Ian Rapoport believes Bill Belichick is in prime position to build, and breaks down five needs for the Patriots. Here's his first one:
What the situation is now: Budding star Patrick Chung returns after an injury-plagued season, and injury-riddled Josh Barrett is back, too. So is fill-in James Ihedigbo, who may be better served as a reserve, and special teamers Sergio Brown and Malcolm Williams.
Why the need is so pressing: Thanks to injuries, the Patriots were forced to use receivers Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater at safety last year. Both performed admirably, as did Nate Jones and Sterling Moore, who started upon being signed. Yikes. It wasn’t a pretty situation, and Devin McCourty may not help at safety next year.
Prospects to consider: It is not a draft chock full of safeties, but there are some interesting options. Alabama’s Mark Barron is the most obvious, as he thrived in Nick Saban’s Belichickian system. He’s physical and decisive, excelling in man-to-man coverage. Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith may be available late in the second round, but questions follow the others.
Best guess as to how it is addressed: Don’t be surprised if one of the Patriots first two picks addresses this glaring need.
Christopher Price gives Patriots fans five things we should be looking for at the Combine. Here's one:
The Patriots and the 3-cone drill: While New England covets speed, it’s also looking for players to be quick. To that end, the Patriots have traditionally put a lot of stock — maybe more than most teams — in events like the 3-cone drill in their pre-draft workouts that measure shiftiness and an ability to turn on a dime.
At the combine, the drill goes like this: Three cones are placed in an L shape. Players go 5 yards to the first cone and back, then to the second cone and back. Then, they run a loop around the third cone, switch direction and come back around the second cone. If you can finish the process in less than seven seconds, you’re looking at someone with good foot speed.
Through the years, several Patriots’ picks excelled at the 3-cone drill, whether it was at the combine or at their respective Pro Day. Julian Edelman had a 6.62 second time in the 3-cone drill as a collegian, while Devin McCourty’s 6.7 at the 2010 combine put him second among all corners. Deion Branch clocked a 6.71 (at the 2002 combine), Chad Jackson (at the 2006 combine) was 6.74 and Wes Welker was 7.06 as a collegian. If you’re looking for a prospect to distinguish him in the eyes of the New England brass, this drill is a good one to look for.
- The New England Patriots announced Wednesday that they have released OL Rich Ohrnberger and DL Mike Wright.
- Andy Hart points out how 2011 was a banner year in the NFL for rookie pass rushers.
- PFW In Progress: The PFW crew discusses the NFL Draft, the Scouting Combine and analyze key players in free agency. (2 hour program)
- Mike Reiss sets the agenda from a Patriots perspective for the NFL Combine, with media access beginning Thursday.
- Charean Williams lists ten players to watch at the NFL Combine.
- Tom E. Curran takes up the Rich Eisen challenge of running the 40-yard dash in a suit. (1.11 min. video)
- Ian Rapoport reports on the release of Mike Wright and Rich Ohrnberger.
- Tom E. Curran writes about the tough outcome for Mike Wright, who was the kind of success story the Pats embraced and a guy they enjoyed having in their organization.
- Mike Rodak shares some follow-up thoughts following the release of defensive lineman Mike Wright and guard Rich Ohrnberger on Wednesday.
- Tom E. Curran tells us which free-agent WRs might fit in New England.
- Jeff Howe previews the TE position in free agency and says the Patriots are clearly set. For depth they'll go to the draft or bring in a veteran who won't mind being 3rd-string.
- Karen Guregian shares some insights she has been given over the years of interviewing Tom Martinez - not only about Tom Brady, but about his receivers too.
- Karen Guregian talks about the gift Tom Martinez gave to Tom Brady when he was 13, that Brady has used every year since.
- Mike Reiss notes Tom Brady's Facebook page post regarding the death of his longtime mentor, Tom Martinez.
- NESN posts a clip of Rob Gronkowski at Red Sox spring training on crutches, talking with Red Sox medical operations coordinator Jim Rowe.
- Tony Pauline (SI) 2012 Scouting Combine preview.
- Andrew Brandt (Nat'l Football Post) Combine confidential: Inside the event.
- Gregg Rosenthal (ProFootballTalk) Welcome to the Combine.
- Jack Bechta (Nat'l Football Post) Five things at the NFL Combine you won't see on TV.
- Brian Martin (Nat'l Football Post) How to train for the NFL Combine.
- Matt Bowen (Nat'l Football Post) What to look for at the Combine workouts.
- Mike Freeman (CBS Sports) Ten-point stance: Film doesn't lie, but Combine numbers sure do.
- Charley Casserly (NFL.com) Combine serves a purpose, but its influence is overrated.
- John Czarnecki (Fox Sports) CBA makes NFL Combine a sunny place.
- Chad Reuter (NFL.com) Twelve prospects with something to prove in Indianapolis.
- Ross Jones (Fox Sports) Top 10 players who can elevate their draft stock at Combine.
- Russ Lande (Sporting News) Ten offensive prospects with something to prove at Combine.
- Experts Debate (NFL.com) Which prospect has the most at stake at the Combine?
Doug Farrar (Yahoo! Sports) 10 to watch at the Scouting Combine: The offense and The defense.
- Rich Eisen (NFL.com) Run with me. A plea for folks to run the 40 in their suits, and send in the video.
- Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) The 40-yard dashes begin to show up on Twitter.
- James Walker (ESPN) Starting running back for Patriots?
- NFL Live (ESPN) Mark Schlereth and Jerry Rice talk Wes Welker. (2 min. video)
- Nate Davis (USA Today) 49ers' Whitner: We outplayed Giants, would have beaten Pats.
- Jason La Canfora (NFL.com) Under-the-radar players will be bargains on the market.
- Don Banks (SI) Mock Draft 2.0. Pats select DT Fletcher Cox (Mississippi State) and LB Dont'a Hightower (Alabama).
- Mark Kaboly (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review) Wallace discusses contract talks with Steelers.
- Eli Kaberon (Pro Football Weekly) Free-agent scouting report: Chargers WR VIncent Jackson.
- Bucky Brooks (NFL.com) Tiebreaker coin flips will impact draft in multiple ways.
- Chris Burke (SI) Best of the Firsts, No 31: Nnamdi Asomugha and No. 30: Reggie Wayne.
- Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) Mayock thinks NFL needs to make a decision on the Pro Bowl.
- Gregg Rosenthal (ProFootballTalk) Competition Committee to consider adjusting 12 men penalty.
- Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) Nike plans to "have some fun" but "respect traditions" with NFL gear.