)
Danny Aiken

INJURED RESERVE (IR)
RB Jeff Demps
LB Dane Fletcher
CB Will Allen
S Josh Barrett
TE Brad Herman
FB Spencer Larsen
OL Jamey Richard

PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM (PUP)
DT Myron Pryor
TE Jake Ballard

RESERVE/NON FOOTBALL INJURY
T Marcus Zusevics

DID NOT REPORT
G Brian Waters

 

UPDATE: For those interested, Mike Reiss of ESPN has provided a look at the current Patriots’ roster by contract length. I have placed the starters names in bold. Good stuff.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS ROSTER BY CONTRACT LENGTH (AS OF 9/1/2012)

2012
S/CB Will Allen CB Kyle Arrington TE Jake Ballard
S Josh Barrett DL Ron Brace LB Bobby Carpenter
S Patrick Chung CB Marquice Cole WR Julian Edelman
FB Tony Fiammetta LB Dane Fletcher CB Sterling Moore
DL Myron Pryor OL Jamey Richard LB Mike Rivera
DE Trevor Scott TE Visanthe Shiancoe OL Donald Thomas
S Ross Ventrone OT Sebastian Vollmer G Brian Waters
WR Wes Welker LB Tracy White RB Danny Woodhead

2013
LS Danny Aiken DE Jermaine Cunningham DL Brandon Deaderick
OT Kyle Hix FB Spencer Larsen DL Kyle Love
OL Nick McDonald P Zoltan Mesko LB Rob Ninkovich
LB Brandon Spikes OL Ryan Wendell

2014
RB Brandon Bolden QB Tom Brady OL Marcus Cannon
OL Dan Connolly RB Jeff Demps CB Ras-I Dowling
TE Daniel Fells DL Marcus Forston DL Justin Francis
K Stephen Gostkowski S Steve Gregory TE Brad Herman
WR Brandon Lloyd QB Ryan Mallett CB Devin McCourty
RB Stevan Ridley WR Matthew Slater OT Nate Solder
RB Shane Vereen DL Vince Wilfork OL Markus Zusevics

2015
DE Jake Bequette CB Alfonzo Dennard S Nate Ebner
LB Dont’a Hightower DE Chandler Jones S Tavon Wilson

2016
G Logan Mankins

2017
LB Jerod Mayo

2018
TE Aaron Hernandez

2019
TE Rob Gronkowski

 

Aug 252012
 

I missed writing up the Monday game against the Eagles, and with three games in ten days I was tempted to collapse all of the games into one article, but needing a break from doing real work at home,I will pause to look at the games against both the Eagles and Buccaneers. Just one more game until the regular season!

Pre-Season Game #2: Eagles 27, Patriots 17

Summary

The Patriots chose to rest many starters tonight, knowing that the team would be playing three games in the span of just ten games. And while the Patriots lost the game, the nigh has to be considered a victory of the Patriots because the Patriots second team looked solid in hanging with the Eagles throughout the first half. Nick Foles was able to come in after Michael Vick was injured to engineer a comeback win for the Eagles, aided by Patriots’ blunders on special teams.

The Good

Ryan Mallett (10/25, 105, 1/0) wasn’t fantastic, but we was good, and certainly outplayed Brian Hoyer (5/17, 55, 0/0). The front seven was active on defense, and the secondary, while giving up one 40 yard pass to DeSean Jackson, is showing clear improvement over last season.

The Bad

As noted, Brian Hoyer did not look as good as Ryan Mallet, raising the possibility that Mallett could beat Hoyer for the backup position to Brady. If this happens, Hoyer may find himself traded or released given that his contract was tendered at the second round in the off-season. The offensive line looked improved from the first game, but Marcus Cannon is clearly a better guard than tackle. The Patriots can’t get Sebastian Vollmer quickly enough. Special teams were miserable against the Eagles, muffing two punts during the evening.

The Ugly

The ugly actually came from Michael Vick, who once again found a way to get taken out of the game early. Vick got hammered on the sixth offensive play by Jermaine Cunningham, hurting Vick’s ribs. While Nick Foles looks like a great backup for Vick, the Eagles will go as far as their starting quarterback will take them, and Vick has a history of getting pounded.

The Pleasant Surprise

Reserve tight end Alex Silvestro caught two passes tonight, including an 11 yard touchdown from Mallett.

