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Sunday NFL Thoughts: Interest in U. Minnesota Prospects, Defending Stunts, and Quarterback Consistency

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1. The Patriots have shown repeated interest in the University of Minnesota prospects and have met with multiple players on multiple occasions. There are two players firmly on the Patriots radar, and both play the same position: Cornerbacks Eric Murray and Briean Boddy-Calhoun.

Murray is regarded as a 3rd or 4th round prospect, while Calhoun is considered a 4th or 5th round prospect; Murray offers greater size and better athleticism. The two were senior co-captains this past season.

At 5'9.5, 193 lbs, Calhoun is an intriguing fit. He has collected 9 interceptions over the past two seasons, versus just 2 by Murray, and 15 additional passes defended, versus 14 by Murray. Calhoun has 2 forced fumbles over the past two seasons, compared to three from Murray. The Patriots value turnover opportunities generated by defenders and both Calhoun offers more in that category.

On the other side, the 5'10.5, 200 lbs Murray is more explosive, quicker, and stronger. He was asked to shadow the opposing team's top receiver, which is why his comparative stats need to be taken in greater context. He also contributes on special teams.

Both are players to watch moving forward, and it wouldn't be a surprise if either ended up as a member of the Patriots in the draft.

2. The Patriots posted an oldie-but-a-goodie video looking into the mind of quarterback Tom BradyTake a look to see what makes the greatest football player of all time tick.

3. Speaking of ensuring that Brady can play forever, the Patriots offensive line has a simple task of getting better this offseason. Pro Football Focus (PFF) has found a specific skill that the unit  doesn't need to work on: stunts.

Per PFF's Ben Stockwell, the Patriots were the 6th best team in the league at blocking stunt rushes. This is a stunt:

A stunt by the defense will force the offensive line to communicate to pass off protection roles. In the above GIF, the defensive end across from Nate Solder rushes at an angle to both engage Solder and to blind side Shaq Mason. The defender that looks to be engaging with Mason instead loops around the line and takes down Brady.

This rush was brutal in particular because there was little that Solder could do. Mason wasn't at a depth where Solder could pass off his man, and that meant that Mason's rusher could turn the corner unimpeded.

Opposing teams did this all season, but Brady's quick release saved the potential miscommunications. It seems that the issues with the line was more with strength and preventing bull rushes and one-on-one rushing situations.

On another positive note, the Patriots defense was the 5th best at generating pressure off of stunts of their own. So keep up the good work, defense.

4. The Cleveland Browns have had 24 starting quarterbacks dating back to 1999. That's the most in the league.

The New England Patriots have been fortunate enough to have just three: Drew Bledsoe, Tom Brady, and Matt Cassel. That's incredible.

The Green Bay Packers have had five (Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, Scott Tolzien, Seneca Wallace), as have the New York Giants (Kent Graham, Kerry Collins, Jesse Palmer, Kurt Warner, Eli Manning).

5. The NFL is now fighting with the New York Times about the latest report on the league burying and misleading the world about the dangers of head injuries, and how they borrowed defense tactics, such as hiring Exponent, from the Tobacco Industry. The league responded and defended themselves against a bunch of claims that the Times never actually asserted.

Pretty easy to see that the NFL is in the wrong in this one. Again.

6. Boston College football and basketball might not have a single conference win this year, but the hockey team is going to the Frozen Four and their head coach is quoting another that has plenty of postseason success:

Good luck to BC, and take home the trophy.

Edit: in a prior version, we incorrectly had the Patriots as the 6th worst at defending the stunt, but they are actually the 6th best.