"I thought two guys who played really well down the stretch and helped their defense play better — it clearly played better — were Ninkovich and Brandon Spikes," said Cosell, who serves as the producer for ESPN’s "NFL Matchup."
"I thought he played real well, particularly down the stretch," Cosell said of Ninkovich, one of only two NFL defenders to finish the regular season with at least six sacks and two interceptions. "I think Ninkovich, he became a really versatile player. He’s not a dynamic, explosive playmaker, play after play. I don’t think he’s a guy who offenses say, ‘We better account for Rob Ninkovich.’ But I thought he played really well down the stretch."
"I’m a huge Spikes fan, for what he is. I’m not going to ask him to run with Jimmy Graham, but for what he is, I think he’s really good," Cosell said. "There aren’t many guys in the league like him who play downhill. He takes on blocks with violence. That’s a dying breed in the NFL. A passing league, a spread league, now, you have linebackers that run around blocks. He took on blocks this year, and he usually won."
Late in the season, Patriots coach Bill Belichick compared Spikes to former Giants linebacker Pepper Johnson (currently New England’s defensive line coach), a comparison Cosell wholeheartedly agreed with.
"That’s a great comparison," Cosell said. "Pepper Johnson was the unsung hero of the defense he was on. Bill is all about filling roles and doing your job. He doesn’t get caught up in the media BS. And to him, Pepper Johnson is a critical piece of a defensive puzzle. Brandon Spikes is a critical piece of their puzzle. He may never be an All-Pro, but he’s a good player for them. For what [Belichick] wants and he needs, he does his job and he does it well."
"That Tom Brady was able to post an 11.6 vertical yards per attempt (VYPA) mark (fifth best in the league) despite throwing 91 vertical passes to tight ends, speaks volumes for the genius of New England's creative play calling," Joyner writes. "However, it still doesn't mask the fact Brady's 10.9 stretch vertical YPA (SVYPA) ranked tied for 20th. (Note: Vertical passes are aerials thrown 11 or more yards downfield, while stretch vertical passes are thrown 20 or more yards).
"This problem calls for the addition of a wideout who can take over the Randy Moss role that helped Brady have one of the best seasons in NFL history in 2007."
- Patriots Today - Seeking closure in Indy. (2.48 min. video)
- 2012 Combine recap: Linebackers (2.43 min. video) and defensive backs (4.21 min. video)
- Karen Guregian has her eye on the Wes Welker negotiations after the first franchise tag domino fell on the Eagles' DeSean Jackson yesterday. Both sides are still talking.
- Tom E. Curran notes the Patriots have until Monday at 4pm to tag valuable receiver Wes Welker.
- Mike Reiss posts some soundbites from Rob Gronkowski as a guest on ESPN Chicago's "Waddle & Silvy" show.
- Karen Guregian wonders if Mike Wallace could be back in the WR picture for the Pats, now that he won't be tagged by the Steelers.
- Karen Guregian says Whitney Mercilus (Illinois) has the right build and look of an outside linebacker in a Bill Belichick 3-4 defense.
- Tom E. Curran notes Steelers DE Aaron Smith and Raiders OLB Kamerion Wimbley may be worth tire-kicking from Patriots.
- Karen Guregian notes WR Rueben Randle (LSU) is considered one of the top five WRs in the draft and is likely to be taken late in the first round.
- Mike Reiss analyzes the mock draft selections from Rob Rang (CBS Sports, who uses two picks on two front-seven defenders.
- Tom E. Curran brings up the decidedly different business rules as applied to the Red Sox vs. the Patriots.
- Mike Reiss posts the transcript of his weekly online chat.
- Mike Reiss follows up on his online chat with five additional questions and answers.
- Jeff Howe answers his Patriots Mailbag: Mike Wallace is logical fit for New England's need at WR, NFL Draft could fill other holes.
- Joe Fortenbaugh (Nat'l Football Post) Mike Wallace, the Patriots and another Super Bowl run.
- Robert Klemko (USA Today) Franchise Friday: NFL players get tagged.
- James Walker (ESPN) Ranking AFC East team needs: Jets - Bills - Dolphins.
- money-back guarantees. (NFL.com) High-priced free agents don't come with
- Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News) 2012 NFL free agent wide receivers: Plenty of options for teams in need.
- Staff Report (Pro Football Weekly) 2012 free agents by position and by team.
- Gil Brandt (NFL.com) Hot 100: Poe flies up the board after dazzling Combine showing.
- Joseph Person (Charlotte Observer) Winners and losers at the NFL Scouting Combine.
- Charley Casserly (NFL.com) Who raised their stock with strong Combine performances, and who disappointed.
- Report (NFL.com) 2012 Pro Days schedule.
- Analysts (NFL.com) Mock Drafts Central.
- Russ Lande (Sporting News) NFL mock draft. Pats pick OLB Whitney Mercilus (Illinois) and CB Chase Minnifield (Virginia).
- Rob Rang and Dane Brugler (CBS Sports) NFL Mock Drafts.