Nate Solder congratulates Shane Vereen after a TD against Kansas City. Could be a common scenario in 2012.
Kevin Fishbain (Pro Football Weekly) AFC East draft needs: .
Overview: Thanks to multiple trades in the past year, the Pats don’t have the stockpile of picks we’re used to seeing — they only have six picks this year, but all are in the first four rounds. And it would come as no surprise should the Pats pick up a couple of later-round picks. The focus is expected to be on defense, where New England ranked 31st last season. The Patriots have made it a habit of drafting a cornerback, and that tradition should continue. Bill Belichick’s drafts have been blasted in the past, but the last two years have shown positive returns.
Need No. 1: Safety. Anyone who watched the Patriots last season knew that the team had a revolving door at the safety position after it parted ways with Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders. There is hope for Josh Barrett to become a contributor, and the team did sign Steve Gregory to pair with Patrick Chung, but the Patriots are still lacking the center-field-type safety desired to shore up the pass defense. Teams picked the Patriots apart over the middle of the field, and the corners could not rely on safety help over the top. Don’t expect New England to go after a safety in the first round, as it is a weak class, but it remains a top need.
Need No. 2: Edge rusher (outside linebacker or defensive end). It’s not entirely clear what kind of defense we’ll see more from the Patriots in 2012 — a 4-3 or a 3-4 — but either way, they need a pass rusher. Mark Anderson, who had 10 sacks last season, is now a Bill, and Andre Carter, who also tallied 10 sacks, is unsigned and coming off an injury. The team added ex-Raider Trevor Scott but is very thin in that category, especially considering the team’s struggles getting after the passer and keeping opponents from moving the ball with ease. Looking at the pass rushers on the roster, outside Scott, the Pats have Rob Ninkovich and Markell Carter, who did not play as a rookie. Look for Belichick to add a versatile player who can function in multiple fronts, like Ninkovich can.
Need No. 3: Cornerback. Under the assumption that Ras-I Dowling, last year’s second-round pick, will win back the starting spot he had for two games before going on injured reserve, the Patriots don’t appear that thin at corner. Devin McCourty is a big wild card, coming off a sophomore slump of a season. Kyle Arrington had a nose for the ball last season but is not an ideal top corner. The Patriots have shuffled corners over the last several seasons and have relied on the draft to continue to add depth to the position. With so many struggles last season defending the pass and stopping teams on third downs, another boundary corner who can lock down physical receivers would boost Belichick’s defense.
- Erik Scalavino and Paul Perillo debate whether the New Orleans Saints should hire Bill Parcells.
- Patriots Today - Draft preview: Tight end. (3.57 min. video)
- Patriots All Access - Hear from Robert Kraft and Bill Belichcik as the team-building begins for 2012. (18:54 min. video)
- Karen Guregian reports Matt Light hasn't decided whether to retire, but Nate Solder is up for the challenge if he does.
- Shalise Manza Young catches up with Nate Solder at a Pop Warner event held at the Dana-Farber Field House. Solder is intent on improving his technique.
- Karen Guregian reports Brandon Spikes is looking good, walking without a limp, and ready to help the Patriots get back to the Super Bowl.
- Karen Guregian notes that while Bill Belichick has shored up depth in a number of areas, the pass rush is a position that still needs work.
- Mike Reiss offers some quick-hit weekend thoughts from the Patriots and around the NFL.
- Jim Donaldson says savvy signings give the Patriots an edge in the AFC East.
- Mike Reiss highlights what we learned about the NFL Draft, from the perspective of ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay.
- Jeff Howe reports the Patriots' uniforms will have minimal changes when Nike unveils the new designs Tuesday.
- Karen Guregian notes Sergio Brown has been shaving heads and shooting hoops for charity this week.
- Jimmy Toscano reports Danny Woodhead wrote a children's book last year and will be heading back to Nebraska for a book signing.
- Paul Kenyon sizes up the Patriots' draft-weekend needs.
- Mike Reiss notes a closer look at Deion Branch's one-year contract reflects how the Patriots still value Branch.
- Mary Paoletti reports the Patriots and Gerard Warren have talked but no decision on his possible return is expected until after the NFL Draft.
- Ricky Doyle posts a video clip of Rob Gronkowski spiking a melon as part of his Madden cover quest, this round against Jared Allen.
