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7 Things For

Saints.

Darth Goodell Strikes Back.

By TOM

Greetings Pats Fans,

First off I just want to thank all the fans of this site. I have been promoting my books for sale primarily on this site. As a result, I have sold almost 500 books in the past year. Thank you for your support and patronage, both are greatly appreciated. I cannot tell you how happy it made me when I read that report. So thank you Draft fans and Patriot fans alike, and mostly thank you to all the fans of my books and website worldwide.

1. Finally- Finally we get to see some of the biggest changes the Pats have gone through this offseason. It was such a tumultuous offseason. So much more discord than BB likes, mainly because of two tough to take events. But there were others as well, like Edelman and Amendola getting injured and essentially missing the offseason. A large influx of veteran talent along the D-line. And the worrisome problem of their four young star defenders having their contacts coming up at the same time.

First the Pats traded their superstar passrush Chandler Jones for an IR-guy and a bag of beans. "Steve Keim [Arizona GM] did an unbelievable job working with them and finding the right fit in the trade," the HC of AC Bruce Arians said. "We went into the offseason wanting to improve our pass rush. Free agency wasnít what we were looking at as far as dollars for certain guys. That cured us for a long time. They got something they needed. We got something we needed. I think it was a great trade for both sides." Trading one of the top passrushers in the NFL is never a good thing.

The second was of course Darth Goodell finally forcing the Dark Side to destroy Brady's good name. The Pats battled Darth's Death Star of lawyers for as long as they could. But in the end the Evil Empire won out. Now we finally get to see some of the important changes they made this off season on display. The big three for me are: Brady sitting, Mr. Jones being traded, and the signing of Chris Hogan.

2. Chris Hogan- The most under the radar signing was Hogan. He was a nifty little athlete from a small school who worked his way into the NFL in Buffalo. "For me, I'm an undrafted guy," Hogan said. "So every single year was a battle. Every single year I was on the block: could be cut, could be released. That's kind of how I approached it. I never took anything for granted. Every single day was an opportunity for me to be on the field, if I was starting, playing or not playing, every single day I came out here ready to work." With Amendola nowhere in sight, Hogan has hopped over him on the depth chart.

Now he looks like he is clearly the Number One or Two WR in this offense. One thing that has really leaped out at me is his size. He is 6-1 and 220-pounds, but also has showed the suddenness in his shoulders and feet that have made the smaller Slot-WRs so successful in the Pats' offense. We are so used to seeing their under 6-foot slot guys that it is strange to see him working inside. He has some speed to get open down the seam as well.

But he has not produced over 500-yards in a season yet. "You might come out and you might try different things," Hogan said. "You have to work on your craft. Iím always trying to get better, trying different things to see what works and what doesnít work. Itís good to get out and watch the film and weíll have to dissect it. 'This worked against this or it didnít work.' Then Iíll throw it out and wonít use it again. Or it did and Iíll add it in. Itís all about just trying to perfect your craft." With the Edelman question haunting the team, he needs to be better than he was last season in Buffalo.

Last year he garnered 450-yard and 2 TDs on 36 catches in four starts. But 7 receptions and 106 yards came against the Pats. That was almost a quarter of his production in 2 games. "Thereís never going to be a time where Iím taking the foot off the gas," Hogan said. "Iím always trying. Itís practice and Iím going to practice like I play. Itís something that a lot of people have always preached. If youíre going half-speed in practice and then youíre full-speed in a game, it really doesnít make any sense. Youíve got to just stay on top of your rehab and stay healthy. And when you get out here, youíre able to go full speed so that when it comes game time, nothing speeds up or slows down." He has to find some consistency on the field, which he hasn't shown yet.

He was their top offensive free agent pick up for a reason. "It doesnít change," Hogan said. "Obviously, more opportunities will come about. For me, itís just a matter of being able to take advantage of those opportunities. Iím pretty hard on myself as a player to begin with so the fact that someone goes down or someoneís not playing really doesnít change my mindset. Iím just trying to really take advantage every single opportunity I get." They need him to step up and be their Number Two WR.

He has been playing very well in practice, even after the slight shoulder injury. "Youíve just got to take advantage of the opportunities," the Pats' new Number Two WR said. "It was good. It was a different look. Weíve been going against the same guys for a while. Once you get in front of someone, you try to learn their tendencies and stuff like that. To be honest with you, maybe it was a little bit sloppy in the beginning but weíll have to watch the film and correct it and weíll come out here and be better." He has been consistently catching passes from Brady and Garoppolo so far.