Pre-Season Game #3: Buccaneers 30, Patriots 28

Summary

Don’t let the score fool you; the Patriots didn’t look nearly this good last night. The Patriots fell behind early and needed a late surge to make the final score respectable in their match-up against the Bucs.  Brady was sacked twice and threw a pick six to spot the Bucs early. The Patriots finally got rolling at the end of the first half, with a scoring drive aided by a defensive pass interference call and a 29 yard run by Stevan Ridley, who eventually scored on a one yard run. Brady engineered another touchdown drive in the third quarter, connecting on a touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski before giving way to Ryan Mallet, who led two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter and appears to have supplanted Brian Hoyer as the primary backup to Brady.

The Good

Stevan Ridley appears to have claimed the primary running back spot, netting 87 yards on 16 carries. Shane Vereen only carried twice before needing to leave due to injury. Aaron Hernandez caught five passes, and Marquice Cole had a great night on special teams and appears primed to claim a roster spot.

The Bad

The offensive line was awful tonight, leading to solid hits on Brady and a strip sack. While Logan Mankins returned to the line, the entire line struggled, with the right side getting beat like a drum throughout the evening. This team is ready for Sebastian Vollmer to return, as Marcus Cannon continues to struggle at right tackle.

The Ugly

Bucs guard Davin Joseph was injured and is lost (likely) for the season with a broken kneecap.

The Pleasant Surprise

Olympic sprinter Jeff Demps saw his first action tonight and was impressive. He returned one kickoff for 23 yards and rushed the ball three times for 41 yards, including a long run of 29 yards. Nate Ebner joined Marquice Cole as a force on special teams.

Next Up

The Patriots will be back in action on Wednesday, August 29th when they travel to New Jersey to face the Giants.

Aug 102012
 

Pre-Season Game #1: Patriots 7, Saints 6

So what did we learn about the New England Patriots last night? Not much that we didn’t already know, but some things we already knew became a bit clearer.

To begin with, under the rules of the new CBA, the Patriots and Saints played last night’s game on fewer practices than they would have in previous years; teams are barely in real training camp mode at this point. Given that, play was a bit sloppy last night, though themes that were already emerging from training camp were reinforced last night.

Summary

The Patriots beat the Saints 7-6 last night, with two of the most powerful offenses in the NFL phoning it in while both defenses stepped up their games. Brian Hoyer led the Patriots on a third quarter touchdown drive culminating in a touchdown pass to Britt Davis, and the defense made the score stand up, yielding only field goals in the first and fourth quarters. Tom Brady had a pedestrian appearance of 4/7 for 30 yards, and gave up an ugly strip sack that resulted in the Saints’ first score. Jerod Mayo had a solid defensive evening, racking up three tackles, an assist, and a pass defense.

The Good

While Mayo was solid, it was rookie Chandler Jones who stole the show. Jones had a tackle and an assist, applied five quarterback pressures which netted two holding calls against Jermon Bushrod, one of the better left tackles in the league. Jones was also stout in run defense, played in multiple positions, and demonstrated why the Patriots are so high on the first round selection.

Beyond Jones, the Patriots pass coverage was improved last night, giving up 197 yards and holding the Saints to 33% efficiency on third down. The Patriots’ rushing game tallied 126 yards and was clearly an area of emphasis with the return of Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels as the Patriots rushed 31 times versus 41 passes.

The Bad

The offensive line did not look great last night, which was expected given the absence of Logan Mankins, Sebastian Vollmer, and Brian Waters. Nate Solder had a particularly difficult evening, netting two holding penalties and looking generally overmatched. The Patriots knew this was coming and historically have a solid offensive line, but it is clear that the Pats need their missing players back and need more time for their backup players to learn to work together. I suspect this problem will be fixed by the beginning of the year, but it is one area to be wary of.

The Ugly

Linebacker Dane Fletcher went down with a knee injury and it was discovered that Flethcher had town his ACL, likely meaning his loss for the season. Thankfully, the Patriots have depth in the front seven and this opens an opportunity for one of the bubble players to step forward, possibly giving Mike Rivera an opportunity to make the opening day roster.

The Interesting

The NFL lockout of officials meant Bill Belichick working the officials hard last night during the game. When asked about the officials in his post-game press conference, Belichick interestingly deferred to the opinion for Mike Pereira, the former head of NFL officiating. In that brief moment, Belichick made clear his feelings on the lockout, poking at the NFL to settle the contract issues prior to the start of the regular season.

The Pleasant Surprise

Running back Shane Vereen has not had a good training camp to date, and three other running backs saw carries before Vereen got the ball last night. But once Vereen did, he showed the flash that the Patriots drafted him for, picking up 64 yards on 11 carries. Coupled with Stevan Ridley and Danny Woodhead, the Patriots look ready to put a solid running back by committee on the field.

Next Up

The Patriots will be back in action on Monday, Agust 20th in a Monday night game against the Philadelphia Eagles that will be televised on ESPN.