- Mike Reiss analyzes the latest Mock Draft selections for the Patriots from Rob Rang of CBS Sports.
- Mike Reiss gives us his thoughts on the Mock Draft selections of Sam Farmer from the LA Times, for the Patriots.
- Jeff Howe thinks Alabama safety Mark Barron would address the Patriots' most immediate draft need on defense.
- Tom E. Curran thinks a team like the Patriots is the kind of team that will most likely draft CB Jenoris Jenkins (North Alabama).
- Mike Reiss tells us why ESPN's Todd McShay likes Syracuse DE/OLB Chandler Jones as a fit for the Patriots.
- WEEI profiles potential Patriots in this year's draft: DE Nick Perry (USC), DT Brandon Thompson (Clemson) and CB Alfonzo Dennard (Nebraska).
- Karen Guregian catches up with Amanda Belichick during an Ohio State lacrosse practice at Gillette Stadium, with her proud father in attendance.
- Greg A. Bedard Sunday Football Notes: Rex Ryan believes Tim Tebow will excel in the Wildcat with his unique skill set; It's curious that after ignoring the fullback position since 2008 that the Patriots would now have two on the roster; Scouting report on the Patriots new free agents; Chan Gailey believes Mark Anderson is worth the money; S LaRon Landry's contract indicates the Jets aren't completely sold on his health; Cowboys and Redskins are going to pursue their salary cap punishment appeals as far as they can go; and More.
- James Walker (ESPN) Updating AFC East salary cap. Patriots: $9,944,664.
- Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) Team-by-team cap room as of March 30.
- James Walker (ESPN) How Tim Tebow affects the AFC East.
- Staff Report (Sandhillsexpress.com) Danny Woodhead coming home to North Platte.
- Peter King (SI) MMQB: Saints fallout, Tannehill workouts get top billing as draft nears.
- Dan Pompei (Nat'l Football Post) NFP Sunday Blitz.
- Evan Silva (ProFootballTalk) 2012 draft visits and workout tracker.
- Wes Bunting (Nat'l Football Post) NFL Draft: Ranking the tight end class by tiers.
- Wes Bunting (Nat'l Football Post) Ranking the 3-4 LB class by tiers: Pass rushers come in all sizes in this year’s crop.
- Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News) Top QB division rivalries.
- Jeffri Chadiha (ESPN) Janoris Jenkins walking tightrope.
- Don Banks (SI) Saints' Payton to appeal suspension.
- Josh Katzowitz (CBS Sports) NFLPA advising Bounty-gate players they could face criminal charges.
- Jim Trotter (SI) NFLPA slated to meet with league, review additional bounty findings.
- Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) NFLPA has had open invitation to review bounty info since March 2.
- Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) Report: Shockey wants an apology from Sapp, NFL.
- Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) Bayou backlash is building.
- Mike Bianchi (Orlando Sentinel) Intentionally injuring opponents is part of NFL mindset. Tony Dungy? Say it ain't so.
- Pat Kirwan (CBS Sports) New rule on crack-back blocks adds defenders to 'defenseless' players.
- Mike Pereira (Fox Sports) Minor rule tweaks could play major role.
- Chris Burke (SI) What do All-Pro teams tell us about the NFL Draft?
- Jeff Legwold (Denver Post) Andrew Luck's best blocker, G David DeCastro, could be a top-10 draft pick too. Logan Mankins mentioned in this story.
- Rob Rang (CBS Sports) NFL Mock Draft. Patriots select OT Jonathan Martin (Stanford) and DE Nick Perry (Southern California).
- Sam Farmer (LA Times) NFL Mock Draft. Patriots select DE Nick Perry (USC) and DT Kendall Reyes (Connecticut).
- Experts (NFL.com) Mock Draft Central - Chad Reuter, Brian Baldinger, and Charley Casserly.
- Brett Smiley (SI) Regional combines offer the overlooked a chance to get noticed.
- Marc Sessler (NFL.com) ASU's Osweiler hopes to outshine NFL's tallest QBs.
- Rob Raissman (NY Daily News) Tim Tebow, Rex Ryan, Mark Sanchez and NY Jets' circus is the perfect storyline for HBO's 'Hard Knocks' series, like it or not.