He is in a very good position here. With Gronk and Bennett on the team the role of the Number Two WR (and the Number One WR) has a lot less pressure. Gronk is really the Number One, and Bennett is going to be the second or third option in the passing game as well. You are going to see a lot two-TE sets when they go into their 4 or 5 wide formations. So a 4-Wide set is going to look like Gronk, Bennett, Hogan, and hopefully Edelman more often than not. But that is still a bigger change to this offense than I think most Pats Fans believe. They are not a tiny offense on passing downs anymore. They might be the biggest.

3. Passrush- Finally, we will start to see the full implications of the Chandler Jones trade. Jones had 12 and 1/2 Sacks last season, and was the guy other O-lines schemed against. This opened up a lot of lanes inside for guys like Sheard, Collins, and Hightower. Now they all have to step up and make up for his loss. That is not nearly as easy as it seems.

Sheard has always been better as the second guy in the rush. "I want to be the best player I can be to help this team win," Sheard said. "Whatever that takes: whether thatís rushing the passer, dropping back, whatever my job is on special teams. My expectations for myself are high. And thatís whatís going to help us win this year." They need him to get 8 to 10 Sacks this season.

It really hurts to not having Ninkovich on the field to play opposite Sheard on opening day. "Ninko is a huge part of our team," Sheard said. "But weíre going to step up and play good defense," Sheard said. "Weíve got a great team, a great group of guys on defense. Weíll go out there and play good football." Those two guys really have to come through this season.

They have a ton of new guys who are working together for the first time, and have to make up for 12 sacks. "It's been going really well," Chris Long said. "We have a lot to build on, we have a lot of work to do, but we're trying to focus on taking things one day at a time. I think my focus is just trying to be as coachable as I can be and do whatever I'm asked to do and do my job, whatever it may be, each and every single day."

But a good start is that they have a lot of versatile guys who can move in and out of different spots. "There's nowhere here that I've been put that I haven't done before," Long said. "I've played up and down the line before, and I have an open mind as far as what I'm asked to do. I'll just continue to line up where I'm asked to: try to be fundamentally sound, disruptive, and play hard." I think he can help the rush a lot inside.

The best news is that their two young passrushers, Flower and Grissom, both have spent the offseason getting bigger, stronger, and hopefully faster running to hit the QB. "Right now, Iím just working on getting better," Grissom said. "Iím not really focused on the season. Iíve got to make the team first. It's why weíre here. Weíre here to play the game." If those two guys can show they have a knack for hitting the QB, this defense could be back to last years form quickly.

Tonight they get a chance to prove it in a real game. "No doubt Iím excited to come out here and put the pads on once again," the forgotten Flowers said. "I had to sit out last year, but Iím ready to get it back going. As far as the time last year, I stayed in the building, stayed in the playbook, stayed around. Continued to get better and worked on my craft so I wouldnít be too far behind. I think Iím pretty good as far as I am." Remember, they were second in Sacks to Denver last season, and the Broncos used their passrush to win it all this year.

But so much for these two young guys is the mental part of the game. "Part of it is the understanding of the scheme. With them coming in a year ago, you see some of the athleticism, you see some of the physical skills," their DL coach Daly said. "Rookies, just by the inherent nature of the situations, are behind from a mental standpoint. I think thatís the biggest thing you look at. How far have they come? The understanding [of their job and scheme]. A lot of times that allows them to play faster and let their athleticism and natural ability show. Weíre excited to see where thatís at." Missing games to do injuries last season hurt both of them mentally this year.

Grissom played in more games last season so he is a little more ready mentally than Flowers. "He did a lot of different things for us and improved through the course of the season," Daly said. "You could see that growth from him mentally. [I'm] pleased with the way: he works, comes in, and works hard every day. Heís focused on getting better. Heís a team guy, willing to do whatever anyone is asking him to do." He showed he could get to the QB a little more than I thought last season.

Flowers has a little more growing to do mentally this Preseason than Grissom. "Treyís issues were injury related," Daly said. "I donít know if Iíd say heís behind. Iíd say heís done a very good job mentally. Not getting the reps in practice, but being up to speed. Weíll see. I donít know if that puts him behind. Weíll find out when we get out here." So far he has been doing very well.

The Pats have a lot of good pieces in the Passrush growing up before our eyes. But they lost their one great one. They have to show they can still hit the quarterback with a consistent barrage of players, and not just play off the great talents of Chandler Jones.

4. And of course Garoppolo- The final massive change to the 2016 Pats is that Yoda12 will be exiled on Dagobah for the first four games by Darth Goodell. This is such a massive change that we all have just accepted, and hoped for the best. But it really put the Pats in a bad place to start the Season. We all just have to hope that Jimmy-G is as good as they thought he was when the drafted him in the 2nd round. They need him to be more Luke than Anakin Skywalker.

So much of the success of this team is in the hands of the untested Jimmy-G. "I'm just trying to go out there and get my game right," Garoppolo said. "[And] trying to get the offense ready as much as we can. We've got a long way to go. Training camp is a grind, but we got to get through it." They can afford to go 2 and 2 at the worst during Yoda12's exile, and still be favored to host the AFC Champ game.

But they can't go 1 and 3 or worse in the first four games. "Yeah, it's a great opportunity just like you said. You have to go out there and take advantage of it," Jimmy-G said. "You don't get many opportunities in this league, you might only get one, so you've got to make the best of it." If Jimmy-G proves himself to be a winning QB in the NFL, it changes everything for him and the Patriots Organization.

Garoppolo has been on the team for three offseasons and two Preseasons, but he is still almost a complete unknown. "Like I said rookie year, I had the same mindset," Jimmy-G said. "So however you want to look at it. I've been preparing to be the starter since the first day I walked in here and that's just the mindset. Every competitor has that mindset. So it's a good thing to have." Now everyone in Pats Nation is waiting with bated breath to see what he does.

With Brady also not suiting up for the Saints Game, we finally get to see some evidence of how far he has come since his rookie season against some real competition in an almost real game. "Pretty similar to the last two years, to be honest," Jimmy-G said. "It's an opportunity to go out there and perform with your teammates. It's obviously different than practice. Different situations will come up and you don't know how many snaps you're going to get or how many snaps you're not going to get. It's all Coach's call, so when you're called on, you've just got to go out there and perform." He was given the role by BB to be the number one QB for this game, when he told Brady he wouldn't be dressed for this game.

The Pats have been balancing on a high wire act between getting TB12 ready to start game five, and getting Jimmy-G ready to start opening day. "Part of that is gauging your receivers, your running backs, whatever it may be, and just building a trust level in those guys," Jimmy-G said. "If you want to try something new, something a guy's never done before, it's good to try it in practice. Obviously, you'd rather try it in practice than the game and have a bad result. That's what practice is for. You've got to make the mistakes here so you don't make them in the game." Now he has to step it up again in a game as the starting QB for the New England Patriots.

5. Patriots Defense- With all the attention Yoda12's Exile, and Jimmy-Skywalker have been getting, the defense really has been left behind. But don't kid yourself, we are more likely to win as many games as the defense leads the Pats to in the first four games. Jimmy-S is not winning any games all by himself. Losing Ninkovich is not a great place to start. 

But with no ligament damage he should be back quicker than expected. "Robís got a great feel for the game," BB said. "First of all, heís got great physical skills. He can run. Heís athletic. Heís strong. So he can hang in there against the big guys, but is athletic [enough] to play in space. Whether that be in the kicking game or as an off-the-line linebacker, you can drop him into coverage from the line of scrimmage." They will start Jimmy-G's career as a starter without their two starting DE/OLB from last season.

They have to show they can be physical on all three levels of defense. "That's a big part of what we do," McCourty said. "I think if you watch us, you know that's something that we coach a lot here. Every guy that comes in, whether it's a starter or a guy that comes in off the bench, every guy is playing the same way and with the same mentality. I think that's something that, no matter who we play against, our offense or a different offense, this week, New Orleans, we've got to kind of get that going. I think we did a good job of coming out and being aggressive. Obviously, it wasn't perfect, but I think we came out with the right mentality that will get us better as a group and that we can work on." Mentally it sounds like they are ready to start the season.

They have a lot of hybrid and versatile players to help out, but that is not just on the D-line. "I think that you are definitely seeing a strong trend in the league towards corners that play safety or corner-type athletes that play safety," BB said. "[And] bigger safeties that play linebacker. Both of those are trends." As teams move away from the run game, all teams have to have faster cover guys on all three levels.

Defenses are now built more with the passing game in mind than the run game. "Weíve always put a lot of premium on the passing game even going back to when we had Eugene Wilson," BB said. "Who played corner at Illinois, and started for us at corner for a couple weeks. And then we moved him to free safety. But that was an advantage when teams went to the multiple receivers. Then we already had that third corner on the field and we could go nickel or we could leave our regular defense out there. Or leave our corner on the third receiver, what we call penny defense. That was pretty successful for us." Secondaries are following that trend of going smaller all over the NFL.

But the Pats not only have a CB at Free Safety, they also have a Strong Safety who can play linebacker. "Devin's given us some of that," BB said. "So has Chung. Devinís a corner and not that Chung is a corner, but he has corner qualities. Heís had some corner-type responsibilities, particularly in the slot. Even going back to when Wes was here, and he would cover Wes pretty competitively in practice sessions. Iíd say that has always been something that if you have a player that can do that, [it is] somewhat appealing." They have one of the most versatile secondaries in the NFL.

A lot of these trends are also being seen in college, where the smaller faster athletes are being put in at WR and not CB. "The colleges are seeing the same thing," BB said. "And they probably have to deal with it more than we do. because there are so many fast-tempo offenses where they put a lot of fast guys on the field. So they are in the same boat playing a lot of what we call dime defense, or little nickel, or whatever it is. Ends are playing tackle, safeties are playing linebacker, and corners are playing safety. Itís just kind of getting a little bit smaller in a lot of areas." Which is something BB has been doing for years.

Colleges also have been translating smaller faster tight ends into the NFL. "Tight ends have become more athletic and less of the conventional kind of power-blocking type guys," BB said. "Those matchups keep getting tougher and tougher." So linebackers have to be able to cover TE's who used to be big WRs ten or fifteen years ago.

Which has truly changed the linebacker position. "You see less of the big run-stopping Ted Johnson, Brandon Spikes type players," Belichick said. "Itís just harder when the offense spreads you out and then they go fast and you canít substitute and youíre stuck with whoever you have out there. That creates some problems." Which is why the Pats have to resign both Collins and Hightower to big deals as soon as possible.

Getting LBs who can stuff the run, but are still athletic enough to cover WR's posing as TEs, and RB out of the backfield, are worth their weight in gold. The fact that both are such great blitzers up the gut that they scare QBs makes them indispensable this season in helping Jimmy-G win games in September.

6. Collins, Hightower, Butler, and Ryan - The Jones trade was an unmitigated disaster. The only real justification for the trade is that the Pats can now sign their four other young defensive stars this offseason. Or hopefully add some extensions before the season ends. They would not have been able to sign all four, or the top three, if they had to give Jones the 10--Mil contract he is going to get in Arizona. So they better get it done.

The trade of Jones will look worse and worse with every loss of a young defender next offseason. " I think weíre happy with how the offseason has gone so far," Bob Kraft said. "I should say Chandler Jones was an awesome Patriot and should definitely mention that. Weíre very lucky because we have accumulated a number of young players who are highly talented, and the way the system is set up, when they all become free agents you wonít be able to sign them all. So Chandler was great while he was a part of the team and will always have a special connection to us, but weíre excited with that move and having Jonathan join the team and picking up the second-round pick." Teams simply do not trade guys who just garnered over 12 sacks in one season.

The good news is that the Cap has gone up significantly, and the Pats still have lot of contracts that are over favorable to the team now. And they are so good at drafting young guys who they turn into starters, like Jordan Richards, Flowers and Grissom, Cyrus Jones, Thuney and Mitchell. They understand the Draft, and that you are drafting for the future and not the right now. They develop young draft picks better than any team in the NFL.

7. The O-Line- The O-line doesn't really need to be rebuilt. "If that could happen and it could all come together and everybody was available, maybe weíd be able to get to that point and it would probably be a good thing," BB said. "But weíll just have to see how all that goes. Iím not against it, thatís for sure." It needs to be... re-healthy.

It looks like they have a new starter at OLG in Thuney. A new starter at ORG in Shaq Mason, and though Stork will likely be the starter tonight (he has been working exclusively with Jimmy-G). Andrews should be the starter when Brady returns (as he has been working exclusively with Brady). "Honestly I donít feel like a lot of that is in my control," BB said. "Itís up to the players how they play. We try to coach them and give them an opportunity. And then what they do with that opportunity is really up to them. I canít control that." But really the problem last year was the devastation that happened at O-tackle.

As long as Solder and Vollmer are on the field the O-line is not being rebuilt. "I think once a player is established at any position, this isnít just a line discussion," BB said. "At any position, once a player has established that heís the best player of that group, then heís going to play. If thatís not the case, then maybe more than one guy deserves to play until it somehow or other works itself out, or becomes clear what the roles should be." They will sub-in here and there inside, but the as long as they can pass block at O-tackle things will be fine.

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